How many humans are needed to colonize Mars

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Colonizing the planet Mars requires leaving nothing to chance, not even the number of humans mobilized. A French researcher recently evaluated the ideal number by modeling an equation. This made it possible to balance the needs of individuals according to the sharing of tasks. Result? Mars could barely welcome more than a hundred humans for the establishment of the very first colony.

Neither too little nor not enough

The establishment of a colony on Mars naturally spills a lot of ink. In May 2019, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin called for a large human migration to Mars. A few months later, SpaceX boss Elon Musk reaffirmed his intention to create a colony on Mars by the end of the century. There was talk of a million settlers to hope for self-sufficiency. Incidentally, this objective questioned the food challenge embodied by the presence of such a large population.

What will happen to the very first Martian colony? Jean-Marc Salotti, from the Laboratoire de l’Intégration du Matériau au Système at the University of Bordeaux, tried to answer this question. In a publication in the journal Scientific Reports of June 16, 2020, the French researcher estimates that 110 people should be enough to establish the first human colony on Mars.

More viable task sharing

Jean-Marc Salotti says he has developed a model that includes many parameters. These include the quantity of resources available on Mars, the possible difficulties in exploiting them and the production capacity. Another very important parameter was also included in the model. It is the ability of the settlers to work together for a common goal. In other words, exploiting Martian resources and building a habitat will necessarily require teamwork and therefore, sharing of tasks.

According to the researcher, this division of tasks will depend on needs, processes, resources and environmental conditions. However, 110 settlers would be a large enough figure to organize a more viable division of labor according to each person’s specialties. The equation is not a mathematical absolute but its purpose is to allow simple comparisons. The goal is to define the best survival strategy and the best place to achieve it.

In his plan “a million humans on Mars by 2100”, Elon Musk imagines an initial crew of only 12 people. Then 100 to 200 settlers would sent every 26 months. According to Jean-Marc Salotti’s equation, a dozen people would not be enough to found the first Martian colony.