by Yang Lu
Getting to Mars is only half the battle. Once the astronauts get there, they won’t have enough fuel to make a round trip back to Earth. This means that scientists must find ways for the astronauts to live on Mars for upwards of a year while they wait for more supplies. What are our plans for living on the Martian surface?
Why Should We Colonize Mars?
The first is obvious: exploration. Mars has only ever been explored through the lenses of satellites and rovers. The most recent Mars rover, Opportunity, only managed to cover 45km before losing contact with Earth. Compare that to humans, who can travel large distances with vehicles and carry equipment twice as heavy as the rovers. New discoveries about Mars would help us understand not only Mars’ planetary evolution but Earth’s as well. Finally, settling on Mars would guarantee the survival of our species for thousands of years.
Finding a Place to Call Home
Choosing the correct landing site is critical. There are three main factors that influence which sites are chosen. These include reliable access to a water source, fertile soil and protection from harmful radiation. Different parts of Mars have different build-ups of ice and potentially farmable soil. Radiation also means that likely, the first settlement will be built in a cave or lava tube using Mars’ soil as protection. Knowing where they are going to settle helps astronauts prepare ahead of time for any challenges they may face.
Building the Infrastructure
Once the astronauts find a suitable landing site, they must also begin to build infrastructure. Their homes must be easily constructed, air-tight and protect the astronauts from deadly sandstorms and radiation. The solution? A company called AI SpaceFactory has designed a habitat named Marsha. Marsha is an egg-like structure made of basalt fibres and bioplastics. Its biggest feature is that in just 30 hours, it can be 3D-printed entirely from materials found on Mars. 3D-printing is the ideal solution to building homes efficiently with a high degree of customizability.
Making Mars Home
Finally, the end goal of colonizing Mars is terraforming it so that humans can breathe its air and venture outside safely. There is a possibility that by using aerogel, ice water trapped below the surface could melt and become liquid water. There are also suggestions for releasing CO2 to gradually thicken and warm up Mars’ atmosphere. However, some studies say that Mars does not naturally contain enough CO2 to get anywhere near Earth’s atmosphere. Terraforming Mars is the ultimate step to making Mars a second home.
Our Plans so Far
2033. That is the year NASA intends to put people on Mars. During this time, NASA is planning to conduct numerous tests through a three-phase plan with a total of 32 launches. In July 2020, NASA is sending a rover to Mars, called Perseverance, to further test rock and soil samples.
Numerous challenges await scientists and astronauts trying to live on Mars. However, using the countless hours of research, preparation, and collaboration, as well as advances in technology, we have a plan in place that will not only get us to Mars but stay there.
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