For some time now, the idea of living in Mars has preoccupied and fascinated quite a bunch of us. Surprisingly, this fascination began even before we made our first ever landing on the moon.
Mars has not only been a prominent case study in various sci-fi projects, but it has also inspired numerous dreams of both exploration and adventure.
Now, after years of extensive research, determination, as well as scientific breakthroughs, we can now conclusively state that the mars journey is indeed on. Yes, we are really traveling to Mars!
A Tour to Mars
Photo: NASA (CC0)
According to Elon Musk, an accomplished space entrepreneur, and founder of SpaceX, an independent city on our neighboring planet with approximately one million inhabitants may well be a reality within five decades.
He has particularly warned that humans would eventually need to desert earth to avoid not only an imminent Doomsday Event’ but also our ultimate extinction’ from the massive earthquakes or other numerous catastrophes.
In fact, SpaceX is anticipating the launch of a massive rocket, designed to ferry individuals to the red planet. Musk is developing a reusable space vehicle that can transport about 100 individuals with the very first mission commencing in 2022.
Photo: SpaceX (CC0)
While the plans seem underway, there are, however, several pending questions about the whole mission and what it would mean if they indeed do succeed. Some of the most prominent ones include:
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Traveling: How do we go to Mars
NASA has outlined that in the next decade, they will have established a spacecraft that can travel to Mars; a massive 2500 ton SLS which will be combined with the Orion Capsule.
This vessel will allow astronauts to traverse and explore beyond the typical safety of Earth’s low orbit, the first mission of its kind since the Apollo Moon Program ended in 1972.
Photo: The Art of Travel Partners (Space exploration)
Nonetheless, Safe landing could be challenging. While NASA used a dynamic sky crane in successfully landing its 1-ton Curiosity rover in 2012, Orion Capsule alone weighs about 10 tons, not to mention the inclusion of landing rockets and service modules.
NASA is however presently creating inflatable giant heat shields purposed for slowing spacecraft as they are approaching Mars, which makes the landing of larger craft realistic.
Lastly, there is the small issue of cost. Traveling to Mars will be extremely expensive. Although it is not yet clear how much it would cost to go to Mars, the figure can be estimated to tens of billions of dollars.
Photo: Space launch / The Art of Travel Partners
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Self-sufficiency: How will we survive
After a safe and successful landing on Mars, we will, of course, need food, water, power, and of course air for survival.
While we could initially rely on the supplies we bring along from Earth or earlier sent during supply missions, we are, however, going to have to generate our own and establish a self-sufficient Mars base.
Photo: NASA – Mars, a red planet (CC0)
The 2020 Rover made by NASA will conduct an electrolysis test that will use carbon dioxide in Mars’ atmosphere in extracting oxygen.
Evidence indicates that this planet was initially overflowing with water bodies. As such, there is a possibility that there are traces of water either at the ice caps or perhaps beneath the surface.
Additionally, extraction of water from sweat and urine through effective recycling system-initiated on the ISS (International Space Station) may also help although it will be short of the amount needed to sustain an entire community.
Therefore, we could tap into any available water source.
What could be difficult is perhaps food production. A non-profit Organization is conducting experiments by growing crops in their secluded research station based in a Utah desert.
Digby Tarvin, a software engineer and also a Mars enthusiast says the results are exciting but not entirely conclusive.
Finally, when it comes to power, there are several options on how to generate fuel. First, we could use nuclear batteries and fuel cells amplified by sun rays (solar).
Alternatively, we could split the frozen water in the permafrost of the Martian subsurface into oxygen and hydrogen, both of which could be used for breathing, drinking, and propelling the travel gadgets.
Photo: The Art of Travel Partners (An Artist’s vision of Space age)
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Territory: How do we expand
Initially, we will be residing or staying in hibernation within the capsules they arrive in, possibly enhanced by several inflatable domes and capsules sent before.
However, just as is the plan to use local resources to acquire food, water, as well as energy, we will as well look to use local materials in establishing larger colonies.
Photo: NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover (CC0)
It would work if we used Martian rock in burying the habitats to assist in shielding dwellers from radiation. Later, we could drill the surface to create caves or even excavate rocks for building materials.
Who knows, we may also perhaps also extract valuable minerals for glass or metal.
Each step of launching human civilization on the red planet is ideally possible; and with effort and dedication, it is actually doable. The question, however, remains: are we really up for it?