Mars Colonisation: A world beyond the Earth
Mars Colonisation looks distant but feasible. The last few decades have seen the human quest for not to settle for the modest and perseverance to outdo the best. The tallest and the most uniquely designed buildings have made the headlines. Along with this lies an indigestible truth that we are exploiting the Earth beyond recovery and might not survive long if scientists do not find an alternative. As a result, space agencies are aggressively investigating essential life elements like atmosphere and water on other distant planets in the universe. Most of the planets are without water, and the temperatures have extreme variations and therefore, not suitable to the human inhabitation. But Moon and Mars can sustain life, hence, are sighted as a potential alternative for human expansion and survival.
Popularly known as the red planet because of its appearance, the Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun. The rusted rocks at the Martian surface are the reason for its Orange-red outlook. After the first ever satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, Sputnik1, there were a series of attempts to reach the Mars. Finally, on 14 July, 1965, A US Spacecraft Mariner 4 could flyby the Red giant and shared 21 photos back to earth. The early missions restricted to a crater on the mars and concluded that the Mars looks like the Moon. Many Astronomical satellites launched by different countries have contributed in providing deeper understanding regarding the planet. But the colonisation of Mars was not even imaginable at this point.
With a year-long observation of the Martian surface through Mariner 9 in Nov 1971, the precise details about the red planet could be gathered along with the 7329 photos which it sent back to the Earth. After a careful investigation of the dust storms and the debris, the scientists unravelled the possibility of dormant volcanoes on the planet. A huge crater was found on the red planet as shown in the figure below and was later named as Valles Marineris.
Thereafter, there were many Mars missions launched to enhance the understanding of the particle matter on the Martian surface such as orbiter and lander named Viking 1 and Viking 2. However, some of the initial discoveries of finding no microbial life on Mars stands conflicted today with the latest developments and revelations about the red planet.
Mars as we know today
Launched in 2001, Mars Odyssey is till date the longest mission to explore life on mars with 350,000 images and element distribution mappings. Next in line was the evidence of water, Spirit and opportunity established that once water used to flow on the red planet. Aug, 4, 2007, NASA launched a stationary lander named Marx Phoenix, which corroborated water ice samples below the planet surface.
Another mission called Curiosity reached Mars in 2012, evidence of once water soaked areas and Methane (CH4) presence were some of its crucial findings. With the Mars orbiter mission (MOM) launched successfully India became the latest country to conduct mars exploration mission successfully.
The researchers have gathered vital information with the help of landers, orbiters and rover who have sent mappings, photographs and material samples using state of the art sensing techniques. These new findings with Mars mission bolstered the possibility of life on Mars and also the Colonisation for human on Mars.
With the advancement in technology and the findings from prior Mars missions, scientists are looking to explore possibilities of independent life on Mars. Today, we seek to chart new possibilities of sustainable life at Mars in a combined effort from all the nations and their space agencies.
Mars colonisation, why?
There are a number of reasons why today we are looking for a safe place to rehabilitate the humans. There are evidence of ice ages and catastrophic events like asteroid collisions which swept off the biggest species Dinosaurs from the earth. The Mars colonisation is also looked at as an alternate solution for the exponential population burst. Apart from this, the heavy industrial activities and rising toxicity in the earth’s atmosphere may anytime result in sudden natural calamities like earth quakes or cyclones. The CO2 levels are increasing, resulting in the threat of Global warming which could submerge countries together.
Additionally, it’s also a prestige issue among the countries to launch their space missions and project their progress. The countries are also planning for means to make the journey to Mars cheaper and faster so that it is possible to explore tourism opportunities for those who can afford million dollar vacations. But the truth is the idea of Mars colonisation is still an unborn child.
Planning on Mars Colonisation
Executing the Mars colonisation idea has a lot of challenges in the way. It needs multi-disciplinary approach from engineering, science, human health, technology, medicine, the human psychological and behaviour departments of all the countries. NASA has invited a group of scientists and experts from various countries along with 70 members from the US itself from the fields of engineering, science, medical, economy and psychology to give suggestions. Harvard professors have also worked extensively on finding life and Human inhabitation possibilities on Mars.
As species, humans have always been curious about the outer world and have launched motivated attempts to explore what lies beyond the obvious. Humans are intelligent and have adaptive qualities, high recognition abilities and excellent survival stamina, this encourages for imagining the possibilities of life on Mars for humans. Our advanced technology and state of the art equipments can provide a wonderful robot-human collaboration for exploration, measurement, surveying and construction activities. All through our history we have an incredible trend for achieving what was once thought beyond human capabilities. Mars colonisation will be such an endeavour which can open up a whole new chapter in human civilization and create history.
Common Life elements on the Earth and Mars
There are symptoms of life elements on Mars and many mechanisms and processes which are same as we find on the Earth. The common elements between the Earth and Mars are listed below.
