Mars One has designed the Mars mission to fully exploit, wherever possible, solar power generation. The mission design makes use of ‘thin film’ solar panels, which are extremely light and can be easily transported.
Solar power however has a few disadvantages: during night time, the energy must come from batteries; and during dust storms, the solar panels will yield less energy.
The solar panel system used by Mars One will deliver enough energy to power all critical systems during a dust storm.
Non-critical systems however will be shut down or restricted, to save energy:
- Oxygen and water will come primarily from the storage tanks (not from powered extraction)
- Dirty water will be stored (for later recycling, when full power is available)
- Oxygen from the storage tanks will be consumed
- Greenhouse lighting will be dimmed
- EVAs will be limited to emergency repairs
- Rover operation will be limited
The astronauts will have enough water stored for 15 days of normal water usage, and for 150 days if usage is limited. The oxygen storage tanks will contain enough oxygen for 60 days. Because electrical power is so critical for the survival of the crew, extra safety margins will be built into the power usage profiles for dust storms.
When required, the Rover can be used to remove dust from the solar panels.
Other methods of power generation that could potentially be used on Mars are not yet available as existing technology. The most commonly referred to alternative is nuclear power. While nuclear power is a commonly used technology on Earth, a nuclear power generator for use on Mars does not yet exist, and will take many years to develop.