If a manned mission to mars was made with the hope of colonization, we would probably need to make many of our structures there out of materials found there - they would probably be simply too heavy to launch from Earth.

With that in mind, have any materials/minerals been found on Mars that would allow the building of a colony, such as iron, etc.?

  • $\begingroup$ If this doesn't get a good answer tonight, I'll pull my copy of "The Case for Mars" and get a good answer tomorrow. Short answer, yes. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Jul 21 '13 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ Isn't this kind of like asking if there are fish in the sea? $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Jul 21 '13 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, it is a bit more like asking if there is aluminium and oxygen on Mars. Oh wait, we know that already: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composition_of_Mars#Elemental_composition $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Jul 22 '13 at 2:39
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    $\begingroup$ @PearsonArtPhoto Zubrin makes his case, for sure. For details on the materials found on Mars based on latest results, have a look at Badescu, V. (ed.), 2010. Mars: Prospective Energy and Material Resources. $\endgroup$
    – s-m-e
    Jul 22 '13 at 6:50
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    $\begingroup$ @ernestopheles: Yeah, it's completely modernized, modern science, new plan for proposed launch date, etc. It was funny, I actually emailed Zubrin requesting a new edition in early 2011, and was told there was one on the way:-) I actually had the book on pre-order. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Jul 22 '13 at 8:45

Mars has extensive iron oxide ore. Much of it on the surface. Not readily extracted, but extractable with the correct smelting process.

It has silicates, as well; this allows for glass.

It has carbon dioxide; with a solar panel farm, and a cracking solution, that's oxygen for the taking.

And that's just materials available readily at surface. Mars will have other metal resources available via mining, and other non-metal resources as well. What it lacks is free oxygen and surface water; water can be extracted from Mars' polar "ice" (most of which isn't actually water).

Mars has sufficient resources to be able to expand for a considerable time; it's general composition is thought to be similar to Earth's, though with fewer heavy elements, and having cooled sufficiently to have a solidified core (and thus a very weak magnetosphere - 1/(10^4) that of Earth).

Mars may or may not have sufficient resources for a permanent self-sustaining colony, but it does have a plentitude of resources that could make a colony viable in an interim colonial mode.

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    $\begingroup$ As a side note, the North Polar Cap of mars is 3km thick of water ice and has a volume just short of 200 thousand cubic miles. Its the top 1-2m of it that are 'dry ice'. Though as you rightly said, no liquid water. $\endgroup$
    – user106
    Jul 22 '13 at 8:18
  • $\begingroup$ Any sources you can point to? $\endgroup$
    – Undo
    Jul 22 '13 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ @undo - Mars' surface is iron oxide and silicate rocks. The sources are too numerous to mention. Tho' a quick google for "Mars Magnetosphere" should net you a dozen scholarly works on Mars magnetic conditions. That it has a magnetosphere implies the core isn't totally cooled yet. $\endgroup$
    – aramis
    Jul 22 '13 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ @aramis Here's a relevant paper you might want to add to your answer. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Jul 24 '13 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ @ j.Doe, The low pressure would make it more difficult to collect carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the actual conversion would be done in an environment where the temperature and pressure can be optimised to the process. (Greenhouses or chemical reactors). The problem of obtaining carbon dioxide can be overcome by using the 'dry ice' on the North Polar Cap, since 'dry ice' is in fact solid carbon dioxide. $\endgroup$
    – Martini
    Jun 30 '17 at 9:36

The real question is where would all the power come from to extract, refine and smelt these materials? Obviously no organic fuel sources are available, it would all have to be solar. Which would mean shipping thousands of tons of solar panels to Mars, until the colony developed its own solar panel manufacturing capability.


Virtually everything we have on Earth is available on Mars except fossil fuels. Even that could be synthesized from Hydrogen and Carbon and then reacted with synthesized oxygen for portable power. Power is the number one issue. Stationary could be nuclear and solar but solar wouldn't produce efficiently for high demand like smelting. For portable power it's hard to beat chemical but electric would be an option if enough stationary is available to support it. Another big issue is that a Mars colony would necessarily be a high tech venture so things like computers, spare parts and some high tech materials would be an issue for many, many years. But, necessity is the Mother of Invention.


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