Mars colonisation depends on autonomous mining: UNSW

Autonomous mining processes hold the key to human colonisation in Mars, which will be possible by 2050 when they become more commercially viable, according to University of New South Wales (UNSW) director of research Serkan Saydam.

This won’t be going at the rate that Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has flagged, Saydam said.

Musk has claimed that a million people will inhabit Mars by 2050, with his SpaceX venture in Texas, the United States, planning to launch up to three Starship rockets to Mars a day.

SpaceX is proposing to build 1000 Starships to transport humans to the red planet and create a sustainable city.

Saydam explained that robots were needed to create a colony on Mars to extract and process water before humans landed.

“The process for having humans on Mars will be to set up operations, go there and produce water with robots first, and then be able to extract the hydrogen to make the energy ready before people arrive,” he said.

“Innovation in robotics and autonomous systems are clearly important so we have the water ready and the hydrogen separated and ready for when human beings land.

“At the moment, we don’t have ability to do it. There (is) a significant research effort, specifically here at UNSW under ACSER (Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research), about the best way to do it, but there is no consensus yet.

“It also depends on how many people we expect to be living on Mars. Is it five, or 5,000, or 50,000, or even more?”

Saydam believes that the technology is ready but the focus is lacking, adding that the time frame for human colony on Mars could be shortened by technological advances.

“Why are we still using human beings for physical work in mining here? We have huge experience in mining, but still heavily depend on humans,” he said.

NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars last month, looking for signs of past microbial life on the red planet.

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