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We need to send at least 110 people to Mars to build a civilisation, study finds

Mathematical model could help humanity settle on other planets

Andrew Griffin
Technology editor
Friday 19 June 2020 10:08 BST

Humanity would need to send at least 110 people to Mars to build a self-sustaining civilisation there, according to research.

A study has attempted to understand just how many people and resources would be required to settle elsewhere in the universe.

The paper, written by Jean-Marc Salotti from the Bordeaux Institut National Polytechnique, attempted to solve the question using mathematical modelling. It tried to find out both the minimum number of people that would have to live on the planet as well as the way of life they would have to pursue if their life there was to be self-sustaining.

He found that 110 would be the minimum number of individuals required, although having more people would change the calculations.

He also noted that the success of those people would depend on a range of factors, including how well they would be able to work together and share their time and resources.

Professor Salotti noted that the question was largely theoretical at the moment, but could have considerable effects for the future of humanity. Life on Earth could one day be threatened by “some cataclysmic event”, he noted, and it would be possible that the only way humanity would survive would be to head to Mars or some other planet.

Some companies, including SpaceX, have attempted to build ways to ensure this could happen, with rockets made to carry people on the long journey to Mars. But any attempt to do so will inevitably be limited in the number of people that it can take, which Prof Salotti noted will lead people to make important calculations about the minimum number of people that could survive there and create enough resources and tools to allow their life to become self-sustaining.

The research attempted to understand the work the people would have to do to make that possible, and how much time they would have to do that work. The number of 110 people is the minimum number who would be able to do that work, Prof Salotti found.

The study – Minimum Number of Settlers for Survival on Another Planet – is published in Scientific Reports this week.

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