Index – Science – Maybe 22 people are enough for a Martian
Focusing primarily on psychology, including different personality types, the investigation searched for an answer to the question of how many people would be enough for a Mars mission to succeed. The results are a Life ScienceHowever, not everyone agrees with these claims.
Mars’ inhospitable environment is not conducive to human settlement, and the survival of the early colonists will depend on terrestrial supplies. But in addition to the technical and engineering tasks, psychological and social challenges await the early settlers, as good co-operation from a small, isolated company is no easy feat. The study authors use agent-based models, which are frequently used not only in psychology and sociology, but also in mathematics and economics, to explain related phenomena (even social ones).
With the help of the models, the areas that should be taken into account when planning the colony were determined, and recommendations were made regarding the minimum initial population size of the colony.
For definitions, previous research examining groups that function well in isolated environments (workers in submarines, arctic regions) was examined, and accordingly four basic personality types were analysed.
From the point of view of cohabitation, these features were examined:
- Less competitive, gentle, and non-aggressive
- Social, works well in social situations, and extroverted
- Reactive, which finds it difficult to get used to changes and reacts rather than initiates
- Competitive aggressiveness
Researchers have varied the number and diversity of species when performing different tasks, such as simulating mining or farming on Mars. According to the results, if the company mainly consists of kind and sociable people, then 22 people is sufficient for a well-functioning colony, but if there are more aggressive and interactive species, the number of people should be increased for good cooperation. But the model is incomplete and raises questions in that the initial infrastructure and equipment were not built and installed by the first 22 residents, who already have 7 years of power from a small nuclear reactor. So they will prepare a lot of things, and all they have to do is “act” and work together.
The simulation was limited to the first 28 years of the colonists’ life and was deemed successful as long as at least 10 people survived to the end of the mission.
More like 110?
However, Marc Salotti, an aerospace researcher at the IMS Laboratory in Purdue, questions this theory, and according to his findings, at least 110 people are needed to start an effective Martian colony. According to him, this four classification narrows the scope of the investigation too much, and to build and maintain an independent Martian colony, more people with a wider range of knowledge and skills will be required. In addition, if we want to plan a long-term Mars colony, the gene pool of 22 people will not be enough, and the problem of inbreeding will arise, which will lead to reduced resistance and increased chance of disease.
Salotti also cites a 2018 paper on the habitability of the nearest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri, located 4.2 light-years away. Investigation. In this, determining a realistic population size turns out to be complex, as many factors (infertility, sudden deaths, accidents) play a role, but at least 98 individuals would be required to create a genetically viable, successful population. According to Salotti, a similar number would be ideal for an initial Mars colony.
(Cover image: Shutterstock)