Sounds really crazy right? Well, it shouldn’t anymore.
Mars is the closest planet to earth. A frozen dessert of ice and dust often called the ‘Red Planet’ because of the prevalent reddish iron oxide on the surface. The temperature varies between -200oC at the poles and -80oC at the equator. Liquid water cannot exist, because of the extremely low atmospheric pressure. The atmospheric layer of Mars is very thin and consists of about 96% carbon dioxide. It has no magnetic field to protect against radiation either.
Harsh, isn’t it? You’re probably wondering, “Is life there even imaginable?”
Terraforming is your answer.
Terraforming is the process of turning a hostile environment into one that can support human life. That is exactly what we intend to do on Mars.
So clearly, there is a lot that we need to change.
Let’s start with the atmosphere. We have to make it thicker and change its composition. One way to do this would be to trigger a greenhouse effect. We can do this in a bunch of different methods, using methane, carbon dioxide or even ammonia. Let us focus on ammonia for a moment. We can release ammonia by smashing ice-rich comets from the outer solar system onto the surface of Mars, eventually making a thicker atmosphere. From here, the atmosphere would warm the planet and the rest of the terraforming job would be a relative cakewalk. We can melt Mars’ polar ice caps and obtain water.
Gravity and radiation remain as obstacles. But fear not. Research is moving forward on the development of artificial gravity generating machines. However, radiation still remains a concern.
When we talk about colonization on Mars, the first name that comes to mind is Elon Musk’s SpaceX. For years, Musk has been talking about colonizing Mars. We weren’t sure how he’d do it. And finally, he has revealed his plans.
First, SpaceX plans to send two cargo ships to mars in 2022. If that proves successful, they will land 2 more cargo ships and 2 crewed ships in 2024. The goals of these initial missions will be to confirm water resources, identify possible hazards and set up initial power, mining and life support infrastructure. The second mission will focus on building a propellant plant and preparing for future crew flights. The ships from the initial missions will serve as the first base, from where the expansion of a city will radiate. The company will use its BFR series of rockets to launch humans from Earth.
SpaceX plans to establish a colony on Mars with a population of 80,000 and lowering the cost of the journey to 500,000 dollars per head.
Does it sound ridiculous? You bet it does.
But so did Kennedy’s speech in 1962 about landing a man on the Moon, until it became a reality in 1969.
Colonization of Mars may not be as far fledged a dream as we think.