Build A Mars Colony - FamilyEducation

Build A Mars Colony

by Dennis Randall

Are your children ready for an out of this world adventure? It's time to colonize Mars!

Your children are in charge of planning for a Mars Colony. Their mission?To insure the colony's success by bringing along enough supplies andtools to create a self-sufficient outpost of human civilization. The missioncan be a group or classroom effort, or a family activity. This activity has the makings of a world-class science project.

As a kid, I used to spend countless hours sketching plans for my ownMars Colony. Part of the attraction was healthy escapism -- I was in chargeand my folks were on another world. Literally.  But the part of theongoing daydream I found most intriguing was the problem of creating aviable and independent world. I remember showing my plans to a scienceteacher, who looked them over and offered encouraging praise before askinga simple deadly question: "Doesn't anyone in this place ever go to thebathroom?"

I gasped! My complex plan with hundreds of rooms had everything -- excepta single bathroom. Oh, well -- back to the drawing board.

Staying Alive
Think of traveling to Mars as going camping with the nearest store severalmillion miles away. If you didn't bring it, and can't make it, you'll haveto do without. To prosper, your Mars Colony will need to "solve" the problemslisted below (more or less in order of importance).

  1. Air Supply -- If you run out, you're in big trouble.
  2. Water Supply -- Where is the next drink of water going to come from?
  3. Food Production -- Will you grow your own, or live on freeze-dried Big Macs?
  4. Waste Management -- Recycling is key and nothing can be wasted.
  5. Heating and Cooling -- How does the colony keep from freezing to death?
  6. Energy -- Will you rely on solar, atomic, or wind energy, or on something else?
  7. Living Quarters -- Above ground or below the surface?
  8. Factories -- How do you make the thing you need?
  9. Transportation -- How are you going to get around on Mars? Walk, fly, ordrive?
  10. Communication -- How will you stay in touch with the folks at home?
  11. Laws and Government -- Who's in charge?
  12. Recreation Areas -- All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Build It on Paper
Kids are capable of creating complex and thoughtful designs with littlemore than a pen, pencil, graph paper, and imagination. It's not absolutelynecessary to understand every detail of a system's operation to incorporateit into your colony's plan. A waste recycling center could be as simpleas a box labeled "Waste Conversion," or it could contain detailed plansfor filtration beds, atmospheric CO2 scrubbers, and the works.A side benefit of this process is that kids begin to learn the basics ofblueprint and map reading.

Your child may draw on many sheets of paper before he arrives at a designhe's happy with. A pair of scissors and a little glue could save a lotof time. My Mars Colony had so many cut and pasted buildings it lookedlike a ransom note.

Build It in 3-D
A rough scale model of the colony can be built using found objects rangingfrom blocks, cardboard, and Lego pieces, to recycled plastic soda bottles andplastic cake and pie covers for domes. As in any project involvingimagination and discovery, the sky is literally the limit.

Welcome to Mars!

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