Carl Sagan said that the only way to avoid the end of the world was to settle on another planet i.e make a colony on Mars or some other planet as soon as possible: become an interplanetary species. But It’s easier to say it than do it. The history of humanity from the beginning of time is full of examples that show that ‘settling’ in inhospitable places is something very complex and dangerous.
Therefore, to face the colonization of Mars or any other planet, the central question is not whether we have the technology to go ( we have it ), but how viable it is to survive on another planet and, even more, to be self-sufficient without depending on the Land. In this area, things are much greener, but although our understanding of the variables that will affect the first human colonies is still very poor, Jean-Marc Salotti wanted to find an answer.
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Colony on Mars and Population size
Much work has been done on this topic in recent years. Normally, from the point of view of genetic diversity and social adaptation. One of the most interesting recent works is that of Marin and Beluffi who, in 2018, carried out simulations following generation after generation at different population sizes on a hypothetical trip to Proxima Centauri b. They were the ones who determined that a group of humans on a colony to Mars could reasonably maintain their genetic health as long as the initial size was greater than 98.
However, all of these approaches fall a little short and are often limited because, whether they recognize it or not, they always need the support of the metropolis. After all, colonizing space requires more than just genetics. We can send a good number of travelers to Mars, but what if, for whatever reason, space infrastructure ends up destroyed and there is a long-term disruption to space travel? What if Earth decides that these projects are not viable and decides to cut the program? Or, something that should not be ruled out either, what if the colonists decide, at their own risk and expense, to become independent?
As Salotti defends something that we must not forget are the human and technical capacity to build an infrastructure that allows us to produce the necessary resources for long-term survival. That is a fundamental factor. If you look at the English pilgrim settlements on the North American coast we can see what Salotti is referring to. Many of their problems stemmed from their inability to develop productive economies and infrastructure fast enough to ensure long-term survival. In fact, ‘ Thanksgiving ‘ shows that neither long nor short.
For this reason, Salotti has created a model that allows him to estimate the time required to implement the most basic human activities for long-term survival and to analyze the minimum number of people necessary to start these activities in the fastest time possible. His calculations allow us to talk about 110 people. A number that fits in with other approaches, but much lower than expected from the point of view of technical feasibility.
However, it is a first approximation. Now there is a huge discussion about what would be the most effective strategy to survive up there. For example, Salotti theorizes that the most robust model would be to form a colony of Mars with a very community component because, in his opinion, that would guarantee better use of resources. We do not know if this is indeed the case, but we will have to find out because, in the most viable approaches, the articulation has more other more tourist or subsidiary profiles of the Earth that would require much more people, more resources and more time