Life on Mars
Most of us have accepted that there is no life similar to ours on mars, nor will life ever be found there. This is why I was surprised and intrigued when I opened up an issue of NewScientist to find an article titled ‘Life on Mars.’
Mars is situated just outside the habitable zone of our solar system. The habitable zone is the area around a star with conditions viable for life. Hence, scientifically, it is impossible for any life with needs similar to humans to live on the red planet.
It turns out that despite the impossibility of it, any life found on mars in the next 20 years will be our own. Three different groups of people have started discussing expeditions to mars.
- NASA – A plan to have astronauts land on mars around 2030.
- Inspiration Mars – A privately owned project to have two people fly around mars and back to earth without landing.
- Mars One – Also privately owned, Mars One plans to send four people (chosen by television audiences) to land and live on mars permanently – essentially colonisation.
Travelling to or living on mars is seriously a thing now.
- Cost – ~$1 billion
- Year of launch – 2018
- Number of people to travel – Two
- Health issues – Travelling through space is an inappropriate place to perform any type of surgery. Even a simple cold or virus could cause massive health problems when confined to a single space. Naturally, the people chosen will have to be 100% healthy. Muscle atrophy is also inevitable.
- Psychological issues – The relationship between the two passengers must be able to survive an intense period of time with only each others company, and communication to ground. Even a happily married couple would struggle with a feat like this one.
- Benefit to science – To say we’ve flown around mars is a small step in scientific exploration of space. However, at least people are getting out there.
- Cost – ~$6 billion
- Year of launch – 2022
- Number of people to travel – Four originally and then another four every subsequent two years.
- Health issues – Same as Inspiration Mars. With the added issues of ageing and a much longer lifetime commitment.
- Psychological issues – The larger group may or may not present fewer problems than the one on one contact of a two person mission. However, imagine being stuck living with the same four people for life in a confined space.
- Benefit to science – These people will actually be living on mars. Assuming technology allows them to, they have the opportunity to explore in a way we have never been able to before. This is a much larger step in our learning of space.
Both of these missions require advanced technology. The ships themselves have to be built to protect against cosmic and solar radiation. Inspiration Mars’ vessel has to be able to safely re-enter earth’s atmosphere at a speed higher than any previous missions. Fuel needs to be generated, food needs to be grown, water recycled and oxygen made available. There are massive leaps forward for science in the development of these technologies.
However, psychologically there will be some unsolvable issues.
Do you think you could survive the loneliness and isolation of living on mars for the rest of your life? Would the sensation of looking out at space permanently and seeing everything ever get old?
Or would you live your life staring at the sparkling dot on average 225 million kilometres away wishing you were back there.