Forming a settlement on Mars, which is about 35 million miles away at its closest approach to Earth, has been the distant dream of sci-fi buffs and scientists alike for centuries, but is it at all possible for people on earth to even get there? This is the $64,000 question and the answer is complex. From all accounts, it would appear that a trip to Mars translates very definitely into a one-way ticket. Read on for some obstacles confronting the idea of settlement on the Red Planet.
There may be a way to adequately fuel a ship for such a journey, which would probably take about six months, but preparing the human body is another matter altogether. Muscles atrophy in outer space and bone density decreases. Astronauts often can’t even stand up when they return to earth after long periods spent in space and they always require time to recover their strength and bone mass.
Mars, just like the moon, its gravity is weaker than that of the Earth and it translates into astronauts unable to work properly on the Martian surface. Without regular exercises their muscles will grow weaker. The return trip is likely to take another six months, and could translate into more muscle atrophy and bone deterioration.
It is cold on Mars, the average temperature minus 60 degrees Celsius and the air temperature seldom exceeds zero Celsius. If that isn’t bad enough, the winds are fierce and blow at terrible velocities. A typical storm can last for months, and the wind generates a fine dust that not only sticks to everything but also is capable of tossing sand into the gears of vital machinery and electrical equipment.
Due to the fact that the Martian atmosphere is too thin to retain oxygen, plants would have to be cultivated in greenhouses and their production of oxygen retained in flasks. Mars is also known for its very weak magnetic field, which would require any potential colonists to wear thick suits and build radiation protection into their houses. There is also the danger of incoming meteorites crashing onto the surface, since they would not burn up in the atmosphere as they usually do when headed for Earth.
It is likely that any plans to land on Mars would have to be considered colonization rather than a short visit. Putting men on the moon took a presidential giant leap and a Martian landing would no doubt require the same. Consider that more than sixty years separated the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903 from the first moon landing in 1969. Do we need a similar stretch of time from the first moonwalk to the first permanent base on Mars?
A Martian Trip Is A Hard Political Sell
The astronomical cost, possibly in the hundreds of billions of dollars that would be required to land a man on Mars and return him safely to earth is not likely to encourage such a voyage in the near future. Colonization also seems years away, albeit there might be many who would love to be a part of such an endeavor.
For now, at least, it would appear that a trip to Mars must remain a dream although perhaps not as distant a vision as it might have been a few decades ago.
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