For centuries Humans have considered colonizingor even terraforming Mars. Today we will look at exactly that but insteaddiscuss the issues and challenges with traveling to Mars and forming a colony there. We’ll mainly focus on the issues with creatinga colony there as, in my experience, folks tend to usually only discuss the journey toMars. And I think it’s also really useful to knowwhy we would go there. Most folks know that companies such as NASAand SpaceX aim and have plans to send Humans to Mars in the future, but most don’t understandwhy we want to. So why do we want to go to Mars? Well, for one thing Earth is some day goingto run out of resources and space to live and when we start to realise that, we willhave to come up with new ideas to make room for new space.
Concepts such as Dyson spheres, rotating habitats,ringworlds, and so on will get discussed much more often as they become more and more vital. And so, beginning a colony on Mars is a fantasticsolution to wanting more space and is one reason why we would want to colonize Mars. It’s also an essential step to improve Humansurvival because if all life on Earth was wiped out by a large asteroid, like the dinosaurswere, then a self sustaining colony on Mars would serve as a great backup for Humanity. And we’ve been quite fortunate enough toget a planet as good as Mars; it has about the same length of day as Earth, only an extra40 minutes, and has ice on its surface that we could potentially use in the future, andanyways it’s one of the best and closest options in our solar system: Mercury and Venusare far too hot and the Moon, well the Moon is a pretty good candidate for a colony butisn’t a good candidate for a reason that I’m about to discuss. Since the end of the last century and thiscentury, we have sent many rovers to Mars and they’ve made quite a lot of discoveries.
However, Bill Nye said in an episode of StarTalkRadio that Humanity should focus more on sending Humans to Mars and not robots because Humanscould make discoveries 10,000 times as fast as robots do. Mars is the next logical place to exploreand discover new things, that’s another reason to go there. With some human work on the red planet, thereis a greater chance of finding life there. And now you can see why the Moon isn’t agood candidate for this very reason. Although it’s very unlikely that we’llfind life elsewhere, it is a lot more likely to find life on Mars rather than the Moon. Not only making discoveries, but also justsimply to adventure. Another reason is to inspire future generationsto go even further than the previous. Landing Humans on the Moon inspired futureastronauts, engineers and so on who were in secondary or middle school at that time.
So now that we are familiar with a few reasonson why we want to go Mars, we shall now discuss the issues with forming a civilization there. So here is a list of some of the biggest issueswith colonizing Mars that I could think of.
- The radiation Humans would have to deal with.
- The gravity there.
- The atmosphere there.
- Not having enough materials or money.
- We are inexperienced.
- Time lag.
- Some other issues
Firstly, the radiation there. We’re very lucky here on Earth. The earth naturally protects us from radiation,due to its thick and dense atmosphere and magnetic field. The magnetic field deflects most of the solarwind, which would strip away the ozone layer that protects us from harmful radiation, howeversome particles from the solar wind can enter, which in turn is what the aurora is. Most celestial bodies have magnetic fields,however most are not as good as Earth’s. Mars is no exception, although it’s magneticfield is exceptionally weak compared to Earth’s. This is a problem. When astronauts land there and set up a base,they will be constantly bombarded by a lot more radiation than Humans have ever experienced. And not only landing on Mars, but actuallymaking your way there, astronauts will be fully exposed to the radiation as they haveno cover, like we do here on Earth. Of course on the route to Mars, astronautson board the craft could also experience unpredictable radiation bursts, exposing the astronautsto a lot more radiation.
Furthermore, to only get to Mars it takesaround somewhere from 100 days to 300 days and so the astronauts on board are spendingall that time getting bombarded by all this radiation from the sun and from the constantbackground radiation of the Universe, which can have affects such as DNA ionising, cancersforming and organs damaging. So it’ll be a pretty good idea to stop theastronauts from undergoing this radiation. There’s two ways we can do this. First, we could reduce the travel time, bothby choosing the exact right time to leave Earth and the quickest trajectory to get toMars. The ideal time to send the spacecraft withall our astronauts inside is when Mars is the closest point to Earth, which is everytwo years, being at about 55 million kilometres from Earth. Of course you wouldn’t leave Earth as Marsis at its closest point, you’d much rather leaving days before it is, so that your spacecraftmeets Mars at its closest point. Ideally you’d want to travel in a straightline as possible, to reduce the distance the spacecraft is travelling and so using lessfuel.
Travel time also depends on how fast the craftis travelling. How fast the craft is travelling depends onhow much fuel we’re willing to burn. The second way to stop the astronauts fromreceiving as much radiation is to design the spacecraft so that it blocks as much radiationas possible. This just comes down to how engineers designthe craft, and with most of these issues, they are issues that are easily overcame. The most difficult issue that I can see isnot having enough money but we shall discuss that later on. The second issue is the gravity there. Martian gravity is about 38% of the gravityhere on Earth, since Mars has less mass than Earth. So if you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you wouldweigh only 38 pounds on Mars. The Moon has an even lower gravity of 16.6%of Earth’s gravity. We’ve never had anyone stay on the Moon,or Mars for that matter, for a lengthy amount of time that would enable us to see the effectsof the low gravity there.
