Mars is the next Earth. We have a lot of work to get it there, though. Mars climate is terrible and devastating. One word that describes Mars is freezing. In the summer on a warm day, the temperature may not be warmer than -20 degrees Celsius. However in the same season in the southern hemisphere temperatures can be up to 30 degrees Celsius warmer. These temperature swings between the southern and northern hemisphere can cause enormous dust storms. Some dust storms only influence small area while other dust storms can affect the whole planet! The enormous storms are usually formed when Mars is at its closest position to the sun.
Scientists can’t see the planet’s surface at all when an enormous dust storm has been caused. Most scientists think that Mars has not always had this extreme climate. Evidence tells us that, much like Earth, Mars has had warmer and colder periods over time. However, what can we not solve with what we wear? To go outside on Mars you need to wear a specifically designed spacesuit to survive Mars conditions. The atmosphere is mostly made of carbon dioxide and the temperatures can be extreme, sometimes the temperature is as low as -140 degrees Celsius which is -284 degrees Fahrenheit. The spacesuit will also need to protect you against solar radiation because, unlike Earth’s magnetic field, Mars magnetic field is not strong enough to protect you against solar radiation (energy constantly being produced by the sun and that can harm humans). The protective spacesuit will also need to be strong and durable enough to protect you against the micrometeorites “attacking” the suit. Nevertheless, what do we actually need to survive on Mars? We need water, air, and food if we what to create a real society on Mars. It would be too much to bring it all the way from Earth. There is water on Mars in the form of ice and liquid salty flowing water. Actually, we can drink the water on Mars. However, first, we need to find the source of the water or somehow remove the salt (perchlorate), which fills Mars soil, to get pure, drinkable water. Foods not impossible either, at least NASA thinks so. There are many different nutrients that plants need to survive these include: Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus, Calcium, Magnesium, Sulfur, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Molybdenum, Boron and Chlorine. Mars soil has all of these nutrients. So it is possible to grow food on mars but to do that we would need to take the salt (percolates) out of the soil and maybe put in some fertilizers in the soil. We would also need the make the plants grow inside because they need another kind of air.
Now, what about air? Mars has an atmosphere but it is around 100 times thinner than Earth's atmosphere. Mars atmosphere does not include much oxygen but consists mostly of carbon dioxide. Therefore an astronaut would need to wear oxygen tanks when doing something outside. On Mars now we bring oxygen from Earth with us to Mars which we use to breathe with there. So how Earth-like is Mars really? Well, Mars does have seasons. Mars experiences all of our four seasons: Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. Since Mars years are longer than Earth years Mars also experiences longer seasons than we do. One Mars year is almost 2 Earth years, to be exact one Mars year is 1.88 Earth years which is 687 days on Earth. Mars year is longer, and Mars has a more peculiar orbit than earth, different seasons have different lengths, and the seasons are not even the same lengths in the different hemispheres. This is how the seasons are in length in the northern hemisphere of Mars: Summer is 6 months, Autumn is 5.3 months, Winter is just over 4 months and Spring is 7 months. All of Mars seasons are very cold, even in the Summer! On a warm day the temperature could be around -20 degrees Celsius, -4 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientific research has also told us that Mars had a different axial tilt long ago. Therefore Mars did not experience the same seasons a long time ago and may not experience the same seasons in the future.
Mars also has gravity. There is gravity on Mars but less than there is on Earth. Mars gravity is 3.711 m/s² while Earth's gravity is 9.807 m/s². Mars has less gravity so can things float on Mars? The answer is no. Mars may have less gravity than Earth but things do not float on Mars. The gravity is still strong enough to keep the planet together and to keep things on the ground. This far Mars seems pretty Earth-like. What do we use every day and is something that is an important part of our daily lives? Vehicles and transportation. On Earth, we have different kinds of vehicles depending on what we are doing with them, if we a going a few blocks, going on a long trip or if you need to go somewhere quickly. We can use different vehicles like bicycles, cars, and airplanes. It is important to have different vehicles for different purposes on Mars too. To have proper, Earth-like transportation on Mars we need to make at least three different vehicles for different purposes: a) for working, b) for short, fast rides and c) for long rides.
On Mars, we would need something that would represent basically tractors and other work vehicles. For these vehicles you would need comfort so you can sit all day and work in the vehicle, however, the vehicle would not need to be able to somebody alive for weeks like the long ride vehicle would need to be able to do. There hasn’t been put in much research into this yet since the general concept of exploration is explore first then build and deal with other problems later so it isn’t clear what vehicle will be performing these tasks yet. However, research is being made and there are already a few options for what will become tractors of Mars.
The answer is ATV’s. ATV’s are fast and perfect for short, quick rides. They cannot sustain you for long but that wouldn’t be needed on short, quick rides. They are simply perfect for the job. However, since there is not a lot of oxygen in the Mars atmosphere you would need to supply some oxygen for the engine to work properly.
The iconic pressurized rover. On long trips, we would need a vehicle that could keep you alive for a pretty long time. The iconic pressurized rover is perfect for the task. NASA’s SEV, which is short for Space Exploration Vehicle, has been made to be used almost everywhere. Its pressurized cabin can be used in both space and surface missions. It can drive around 10 km/h in any direction! With sleeping and sanitary facilities (bathrooms), it can take care of 2 astronauts for up to 14 days which is 2 weeks!
We should also think about air travel. NASA has already started research on a flying wing prototype named the Preliminary Research Aerodynamics Design to Land on Mars or if you rather want a short name Prandtl-m.
What about the way to Mars? What about the way back to Earth? What about on Mars? Exercise. Exercise is the way to go. It is very important to exercise on Mars. This is because Mars has a lower gravitational pull than Earth. Our muscles have adapted to living on Earth so on Mars, our muscles wouldn't be needed as much and your body will think “Hey I don’t need this so much anymore” and your muscles will start to deteriorate. This is a problem because when you are back on Earth you would need these muscles again and if they have deteriorated you would need to work very hard to get back your strength and it would become much, much harder to walk with Earth's gravity. On the way to Mars, in space, you could lose up to 20% of your muscle mass each month! Mostly in your lower muscles (the back of your legs, the spinal muscles and the calves). Your bones also lose around 1% of tissue each month. Your body can even extend by 70mm since earth’s gravity isn’t constantly pulling it down, compressing it. This can cause pain but on the bright side, it is good if you want to be taller. However, when back on Earth again your extended spine can cause problems when the disks between the vertebrae get under pressure again and the vertebrae are more fragile because of the decalcification. On the International Space Station astronauts deal with this by exercising around 2 hours per day. However since Mars has some gravity, unlike space, these numbers are not as drastic but the same thing happens to your body but not as quickly.
I still believe that Mars is the new and next Earth but we still have a lot of work ahead of us to get there. However, we are slowly moving forward and making our way to society on Mars!