Mars our second home
I have talked about the motivation for space travel and why colonize Mars as an important goal here. I have talked about the only logical way to colonize Mars here. I have talked about an ambitious overall plan for colonizing Mars here.
I am building a series of articles on what I think is the plan to bootstrap human colony on Mars. The first human civilization occurred in the Middle East on Earth and all that was needed was to leverage existing crops of Barley and some already existing domesticated animals. We did not have agriculture down. We did not know how to improve farming so these things had to be easy enough to utilize and sufficient to enable the “dumb” hunting and gathering tribes to establish a community and to grow it.
Doing the same thing on Mars will be infinitely harder but this bootstrap process is the key to success. How do we get to the point that we can survive on Mars with minimal resupply from Earth, otherwise eventually Earth will decide it is too expensive and pointless to support a colony.
The beginning – before the first mission
This blog proposes to outline what the first 10 missions to Mars should consist of. Before we get to the 10 missions we must establish what has happened to make this happen.
- We must have reusable launch vehicles from Earth to Low Orbit Earth
- We must have designed and built our first trans-mars reusable delivery vehicle
- We must have designed and built our first reusable Mars landing and takeoff vehicle.
- We must have a way of assembling from smaller components the larger things we need to build like the trans-mars shuttle, the mars reusable landing and takeoff vehicle.
- A robust interplanetary communication system to Mars
These things above are doable and most are in the works already. We already are very close to achieving number 1 above. We also may be close to number 3 above. We also have part of number 4. These are thanks to SpaceX.
SpaceX has or will demonstrate for Dragon capsules the ability to land on Earth from space a cargo vessel under rocket power. Doing so on Mars would presumably be much easier.
The Dragon capsule will have to be much larger for carrying cargo to Mars but a scaling up of the design should not be difficult. SpaceX can demonstrate ability to forge materials from smaller parts using robots and techniques mastered from Tesla.
One idea is to deliver to the surface of Mars the equivalent of “of course, I still love you.”. Having a safe landing pad that using the GPS we install in the first mission we could land on without worrying about orientation or surface inconsistencies would make subsequent landing more reliable and easier.
Number 2 (The trans-Mars shuttles) should almost certainly be an ion propulsion engine design. We have lots of experience building this design already for several spacecraft. Ion propulsion has huge advantages in durability, longevity. Although ion has low specific impulse it can run nearly continuously to provide tremendous speed ultimately and its fuel supply is easily obtainable and cost effective to transport. Number 2 doesn’t have to be complicated as it is simply a tow craft. Mars landers would be towed by this ship to Mars and back after they disgorged their supplies and returned to Mars orbit. Having a second craft with Ion engines would dramatically cut the size of the Dragon Mars lander capsule as it would need only enough energy to land and return.
Number 4 would almost certainly at first be done at the ISS. The ISS would have to be upgraded to support construction activities. This would probably entail among other things increased robotic arm capabilities as well as possibly additional storage bays and a construction pad. There may be need for power upgrades to the ISS.
What we know we will have done by then
The most significant space missions I believe to affect our future course for Mars exploration and colonization are embodied in really one spacecraft.
The Mars 2020 Rover will be an upscaled version of our current rover capabilities. The current rover suffers from a lot of issues. 1) It’s slow and inefficient. 2) It is deteriorating faster than expected 3) it has limited instruments and power. An example of the deterioration is evidenced by the wheels of the rover:
As you can see the rover wheels are falling apart. One rover is running on 3 wheels already.
The 2020 rover will have much improved wheels we are promised. It will also have a nuclear power supply. This is infinitely better providing more consistent and higher power to drive all the instruments and will last decades.
While this upgraded rover is not tremendously faster it is expected to be far more intelligent and able to operate autonomously much better (although not completely at least initially).
Most importantly are the instruments on the Rover. The main one of interest is the RIMFAX radar which can probe into Mars surface up to 500 meters and with centimeter accuracy it will hopefully be able to map the underground structure of Mars, find potential sources of water and various minerals.
