Can we colonize Mars? And if we can, how can we colonize Mars? Do we have the technology necessary to create a base on Mars?
|What does colonizing Mars mean?|
The planet Mars has received several robotic exploration missions, like the mythical Curiosity and Opportunity, and has been the object of fascination by public opinion for the incredible discoveries.
The colonization of Mars
Mars has aroused so much interest that private initiatives have been created to encourage colonization, like the Mars Society. We even have technology gurus who seem obsessed with colonizing the red planet.
All this fascination is understandable since our neighboring planet has a series of characteristics that make it similar to our home. Also, in the last decades, Mars has been the main objective of space exploration. And the reason is apparent: it's the closest celestial body where it's believed there could have been life in the past.
This idea comes to us already from the 19th century, when astronomers began to attribute the geology from Mars to a supposed Martian civilization.
But recently, the idea of life on Mars is getting more and more points in its favor.
Suffice it to say that the following missions to Mars, such as the Perseverance rover that launched this summer, have the main objective of finding evidence of life on the red planet. From my point of view, we are at the beginning of a new space race, which is very interesting. I am sure it will help to accelerate space exploration.
And as we see with so many missions, getting to Mars with the current technology is possible. A trip to Mars would take us about three months in optimal launch conditions.
It doesn't seem to be exorbitant, but you have to consider that when you go outside the protection of the Earth's magnetic field, the crew will be exposed to solar winds and cosmic radiation.
- This can cause the astronauts to develop cancer and even Alzheimer's before they even get to Mars.
- The spacecraft could be shielded using hydrogen-rich materials, which absorb radiation better.
- The cabin could be placed inside the fuel or water tank, both rich in hydrogen, to protect the crew.
Another option would be to create a magnetic field around the spacecraft, but this would require generating a lot of electricity so that a reactor would be necessary.
Also, once they arrive at the red planet, the distance makes the transmissions delay between 3 and 22 minutes.
This is one way, so counting the return, the minimum delay would be 6 minutes, making normal conversation impossible.
However, text, audio, and video messages would be possible. Still, it would leave the Martian colonists having to fend for themselves in making immediate decisions, for example, in cases of emergency or failure, making remote operations or real-time assistance unfeasible.
But well, let's say that the difficulties of the journey are solved, and we reach our Martian destination.
Where do we settle?
At the moment, there is no favorite place on Mars yet, although the North Pole is a good candidate due to the presence of water ice on its surface.
Another exciting place for a future Martian colony would be the Korolev crater, 81 Km in diameter, and filled with water ice.
On Mars, there is the possibility of settling near sub-water deposits, which form permafrost under the crust. Or near glaciers or other ice deposits on the surface, they would open the door to colonies in equatorial latitudes although they would be more difficult to exploit. Much warmer and with more production of solar energy.
There has also been speculation about lava tunnels on Mars.
A lava tube is basically a cave that has been formed by the circulation of magma, and emptied by the flow of magma to other parts, which produces fairly uniform tunnels.
In the case of Mars, a place has been identified with this type of cave for future colonies. Which is also close to the equator: Arsia Mons.
Once the site has been chosen and landed
The colonists will have to devote their first efforts to create a long-lasting habitat. The most logical thing to do is to bring a series of temporary habitats with them while this process is taking place.
These could be the very ship they have arrived with, or inflatable habitats have also been proposed. In either case, these habitats will not be very spacious, and will only have the basics to survive.
Several architectural competitions have been carried out to build durable habitats, although no model has been created definitively.
There are proposals of the most varied nature. For example - creating habitats using ice to biohabitats built with fungi.
Doing it by hand will be an impossible task since they will be confined to the suits, which will make a multitude of complex tasks impossible outside the habitats.
At the moment, there is no technology like this on Earth, so it would have to be developed specifically for this work.
Also, these habitats must be efficiently isolated from radiation, so in the final phase of many of the proposals, it is recommended to cover the habitat with the excavated regolith, merely piling it on top, as in burial mounds.
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