Possibility of Mars being Inhabited by Humans Some Day
Mars seems to be on everybody’s mind these days. There is a race to get to the orange orb first, with NASA aiming to send a human up there by 2030, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX raising the stakes for an even earlier arrival circa 2024. Meanwhile, Hollywood is busy doing what it does best, with movies like The Martians whetting the public’s appetite. However, no one is asking the key question – once we get there, will we survive? Followed naturally by the next question – how?
Although Mars is more similar to Earth than any other planet in the solar system, it is still different from Earth in many ways. Its atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, which is not what we humans inhale. The larger distance from the sun makes the planet so cold, the little water that seems to be there probably exists in frozen form. Moreover, Earth acts like a huge magnet, pulling a compass needle to the North Pole and giving us a sense of location while also turning away dangerous cosmic radiation. Mars’ magnetic field is far less powerful, and gravity is a mere 38% of Earth’s, so besides the discomfort of disorientation, there is the more practical danger of getting irradiated by harmful rays.
The obstacles start even before we land there. In fact, landing there is the #1 problem that needs to be sorted out. NASA has managed to land a small space vehicle on the surface, but for a human being to land, it would need a vehicle ten times the size. Considering the difficult terrain, this is easier said than done.
Humans on Mars would need to wear spacesuits all the time with oxygen cylinders on their backs, since there is only 0.1% of oxygen in the atmosphere. Dust storms are frequent and last long, so they will have to get used to staying indoors within their space stations for months.
A whole, new infrastructure will have to be set up, with complex life-support measures and a wide variety of equipment – both, to provide services to humans and to produce food, propellant, water, energy and breathable oxygen – in order to support human colonization efforts. Lastly, the early humans who manage to reach there would eventually want to come back to dear Earth one day. So an exit plan is needed – in other words, a space pad to blast off from. All this will take time, but is not beyond the realm of possibility.
NASA’s Curiosity rover has found potential building blocks of life on the planet, and the discovery gives confidence that given the right technology, humans can live on Mars.