It is important to note what this rover can’t do.
- It won’t be able by itself to deliver proof of NO life on Mars although it will be much more capable of finding and proving if life does exist. Disproving life is harder and will take several trips to different potential sites and the ability to deliver samples back to Earth for analysis. This rover will allow canisters of Mars material to be deposited for later pickup but can’t provide full analysis of any samples.
- It is not designed to roam over the surface of Mars although the thermal nuclear power system will provide power for dozens of years it isn’t designed for this. I wonder if it can be coaxed after its initial mission is complete to scour the planet or at least to scope out more sites.
- It will not be able to dig into the soil to any depth to determine exactly what is below the surface exactly.
Other noteworthy things the rover can do is it will attempt to convert CO2 in the atmosphere of Mars into O2 demonstrating our first mining capability.
We also will have the benefit of the James Webb telescope which will have 10 times the resolving power of the Hubble. It will be able to explore Mars in greater depth and detail than ever before. James Webb will be launched and in operation in 2018. The 2020 Mars Rover will arrive on Mars in early 2021.
The next thing we need to do is to figure out what are the highest priority missions from the manifest of things we have described in the third blog in this series. From that article we can see the most important things to accomplish for our bootstrapping operation are as follows:
- Mars Life digging, exploration and return robots
- Mars chemical digging and exploration robot for deep discovery and extraction
- Mars autonomous vehicles
- Mars power systems
- Mars communication systems
- Mars modular warehouse
- Mars processing and collection of key resources
- Mars food growing pods
Since power and communication are needed for all other functions the first order of business is to deliver power and communications to Mars. I assume that the Mars tug can handle 150,000 pounds of cargo in addition to the Dragon Mars lander. So, each trip to Mars can deliver 150,000 pounds. Right now a Dragon capsule can lift 120,000 lbs of material with one Falcon heavy rocket to LEO. Therefore, 2 Falcon Heavy will be necessary to supply one Mars delivery shuttle.
Since we need to send 30 missions to Mars and they take 9 to 18 months to arrive we will build 2 or 3 shuttles to mars and need a similar number of Mars landing craft. We should build at least 2 initially so we can at least start filling the pipeline.
The missions will take place to 10 different locations on Mars relatively isolated from each other distributed in areas with high mineralicity, high supplies of water or frozen CO2. This should include the arctic poles of Mars as well as more equatorial areas we have traditional landed in. Looking at the map above you may get an idea of where some of these missions will go.
The fact that we lay down infrastructure in 10 locations doesn’t mean that we will have 10 different locations for people. Some of these locations may simply be mining locations or resupply sites or resting points for colonists on a longer journey from actual colonies with humans to others.
Over time it will make sense to build “roads” between the supply sites. Hopefully we can figure out how to use indigenous material to do this. A road is not necessary but it would allow faster and more efficient travel between supply locations. This is secondary concern.
NASA has identified some of the more desirable places to go here:
Payload capacity and Potential Issues
I have assumed that we can take up to 150,000 lbs Earth weight to Mars on each mission. This is important because of the need to be able to put enough stuff to be “viable” on each mission. 150,000 lbs is a large number by space terms. Even with a Falcon heavy we are talking 120,000 lbs to LEO and only 40,000 lbs to GTO. That could be a lot of missions just to load one trans-Mars shuttle.
We also need to bring the fuel to get down to Mars safely. One strategy NASA came up with would be to build a moon base and create fuel from the surface of the moon. This fuel could be delivered to high orbit of the Earth to the trans-Mars shuttle or the shuttle could stop at the moon and be loaded up there. NASA estimated this would reduce the cost of going to Mars by 50%.
