New research indicates that settlement on Mars could start with far fewer settlers than previously expected. The study also looked at what types of personalities are best adapted to a long-term stay on the Red Planet.
The research, conducted by scientists from George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and other institutions, looked at the challenges that might face Martian settlers as they build and maintain a self-sustaining human presence. The research comes as space agencies around the world begin planning for future, long-duration space missions to the Moon and, eventually, the Red Planet.
The researchers’ goal was to answer questions such as: What are the conditions needed to maintain a stable site on Mars? What mix of personality types would work best in this hostile environment? How many resources are needed for the two years between resupply and assuming accidents? As the study indicates, less than twenty people are needed to start a future settlement on Mars.
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“From our simulations and multiple scenarios (up to 28 Earth years), we found that an initial population of 22 is the minimum required to maintain a viable settlement size over the long term,” the authors wrote in a paper detailing their findings, It has not yet been peer-reviewed and has been published on the Research Repository website arXiv. “We find, contrary to other literature, that the minimum number of people of all types of personality who can lead to a sustainable settlement is in the dozens, not in the hundreds.”
A typical Martian settlement
To answer these questions and better define the behavioral and psychological interactions of future settlers on Mars, the team used a computer modeling approach called agent-based modeling (ABM) simulations.
ABM systems are commonly used to study interactions between people, objects, and places over time. The researchers also looked at data on groups of humans in other remote, high-stress situations, including aboard the International Space Station (ISS). This allowed them to test the minimum number of people needed to keep an outpost on Mars running, sometimes for nearly three decades.
The model the team used assumes that a Martian settlement has already been built, and that food, air and water are produced on site on the Red Planet. This means that the simulated Mars base requires no startup time.
In the ABM settlement there is also a nuclear generator with a stable supply of electricity for a minimum of 7 years. The purpose of this simulated settlement is to extract minerals from the Red Planet and return them to Earth.
Taking the test five times over 28 years, the outpost population sizes ranged from 10 to 170 to find the stable population size.
In addition to discovering that a Mars base could operate for extended periods with only 22 people, the team determined that a settlement could survive if its population dropped to 10 settlers, but only if it was built up again within 1.5 years – which was necessary. The time set by the simulation between supply missions from Earth.
However, the team went further, also testing what type of person would seem best suited for an extended stay on Mars.
What personality types work best on Mars?
The ABM simulations the team used allowed them to interpret interactions between settlers by looking at four basic personality types based on flexibility and adaptability. These four types were defined as agreeable, social, reactive, and neurotic.
The team defined agreeable subjects as “individuals who are minimally competitive, low aggressive, and do not focus on strict routines,” while sociopaths were “individuals who are moderately competitive, outgoing, and demanding of social interaction, but not focused on strict routines.” . Interpersonal people with a moderate degree of competitiveness and competitive orientation who focus on rigid routines were classified as interactors. The last group, “individuals with a high degree of competitiveness, very aggressive personality characteristics, and the ability to adapt to boredom or Change in Routine”, were classified as neurotic patients.
In the models, Red Planet settlements started with an equal number of these four character types. In all tests, the researchers indicated that the acceptable personality types were the only Mars settlers who persisted for the duration of each round.
“We also found that the agreeable personality type is the type most likely to survive,” the team wrote. “The stress of accidents, as well as that of interaction with other settlers, takes its toll, and agreeable personality types were rated as the most durable in the long term, while neurotic people showed the least adaptive capacity.”
In addition to modeling events at the individual level, such as interactions between settlers, the team also used ABM simulations to account for global challenges. This means considering the potential impact of events such as accidents and disruptions to the Mars base’s supply chain with Earth’s presence on the outpost as a whole.
The team said their research “demonstrates that the psychological success of a team and an individual in extreme environments can broadly be attributed to adaptive capacity, which we define as the ability of people, organizations and systems, using available skills and resources, to manage adverse conditions and risks.” or disasters.”
For future studies, the team suggests changing the proportions of personality types among settlers, suggesting that a team of all accepted types can create the most cohesive and successful Martian settlements.
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