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Generation II Mars Settlement Study Launched!
 
October 8, 2006 – Report by Brian Enke, Gen II Documentation Lead

 

Barcelona, Carthage, Al Mina, York, and Cologne.  Plymouth Plantation, New Amsterdam, Jamestown, Botany Bay, and McMurdo.  Throughout history, numerous settlement attempts share at least one thing in common: all were planned ahead of time, in as much detail as possible, despite incomplete knowledge of the local conditions.  Some settlements failed, while others thrived and formed the nucleus of great nations.  All were endeavors that pushed the boundaries of human existence.

 

Today, new settlements await us.  In a meeting of historical significance, twenty-six researchers and engineers traveled to Atlanta, Georgia on the weekend of October 6 - 8, 2006 to launch the 4Frontiers Generation II Mars Settlement Program Study Team. Their ambitious goal: Develop the most detailed guide to Mars settlement ever attempted!

 

Though the logistics of planning a future Mars settlement vastly exceed the logistics of any meeting, travel arrangements could easily have overwhelmed the Atlanta weekend. Yet all went smoothly.  Despite itineraries spanning twenty cities in five countries, flexibility, commitment, and perseverance prevailed.  Special thanks are awarded to Richard Sylvan, who volunteered his spacious home in an Atlanta suburb for a meeting site, Joe Palaia, who chauffeured three groups of weary travelers between site and airport, and Mark Homnick, Frank Crossman, and Damon Ellender, who coordinated numerous other details, adapting to events with a never-fail, can-do attitude.

 

Ultimately, this never-fail, can-do attitude is what will take humanity to Mars and beyond.  It’s what separates the winners from the losers, the heroes from the wanna-be’s, the settlers from the stay-at-home-and-watch-Monday-Night-Football’ers.  In this spirit, the “group of twenty-six” pooled their technical expertise and crafted a new beginning for a plan that will eventually encompass every known aspect of a settlement on the planet Mars.

 

The Herculean effort actually began late Friday evening, at the Atlanta airport. While waiting for baggage, individuals met other individuals and formed small groups.  The shuttle ride to the meeting site became a forum for exchanging backgrounds, goals, and dreams.  Ideas flowed and excitement built.  With every mile, a new thought emerged or a new connection was made.  By the time the last shuttle docked, well past midnight, many of the earlier travelers were still awake, talking and planning.

 

The Generation II meeting formally began on Saturday morning.  Though many eyes were still half-closed, tangible anticipation, a round of strong coffee, and Dr. Sylvan’s hearty breakfast of eggs and sausages revived most of the participants into a working state.  At 8:45 am, Mark Homnick, the CEO of the 4Frontiers Corporation, welcomed everyone and thanked the planners – especially Dr. Sylvan, for donating his home to the cause and driving the whole meeting effort.

 

Next, we reviewed the agenda for the day.  Frank Crossman gave an overview of a prior Generation I Settlement Study effort, Mark Homnick summarized the scope and execution plan for the Generation II effort, Damon Ellender led a spirited discussion challenging the assumptions that went into the Generation I effort, and we all received a “homework” assignment – more on that later.

 
Mark Meeting Greenhouse Art
Mark Homnick presenting on the greenhouse concepts at the Gen II kickoff meeting.
Artistic rendering by meeting participant Michael Carroll.
 

We discussed the relationship between the Generation I study and the Generation II study in great detail.  The Gen I study was conducted by roughly a dozen individuals over the course of 6 months in 2004. The first phase of the present effort is intended to revise the concepts generated in that initial study and to expand the level of detail and understanding. The Gen I Mars settlement architecture, which was originally developed to support approximately a dozen settlers, would expand through use of essentially the same design concepts, to support as many as 100 early Mars settlers. The Gen II study will examine how the settlement will grow and expand from that point to more than 1000 settlers.  In this expansion the redundancy, reliability and capabilities of the settlement would be increased to the point where the Mars inhabitants would become self-sufficient in as many ways as possible.

 

This latter point cannot be overstressed.  The Gen II study aims for settlement self-sufficiency wherever possible.  A Gen II settlement will still require an external supply of some items, like highest-tech electronics … but the study team intends to minimize these external dependencies, taking full advantage of the in-situ resources available on Mars to manufacture all feasible goods and provide a variety of services.