If we can mine fuel on the Moon we could potentially deliver it to LEO and then the Falcon Heavy(s) would be able to carry more usable mass to the space station. If fuel is delivered from the Moon to the ISS (which is easier because it is effectively going downhill into the Earths gravity well it would be a lot cheaper than lifting the fuel needed for the dragon from the Earth. Offsetting that would be the cost of mining the fuel on the moon and delivering it.
Another possibility is to mine the fuel on Mars and transport it up to Mars orbit to meet the next lander. A fueling operation would then occur. This only makes sense because of the low gravity of Mars ( or the moon) enables much cheaper delivery of the fuel. Also by doing this on Mars we avoid stopping someplace else and we can deliver more cargo since we don’t have to drag the fuel for landing and takeoff from Mars surface. Once again making fuel would be possible only after we establish our toehold.
Developing a moon base with fuel production capability would give us a good chance to test many of the robotic components we eventually will send to Mars. For these reasons building a moon base makes sense but would take additional time before we establish a toe-hold on Mars. We can go to Mars directly without the moon but it may mean more trips from the Earth. If Falcon Heavy can be made even cheaper it may be simply more cost effective and faster to go directly to Mars, possibly engineering an even heavier lift vehicle than the Falcon Heavy may be necessary if we don’t go the moon base route.
The Moon has a couple advantages. It is protected partially by the Earth’s magnetic field from cosmic rays and it is a several second time delay to communicate versus 4-10 minute delay to Mars. For these reasons many other reasons above it may suggest a “test” run on the Moon is a good idea. For now, let us assume we don’t do a moon base and are not trying to achieve a colony on the moon but are simply using it either as a temporary refueling area or automated fuel manufacturing outpost.
This article and subsequent ones are about bootstrapping a colony on Mars so we will focus on the missions to Mars and not the preliminary effort to build and test some of the devices we use or the issues around construction or refueling in space.
My best guess is that given the speed of NASA we are talking the earliest possible date of Mission #1 below of 2025 in my plan. This gives time to develop and deploy the technologies described below almost all of which have to be designed yet and tested.
Mission #1 Toehold 1 – Total 150,000 lbs Earth weight
Mission #1 Location: near a place that we know contains a high chance of significant mineral, water supplies
Contents: 10-12 Orbiting Comm / GPS Satellites ( 20,000 lbs)
3 Exploration upgraded nuclear powered rovers for finding life (6,000 lbs)
1 large scale solar power station (15, 000 lbs) and grid producing 100KW
1200KWH mobile batteries in various sizes (25,000 lbs)
500KWH Ultra-Capacitor Battery (25,000 lbs)
2 Battery and equipment transport platform robot (3,000 lbs)
1 Large drilling robot (15,000 lbs)
1 Warehouse storage module (15,000 lbs)
3 Mobile Construction Robots and unpackers (15,000 lbs)
Miscellaneous Supplies and Spare Parts packing material (11,000 lbs)
It is probably easiest to deliver communications as a series of 10 orbiting satellites not dissimilar to our GPS satellites we have over the Earth. The Earth has 24 such satellites but the Earth is quite a bit bigger. 10 such satellites would be more than sufficient to provide redundant high capacity communication and positioning for all of Mars and to communicate back to Earth. Combined with cameras on all the rover’s it is possible to a build “Google Mars” with Gps data and pictures and maps to nearly the level of the Earth within a few years!
I believe it should be easy to deliver all 10 of these satellites in one mission to Mars. The Mars GPS/Communication satellites would need more power to communicate with Earth and for redundant operations and for 2 way communication to the surface but that would be offset with lower needs for orbit retention thrust systems. Without an atmosphere the satellites would almost never need to be boosted although they will need help in stabilizing themselves to high precision. This mission would be different in that prior to landing on the surface the satellites would have to be disgorged from the Cargo landing capsule prior to leaving. A different approach may be to tow the satellites separately from the Landing vehicle on another docking port on the trans-Mars shuttle.
GPS satellites in Earth orbit weigh only about 2,000 lbs each. Assuming a similar weight all 10 satellites are only 20,000 lbs leaving quite a bit of room for additional cargo.
