Unbelievable - how we may live on Mars in 20 years!

By admin
03 June 2016

Ordinary humans may soon be able to live on Mars, says SA born space genius Elon Musk. Here's how our living and working spaces could look like on the Red Planet . . .

Ordinary humans may soon be able to live on Mars, says SA born space genius Elon Musk. Yes, really!

Picture from the movie the Martian with Matt Damon at Base Camp on Mars A scene from the movie The Martian. Pic: Twentieth Century Fox

South African born tech genius Elon Musk thinks it’s possible to send people there by 2027, NASA is looking at the 2030s, other governments and private companies are setting their sights on the 2040s. Wondering how our living and working spaces could look like on the Red Planet? Well, suddenly everyone will be making their way to Mars. In fact, Musk is not thinking only in astronaut terms. He envisages a proper colony on Mars, with 80 000 people living there in the forseeable future. That could include you and me . . .

Why on Earth would anyone want to live on Mars?

We can think of three excellent reasons.

  1. It will be an incredible feat. Putting humans on Mars will probably be the most important event of the 21st century.
  2. It’s an adventure. If you’re middle-class, sick of your job and can scrape enough money together by selling everything you own, you can buy a one-way ticket on one of the  reusable spaceships Musk is talking about and start an entirely new life on the Red Planet. Science journalist Stephen Petranek predicts there will be jobs aplenty – not only to keep the new colony going, but also on behalf of companies on Earth, who might be interested in raw materials from Mars or movies being made there.
  3. Mars is a good backup home should Earth ever become uninhabitable.
Then again . . .

8 reasons not to go

Mars can be a lovely place to live if you’re a one-cell organism hiding deep under the surface, but if you’re a flesh-and-blood human, it has its challenges.

A picture of the surface of Mars The surface of Mars, as seen by the Curiosity Mars Rover

  1. It takes five to seven months to get there – and that’s the easy part.
  2. Mars is bitterly cold, with temperatures generally well below freezing point.
  3. You’ll have to move around outside in a heavy space suit as there’s not much atmospheric pressure.
  4. There is far less gravity than on Earth. Although it will make wearing the heavy spacesuit more bearable, it may be bad news for your eyesight and your muscle and bone strength.
  5. There may or may not be enough available water.
  6. Breathing is a problem as there’s very little oxygen in the atmosphere.
  7. You’ll be a sitting duck for devastating diseases such as cancer. That’s because the sky around Mars provides little protection from cosmic radiation and the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
  8. Can you imagine the cost of dispatching a continuous stream of spaceships to Mars to take the food, equipment and medical needed to keep the colony going?

But if you decide to go . . .

The trick will be to live as independently of Earth as possible. Some scientists think we can eventually manage to warm up Mars by releasing lots of greenhouse gases, which will get water to flow and plants to grow. We may even manage to make genetic changes to the human body so that it’s easier to adapt to the Mars environment.

But for the moment, that’s the stuff of science fiction. Here are more immediate plans to make Mars a relatively comfortable place to live.

How an inflatable working space could look like. What an inflatable working space could look like.

  • 3D printing. A team of scientists is working on technology to use 3D printing to print anything from spare parts to food and even homes on Mars, using raw materials found on that planet.
  • Oxygen production. NASA is testing the use of bacteria and algae to produce oxygen on Mars. The plan is to scatter these organisms on the surface, where they will use the soil as fuel to pump out oxygen.
  • Spacesuits. Mars inhabitants will have to wear a spacesuit whenever they go outside.

Picture of two astronauts working on Mars surface An artist's impression of how we will move outside on Mars.

  • Staying inside. In order to prevent radiation, it will be necessary to spend as much time inside as possible.

Drawing of building modules on Mars This is how NASA envisages a Mars colony. Picture: NASA

  • Mars farms. Martian soil is toxic but can be purified and supplemented to grow plants. So fresh veggies and fruit will be grown in large farming modules.
A greenhouse module in Mars An artist's impression of what a Mars "farm" could look like. So while a lot of details still have to be worked out, it is clear that mankind’s journey to Mars has begun. And even if it takes a little longer than scientists predict (because it always does!), for our grandchildren the idea of living on Mars may be as normal as the idea of living on the International Space Station is to us.

Speaking of space . . . 

If you enjoyed the article above, you'll love  YOU’s brand-new publication, Gateway to Space!  It costs R45 and you'll find it in shops, or you can pick it up for R40 a the Gateway To Space exhibition (see below). It’s packed with interesting facts and stories such as awesome rockets and spacecraft, glam astronauts (and animanauts!), and even how to go about becoming an astronaut.

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