Minimum Number of Settlers Needed for Life on Mars Is Surprisingly Low

Coincidentally, the calculations correlate with SpaceX's Starship plans.
Derya Ozdemir

If you have your eyes set on colonizing Mars, you first have to get humans up there. But just how many was a question that was waiting to be answered.

A computer scientist has developed a series of equations to answer that question, predicting the bare minimum of settlers needed to establish a self-sustainable community on Mars.

The number is kind of low when you think about it:  just 110 explorers that could fit in SpaceX's Starship — only if they can actually accomplish the goal of carrying 100 passengers each — could ensure a successful establishment, according to the author isJean-Marc Salotti, a Professor at Bordeaux Institut National Polytechnique.


In order to achieve the number, his mathematical model covered factors such as the local resources and the number of survival items that can be produced on Mars. The number of people that are needed to meet these factors was calculated by Salotti's mathematical formula. 

Salotti states, "The minimum number of individuals for survival depends on their capacity to produce essential objects and consumables using local resources. The initial state of the settlement is very important because large quantities of resources and modern tools may help a lot in developing industries and achieving a viable state."

110 people can carry out the tasks for developing an economy

It turns out, 110 people were enough to carry out the necessary steps for developing an economy up there while using resources without depleting their supplies. 

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These people, unless they pull a Solaris or decide to start tribal warfare, can operate together on tasks that benefit the group, say by building facilities to harvest drinking water instead of fending alone.

Minimum Number of Settlers Needed for Life on Mars Is Surprisingly Low
Source: NASA

The formula

Salotti wrote, "If each settler was completely isolated and no sharing was possible, each individual would have to perform all activities and the total time requirement would be obtained by a multiplication by the number of individuals."

The calculation is hypothetical for sure; however, marks the "first quantitative assessment of the minimum number of individuals for survival based on engineering constraints."

It is a nice coincidence that the current human missions to Mars correlate with that number. SpaceX is currently working on its Starship which will be a fully reusable rocket that can carry around 100 individuals to Mars.