life on mars
The little red planet is the most similar to ours geologically and if the human race were to relocate, this would be the likely destination.
While there are three orbiters circling it and two robotic vehicles roaming its surface already, beaming back images through an existing interplanetary internet, how long will it be until we follow?
Well, the distance between Mars and Earth fluctuates by ten million km over a period of 15 years. The two planets will next get cosy in 2018 – and US multimillionaire space tourist Dennis Tito wants to make the most of the proximity.
Having started a non-profit outfit called the Inspiration Mars Foundation, he hopes to launch a 501-day manned mission in January 2018, flying past Mars and back to Earth in May 2019. Alas, that sharp deadline and the mission cost makes it all-but-impossible unless NASA contributes cash and a craft that’s still in development.
That craft is the Space Launch System, which when ready will be capable of taking astronauts to near-Earth destinations such as asteroids and, yes, the Red Planet. An unmanned test flight around the Moon is planned for 2017.
This is still our best hope of a manned trip to Mars in the near future, unless you’re happy to never come back, of course. Over 20,000
people have signed up to Mars One, another non-profit that plans to establish a permanent colony up there by 2024, documenting it – and presumably trying to pay for it all – in a BigBrother- style reality show.
But while cost seems the largest factor to overcome, cosmic radiation will also be a problem. We can sustain life by growing wheat and algae to create oxygen, remove CO and cook
2 up nutritious sludge pizzas for expat Martians, but with one solar flare, they’d be irradiated to death. NASA is looking at using a plasma deflector to send radiation back to space.
Another issue is the lack of gravity, with colonists’ muscles wasting away before even reaching Mars, let alone living there. NASA had started work on a gravity generator but funding was cut back in 2009. Given that the alternative is the sci-fi dream/nightmare of terraforming, involving nukes, they may want to revisit the whole gravity idea.