General / Science

A trip to Mars

Planet Mars

Planet Mars

There has been a lot of excitement in recent years about humans going to Mars with an intention of living there. So I decided to do some research to see if I end up going there to live, then what  should I expect and what will I be experiencing. First of all, the question why Mars for settlement? Well it so happens, that after Earth this is the next best planet in the solar system which is potentially livable by humans.The main reason for this is because there is potential to get water from soil since there are no lakes and rivers. Apart from this, Mars also has 4 seasons just like Earth, which is also due to the orbit around the sun and having a tilt in its axis. However, the length of the season is double that of Earth and this is because Mars takes about 2 Earth years to go around the Sun. Season changes are also sudden and dramatic on Mars and unlike Earth, Mars is prone to a lot of dust storms in spring which can start in one location, but can cover the entire planet greatly reducing visibility. The day and night duration is very similar to Earth as a day on Mars is also roughly 24 hours. Even though there are some obvious differences on Mars compared to what we are used to on Earth, the exploration to live there is going rigorously mainly due to human curiosity. However, researchers feel that we will eventually be able to overcome these challenges to make it a livable planet.

Space shuttle

The journey to Mars is no easy task either. Mars is about 57.6 million kms (35.8 million miles) from Earth which means we need at least 6 months to travel from Earth to Mars.  Once we land there, we have to stay for at least one and half years before making the return journey as the launch window for the return trip comes only when both planets are aligned close to each other.  Even if we overcome the ordeal of flying to Mars, in my opinion the biggest challenge will be finding out how to make the planet more livable. Initially, scientists were thinking on how to make the entire planet livable by humans, however they very soon realized that this is not a scalable idea from the get-go, hence a new thought process is picking momentum. Scientists are thinking of creating small island-like habitats for sustaining human life. They are suggesting building domes made of silica aerogel which will create a greenhouse effect which we experience on Earth as the atmosphere on Mars is mainly made of carbon dioxide and doesn’t provide a great deal of protection from the Sun’s radiation . The heat generated by this greenhouse effect will help to melt the ice which is beneath the surface (as Mars’ surface is too cold to keep water in a liquid state). Even though this seems like a lucrative idea, it is not sufficient as water and air does not guarantee an overall good quality of life.

Domed city

Living on Mars has caught the public’s imagination, we still have a long way to go to make this a reality due to challenges until recently focused on aspects such as travel time, radiation effects, water availability etc. However, given how mental health has been affected due to pandemic lock down, I think scientists also have to include this new dimension of challenge into their list. Humans are social beings living amongst other life forms like plants, animals and other humans. Our brains are so used to looking at life as  complex interactions with all living and non living beings around us, therefore how we will react if we have to spend the majority of our time living in domes with limited interactions is something worth taking into account for this endeavor. As for me, I think I am better suited for life on Earth, so no plans for me to move to Mars in near future 🙂 

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