Colonizing Mars: Robots Carve Caves for Human Habitation

Could we – and should we – begin to colonize Mars in the near future, if overpopulation, climate change or other environmental and social issues make Earth less habitable for humans? The Mars Colonization Project by ZA Architects suggests that we should go ahead and dig underground dwellings out of the planet’s bedrock now, so we have them later for use as an exploration base. This would use natural materials already present on the planet, rather than requiring supplies from Earth.

Solar-powered robot excavators would be flown to Mars to carve large caverns out of the basalt bedrock. Basalt naturally forms in hexagonal column shapes, so it’s easy to cut away sections to create new interior spaces. The robots would then use the basalt fibers to weave ‘web-like structures’ for the floors of the caves.

Basalt fibers are cheaper than carbon fibers and extremely strong. They’re already in use in the aerospace and automotive industries. Once the robots are done, astronauts would finish the construction and arrange technical facilities for water, oxygen, basalt processing and other needs.

How soon could this happen? The mars One project aims to send volunteers to the red planet to establish a colony by 2023. Right now, the solar-powered robots proposed for use in ZA Architects’ concept don’t yet exist, so it’s hard to say whether it would be possible. What do you think – should we colonize Mars, or just explore?