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Will We Live To See Mars Colonized?

– Contributed content –

22 November 2017. Colonizing Mars is the next big breakthrough for space travel. Elon Musk is already planning it and there have been some other ideas thrown around. It all seems so completely out of reach but there are plenty of people out there that maintain it will happen, and it will happen soon. But how true is that? All of the plans made at the moment are theoretical and there’s no guarantee that they’ll actually work in practice. Getting up there is hard enough and that’s before you’ve even thought about what you’re going to do next. Yet, humanity has overcome some pretty steep odds in the past, so who knows. Is colonizing Mars actually viable?

Mars

Mars (Aynur Zakirov, Pixabay)

Previous missions

The success of previous missions can give some indication of how successful a future attempt to put people on Mars might be. NASA have already sent multiple probes up there and the results were promising. Spirit and Opportunity were supposed to be short lived missions but both exceeded expectations and Opportunity is still running to this day. They were sent up there equipped with miniature power inductors and monitoring equipment that allowed them to pick up as much information as possible about the planet. They found possible evidence of water which suggests that we could possibly sustain life on the planet. The fact that the probes lasted so much longer than planned and we still maintained contact with them is promising because it means that we can at least built structures that last up there, that’s the first step.

How many people?

This is the big issue that we’re going to have when it comes to colonizing a new planet. How many people do we need to get up there for a functioning society? Researchers estimate that the minimum amount is around 160. You aren’t going to get all of those people up there on one craft unless we make some serious advances in spacecraft technology. So, you’re going to have to start with smaller groups of around 5 to 10 people. If you try to populate the planet with that small number, you’re going to end up with all sorts of issues around inbreeding. The other alternative is to freeze embryos and take them up there. That’s a good option but then you’ve got to consider who’s looking after those kids. You can’t send a couple of astronauts up there to look after hundreds of kids. The bottom line is, it’s going to take at least three generations and multiple trips before you can get to that magic 160.

The atmosphere

The main hurdle we’ll face when we get there is how to deal with the atmosphere. We can’t breathe in it so unless everybody that lives on Mars is going to wear a spacesuit all the time, we need a solution. The most likely solution is building large dome structures which we can then cultivate an atmosphere that we can breathe in. That’s going to take a lot of time before we can start moving people up there in bigger numbers.

The bottom line is, colonizing Mars is a possibility and we might even see a few people get up there in our lifetime, but it isn’t likely that we’ll live to see a fully fledged city on the red planet.

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