The UAE is Building a Simulated Mars City to Prepare Future Colonists

Thursday, 28 September 2017 - 7:44PM
Thursday, 28 September 2017 - 7:44PM
The UAE is Building a Simulated Mars City to Prepare Future Colonists
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Dubai Media Office
Despite The Martian showing us all just how crummy life on Mars would actually be, plenty of people around the world still have a desire to go spend some time (potentially forever) living on the red planet's surface.

Plenty of organizations around the world are undergoing research to see how well humans would be able to live on Mars, and what challenges we might face along the way - even though, no matter what Elon Musk says, we're still a long way away from comfortably sending off a bunch of colonists to our nearest neighbor, without it being a huge deal.

Now, getting in on the part-scientific, part-wistful thinking bandwagon, the United Arab Emirates has announced plans to run a trial simulation to see whether life on Mars would actually be worth living. Unlike the many previous simulations that have examined this, the UAE's newly announced project involves not just a small group of scientists trapped in a close space together, but instead, focuses on a far more important question: what if we had an awesome future city on Mars that was protected by a giant bubble?

It's every sci-fi fan's greatest dream, and the UAE is testing it out. Soon, we'll have a pretend Martian city in a bubble.

This will not be a small project. The city will be constructed in the Emirati desert, and will cover nearly two million square feet. Buildings, parks, and infrastructure will be contained within giant domes that will house everything citizens will need for a comfortable life in relative isolation. According to the Dubai media office:

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"The project, which was unveiled at the annual meetings for the UAE government in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, encompasses laboratories for food, energy and water, as well as agricultural testing and studies about food security in the future. The science city will also boast a museum that displays humanity's greatest space achievements, including educational areas meant to engage young citizens with space, and inspire in them a passion for exploration and discovery.

"The walls of the museum will be 3D printed, using sand from the Emirati desert."
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All in all, it's expected that the UAE's simulated Martian city will cost around $136 million, but it's a small price to pay to see what life could be like on Mars should humanity ever get our act together. 

The challenge is independent living - it's not easy to run a city this large without external resources, and over time buildings and equipment will wear down without any replacements or additional construction materials that can be reasonably brought in to help in a tight situation.

There will also be the question of isolation for the city's citizens - the city should be able to produce its own jobs, run schools, and offer every benefit that any other UAE city might be able to offer its residents, but we don't know much about how a larger populace will react when cut off from the rest of civilization, unable to leave a small, restricted geographical area, and forced to live closely with the same few thousand people without any new visitors arriving.

This experiment has the makings of a fantastic if pretty terrifying Wild West movie - should anyone attempt to overthrow the local government in a city on Mars, there would be no easy way to maintain law and order through any means other than violence.

This experiment is going to teach us a lot about how life would actually play out in a Martian bubble city. Quite aside from everything else, the UAE's Marstropolis sounds like it should itself be the premise for a sequel to The Martian.
Science News