Believe it or not the 2020 Rover will weigh about 1,000 pounds. However, the colony will need equipment that is a bit more industrial grade. One possibility would be to ship 3 copies of an enhanced version of Mars 2020 with the first shipment. These rovers would be tasked with exploring 20 or 30 sites on Mars over the next few years. They should be equipped with redundant multiple thermonuclear power supplies making them heavier but much faster and robust. Equipped with autonomous driving capabilities much more advanced than the 2020 rover will have.
Power Network, Planet Side Communications, IoT, Computation Facilities
The power network consists of several parts. First, we have to deploy the solar collection plates, then the storage charging unit, the batteries, the ultra capacitor battery and the battery distribution rovers as well as make connections between all these devices and the warehouse / processing units of any fixed resources. The wiring itself is an interesting challenge. This is complicated by the fact all of this would have to be done somewhat autonomously. We won’t have any separate computation facility on this mission.
The GPS system deployed earlier may help in orienting the robot(s) prior to starting construction of the power network. Even without GPS the robots should be able to assess the area around them and come up with a deployment plan. Once Gps is in place we can identify paths and landing locations precisely to make future landings and travel much safer. Essentially the initial rover’s will learn the terrain making subsequent autonomous driving trivial.
A wifi grid should be established on Mars over time. Every device will have IoT capability so that it will be programmable and accessible from the IP network we establish on Mars. Using Mesh network technology will also improve reliability and performance. The devices will be able to work with each other without central servers. With high speed communications to Earth we will have an Internet which now will encompass 2 planets (albeit a 4 to 10 minute delay to Mars for communications each way will be something to design around.)
We would need wires between the units to be extremely durable and high grade. Ideally the wiring would be placed so that it is just under the soil. The robots will probably have to dig small trenches between the panels. Another approach would be to make the solar panels connect to each other through connectors and become one large array. Even in that case there would need to be wiring around the location between buildings and various devices. Given our knowledge of the harshness of Martian soil any exposed elements need to be pretty hard. A key aspect of the wiring, batteries and various connected elements is the connection technology. It needs to be extremely robust, not degrade under tough conditions, connect over and over without issue and produce solid connections.
Pluggable power. All devices delivered to Mars should operate on a common electrical connection and power standard so that any power source can be used to power any system. In this way the thermonuclear power sources on the meandering rovers looking for life could also be used to power other systems in a hiccup.
Recently technology has allowed amazing improvements in efficiency with a recent huge leap giving 34% efficiency using a more complicated receiver that can consume the energy from 3 bands of sunlight simultaneously. The main problem with the solar panels is keeping them clear of dust. We would need a dust wiper/blower technology. One of the robots would need to “unpack, unfurl as necessary, and place each of the solar panels. Given the criticality of deploying the solar panels correctly and efficiently to generate the power needed for bootstrapping we need to test this extensively and have significant backup right away in these systems available.
Instead of using an ultra-capacitor we may decide to use a flow battery. New advances in ultra-capacitors allow them to have 1/3 the energy density of regular l-ion batteries. Ultra-capacitors have numerous advantages over conventional batteries including a near infinite number of recharge cycles. A flow battery is a battery that uses a variable size flowing material to store the charge from the battery. Usually stored in a vat somewhere it is possible to make the flow battery of arbitrary size simply by adding fluid.
The advantage of these technologies in the power center is the long life that would allow this to become an ultra reliable store of energy.
Battery transportation and resupply
It is anticipated there will be several sizes of batteries in use ( but not too many). Some devices will be happy with larger batteries and some will need smaller sizes. The batteries should be designed in conjunction with the devices including rovers, robots and charging stations, transportation to be usable interchangeably. This will call for innovative design in connector technology as well as how the devices are packed and loaded onto carrying devices. The transportation device will need to have 2 robot arms for loading, unloading and connecting. We can’t assume the device to be connected has an arm. The transportation unit itself needs a battery and presumably can soak current as needed from the batteries it is carrying if the destination is far away.
