Barring some unforeseeable catastrophe, it seems virtually certain that humanity will eventually gain the capacity to live on Mars long-term. We are likely close to having the ability to conduct short-term manned missions to Mars. Because most people agree that space exploration is a worthy cause, future Mars explorers should have little difficulty raising mission funding.
Elon Musk And Humanity’s March Into Space
Although there are a number of barriers to human habitation of Mars, none of these barriers seems insurmountable. Currently, Elon Musk is one of the most prominent public figures pushing for the colonization of Mars. Thanks to his magnetism and independent fan base, Musk has almost single-handedly changed the public discourse surrounding interplanetary colonization.
After revolutionizing whole industries with Paypal and Tesla, Musk set his sights on developing SpaceX, the most advanced private space company today. SpaceX won recognition years ago for developing more affordable rocket technology. SpaceX also create the first reusable rocket practical for use in delivering payloads to orbit. Although SpaceX has yet to execute an independent manned space mission, the company has won numerous accolades for its partner programs with NASA. If humanity is going to build permanent settlements on MARS, it will require the motivating energy of big thinkers like Elon Musk.
In the next couple of decades, it is likely that private and public entities will collaborate to fund space exploration. Though NASA is certainly a repository of great skill, SpaceX has also demonstrated the true staying power of the private space industry. As Musk and his private rocket company set their sights on a permanent Mars colony, scientists throughout the world are rapidly solving the technical problems that could complicate space colonization.
SpaceX won a lot of press attention when it announced it was working on the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). This 387-foot-long craft will have the capability to transport 100 people to Mars simultaneously. Although the Rocket is still in the planning stages, SpaceX has already delivered the futuristic Raptor engine to power the BFR.
The main things needed by Martian colonists will include:
- Sufficiently warm temperatures
- Sufficient breathable air
- Plenty of liquid water
- Plant Life
Atmosphere And Weather: The Winds Of Mars
Because the atmosphere and weather on mars are not particularly amenable to life, any eventual Mars colonists will have to meet most of these needs through artificial means. Fortunately, there is evidence for plenty of underground water on Mars. With the right infrastructure, it should prove fairly simple to extract ice and convert it into potable water.
While Earth’s atmosphere contains 21 percent oxygen, the Martian atmosphere only has 0.2 percent oxygen. Even more inhospitably, the Martian atmosphere is about 95 percent carbon dioxide. This means that Martian colonists will likely have to produce their own oxygen to survive.
In addition, human residents of Mars may have to reside in underground dwellings to survive the hurricane-strength winds of Mars. Because the atmosphere of Mars contains oxygen, it should prove possible to manufacture oxygen abundantly with the right equipment. Currently, the surface of Mars rests at about -81 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Trajectory Of Human Advancement
All told, quite a few challenges remain to be solved before Martian colonization becomes a reality. Nevertheless, it is never a good idea to bet against the power of human ingenuity and collective need. One is reminded of the hoary old platitude, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Just as humanity conquered the vast seas of Earth, each once too dangerous for human travel, so will mankind likely conquer the vastness of space. Because Mars does have large polar ice caps, the first settlements on Mars are likely to be near one of the poles.
One of the biggest obstacles to colonizing mars revolves around the low Martian gravity. Because Mars has much lower gravity than Earth, human beings living on earth could lose muscle mass. Even worse, people can experience bone density loss. Fortunately, engineers will probably be able to build devices to enable Martian colonization.
The Pros And Cons Of Terraforming
In the long-term humanity might even be able to terraform Mars and other planets. While terraforming would allow for the most complete human colonization, this is a process that experts believe could take hundreds or thousands of years. In the case of Mars, creating Earth-like conditions would require raising the temperature of the planet and its systems.
One proposed method of terraforming involves erecting massive mirrors to reflect light onto the surface of Mars. In another proposed method, humans would guide multiple nitrogen-rich meteorites into crashing on earth. However you go about terraforming Mars, doing so would change the nature of the planet forever. Many people are far more comfortable with simply learning to adapt to the unique conditions on Mars.