The participants also discussed the Gen II study organizational structure.  Mark Homnick, who served as program manager of the original study, will reprise that role for the present study. Frank Crossman will serve as assistant program manager and Damon Ellender the executive assistant.  These managers will also serve on a core technical team with Joe Palaia, Derek Andreas, Grant Bonin and Richard Sylvan.  The Core Team will oversee seven divisions (Mission Planning, Bootstrapping, Mining/Refining, Base Build, Manufacturing, Gen II and DocLegal), each with a division leader. The latest study organization chart can be seen below:
 
Org Chart
(Click for Larger View)
 

Each of the seven technical divisions contains up to eight subdivisions, for a total of 43 subdivisions.  Most have owners identified, and these owners will recruit additional team members to assist as needed.  One new subdivision was added at the meeting, bringing the current total to 44.  The high number of subdivisions strongly parallels the magnitude of the task ahead; an exhaustive Mars settlement study touches many different areas and requires extensive coordination between those areas.

 

This team is under no illusions.  Completing the various tasks will require involvement from perhaps hundreds of motivated individuals.  The great breadth of tasks also guarantees that every potential participant will find a home… no talents will be wasted... every idea or skill is relevant to some part of the project.

 

Other important ideas emerged from the Saturday session, including the concept of “meritocracy.”  Results matter.  The 4Frontiers corporate culture is focused upon a clear end result, but safety must be included into the cultural mindset at all levels.  In this vein, we noted that current Planetary Protection policies do not address space settlements.  4Frontiers must lead the way by developing realistic, ethical policies that minimize cross-planet contamination.  Likewise, human factors, medical requirements, and media relations must be integrated into every step of the planning process.

 

Amidst the technical discussions, the participants also pondered some deep philosophical questions.  The first of these was “why”… why does humanity explore and settle new frontiers?  And why Mars?  While much of this urge is clearly genetic, we noted that the “why” often depends upon the “who” (no, not the rock band).  A memorable quote: “We didn’t leave the stone age because we ran out of stone.”

 

Many Gen II requirements emerged over the course of the weekend.  In fact, the issue of requirements began with Frank Crossman’s early Gen I summary and eventually blossomed on Sunday into a critical, new subdivision (the 44th) to address program as well as individual discipline requirements. Gen I requirements included cost-effectiveness, use of in-situ resources for 90% of the necessary settlement mass, a realistic boot-strapping plan, shielding and power needs, biomass formulas, etc.  Given the current unknowns about the Mars local environment, the participants generally agreed upon the value of making “educated guesses.”  As the team iterates its plans over the lifetime of the development effort, learning more or becoming smarter in their approach to Mars settlement, they will inevitably converge upon final solutions.  One doesn’t need to eat the whole cake in one sitting.

 

Among the manufacturing concerns are mundane items like clothing, hygiene items, and furniture.  These issues will be addressed in the Gen II planning process.  Participants should envision the lifestyle of a future Mars settler and note every-day concerns.  Not just required in the design process, attention to these details will enable other 4Frontiers projects, which will convey this vision of life on the future Martian frontier to the general public.

                                   

Some areas in the Gen I study have been developed in great detail, and the team resolved to use this information wisely while expanding upon it wherever possible.  Numerous questions about the Gen I study were traced back to initial requirements and assumptions.  Some assumptions are better than others.  Initial Gen I base construction would require roughly 250 metric tons of cargo delivery from Earth, bootstrapped by a team of 12 construction experts who are also fighting to survive until the build phase is complete.  How realistic is the bootstrapping process?  Many alternatives exist, and wise choices here will determine the ultimate cost and success of the project.

 

Other discussions focused upon complexity in materials manufacturing, resource exploration, distribution, and organization.  Trade-offs abound… for example, should an initial settlement use lower quality materials that require a simpler manufacturing process?  Availability of high-grade ore deposits emerged as a surprising requirement because low-grade ores typically require more energy and equipment to refine.

Other areas of spirited technical discussion included spatial proximity matrices, environmental needs (including atmospheric gas mixtures), rovers, entertainment/sports, construction techniques, levels of requirements completeness (initial goal is 30-50%), metrics, mechanical needs, energy needs, food-growth and aquaculture needs, health-and-safety concerns, psychological issues, redundancy of critical components, language and culture diversity, hazardous materials processing, child-raising issues, publication of technical results, settlement timelines and benchmarks, mineral exploration, distribution of labor, Earth-return missions, leadership styles, and economic health.  All this – on the first day!
 