The battery transport units have to be smart and autonomous because we want these things to get around seemlessly and with little direction. Essentially power and supplies should arrive when needed. Some devices may be remote and need a transport robot to go long distances to meet the device.
Serious software design has to go into the planning of delivery. Usage patterns and loads as well as future plans taken into account in assigning tasks to the robots to take batteries or other supplies. Figuring out what batteries to take and how many and the path is an optimization problem that will be quite challenging. The system has to monitor itself and detect problems.
Because of the lower weight of everything on Mars it gives us a huge advantage in power. Robots don’t need to be as strong or use as much power in lifting things and movement on the surface will be easier. No air friction also will help if we get vehicles to higher speed. However, currently our technology has 2 tradeoffs. We have technology with lower power density that can be recharged almost infinitely and we have batteries with much higher energy density that wear out after 1000 charges. Disposing of dead batteries or dealing with waste materials is one issue but also we want to minimize the need to resupply. Batteries are heavy so there would be a huge advantage to ultra-capacitor or similar capability if we can engineer it from other energy storage means. I cannot know in advance what technology will be available when we ship and therefore what characteristics we will have for how many batteries we will need or their capacity. The planning has to assume a wide variability in this until we lock down the technology. I have allocated almost 30% of the entire manifest for this shipment to batteries. Having a stable and workable power supply will be crucial to success.
Central Power recharging station and grid
I realize the above picture is comical in terms of what we are talking about for a Mars recharging station but conceptually it is not much different. Multiple Bays that can accommodate different evolving batteries. A more appropriate comparison might be:
With the Tesla auto-dock for batteries and cable you could easily imagine an auto-dock for many batteries. Just insert the battery and the auto-dock finds the connection and inserts.
A central “grid” unit will be necessary to take power from the various solar sources and allocate it to charging batteries and supplying current to all the electrical demands that are directly connected to the power system. This device will have to be extremely reliable. 2 Grid units will be included in the above “power station” and it will need to have a flexible way to attach batteries easily many times such as the Tesla system above.
Drilling, Bulldozer, Hauling Construction and Mining
A large autonomous mobile drilling unit is included in this mission. What I am thinking of is something equivalent to the Acker Renegade. This would have to be modified to operate without air, using battery power source. I anticipate a 300KW set of batteries would be the right amount. The unit should also have a solar panel for remote recharging in case it cannot be resupplied easily in situ.
The Renegate for Mars will also have to be able to analyze the materials uncovered. It needs to operate autonomously driving largely to sites without oversight. It will also have to be able to drill or replace drill units autonomously. A last capability that may or may nor be needed right away is the ability to pump materials up and to store them in some storage containers. Ideally these storage containers can be carried and expand to fit the needs.
Eventually we will have a bulldozer similar to the Caterpillar D9 and large hauling device capable of moving raw materials around.
Possibly the bulldozer and hauling can be done in one device or the hauling could be attached to the bulldozer as a separate vehicle.
NASA will have constructed prior to arrival of the mission a large set of sites to explore for various minerals and products. Since the primary mission 1 goal is to as soon as possible find raw materials and their suitability to use in local manufacturing the drilling equipment is first priority. The other equipment will come in a second mission.
The warehouse technology is among the most important of all. The above graphics are for Googles data center showing piping and electronics as well as a conveyor warehouse but the Mars units would have to be smaller and highly modular to eventually be built to the scale needed.
A warehouse unit consists of the following characteristics:
- connectable to other warehouse units with common wall removable on at least 2 sides
- connectable power, internal transportation grid, connectable communications
- Flexible shelving to enable easy reconfiguration and power and communication to the shelves. a conveyor belt that interconnects with the rest of the warehouses upon joining.
