Life on Another Planet

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Concluding farewell

Thank you for accompanying us on Mars exploration where we investigated the possible ways to sustain human life on the Red Planet. It was a successful research mission and hopefully in the near future, the designs will come into play.

 

Journey to Mars

The journey to Mars will take approximately 7-8 months (when launched at the right time). Along with the prolonged travel times, there are several other potential problems that colonists could face.

1.    physical effects of exposure to high-energy cosmic rays and other ionizing radiation

2.    physical effects of prolonged low gravity environment (includes eyesight loss)

3.    psychological effects of isolation from Earth

4.    psychological effects of lack of community due to lack of real-time connections with Earth

5.    social effects of several humans living under crowded conditions for over one Earth year

6.    inaccessibility of terrestrial medical facilities

7.    equipment failure during travel

8.    ability to safely enter the Mars atmosphere and land

If everything goes as planned, none of the factors mentioned above are of concern. In order for these factors to be avoided, the spacecraft and timing has to be perfect to minimize risks and timing.

The Hohmann transfer orbit is the best option to launch a rocket towards Mars. The rocket must be aimed to the location Mars will be so that the rocket and Mars will meet in 7-8 months. The spacecraft being used must be able to protect colonists from radiation, fluctuating temperatures and be prone to malfunctions. 

Arguably, one of the most important factors is the cost. Currently, sending 1 pound of anything into space costs around 5000 dollars. The total trip cost to Mars per 6-person colony will cost approximately 10-15 billion dollars.

Travelling to Mars is possibly just as difficult as living on Mars. With the proper research, and resources, it can be possible for colonists to travel and arrive safely at Mars.

Energy on Mars

Many of the “normal” tasks that we carry out in our daily lives requires energy. On Earth, energy can be from a variety of different sources but on Mars, there are very limited ways to generate energy. The most commonly known source is solar energy. Although effective once installed properly on Mars (must be placed at the Northern pole), the relative proximity of Mars to the sun is much greater than from the Earth so the efficiency of solar panels is much decreased. An interesting and currently working method of powering the Mars Curiosity rover is the use of radioisotopes (plutonium 238). A by-product from producing generating nuclear powered products, naturally decaying radio isotopes give off heat and that heat can be converted into up to 110 watts of energy. The half-life of plutonium 238 is 87.7 years. This means that the heat given off by this radioactive isotope will be able to power vehicles, appliances, electronics, etc. for many years. As long as this material is not exposed to skin or eaten, it is completely safe to use. The reliability and stability of this material makes it a top contender to power life on Mars.

The Climate on Mars

Scientists believe that 3.5 billion years ago, the climate on Mars was similar to present day Earth. Yet now, the atmosphere is very thin and the temperature is cold with an average temperature of -63◦C. Although it seems extreme, it is the only planet that falls in the range of possible temperatures on Earth. For example, Jupiter has an average surface temperature of -153◦C.

The poles of Mars can reach -195◦C and the equators can reach 20◦C. In the morning, haze and fog are often created from water ice due to the low temperatures. There are often wind and dust storms that occur on Mars and on average they are around 10 km/h and the highest observed was 90 km/h yet due to the thin atmosphere, they do not exert a lot of force. 

Mars has a similar tilt to Earth, creating similar seasonal change, yet seasons on Mars are twice as long because it takes twice as long as to orbit the sun. 

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Settling on Mars

Living on Mars will be difficult as humans would not be able to freely walk around without helmets or some sort of protection from the low gravity and oxygen levels. Due to this, the shelter must be compact and generate its own oxygen and other nutrients while the atmosphere is adjusted to livable atmospheric pressure.

Most of the material would need to come from Earth. One method would be to release an space shuttle such as the ones currently being released into space for settlement. This would buy enough time to research and build other accommodations. In order to accumulate resources from Mars, it must be built near resources such as underground water or ice, geothermal heat sources, wind for windmills, and latitudes where solar energy can be used year-round. The base must also be near a warm area without many small whirlwinds of dirt commonly found on Mars.

There are many different regions where settlement could occur.

One possible habitat could be near the polar regions which have polar ice caps usable for water. Another would be the equatorial regions because settlers can benefit from the shelter provided by the geography of the area for shelter. This could protect settlers from radiation and micrometeorites. Geothermal energy is also suspected in this area.

There could also be civilization in the northern plains because of the low altitude measuring high pressure.

To make the atmosphere more livable while the settlers live in temporary shelters would be by turning the valleys into huge greenhouses by putting clear plastic “tents” over cliff faces. While settlers are establishing themselves, the terraforming would also be taking place from these greenhouses.

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Food on Mars

According to senior NASA research analyst Maya R Cooper, at the NASA Johnson Space Center in the Space Food Systems Laboratory in Houston, Texas, feeding astronauts could be one of the greatest challenges to the first manned mission to Mars. the foods that we eat have a direct link to our mood. For this reason, to raise maintain morale and a healthy life for colonists on Mars, diverse foods similar to those found on Earth, are needed.

Currently, research is being conducted in order to come up with creative ways to prepare and eat food on Mars. An obvious answer to eating on Mars will be to take food from Earth. These foods will have to be mainly dried, powdered, centrifuged and vacuum packaged. Yet, the biggest question is what will happen when the food runs out as food taken from Earth will only last so long on Mars? The solution is to come up with ways to grow crops on Mars and cook them alongside resources from Earth. 

The most cost-effective and efficient way to grow crops such as carrots, potatoes and peas is to grow them in a hydroponic solution. This mineral-laced water solution will replace traditional soil growing methods. 

Weight and other logistical restrictions will not allow colonists to take up years of food supplies. Instead, alternate methods must be created in order to grow food and sustain life on Mars. Requiring colonists to cook their own food increases connection to Earth and comes with it many other benefits.

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