Following an Important Question thrown by A Facebook User on our previous post: Mars Colonization Nears As SpaceX Releases Starship To Mars Simulation, we had to compile a Composite Response to his query. He had asked how Martian Sustainability would work, i.e. how Humans Will Sustain Life in Mars considering the current uninhabitability of the Planet. Before continuation, it is important to note that Mars is currently unsupportive of Biological Life Because of the following reasons:
Despite it’s similarity to the Earth, Mars regularly experiences a higher rate of Cosmic Radiation. These cosmic radiations are composed of highly energetic and ionizing particles that could increase further from the effects of highly energetic solar flares that occurs in the Martian surface. These High Radiations are due to the lack of a Martian Protective Magnetosphere. Even though Scientists believe that just like the Earth, during the early years of Mars’s formation, it also experienced convection currents in it’s core which created a Dynamo Effect, subsequently birthing Martian Planetary Magnetic Field. But, 4.4 Billions Years ago, The Martian Planetary Magnetic Field was lost due to the stoppage of the Dynamo Effect by either a Massive Impact or Rapid Cooling in the Martian Core.
Due to this loss of Planetary Magnetic Field, the Martian Atmosphere was slowly balded by the strong Impacts of Solar Wind. With the Martian Magnetic Field and Atmosphere gone, the Planet is Exposed to a much Intenser level of radiation than the Earth. These radiations are huge deterrents to the Human Colonization of Mars. For clarity, Studies have shown that the Human Body can withstand radiation doses up to 200 Rad without permanent damage to the body system, whereas in Mars, the radiation rate is as high as 2 – 8 Rad Per Year. Therefore on average, spending a lot of time in the Martian surface would cause Biological bodies to accumulate enough radiations capable of causing very life threatening damages.
These radiations also have devastating effects on plants, based on a Research experiment carried by Reactor Institute, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands to Determine The Influence of Martian Radiation-like Conditions on the Growth of Secale cereale and Lepidium sativum, the below Conclusion was arrived on:
Crops grown at the Martian surface will constantly be exposed to a radiation dose 17 times higher compared to Earth. This dose of Martian radiation, simulated with 60Co γ-photons, could have a significant negative effect on two crop species, rye and garden cress. During the first 4 weeks after germination biomass production was almost halved for both cress and rye and visible coloring of the leaves for both crops was observed.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fspas.2021.665649/full#:~:text=The Martian surface is constantly,of highly energetic solar flares.
Germination was not significantly influenced by long-term exposure to ionizing radiation. A temporary increase in the dose of radiation, in order to simulate Martian SEP-events, at different developmental stages of the young plants did not significantly influence the final dry weight of the crops.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fspas.2021.665649/full#:~:text=The Martian surface is constantly,of highly energetic solar flares.
Martian soil, unlike the Earth’s soil, is abundantly composed of regolith. This is responsible for the high toxicity of Martian Soil as the regolith are highly concentrated in Perchlorate Compounds. Studies have also shown that the levels of these chlorinated compounds on Martian Soil is Toxic for Biological life.
The Mass of Mars is about 10 times less than that of the Earth, and hence it’s gravity is also less; about 38% of the Earth’s surface Gravity, so if you weighed 10 KG on Earth, your weight in Mars would be 3.8 KG. As Gravity is directly proportional to the masses of the subject bodies, Objects with bigger mass will attract more with a greater gravitational force. This low gravity (38% Weightlessness in Mars) could create a host of health problems for Humanity: Weaker bones and Muscles due to the lesser impact force between Humans and the Martian surface, Osteoporosis and Cardiovascular Problems could also be caused by the low gravity of Mars.
Long Flight Time
Another deterrent of the Mars Colonization is the long flight time. The distance of Mars from the Earth is about 480 Million Kilometers. A Space flight to Mars would cost an average of 7 months. This is a long time to spend in the queer living of the Space Shuttle.
Absence of Water In Mars
The Earth is made up of about 70% Water, so the importance of Water to Biological Organisms cannot be overruled. Though there is currently no water in Mars, Scientists believe that Mars used to have Lakes, Rivers , Oceans and even Rainfall in it’s early years, these waterbodies are now in the form of Ice and Martian Atmospheric Vapor. This is due to the low Atmospheric Pressure and Temperature of Mars, which causes water to escape away into Space.
Mars, with an average temperature of -62.2 Degrees Celsius with sharp swings that could fluctuate between -73 Degree Celsius in the day to +70 Degree Celsius at night, poses a great challenge for Human Adaptability. Managing the Martian Temperature could pose an extra challenge to Human colonization of the Red Planet.
So, with all these challenges, how can life be sustained in Mars? How will Humanity be able to adapt to manage the Martian Environment? Various Private and Public Organizations have put up postulations to the Ideal Martian Sustainability Plan. These plans tries to predict the most cost and energy effective means of sustaining life in Mars. Below, we will highlight the most theoretical of these predictions by treating the above listed challenges to the Hypothetical Martian Colonization.
HOW HUMANITY WILL SUSTAIN LIFE IN MARS
Radiation: How Will Humans Sustain Martian Radiation?