- Modularity to support loose items in bins, dedicated units for IT purposes, storage for larger items, storage of extremely small and delicate items, storage of supplies like containers of gases, containers of materials, foodstuff storage, working areas for assembly, repair, floor space for robots to traverse and grab things.
- Ability to make different warehouse units have different ambient environments such as radiation shielded units or even Earth-like environments. Some units may be ultra shielded with electromagnetic shielding in case of SPEs. All of these won’t be available obviously in the first warehouse but the design must eventually support flexibility and interchangeability.
- Warehouses would be connected to the grid
- Warehouses need to be un-assembled but easily assembled upon delivery
- The warehouse will have to know where everything is in it and be able to call up for anything to be brought to some other point either in the warehouse or to any other place by using robots, conveyors or transport vehicles.
NASA Robot today
A last but obviously critical need is the 3 construction robots. There are 3 so that at least one is operational. They need to be able to repair each other. They need to be highly autonomous and carry out some tasks with little programming. For instance, Move a from x to y. They need to be strong to lift several hundred pounds (Mars weight) if necessary yet be able to move small materials around with good precision. These don’t have to be millimeter accuracy robots but strong durable and flexible.
Mission 1 Overview
Mission 1 will give us an enormous amount of hardware to start exploration and figuring out some really important things about our eventual colonization.
a) We will establish robust high speed communications IoT and Wifi, location positioning for our Mars base immediately
b) We will establish the first power generation facility and power distribution via batteries and devices to deliver batteries to remote components.
c) We will start large scale exploration for any life on Mars
d) We will have storage for accumulating supplies from this mission and future ones as well as providing safety in a storm and some radiation shielding.
e) We will start exploring Mars for minerals both above and below ground
f) We will have construction robots capable of basic building (like the warehouse ), unloading and loading of the lander, construction of the power system and warehouse.
Very few of these things are available today. Some are a straightforward application of known engineering and some will require some clever engineering to do well. Many will require rethinking the problem from the beginning realizing that little or no maintenance or resupply can be done easily. Things will have to designed to be simple but reliable and tough but also lightweight and intelligent. All the things are IoT and talk to the network. It is assumed there is intelligence throughout the devices locally but some planning across all the devices is needed.
The trans-Mars shuttle will go away and not wait
After each trans-Mars shuttle finishes delivering its cargo ship to Mars it will probably be desirable for it to pick up the PREVIOUS mars lander craft. It wouldn’t be necessary for the shuttle to wait for the lander to complete its mission and come back up. It could hop a ride with the next shuttle.
This means the trans-Mars shuttles will probably keep a significant velocity when arriving and leaving Mars. Using the moons of Mars may prove to be a way to create a more efficient way to slow down the cargo delivery ship than using up valuable chemical rocket supplies. This would allow the shuttle to continue at high speed without stopping even using Mars as an acceleration for the return trip. This may allow the shuttle to arrive back at Earth for reloading in 6 months in some cases or less.
Mission #2 Toehold 2 Total Earth Weight 150,000 lbs
Mission #2 Location: a second location we know contains a high chance of significant mineral, water supplies. This mission will be largely the same as the first mission establishing a second toehold and establishing a similar list of equipment with the following changes.
3 Exploration upgraded nuclear powered rovers for finding life (6,000 lbs)
1 large scale solar power station (15, 000 lbs) and grid
1200KW mobile batteries in various sizes (25,000 lbs)
1000KW Ultra-Capacitor Battery (45,000 lbs)
2 Battery and equipment transport platform robot (3,000 lbs)
1 Large drilling robot (15,000 lbs)
1 Warehouse storage module (15,000 lbs)
3 Mobile Construction Robots and unpackers (15,000 lbs)
Miscellaneous Supplies and Spare Parts packing material (11,000 lbs)
As we all know space missions have to be done redundantly because chances of failure is high and the cost to resupply or get there again is astronomical. Since a large contingent of Earthside people would be involved in operating and dealing with the stuff here it is important to have redundancy so these people are busy even in the case of failures.
