Another question of “where should the explorers stay” has also plague many minds on the issue of Mars. If they were to live in the landing craft, that would require more weight due to the large craft, which means more fuel. This is not the most economical way to fly especially over the long distance.
Underground shelters would require that drilling equipment would have to brought along on the trip, which would create even more unnecessary weight. Although it would protect the inhabitants from the harsh climate, it would also take a while to dig an area large enough to be used as a shelter. The time and the extra weight will prevent this idea from being used at the beginnin.
Therefore, domes are probably the best choice (See Appendices H, I). “Historically, it’s been part of science fiction,” said Dr. Christopher McKay, at NASA Ames. “We’re trying to make it science.”
The material for the domes could be made on Mars. The only things that would have to be brought to Mars would be bacteria cultures to harvest Carbon, Iron, and Hydrogen, and manufactured plastic. There would also be a need for little electric furnaces to create iron and/or steel.
The iron could be harvested from the Iron Oxide in the soil and the diatomic-Oxygen could be used to burn in the electric furnaces or pumped into the atmosphere. The Iron could then be used as the domes support beams.
The plastic could be simply laminated Plexiglas. The bacteria could be used to build the monomers and secrete it. The bacteria will have to be broken open if they cannot secrete it, or the colonists should wait until the bacteria has grown and die of being too full of plastic. The monomer could then be placed in the electric furnaces to melt the “goo” and then mould it into anything that is needed.
The best type of dome would be a geodesic dome where it is made by triangular panels and metal supports linking the panels. The air pressure inside the dome would be far greater than that of the outside, reinforcing the dome even more. The domes could be used as cities, greenhouses, and/or other external buildings.
Domes are the best choice as starting habitats for the colonists to live and work in. They are easy to build, reliable, but also require many things to be brought to Mars. A big question that has to be answered before we get is what the plan will entail.