Containing the Martian Radiation could be the bases for a sustained life in Mars. Martian styled Space Suits, Rovers, Habitats and Protected Grow-Houses could be developed in the future to facilitate the Colonization of Mars. There are currently no known resistance to the toxic radiation produced by both the Martian Surface and the inescapable Cosmic Radiation. Surely, in the future, with increasing advent of Space Technology and Scientific Innovations, it is a matter of time before Humanity will be able to develop the needed Technological advancements to Contain the Martian Radiation.
These Technological advancements could either be developed on Earth and transported to Mars or developed in Mars by using the naturally available raw materials found in the planet through a process known as ISRU. ISRU stands for In Situ Resource Utilization and is applicable to all Astronomical bodies. There are some materials that are readily available in other planets that replaces it’s alternatives here on Earth which can be used to achieve the same production result. With this, extensive research is ongoing on more means to handle Mar’s Radiation.
Toxic Soil: How Will Crops Be Grown In Mars?
The Martian soil, though toxic, contains the nutrients that are needed for plants to grow. Though these nutrients may not be in the right proportion, fertilizers and controlled systems may be employed to get better results. While research is still ongoing on Martian Soil and how plants will fare on it, different plants will exhibit different reactions to the Martian Soil and it’s Ionizing environment. To grow plants that are close to what we have on Earth, controlled systems to provide the adequate sunlight, moisture and nutrients, and also to protect the plants from Mars’s Environment will have to be developed. A number of Scientists have also been able to use Mars-like soils held in controlled systems to grow plants while subjecting it to similar Environmental conditions as Mars.
Low Gravity: How Can We Handle The Low Gravity Of Mars?
This is a very serious case, but with increasing innovations, man may be able to contain this challenge. Micro Gravity is very disastrous to our Skeletons and Muscles, and so it cannot be ruled out. There have been suggestions of Padding the Foot With High Density Materials to increase the Gravitational Attraction between the foot and the Martian ground. This would help because Gravity decreases by the Inverse Square.
Another Way To Handle Low Gravity in Mars is by Employing Artificial Gravity. Artificial Gravity is a fictitious force that mimics the Gravitational force using rotational motion. To apply this in Mars, technology would need to develop Mars styled Systems that could be able to generate the Rotational Gravity needed to sustain Martian Life.
Long Flight Time: How Fast Can A Space Shuttle Get To Mars?
Light travels the fastest, and based on current understanding of Physics, it is impossible for us to build anything that can travel with or faster than the speed of light. And so it is important to note that Spacecrafts are made to travel just as much as they need to reach the designated destination. This seems to be an unavoidable challenge. Innovations will have to focus on building Space Shuttles that can make the long flight less boring. Also, utilizing the Artificial Gravity in Space Shuttles would be a great innovation to containing the drastic effects of weightlessness in long flights to the outer space. But as far as we know, speed is a product of distance divided by time, and currently, the fastest Spacecraft is NASA’s Solar Parker Probe.
Below is an extract from a NASA contractor on a Quora question about the travel speed of Spacecrafts:
Typically, a spacecraft doesn’t actually measure it’s speed, or its ‘trajectory’. What it measures is its acceleration(s), and those measured accelerations are integrated by an onboard system into new values of velocity and position. Please note that for this to work, initial values of position and velocity are necessary. The computed trajectory is only as good as the worst of these initial conditions.
We should also remind ourselves that spacecraft systems are typically only capable of measuring accelerations that are above a certain threshold value. This makes it necessary to ignore the accelerations measurements when below those thresholds, and simply integrate the equations of motion without any measured accelerations.
Lastly, we should remember that onboard spacecraft systems are not normally capable of measuring gravity in the normal sense. So, gravity has to be incorporated in the equations of motion based on computed values rather than measured ones.
Absence Of Water: How Can We Recover Martian Water For Sustained Life In Mars?
Scientists believe that Mars once had abundance of Water in it. And so utilizing ISRU, we can be able to recover the waters. Former Space Exploration missions to Mars, such as the Viking missions, have determined that water can be extracted from the soil if the soil temperature is increased to between 200°C and 500°C. These same missions also determined that water is present in the soil at approximately 2% by mass.
There is also another option for collecting water: We could extract it from hydrated minerals, which are plentiful in many areas of Mars. There are rocks like gypsum there that contain water, and if you crush, then bake those rocks, you can condense the water and collect it.
Martian Temperature: How Can We Control The Temperature In Mars?
There have been suggestions to warm the entire Mars by introducing high heat impacts that could melt the Martian Ice and keep the Atmosphere thick enough to shield the waters from escaping. While this suggestion holds no substance at the moment, there are other means humanity could manipulate the Martian Temperature.
Utilizing Thermal Control Systems for Martian Habitats is also a good approach to sustaining the Arid Cold of the Planet.
Also among the ideas for how to warm Mars includes sprinkling stuff near the poles that would absorb more sunlight; or placing large mirrors in orbit around the planet to reflect more sunlight onto it to induce thermal warming. These various suggestions requires tedious effort that we cannot afford at the moment.
With time, these challenges would only become blocks for new discoveries of man’s problem solving ability and subsequent Colonization of not just Mars, but also other Astronomical bodies in our Universe. How Humanity Will Sustain Life In Mars is a critical subject because it will go on to model how they will also sustain life in other planets as we prepare for Multiplanetary Living.Follow The Futurist For More