I am the multi trillionaire owner of Handwaveum Inc. who has always been fascinated with travel and living among the stars. I live in your near future where we have developed technology that allows us to finally colonize Mars! We can travel to and from Earth in a matter of months so while re-supply is possible rapidly responding to crisis will be difficult. We will have 200 intrepid volunteers who's job it will be to maintain the habitat for a period of 20 years to test the viability of colonizing the Red Planet. The habitat itself is a fully contained dome with about 1 square mile of space on the ground. The habitat will support life, crops, air, etc through the technology of Handwaveum and the monthly supply drops can bring in any other needed supplies to sustain life.

My question is, what is the optimal mix of professions required for my volunteers to succeed living 20 years away from Earth on an inhospitable planet with only monthly supply drops to assist them?


Professions existing in your 21st Century are sufficient. The volunteers will include individuals from Handwaveum that will be able to maintain the Habitat's advanced technology and should not count among the professional mix.

The individuals will have a mixture of genders

Individuals will live, work, play, and fully exist in an enclosed habitat for 20 years.

Exit from the habitat is possible through air locks in space suits but there are no other habitable locations thus far on the planet.

The mission is to conclude if a small number of humans can thrive in an enclosed environment such as the one described. The professional mixture should support this end.

EDIT: As Alexander and pojo-guy have noted we here at Handwaveum Inc. have no desire for our intrepid explorers to feel cramped in their confines. We have (miraculously of course) expanded the habitat to a square mile of space (640 acres)! While the individuals will be getting regular supplies (including footstuffs) from the supply drops, they could certainly use some of the space for agricultural pursuits to supplement and augment the supplies received.

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    $\begingroup$ You are going to have 20 people per acre, and that includes living quarters and agriculture land? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ You don't have enough space. Other questions have established that agricultural land to meet food requirements are measured in acres per person, not people per acre. The number I recall is 4 acres per person. $\endgroup$
    – pojo-guy
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ Engineers, many. Medical folk, few. Artists, a couple. Scientists, not really necessary but If ya going to Mars it seems appropriate. Bureaucrats to enforce the will of handwavium inc. , essential $\endgroup$
    – Ummdustry
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ Also its worth noting Mars gets considerably less sunlight so with conventional agriculture it'll be more than 4 acres per person . $\endgroup$
    – Ummdustry
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Ummdustry engineers are nice, but they're white collar. Who's going to implement their ideas? $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 21:15

2 Answers 2


There have been a few studies already done on Earth to investigate group dynamics and psychological impacts of isolation and 'closed' ecological and industrial systems. Some of the notable examples:

BioSphere 2

This study in the mid-90's was to investigate what issues are encountered when a group is isolated in a closed ecosystem. 8 people were used, each with a key role in maintenance of the dome. Over time, there were group dynamic difficulties, but the experiment yielded many conclusions from how oxygen deprivation affects health, to the difficulties inherent in attempting a self-sufficient colony.

Each of the crew had a certain role, and were all scientists. Most were there to maintain the ecological systems - which despite their attention started to show unusual outcomes (such as cockroaches suddenly multiplying, pollenating insects dying, trees not photosynthesising enough). One of the conclusions also re: group dynamics is that a substantial variety and quantity of people is needed to prevent what occurred- the dissolving of the scientists into 2 factions with different solutions to problems (although in the end to their credit they did do their jobs even though they despised each other).

Antarctic Habitats

For many months on-end, especially during winter, these habitats must be self-sufficient and still conduct research. According to the Australian Government:

Australia's Antarctic stations are run like small towns, with facilities for power generation, sewage works, water-making, vehicle maintenance, as well as general living, medical and working locations. The layouts of the permanent stations vary and each station has scientific laboratories, power generators, workshops, a small medical facility, stores, communications facilities and living quarters including kitchen, mess, recreation rooms, library and expeditioner accommodation rooms.

The maintenance of the station is undertaken by a team of skilled professionals and trades people. Everyone within the community, no matter what their job, undertake a range of voluntary duties to ensure the smooth running of the station.

Various celebrations and local events are held throughout the year to reinforce group cohesion and a sense of community.

These are quite successful already and many have learnt from the BioSphere experiments of the mid 90's.

So for Mars...

So the key to having a sustaining society is that of variety, emphasis on health and community. You mentioned the habitat was self-sustaining, however it is the maintenance of the habitat also that could supply a substantial portion of that variety.

Most of all people in society need to feel connected, and need to be exposed to new ideas and new information, from fields they are not already experts in. A community functions healthily if it is a microcosm of our own society - think of an already good, functional town.

So don't just concentrate on the 'professions' - of course you need doctors, engineers and even lawyers, but you also need hairdressers, carpenters, architects, artists, plumbers, cleaners and entertainers. Also people can 'chip in' to other trades/professions as needed to contribute in more than just their trained job. Much like genetic variety, a healthy society must have a large a 'trade pool' as possible to promote good group dynamics.


You would want to estimate the population mix by a large simulation. You start with the critical group, you and your total set of desired companions, in the simulation. You run the simulation and see what needs are not met, and those resources are added in the next iteration of the simulation. After a few million iterations, you've developed the profile of a self-sustaining population.


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