- Early bombardment Records: for both the planets the geological records for early bombardments are present.
- Impact Craters: both Mars and Earth have records of craters on their surfaces.
- Magnetic Fields: however, Mars does not have a magnetic dipole now. But earth and Mars both have records of magnetic poles existence.
- Volcanic Activities: Earth and Mars both have volatile volcanoes which are still active.
- Liquid Water presence: Mars in the past and earth presently have water presence.
- Geochemical Cycles: Both planets have geochemical cycles.
- Condensed Atmospheric gases: There is water vapour on the earth and at Mars carbon Di oxide.
There is evidence found for the changes that occurred in the Martian atmosphere or climate. The present thin atmosphere at Mars was used to be dense previously as much as more than 1000 mbar. Such dense atmospheric conditions suggest that the surface could have liquid water present. But currently, the red planet has 6 mbar atmospheric pressure and hence a very thin and cold air with no water on the surface. Scientists are also trying to search that as to why the Mars atmosphere changed so drastically, the answer could solve the Mars mystery and provide insight on what could be the future of the Earth.
Health and radiation risks on Mars
Human mission on Mars stayed long enough to understand the medical conditions and health risks that Martian surface exposes to Humans. Threats like microgravity, radiation and memory loss are common health symptoms for the astronauts. There may be infections to humans or contamination of Martian atmosphere due to our activities. Hence it poses a challenge for the Medical team and scientists to take humans to Mars in a controlled environment and give adequate time to the body to adjust to the sudden drastic changes of temperature and pressure.
In addition to this, the researchers are employing best techniques to measure and sample the surface materials on Mars for exploring the history of life on Mars. Any such discoveries of inhabitation on Mars could prove to be a significant progress in our mission to understand the red planet.
Mars one Project
Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdrop started Mars one project in May 2012 with a mission to carry the human being to Mars and plan a human colony there on Mars by 2035. The organisation will use a private spaceflight for commutation and launch a lander and orbiter to the Mars before 2020. They have plans to send human crews of four and six in 2024 and 2026 respectively to never return back on the Earth.
The organisation has planned to select deserving candidates as crew members to be the first permanent citizen of the Mars. However, scientists are sceptical and critical about the project ethics and feasibility and financial viability.
Lockheed Martin, was the contractor for building the robotic lander for Mars one mission of colonisation for Mars. After initial phase of study in 2013 the contracts were not received for further advancement on the mission. The number of interested applicants is also disputed. There have been several revisions and iterations to the original mission and latest was in 2015, when Mars one announced selection of third pool of 100 participants (50 men and 50 women) for the permanent mars colonisation mission.
The steps and timing of the mission as of now is as follows:
- 2020: Unmanned lander launch by
- 2022: Unmanned Rover launch; to pick a spacecraft landing site for 2027 mission.
- 2024: Cargo launch for living supplies
- 2024: Four Astronauts will be landing on Mars.
- 2025 Mars one will land.
- 2030: rover will start operation and assembly, atmosphere control and life support systems of 0.7 bar pressure, 240 g of Oxygen and 3000L of water.
- 2032: first colonists to reach Mars.
- 2033: Second crew of four colonists.
- 2040: A colony with 20 settlers.
An animated view of Mars One’s human settlement is demonstrated here:
Elon Musk Mars Colonisation
Elon Musk founder and CEO of Space X, Tesla inc. and so many other companies, is an influential entrepreneur with a wealth estimate of $15 billion. Musk says that he does not believe in doomsday prophecy and instead wants to save mankind from it by exploring alternatives for human inhabitations. Musk and his company Space X have a mission to provide transport to Mars and establish permanent colonies in next five decades.
According to Space X and Elon’s study the vital nutrients in the Mars atmosphere like Carbon di Oxide and Nitrogen can facilitate farming. And one third gravity on Mars in comparison to the earth’s gravity might bring down the spaceship returning costs and therefore make the one way system business model economical. The reusability of aircraft can significantly bring down the operating costs. But even after considering all these Musk’s estimate for a trip to the red plant might cost somewhere around $10 billion. This is an amount good enough to buy a few square blocks in Manhattan. However, Musk believes that advancement in technology, stronger rockets and lighter materials can make the Mars colonisation faster and easier.
Musk has a vision for ultimately a Martian state of millions. This might need thousands of spaceships and a number of trips and an estimated time period of 50-60 years. The project suffered an explosion at a pre-launch stage. Space X has planned to send capsule Dragon 2 in 2018 when the Earth and Mars will be closest to each other, once in a period of 27 months. Space X has plans to send two to three tons of material on the Mars. And the task for taking humans on to the Mars can kick start in due course of time once the set up is ready for the first colony at Mars.
Hopefully the colonisation plans on Mars will take final shape and will materialise someday. It may be a little late if not at the proposed times.