The Mars Foundation plans a permanent settlement on planet Mars using near-term technologies and resources already available on Mars: it will be built with the aid of robots and run on nuclear energy, but will utilize materials and building techniques reminiscent of earlier centuries on earth. Designs call for large masonry arches and vaulted ceilings and domed skylights built with bricks baked from Martian soil and stones cut from Martian quarries.
The group believes that materials such as steel, aluminum, ceramic, glass and plastics can be manufactured using Martian resources.
The Martian settlement will be contained within an artificial atmosphere and pressurized using gases found on Mars like carbon, nitrogen and argon. Oxygen will be stripped from water molecules using electrolysis and will also added to the mix.
Conditions on Mars, however, are not exactly colonization-friendly. Morning temperatures on the desert planet can dip can below -76 degrees Farenheit (-60 Celsius) and enormous dust storms sweep across its barren rocky fields at speeds of over 60 miles per hour. Air pressure is a tiny fraction of Earth’s and harmful radiation from solar winds, cosmic rays and solar flares bombard its surface. Add to that a minimum 6-month commute and a communications delay that can reach over 40-minutes.
The group proposes to send small gas tanks ahead that store methane and oxygen extracted from the atmosphere. When the settlers arrive, they can use that equipment and stored gas to build things like steel production plants.
The group envisions Mars as an integral part of a future inter-solar system economy that will be based on the convergence of four frontiers: Earth, the Moon, asteroids, and Mars—including its own rocky satellites, Phobos and Deimos.