Every epoch has had a dominant species since the advent of life on Earth. From the humongous dinosaurs to the woolly mammoths, their dominion was momentary. Us humans may not be the most powerful force in nature, but the capacity of our brain is astounding. It is the brain that’s made us frontiers to the survival of life on the earth.
Evolution states here’s always been a dead-end to entire species after a few million years of its existence. We are the first ones capable enough to realize the notion. In addition, even if we sustain life on Earth, eventually the sun will gobble us up during its expansion to become a red giant. We certainly don’t want our existence to fade away in such fashion. Needless to explain, a single planet for the rest of our existence doesn’t seem right.
Henceforth, becoming an interplanetary species is cardinal to avoid the doom of our existence. Mars is the perfect fit, at least for the baby steps in our endeavour to survive till the end of time.
Why not other planets or moons? This could be a major question. Firstly, the moon is the nearest heavenly body to us. But due to the absence of atmosphere and the low mass of the moon, it’s quite difficult to establish a colony there. The absence of atmosphere on the lunar surface means it is continuously bombarded by the solar radiation directly and other micro meteors. So, Moon is a poor option.
Secondly, Venus is the nearest planet from the earth. It lies at an average distance of 44.635 million km from us. It also lies in the habitable zone of the solar system. But the major issue is its atmosphere. Venus’s atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide. Consequently, its dense atmosphere traps heat excessively. The temperatures on Venus reach 471 degrees Celsius (880 degrees Fahrenheit), which is more than hot enough to melt lead. Now it is clear how difficult it is to even land there. Mercury, on the other hand, is hot to be colonized as well.
Now, another option left is Mars. It is not that near to the earth as compared to Venus. It is approximately 141.34 million km from the earth and even doesn’t lie in the habitable zone. Yet it is comparatively nearer to earth than other planets.
The average surface temperature on Mars is -81 degrees Fahrenheit(-62.78 degrees Celsius). Yes, it is colder than Venus but this temperature does not melt our habitat there. Instead, artificially warming our habitat on the mars can be easier than to cool it on Venus. It takes 9 months to reach Mars. We can imagine that it would take longer than that to reach the outer planets. It also demands a greater sum of money.
Hence Mars looks for a better option for the first try to establish a live-able habitat or to possibly colonize outer space.
Can we colonize Mars? There are several challenges that we are going to face in this massive project. Some of them have been described below:
Distance: Earth and Mars revolve around the sun at different rates. They become closest to each other once in two years. So the fuel we are going to require for taking our astronauts and equipment is going to be massive. This will also cost a lot of money. It is not once that we could have to take astronauts to the red planet. We could have to launch multiple times to send the required supplies in the future.
Thin atmosphere: The gravity on Mars is almost 60 percent less than that of the Earth. Its weak gravity has caused several consequences that have become challenges for us. One of the major challenges is the thin atmosphere. Its atmosphere is about 100 times thinner than that of the earth. Due to the thin atmosphere, its surface receives excessive radiation. . As it lacks the magnetic field as well, there is no breathable air there. So every time the colonists get outside of the habitat zone they have to wear protective gear. While in habitat zone, the chambers will have to be pressurized to make conditions suitable as that of the earth.
Productivity: The crust of Mars contains volcanic basalt rocks. Mars, however, does contain the required minerals for the plants to grow such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, etc. It will require a lot of researches to find out the proper way to harness the minerals and nutrients to grow plants there.
Survival: If we get there, another major challenge would be to get adapted. The gravity there is 60 percent less. The daily activity is not going to be easier. To be protected from the radiation, one has to wear bulky anti-radiation suits. This is even tedious. If any health issue appears, it is going to be another catastrophe. Before we can grow plants on Mars, we will have to be supplied enough food and resources .
Others: These are several other challenges and problems to be addressed. Political tension, training human resources, excess money, and fuel requirement, and lack of experience could be other challenges.
Some possible solutions
Artificial magnetic field
It is estimated that roughly 4 billion years ago, there was a magnetic field around mars. Unfortunately, it’s disappeared.
One of the solutions to this can be placing a satellite in the gravitational field that could produce a strong magnetic field. This magnetic field should, however, be able to deflect the solar wind and protect colonists and other life from radiation.
Underground, habitat can protect the colonists from the solar radiation and also extreme weather condition. Pressurized underground habitat can help scientists to sustain life. However, this can’t be a permanent solution. One day we will have to explore the surface to advance our presence there.
Melting the polar ice cap
There is iced carbon dioxide on the poles of Mars. If we are able to melt the polar ice then the atmosphere can be thickened. As a result, the greenhouse effect can also increase. Oxygen can also be harnessed from the carbon dioxide by electrochemistry. Consequently, the planet will also get warmer.
Pressurized Dome cities
Cities can be built in the interconnected dome. These domes should be able to block harmful solar radiation. It should be pressurized suitable for life to survive like on earth.
With these steps, we could slowly proceed towards terraforming mars. Terraformation is the process of modifying the atmosphere, topography, ecology, and temperature of a place.
How far are we?
As of 2020, there are six operational mars orbiters . There are some rovers on the mars as well. These equipment are analyzing the possibilities for colonization, the survival of life, and solutions for challenges. Companies like SpaceX, Mars One, Blue Origin are in plan to reach Mars. SpaceX plans to launch a crewed mission to Mars by 2024 and NASA by 2030.
For now, it’s just a far-fetched dream.