More than half a century ago Neil Armstrong conquered the expedition on the moon. Now, another space race is heating up: conquering Mars.
We all know Mars as the red planet, the planet next door that looks similar to Earth but unlike our blue planet, Mars is completely barren. So why would we want to live on Mars?
After the success of several robotic missions to Mars, such as NASA’s Perseverance rover and China’s Zhurong, people are wondering if humans can follow next.
Many unmanned missions over the last decade have been crucial to exploring the red planet, giving us information about the crevices, sediments, and even finding the presence of water ice on Mars!
This has fueled expectations that a human landing is after all possible. But how soon can we get there? And, are we prepared to live on Mars?
Putting Man On Mars
After the success of robotic expeditions, NASA wants to send astronauts to Mars by 2030. The United Arab Emirates, which already has a spacecraft orbiting the planet, is now promoting a 100-year plan to create a colony on Mars. Even China has its eyes set on sending humans to Mars as a long-term goal.
With so many nations and organizations eyeing the prospects of sending man to Mars, Elon Musk is the most ambitious of them all. Musk, the founder of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) wants to send humans to Mars within this decade. In an interview, Musk said that he was confident a crewed mission could take place in 2026.
According to CNBC, while the company is flying astronauts with its Falcon 9 rockets and Crew Dragon capsules, SpaceX is working to develop Starship: An enormous stainless steel rocket, designed to be fully reusable and carry people to the moon and Mars.
Scientists are still skeptical of these grand plans because there’s just not enough research and too many unanswered questions pertaining to deep-space travel. Here are some of the challenges that we will face if we want to establish a human presence on the red planet.
When the Apollo astronauts traveled to the moon, they could do so in just a few days. But a trip to Mars would take close to 6-9 months. According to Bloomberg, the distance between Mars and Earth varies between 35 million miles and 249 million miles due to their elliptical orbits. There’s only a small window available when the two are ideally aligned for space travel. Making logistics even more trickier.
Flying over such as long-distance without an atmosphere would expose humans to solar flares. A solar flare is considered to be the most powerful explosion in the solar system, where a single flare is the equivalent of 100 million hydrogen bombs. The Earth’s magnetic field can shield astronauts in orbit, but a deep-space traveler hit by such radiation would not be able to survive more than a few days.
Radiation will continue to be a problem even after landing on Mars. Unlike Earth, Mars has a much thinner atmosphere and doesn’t have a global magnetic shield, so humans on the planet’s surface would be at risk of exposure to solar and cosmic radiation.
Moreover, the surface of Mars itself is largely dust, and massive storms can create dust clouds that block out the Sun, thereby disabling any solar panels that could be vital to the expedition.
Space travel optimists believe that sooner or later, scientists will solve these problems. Today, we definitely cannot travel and live on Mars, but as we develop science and technologies we just may succeed to establish a colony on Mars 50 to 100 years from now.