Working with private companies, NASA hopes to land its first manned crew on Mars by the 2030s and begin a firsthand human exploration of the planet. Through decades of studying Mars, the information we’ve collected suggests that the planet is potentially capable of hosting a suitable ecosystem for humans with a few tweaks.
According to National Geographic, even though Mars is less than half the size of Earth with gravity only 38% as strong, its land mass area is roughly equivalent to that of Earth’s continental surface area, meaning Mars has almost the same amount of habitable space as Earth. Furthermore, Mars has a similar axial rotation speed as Earth, meaning even though a year on Mars is around 687 days, an actual day on Mars is only 40 minutes longer than that of Earth, according to National Geographic.
Other than having longer years and having to adapt to a new planet, Mars will feel just like Earth….or will it?
Unfortunately, Mars’ atmosphere is wrapped in a thin layer of carbon dioxide that currently cannot support any earthly life-forms, meaning we need to address the issue of a CO2 atmosphere first, before we can colonize Mars, according to Planetary. Planetary also states that methane gas will periodically appear in the barren atmosphere. Combined with the acidic soil and permanently frozen polar ice caps, traveling to the Red Planet is merely the least of our worries.
Even though the water ice caps of Mars are always frozen and locked away, according to Space, there is always hope that we can find an abundance of liquid water under the Martian surface; if not, having to utilize the polar ice caps to the best of our ability is another solution to having fresh water on a desolate planet, according to the European Space Agency.
The atmospheric pressure of Mars is just 0.6% of that of Earth’s, so any liquid water will freeze or evaporate, according to Planetary. Many options have been given to raise Mars’ atmospheric pressure to allow liquid water on its surface, such as mining the abundance of CO2 or setting off explosions near the ice caps to release water, according to Planetary.
By utilizing greenhouse gases and releasing the water from the ice caps, we can not only increase atmospheric pressure but also raise Mars’ overall temperature and potentially make it habitable, according to Harvard.
On top of that, according to EuroPhysics News, we have promising new methods of using plasma technology to convert the abundant amount of CO2 on Mars’ surface to CO and O2 by breaking apart the chemical bonds of the molecule, providing the oxygen we need.
Terraforming Mars will not be an easy task. We need to expend a great amount of energy to modify Mars in order to meet our needs for survival all while hoping that our plan works. Getting to Mars will be one challenge, but being able to make it home will be another.