Ah, Mars. The great god of war. The not-so-big red planet. The apple of Elon’s eye. A planet similar in many ways to my ex; riddled with a toxic atmosphere and lacking any evidence of innate humanity. Colonizing Mars has been the hypothetical, futuristic topic of conversations across the globe, but what would it actually entail?
If you were chosen in the group to begin the colonization process, here’s a (very) brief overview of what your journey might include!
First up is your basic astronaut, or should I say… martianaut… training. During this process, you will develop basic and advanced technical skills required to be successful on the mission to Mars. This will include training on Earth and possibly even on a future Moon outpost. Throughout your training, you will go through rigorous preparation in low atmospheric pressure similar to Mars, simulated microgravity in the giant swimming pool that is the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), operating your spacecraft, and fun, high-stress situations like: “your life support system is failing, what do you do?”
Once you’ve successfully completed your training and have been selected for the mission, next up is your six-month flight through space. Artificial gravity currently only exists in movies, so you’ll be floating around, playing catch with little droplets of water the whole time. However, by the time we’d viably be able to begin colonizing Mars, this might be worked out. The physics is there, so that’s good news! For now, enjoy being strapped down to a treadmill and exercising every day – you need strong muscles for when you arrive!
Welcome! You’ve landed after 6 months of asking “are we there yet?” The next big question: “where will I live?” Well, one big concern with colonizing Mars is that Mars doesn’t have a magnetic field like Earth to shield from the impending doom of deep-space radiation. Prolonged radiation exposure can lead to long-term health issues, causing damage to our cells and body. Certainly not ideal! So, we’d either need to manufacture a material that can sufficiently shield us, find a way to instill an artificial magnetic field around the habitat, or use what is already there: the ground. This means potentially building an underground habitat, popping up to the surface to have fun and do some field work.
Now, if we DO decide to venture to the surface, we mustn’t forget our spacesuit. Unless you want to suffocate from the CO2, freeze to death, or feel your body expanding and bursting due to the severe lack of atmospheric pressure. So, hold your breath, you’ve got less than two minutes to get back inside!
Eventually, we may even look to bring a self-sustaining ecosystem to Mars. After all, it is a great testbed for terraforming, which can provide insights and capabilities that we can use back on Earth as the climate crisis escalates. However, the disruption of the Red Planet’s natural environment, processes, and sites, even for terraforming, goes against the “leave no footprint” approach, which is a subject of debate as we move forward in space exploration.
All that being said, sit back, relax, and enjoy the magnificent sight of your new beautiful blue sunset.