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Living on Mars

I’m surprised by how much interest there was in the Mars post.  I guess one would expect that Mars colonization would appeal to gun nuts.  What better place to go to be left the hell alone by the powers that be?   But as much as the idea of sending people off to Mars to colonize it is appealing, I think the engineering challenges of keeping people on Mars would be just as daunting, if not more daunting, than bringing them back.

Mars is an incredibly hostile planet to human life.  It has an unbreathable atmosphere that is 100 times thinner than that of Earth.  This translates into very cold temperatures, and much higher radiation levels.  Mars is also only about a tenth of the mass of Earth, which translates into about a third of the gravity .  Mars’ average surface temperature is -63 degrees centigrade, and can hit lows of -140 degrees centigrade.   Mars also has no magnetic field, so solar storms can send unsafe levels of radiation to the Martian surface.

The only way humans are going to survive on Mars is to bring along an ample supply of food, a sustainable energy source, a way to manufacture breathable air, and enough construction equipment and materials to bury a habitat underground.  And all this will have to be done while in space suits, because Mars is too hostile and too cold to just walk around with a heavy coat and breathing apparatus on.  Humans on Mars would be totally dependent on supplies from Earth. and would probably require a steady stream of materials and equipment to be launched.

And after constructing a habitat on Mars, we don’t know whether we could get crops to grow, what effect the low gravity environment would have on humans or other animals we’d need to sustain a colony.  We don’t know how easy it will be to get liquid water on Mars.

I think humans will have a colony on Mars eventually, but I think sending scouting missions, where the astronauts come back, is going to be easier as a first step than jumping right to colonization.  With current technology and costs, I’m afraid any one way trip to Mars isn’t going to be much better than a suicide mission.

10 Responses to “Living on Mars”

  1. Flighterdoc says:

    All valid concerns, but all just engineering (not science) challenges.

    And we will never know, until we try it. As far as why we should bother, getting the species off of one rock, waiting for an asteroid to kill most life sounds like a great idea!

  2. Aaron says:

    I highly recommend Robert Zubrin’s book “The Case for Mars”. It addresses these and other points and lays out a cost-effective, plausible plan for putting boots on Mars and keeping them there. It covers practicalities of travel, short term occupation, and long term colonization in a straight-forward and rational fashion.

    http://www.amazon.com/Case-Mars-Robert-Zubrin/dp/0684827573

  3. Little Steve says:

    In a space suit, concealed carry will be very difficult. How would an IWB holster work? And the space suit material would probably foul HP ammo and greatly limit penetration.

    I think the first Martian pioneers will want to open carry large revolvers, much like the first American pioneers, because they will be easier to reload and service with bulky gloves.

    And will civilians be allowed to own phased plasma rifles by the time we get to Mars?

  4. Turk Turon says:

    The best part about life on Mars is that we would need new ballistics tables for all our small arms!

    I volunteer.

  5. Roberta X says:

    High-risk? Oh, well, sign me up!

  6. dustydog says:

    Thinking about Mars is fun, until the next plague hits. Then the survivors will be talking about recolonizing California and Africa.

  7. Myles says:

    The Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars trilogy detailed a lot of “possible today” ways that humanity could get a foothold and expand it on Mars. Unfortunately, you have to wade through pages upon pages of collectivist utopian drivel to find the good science.

  8. Paul Hunter says:

    My children are grown and will do fine without me near by, so sign me up!

  9. Dano says:

    I like the one way trip myself. Setup a group, raise some funds, and just do it. If nothing else, it will give the next group additional data for them to use. Best case, it’ll setup a foothold that will allow colonization to actually happen.

  10. Laughingdog says:

    “but I think sending scouting missions, where the astronauts come back, is going to be easier as a first step than jumping right to colonization”

    I thought he addressed this issue pretty clearly by only selecting older people to go. I would be surprised if a one-way trip with two years worth of supplies didn’t still get a long list of volunteers. Everyone dies sometime. But not everyone can trade a decade or two of their life in return for the legacy of being one of the first people to set foot on Mars.

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