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Many places in the world suffer the impact of climate or geological changes that produce hurricanes,
floods and earthquakes among other events. In most movies, generally with apocalyptic topics, we can
see that either presidents or important people take shelter inside self-sustaining underground
installations that are called Bunkers. These bunkers are capable of resisting nuclear attacks or the
worst weather. In my research about Mars, I learned that the conditions of life on the red planet are
difficult for the development of human life because of the presence of sand storms, high radiation,
drastic changes of the temperature, thin atmosphere that doesnt protect the planet from falling
meteorites, and the almost inexistence of a magnetic field that would protect Mars from solar storms or
cosmic rays. My idea is about building underground bunkers to be used as self-sustaining habitats for
future human missions to Mars. This idea also came up when I realized that most proposed habitats for
astronauts seen in documentaries are located on the surface of the planet, which, as mentioned before,
involves many risks for humans.

Could manned missions have a safe, risk free, healthy and comfortable life on Mars, creating optimal
conditions for research to be successful?

The conditions to live on Mars surface are devastating, unlike Earth, Mars lost its magnetic field some
3.5 billion years ago therefore most of its shielding capability from space radiation is very poor, but
manned missions could increase their chance of success if they use underground bunkers as a

Bunker: A defensive military fortification designed to protect people or important materials from
wartime attacks, bombs, tornadoes, hurricanes or extreme temperatures. Most bunkers are built
underground. Some types of bunkers are:
a) Shelter of corrugated steel plate: This shelter absorbs any kind of seismic movements; it is
effective against atomic hazards because it is covered with concrete.
b) Buried container: The Army and the International Emergency Services use them as shelters. This
bunker needs to be reinforced to prevent a collapse because of the soils weight or the concrete boards
on the walls.
c) Improved Cellular Concrete Shelter: Made up of special products that do not contaminate the
environment and give a special resistance against earthquakes.
d) Poliespan Anti Seismic Brick: This type of brick has good seismic characteristics used for
retaining walls. These bricks are ideal for an underground shelter; the material is very light.

Reinforced Concrete: Is used for building shelters or bunkers because of its high resistance. Its
thermal inertia allows the inner space of the bunker to maintain warmth. The steel rods inside the
concrete are so heavy that it is practically impossible to remove them.

Atmospheric conditions: Mars atmosphere is composed mostly of Carbon Dioxide (95%), its
atmospheric pressure is about 0.6% of that of the Earth, its temperatures range from -140C to 20C.
Due to its low gravity (around 38% of Earths gravity) and extreme temperature changes, Mars
experiences devastating sandstorms, capable of eroding most manmade materials and ruining
equipment. All these harsh conditions contribute to the need of a safe habitat for astronauts.

Radiation: it occurs when electromagnetic waves travel through vacuum and matter; these waves
come as x-rays or gamma rays from our Sun (solar radiation) or deep space (cosmic radiation), capable
of destroying organic matter and producing cancer to humans. Astronauts will be exposed to radiation
during the trip to Mars, but they can be protected by using aluminum and lead panels inside the ship.
Mars atmosphere offers some degree of shielding against radiation, but its still a dangerous issue for
astronauts. If an underground bunker is build, astronauts would be protected by the layer of soil and the
concrete modules.

Geological Aspects: Three quarters of Mars surface is desert, giving it a reddish color. The soil is
covered with pebbles, cobblestone, and boulders. Mars used to have marsquakes in the past, but
nowadays theyre practically nonexistent. According to NASA, there is Basalt on Martian bedrock, this
Camila Nogales Mars Science Project
compound is a great insulator and provides excellent shielding from radiation; this basalt could be used
to create some type of cement, which, with the use of steel rods inside, would make an excellent
reinforced concrete.