The Dream
Attendees of the Gen II kickoff meeting share ideas and concepts.

Artistic rendering by meeting participant Michael Carroll.

 

The official meeting adjourned for the evening around 5:00pm.  Many participants formed sub-groups and discussed their homework assignments: determining a “summary of needs” for each of the 44 subdivisions.  At the lowest building-block levels, what does each subdivision need from other subdivisions, and how will they go about getting the information?  Many more issues were debated during a catered pasta meal.  Everyone agreed on at least one conclusion: the Human Factors sub-group had the most fun with their homework assignment.

 

Sunday morning arrived all too early, with participants awakening to the cinnamon siren’s call of “Bebe’s French Toast.”  The formal meeting began at 8:30am, with each subdivision presenting a five to ten minute report on the results of their homework assignments.  These discussions served as an excellent look-ahead at the nature and complexity of the tasks to come, as the subdivisions develop working relationships and strategies over the upcoming months.  As the teams flexed their considerable technical muscle, details numbered into the hundreds, far too many to mention here.

 

The team eventually took a break to pose for a group photo outside (see below).
 
Kneeling left to right:  Pablo Rivera Jiménez, Mark Homnick, Jim Pass, BeBe Kelly-Serato, Robert Milligan, Frank Crossman, Chris Hoffman
 

Standing left to right: April Andreas, Nathan Owen-Going, Derek Andreas, Michael Carroll, Joe Palaia IV, Brian Enke, Grant Bonin, John Pearson, Dr. Richard Sylvan, Dudley Crosson, Vernon Kramer, Joe Palaia III, Dick Edwards, Michael Rudis, John Graham, Bob Keares, Damon Ellender, Anita Gale, Dr. Esther Beltran

 
Kickoff Team Picture
OCT 7-8, 2006 4Frontiers Corp Gen II Programming Kickoff Meeting – Atlanta, Ga,

at the home of Dr. Richard Sylvan (Click for a larger image)

 

By 11:00am, the overnight rain had given way to a sunny Georgia morning in Dr. Sylvan’s neighborhood.  Lunch items began to appear in the kitchen, and some travelers with early flights left for the airport.  Most of the team remained for several more hours, discussing the challenges ahead.

 

Management outlined more of their vision for the Gen II study.  Over the next year, the Gen II team will meet often, by phone and (when needed) in person.  Part of the upcoming effort will lift the previous Gen I study from 30%-complete to 50%-complete.  In February, a follow-up meeting of the entire team will serve as the kickoff for a several month broad-brush effort to examine a Generation II settlement, completing design to perhaps the 15-20% complete level, using a process similar to the Gen I study.

 

A lengthy discussion weighed the relative merits of starting the Gen II study before drilling into the Gen I plan in greater detail.  In particular, some of the Gen I assumptions now seem a bit unrealistic, leading to issues that must be resolved prior to starting the Gen II effort.  The team will try to resolve these issues prior to the next Gen II meeting in February.

 

In mid-afternoon, another van of travelers departed for the airport.  The remaining twelve hungry participants adjourned the meeting and enjoyed a casual dinner at a nearby Iron Wok restaurant.  Three more travelers left for the airport later in the evening, and the final eight stayed at Dr. Sylvan’s residence until Monday morning.

 

The weekend was overwhelming on many levels: physical, mental, and especially emotional.  Ultimately, the “shared experiences” of the participants might become the most valuable outcome of the weekend.  People communicate most efficiently when the person on the other end of the phone line or e-mail account is “known.”  As the Gen II team members collaborate over the upcoming year, the bonds formed in Atlanta will carry them through the effort with compassion, humor, and a massive dose of shared purpose.

The great settlements of the past give humanity hope for the future.  New worlds await, well within our reach.  Groups like the 4Frontiers Generation II Mars Settlement Program Study Team will blaze the trails of tomorrow, leading the effort to turn dreams into hard-fought reality. - B.E.
"Many of the problems that we have today may not have solutions on Earth. The solutions may lie only in leaving the planet behind. There's no way we can avoid tearing up the countryside for ores, for fuel, for raw materials here on Earth--short of everybody dying off." - Keith and Carolyn Henson in Worlds Beyond, ed. New Dimensions Foundation, 1978
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