The longest anyone has been on the Moon wasthe final mission of NASA’s Apollo program in 1972, where they were on the Moon for alittle over 3 days, while the entire mission took over 12 days. With that being said we do have fairly goodguesses on what would happen, based on the effects that astronauts on the InternationalSpace Station experience. Ever since the first astronauts went up tothe Space Station NASA discovered that, due to the low gravity, the body works a lot less,causing muscle deterioration and loss of bone density. To solve this, astronauts need to regularlyexercise and on average they do this two hours a day. However, to tackle this we could create artificialgravity. This way it would be just like on Earth andthe astronauts wouldn’t need to do exercise, which gives them a lot more time.
At the moment we know of two ways to creategravity, either somehow grab a ton of mass and use its natural gravity or using spinto create fake gravity. This could be accomplished by rotating a largestructure in a shape such as a cylinder, ring or torus. It’s the same thing you feel in rides likerollercoasters, where you are pushed to one side. Now this solution is great for getting toMars, but on the surface it would be a lot more difficult to have a rotating structure. So it’s whether it’s worth spending thatextra money for the astronaut’s benefit or not. This type of artificial gravity is seen ina lot of science fiction books, such as one of my favourite books “2001: A Space Odyssey”by Arthur C. Clarke and also “The Martian”. The third issue is the atmosphere there.
Mars’ thin atmosphere makes landing on Marsvery difficult, which is why Mars rovers have strange landing methods. The air composition is completely uselessas it’s made up of 95% carbon dioxide and small percentages of oxygen, argon and othergases. The thin air on Mars also does a poor jobof capturing heat. A good idea would be to terraform Mars, althoughit’s very difficult and would take a long time. One of the key steps in doing so would beto make the atmosphere more like Earth’s. We’d have to make it thicker and and alterits composition. One way to do this would be to trigger a globalwarming effect, introducing more greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane orammonia. We could get methane from mining rocks onMars, or if we’re feeling ambitious then we could hit Mars with some asteroids to releaseammonia. This would be done by somehow capturing anasteroid from either the edge of the solar system, so the Oort cloud, or even the asteroidbelt. The fourth issue is not having enough materialsor money. It seems to me that this would be the mostlikely issue for Humans.
A manned mission to Mars would be exceptionallyexpensive. A few years back, NASA estimated that it wouldcost them at least $100 billion over the course of 30 to 40 years, and that number might evenbe too low. After all, the ISS was once thought to cost$10 billion over the course of 10 years, but turned out to cost 10 times that. $100 billion is a very large figure in comparisonto previous Mars rovers such as Curiosity that cost only $2.5 billion. With that being said, I undoubtably want NASA,or SpaceX for that matter, to send a manned mission to Mars. If they can’t meet the money needed, NASAhave instead suggested that they may do another mission to the Moon, possibly even to forma colony there. Seen as SpaceX are pretty confident with futuremanned missions to Mars, NASA forming a colony on the Moon would give SpaceX a bit more beforehandknowledge before they colonize Mars. SpaceX plans to send its first cargo missionto Mars in 2022. What’s even more exciting though is itssecond mission, including both cargo and a crew, which will be preparation for futurecrew flights and the spacecraft will be the beginning of our first Mars base, which wecan build from to create a thriving city and eventually a self sustaining civilizationon Mars. The fifth issue is that Humans are inexperienced. The aforementioned colony on the Moon wouldgive SpaceX some helpful insight and advice for the more ambitious job of colonizing Mars. It’s possible that SpaceX’s first mannedMars mission encounters an unknown problem, resulting in all of the crew dying. Having said that the best way to learn isfrom our mistakes. This issue always has some degree in everyspace exploration mission, but we always end up just learning from mistakes, making futuremissions better executed. The sixth issue is time lag.
This is probably the least affecting and theleast thought about issue on my list. This includes messages and signals takinga long time to get from Earth to Mars, or vice versa. Radio signals can take anywhere from 4 minutesto 24 minutes to get to Mars, depending on where Mars is in it’s orbit. This means that there couldn’t be phonecalls between the two planets so messages or voice recordings would have to be used. Friends and family connections are likelyto get very distant as it’s too time consuming and troublesome to have a conversation ortext each other. That could drive someone mad, not having anyloved ones to talk to or any real friends, just colleagues. That’s why it’s pretty important thata crew, going to colonize a planet and be pretty much on their own for at least morethan a year, has to be good friends and close to make it at least bearable for them, inthat manner. And now some other issues that I’ll brieflytalk about.
There is the contamination problem. As soon as we step foot on Mars we have broughtmicrobes, or life if you like, to Mars, despite how many checks the spacecraft and crew gothrough beforehand. This means that if we find life on Mars wemight not be able to tell whether it originated on Mars or if we brought it over from Earth. There is also the problem of perchloratesin the soil. Perchlorates are salt compounds, often usedin rocket propellants and they’re exceptionally harmful for Humans. They can cause aplastic anaemia, when yourbone marrow can’t make any new red blood cells. And can also cause agranulocytosis, whichmakes your body create less or no white blood cells. So if we’re going to grow our own food onMars then we’ll either need to use our own soil or remove the perchlorates from the soil. Comment down below your thoughts on theseissues. Make sure you subscribe for more content onastronomy and futurism. If you enjoyed this video check out my mostrecent video or this playlist. Thank you so much for watching, have a niceday.