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Colonizing Mars

Colonizing Mars
Possibility or a Distant Dream?
By Stella Law

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TP 201903 future 03Mars and Earth are those fraternal, yet poles apart, siblings that went their separate ways as soon as they were born. According to some experts, Mars probably had a primordial crust, a key element in the habitability of a planet, at least 100 million years before Earth developed its own.

 

That means the red planet probably got a head start in habitability much before our home planet, until celestial forces turned it into a brooding mass of red desert.

 

Scientists all over the world are trying to find fecund traces of habitability on the Martian grounds. For instance, NASA is planning to send a manned mission to Mars by the year 2030. On the other hand, SpaceX has revealed similar plans with an ambitious deadline of the year 2024.

 

However, the million dollar question here would be that, are all these efforts at sustaining human life on the Martian soil sustainable or will they come out as mere pipe dreams?

TP 201903 future 04Terraforming

The main concept driving many Mars colonization initiatives involves Terraforming.

 

Terraforming is the hypothetical process of artificially transforming Mars surface, climate and atmosphere to make it habitable for humans without needing any form of life support systems.

 

While NASA researches have suggested that terraforming of Mars may not be a very practical idea, there are many who still hope that certain tweaks of the Martian ecosystem can make large scale terraforming possible.

TP 201903 future 09

Billionaire tech titan and SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, had audaciously spoken about dropping thermonuclear weapons on Mars to make terraforming on such a wide scale possible. However, Bruce Jakosky, a planetary scientist and principal investigator for NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission studying the Martian atmosphere, and Christopher Edwards, an assistant professor of planetary science at Northern Arizona University, said that, with the current technologies, terraforming on such massive scale is simply not possible.

 

In order to make Mars habitable like the Earth, we need to raise temperatures and thicken the atmosphere through the use of already present greenhouse gases. The only greenhouse gas abundant enough on Mars is CO2. However, it is not enough to make the atmospheric conditions Earth-like.

 

Jakosky and Edwards have used data from the previous two decades to analyse the conditions on Mars and take an inventory of what can be done to terraform the planet. However, as on date, we do not have the technological prowess to make terraforming a viable option.

 

If not Terraforming, then What?

Many scientists have researched and discussed various possibilities about humans settling on Mars, with scientific community theorizing that, while terraforming of Mars is not an alternative, we need to seek another method to make our Martian neighbour more affable and human-friendly!

TP 201903 future 05Geothermal Energy
One alternative could be geothermal energy. There is plenty of CO2 in the Mars surface, which can be compressed and liquefied. The latter form works well as a geothermal fluid, which can be used to generate electricity. The Cerberus plains on Mars, its North-western Tharsis region and the canyons of Valles Marineris are possible hotspots for accessing geothermal energy, which can be extracted with necessary equipment and advanced infrastructure.

TP 201903 future 06Vegetation
Another simple, yet effective, possibility is growing plants. Yes, growing a good selection of plants and a combination of advanced technology and AI can help in establishing a self-sustaining human settlement on Mars. Since Martian atmosphere is made up of about 95% of CO2, it could be possible that selected cultivation of plants in a controlled environment can solve the mystery of surviving on the red planet.

TP 201903 future 07NASA鈥檚 Mars 2020 Rover Mission is a highly advanced Mars Exploration Program set to be launched in mid-2020, which will search signs of life and collect samples of promising rocks and soils. This will give us an opportunity to not just gather knowledge, but also to demonstrate technologies, which address future human expeditions to the Martian grounds.

 

The research carried out by NASA鈥檚 2020 Rover will answer many unsolved mysteries of Mars, the most crucial one being whether or not life existed on its grounds ever, and what are the options of establishing human settlements in near future.

TP 201903 future 08Time will Tell

While we can see Mars has been the obvious choice for terraforming since many years, considering its close proximity to Earth, easy to get to and having a favourable climate for research functions; the allure of colonizing Mars is perhaps a dream that is thriving among everyone in the scientific community.

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