How long before man can inhabit Mars?
Mars, being the one other planet that is potentially conducive to sustaining life, has occupied our imaginations for years. The rover Curiosity is adding real-life data to our imaginations, fueling our dreams all the more.
One day in our future we may be visiting Mars. If so, know that a day on Mars is 40 minutes longer than here on Earth, so imagine how much more we could get done, or how much sleep we could catch up on. In addition, a year on Mars is twice as long as that on Earth, so we could theoretically achieve twice as much in a year. Perhaps our New Year’s Resolutions would actually be achieved giving the newly found surplus of time.
The landscape of Mars is desert, desert and more desert. Of course, there are mountains, valleys and sand dunes, to break up the desert monotony. Though water was historically present on Mars, there is no water to speak of these days.
You’d need to pack some extra-heavy coats as Mars is pretty cold most of the time. And, because of the thinness of the atmosphere, Mars does not contain heat the way Earth does. Hence, the temperatures would drop down about 100°C each night. Worse yet, the cold weather would not protect you from the sun’s radiation. All the more so, the lack of a magnetic field would offer no protection from the sun.
If you were to indeed visit Mars, know that it will take you several months to get there, so you’d have to accumulate a lot of vacation time to afford the trip. And then, you might as well stay for a few years to make the couple of month travel time worthwhile. Once you arrive on Mars, you will need to stay on your spaceship and/or in your spacesuits to get the oxygen you need. You’ll need to make a power plant pretty quickly for your heating and electricity needs (is there internet on Mars?). This power plant would also fuel the process of extracting oxygen out of carbon dioxide, and water out of hydrated minerals.
At the present moment, if you were to bring a year’s supply of Evian water with you, it would do no good on the surface of Mars. It would either freeze because of the freezing temperatures, or boil away because of the low pressure, or do both. Therefore, to further make the planet livable, you would need to add additional carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, to increase air pressure and to trap heat, simulating the greenhouse effect. These extra carbon dioxide stores are most likely frozen at Mars’ poles.
Dr. Richard Zurek, Chief Scientist in the Mars Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), estimates that humans will land on Mars in 30 years. That gives us enough time to pack up a lot of warm coats, a lot of water, oxygen, carbon dioxide and uranium (for the nuclear power plants) for the trip.