Before terraforming starts, scientists must do a lot of research on the planet and moon. In order to do so, they will need to build a base on the surface of the planet or an orbital station. From there, they will conduct all the research they need.
Constructing the base would be the first step, before a large-scale survey can start.
Ground or orbital station Edit
Building a base on the surface is a good idea if the planet does not have a too dangerous climate. For the Solar System, a ground station is the best solution for Luna, Mars, all the moons of the gas giants and all Kuiper Belt objects.
A space orbital station should be the best option if the planet has a violent climate, extremely high temperature variations or a too dense atmosphere. In the Solar Station, Venus is the best candidate for this. Also, the gas giants, if one day we would like the idea of Terraforming Gas Giants, would require orbital stations. For Mercury, a ground station located at one pole would work well, but also an orbital station would be a good solution.
Habitat for scientists Edit
Scientists that will take part in the mission, will have to stay for years here. Later, as terraforming starts, they might stay as well, to continue their research. When terraforming will start, many more people will be needed, but for the research phase, it will not be the case. Someone can speculate that for research there will be needed as many as 20 people.
The base will have to produce all the food required for 20 people (or how many are needed). Soviets have proven that Chlorella algae can produce all nutrients a human body needs and they experimented for years. However, eating always the same stuff is not pleasant will have a negative impact on the population. Providing a more diverse food, containing also cereals, fruits and vegetables, as well as small amounts of meat, should be an ideal solution, even if it will be more expensive and will require more space for food production.
The Soviets might have successfully fed people with algae, but they never managed to transform human by-products into food for plants. Decomposing of human dejections, wastewater and rests of food into inorganic materials can be done with microbes and worms, but as for now we still are unable to do this on a small scale. The greatest thread is represented by microbes, which are able to contaminate aquariums containing the algae and even reach into drinkable water supply.
The base will have to provide water, oxygen and food for all scientists and auxiliary personnel on board. As one can see, there will be a compartment designed to produce food, one to decompose organic matter and one to store key ingredients, like oxygen, water and minerals.
However, people cannot stay all the time in a crowded place. They need space and they need some intimacy. They might sleep all in a large room with multiple-level beds and use only two bathrooms, but they will need room to work and also places to relax.
The base must produce its own energy, using solar panels or a nuclear generator. It is good to also have an auxiliary source of power, like a backup generator, which must be able to replace the main generator if anything bad happens.
Also, the base must be protected against extreme heat and cold. The base must be protected against solar and cosmic radiations (if they reach it) and against small impacts.
It is important that the base will have spare parts and materials for repairing, backup units and a supply of food, oxygen, water, minerals and medicine. In addition, it is good to have an emergency ship ready to depart if the base is compromised.
As one can see, all these facilities require a large space and enough mass. Some might argue that the size of a research station with 20 people will be similar to a 10 floor high construction. Well, if we only want those people to survive, we can use less space, but if we want to give them some comfort, we have to do sacrifices.
And the last point, but maybe the most important, the base must have its own supercomputer, equipped with one of the best AIs. This computer will be key in maintaining all functions of the base, guiding manned and unmanned research probes, analyzing data and developing plans for terraforming.
Exploration vehicles Edit
During research phase, many manned and unmanned probes need to be deployed. Depending on conditions, we can have:
Satellites. They will orbit the planet and will return scientific data, like:
- Surface composition
- Weather and atmosphere
- Gravity maps.
Also, satellites are important in communications with ground and atmospheric vehicles.
Atmospheric probes. If there is a significant atmosphere, balloons can be used to gather information about its composition and behavior, as well as surface chemical maps.
Ground vehicles. Wheeled, tracked or using feet, these vehicles will move on the surface. They will return chemical analysis of the surface and will be able to sample and analyze materials drilled at a few meters deep. A good research will require that there will not be more then 20 km between places where samples have been taken.
Deep drilling machines. They will drill at least 1 km deep, to give us an image of crust composition. It would be good if the minimum distance between drilling places is at maximum 200 km.
Stand still probes. They are to be left on the surface, to analyze weather changes, ground erosion and seismic activity on a long timescale.
Sample return. In some cases, it is better to take samples and bring them to the research station, where we could host a laboratory with much advanced equipment then portable equipment that can be carried by vehicles.
Needed for exploration Edit
The base will have to use radio equipment to communicate to all vehicles and probes deployed on the planet, in space and in air. Also, the base will need radio equipment to communicate with Earth or other planets.
The base will have its own laboratory, where it will examine rock samples and expose them to water, oxygen and plants. A greenhouse is require, to test how plants and animals will adapt to the local chemistry.
With many vehicles moving, the base will need a repairing facility. Maintenance will be required. The maintenance division will require tools and spare parts. And there will also be needed fuel for launching satellites and spaceships (since some people will want to get home and others will replace them).
In addition, the base will require its own vehicle platforms and space launch pads, as well as a fuel production center. If we have an orbital base, fuel needs to be brought from somewhere else.
Overall, the science part of the base will be larger then the part designed to support life and to host people. It will consume much energy and so it might require its own generator.
When terraforming starts Edit
After the research phase is finished, the supercomputer onboard the base is able to calculate the best terraforming strategy. Scientists focus on the second step, construction of a far greater structure, named Terraforming Plant.