This proven technology could prevent a future energy crisis on Mars

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If we do eventually colonize Mars, we can almost certainly count on running our homes with clean, sustainable energy. Most experts will tell you that solar power will be the way to go. even nuclear hell, despite the risks, is seen as a more viable option. But ultimately, we may one day see wind farms dotting the red, arid landscape as far as the eye can see.

According to a new study conducted by NASA scientists and published on December 19 in natural astronomy, the Martian winds could be a reliable source of energy on the Red Planet, and perhaps even provide the opportunity to explore and settle in new places we never thought possible before. On its own, the paper doesn’t radically change the way we think about potential Mars habitats, but it does add a new layer to thinking about how human communities might diversify their energy needs to thrive on Mars in the distant future.

“Wind power represents a stable and sustained energy resource over large portions of the surface of Mars,” the authors wrote. “We find that the wind speed at some proposed landing sites is fast enough to provide a stand-alone or complementary power source to solar or nuclear power.”

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The wind was previously an ignored and vastly understudied part of Mars. After all, it is more difficult to study using terrestrial telescopes and Martian orbiters. Recently, however, scientists have been able to observe and even Listen to the winds blowing across the planet thanks to the wave of rovers NASA sent to Mars.

Armed with this new data, the new study uses climate modeling to determine the total wind potential that exists on the Red Planet, as well as to determine how this varies over time and between regions.

This type of modeling is not only important for understanding the climate of Mars, but also for knowing how we can use it to fuel future colonies. Having multiple power sources can greatly increase the chances of a successful long-term mission on the planet. The sun isn’t going anywhere, but it’s important to have redundancy in case something breaks or fails at some point.

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But the most interesting lesson of the study concerns water. If humans want to settle on Mars, they must do so in places where it is easy to harvest water via ice supplies, which are more readily available near the North and South Poles. These places also receive less sunlight than equatorial regions (just like on Earth). So the NASA team set out to find out if wind power could help make up the difference near the poles.

And what they found was that in several places, “average annual wind power exceeds available solar power by up to 3.4 times.” In particular, these locations include the northern regions of Deuteronilus Mensae and Protonilus Mensae, where arrays of wind turbines a few hundred feet high could be erected without too much trouble.

All of this precedes the fact that humans have yet to set foot on Mars. We haven’t even been back to the moon yet. But people are hoping to avoid flooding Mars with the same kind of squabbles and energy constraints that we currently face on Earth. Early planning with several different technologies could save us a ton of heartache down the road.

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