Dimensions: For the construction we can apply some safety standards used on Earth. For example
with 60 cm of concrete we only remove 50% of radiation, which is equivalent to the protection given by
a depth of 1 m of land. To have 100 % protection against radiation, we should have more than 1 m thick
concrete or a depth of 2 m of land. The dimension of the bunker could be 12 m long and 12 m wide or
144m2. The bunker could have 6 areas, each one of 24m 2. The bunker could have a hospital,
communication and research area, entertainment room, dining room, bedroom, and a greenhouse.

Bunker location: The two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have found many different types of soil
and rocks. This suggests that the Martian terrain is varied. Thats why the location of the bunker is an
important issue for this project. The best places for harboring human colonies are located in the
Equator, where the seasonal variations are lower. A good specific place for the bunker could be
Amazonis Planitia, one of the flattest plains of the Martian surface that is located on Mars Equator.

Vital Support Systems

Astronauts could bring water from Earth, or it could be obtained by melting ice from the Martian poles.
This water could be used to obtain oxygen by the electrolysis process. To eat, astronauts could bring
dehydrated food from earth or grow their own food in greenhouses inside the bunker using artificial
light and water. Energy can be obtained from solar panels, nuclear energy, or wind energy. In case of
accidents or the need of medical treatment, astronauts could bring the necessary medical resources
from earth.

- Robot in charge of extracting the basalt and digging the hole for the bunker
- Robot in charge of making the concrete
- Steel rods and plates
- Communication equipment
- Energy equipment
- Life support equipment
- Liquid Water


There are some difficulties with sending manned missions to Mars, NASA still hasnt figured out how to
improve the landing process, they succeeded when landing the rover Curiosity because of its low mass
and high resistance, but its a different complete issue to make humans land on Mars. For this reason, it
would be convenient to send robots first, who would be in charge of extracting the Basalt from bedrock
(these robots could work with solar energy), making the concrete modules and digging the hole to place
the bunker; this unmanned mission would also take all the equipment required for assembling the
modules, such as the steel rods, steel plates, liquid water and supplies. Making the concrete from basalt
will present challenges, because it would need the presence of liquid water and the extremely low
temperatures (-140 to 20) would easily freeze the water; to prevent this, the robots in charge of
making the modules should have a heating and insulating system that would keep the water in liquid
estate. Then, when scientists have found a better way to make humans land on Mars, they could send a
manned mission consisting of 4 astronauts, who will be responsible of assembling the prefabricated
modules of the bunker. During the assembly process, astronauts would live in the space module in
which they arrived, relatively safe from the extreme sandstorms and radiation. With the bunker
assembled, astronauts would need to perform preventive security tests for life support systems, power,
and communications. Once the tests are performed, astronauts could permanently live in the bunker
and start carrying out experiments and producing the food and the energy they need. Over time,
astronauts could venture out for further research missions on Mars surface, counting with a safe place
in the bunker.

During my research, I found out that there are plans for making underground shelters in Mars, but these
ideas consist of digging Martian soil in order to shape support columns in the process, so astronauts
could live underground in shelters that resemble some sort of ant tunnels. I consider these designs
very creative, but there is always the risk of collapse, this is why I think that building a proper bunker
Camila Nogales Mars Science Project
would reduce the risk for astronauts. In developing this project, I came to the conclusion that building
an underground bunker is a good alternative for securing a research base on Mars, because of the
possibility of falling meteorites, drastic atmospheric changes, radiation, and lack of oxygen, among
others. Bunkers are effective on Earth, protecting people from natural disasters or nuclear bombs, so
many things are known about building bunkers and there is a huge variety of designs to choose from.
All this knowledge about bunkers that is widely developed on Earth can be applied with relative ease
with a manned mission to Mars. With this project I learned a lot about the geological and atmospheric
conditions on Mars, also about the conditions required for a safe habitat for future astronauts on the
Red Planet. The message of this project is that we can use all the knowledge learned and applied on
Earth to expand the limits of humankind, leading to the conquest of space, which, for now, is taking us
to that amazing red dot in the night sky, Mars.


Bibliographical References:

Camila Nogales Mars Science Project