The locations should not be so far apart that a rescue mission from Mission 1 to Mission 2 or vice versa is possible if needed. With establishment of Mission 2 the area covered on Mars by our communication systems (Wifi) and power distribution systems will expand enormously.
Some general guidelines and comments on Mission 2
We should cover approximately 50% of he surface of Mars with our communications and power systems. Given the surface area of Mars is 1/3rd the Earths this should be easier but remember that 2/3rds of Earth is water. So the effective land area is equal between the two planets at about 58,000,000 square miles. This is a vast planet. Each “colony” (assuming 10) would need to cover 7,000,000 square km or 2500km square (1600 Miles diameter) This means the second landing site should be no more than 1500 miles from the first one possibly for purposes of safety it would be better to have them closer than this, maybe 1000 miles.
This map shows locations for mission 1, 2, 3
It should be easy for the various rovers on the surface of Mars to make a 1000 mile journey on one battery given that the weight of vehicles is drastically reduced and there is no air friction. Theoretically a rover would need to have only enough power to make 1/2 the journey because another rover from the other station could come meet it partway if needed.
The large ultra-capacitor battery provides a continuous power supply to key elements of the system that will be built at each site for nighttime operations and for larger power requirements of computation facilities, mineral processing, continuous operation devices such as life sustaining equipment, heating and communications systems.
The general process for delivery of materials and disgorging of them has been established so that subsequent missions do not need to have equipment for these tasks at these locations. Nonetheless for redundancy we will keep delivering additional robots of various types and spare parts as we learn the relative wear of things.
After a cargo ship lands the construction robots will come and remove the supplies from the cargo ship. They will generally place all cargo into the warehouses however, some will go into use immediately and are autonomous.
We will undoubtedly need a number of robots to handle both larger scale moving tasks that are bulkier and small scale precision robots for repair or more precise tasks.
Timing of Mission 2
Mission 2 should arrive about 4 to 6 months after Mission 1. A regular pace should be established now with ships arriving approximately every 4 to 6 months on average eventually getting to 4 to 6 a year. This is because our goal is to have 50-100 missions in 15 years and deliver 10-20 million pounds of supplies to Mars over this period.
It is not expected that humans will be involved in any of the trips during this period. No human will go to Mars for the first 10-15 years as the facilities and infrastructure is laid for the colony in advance.
At this point we don’t even know where we will put the colony. We don’t have enough information on locations of key minerals and supplies to know which colony location is ideal for the first humans to arrive. There are still a massive number of things we need to do before we are ready for human occupation.
Mission 2 Trans-Mars picks up Mission 1 Mars Lander
Mission 2 will pick up the Lander from Mission 1. Included in the cargo of the Mission 1 lander will be large soil samples and any equipment that has failed. Both of these will require extensive analysis and use. The soil can be used to run experiments growing things here on Earth or in the ISS. If life forms are discovered they can be analyzed in their native habitat. Failed equipment can be examined for detailed reasons for failure so improvements can be engineered.
Mission 1 & 2 Other objectives
While Missions 1 and 2 are establishing a toehold, building the basics that we will need to expand the colonies we also need to do large scale exploration of Mars. We need to understand the location of key supplies and experiment with mining and production processes. We need to explore and experiment with cosmic shielding and food production. We need to understand and improve the reliability and autonomous capability of our robots, prove our resupply systems work for power and eventually life support. We need to prove the reliability of all these systems in wind storms and over the wear and tear of Mars soil. As the recent rover showed the Martian soil is tough.
If there are living things on Mars we need to preserve we will need to do significant exploration of these life forms and to determine how best to keep them safe.
The exploration, drilling operations will have to explore a good part of the planet. This will take time and they will need constant resupply of energy which the battery transport robots will do. The life exploration robots have nuclear sources and won’t need power resupply but will need to be very busy examining many locations especially if life is found.