The suggestion that humans will soon build vivid, long-lived colonies on Mars is self-evident to many of us. However, what this lofty vision does not appreciate is the monumental – if not impossible – challenges that await colonists who want to live permanently on Mars. If we do not radically adapt our brain and body to the harsh Martian environment, the Red Planet will be forever locked up for humans.
Mars is what we have closest to Earth in the entire solar system, and that does not say much.
The Red Planet is a cold, dead place with an atmosphere about 100 times thinner than Earth's. The sparse amount of air present on Mars is mainly made up of harmful carbon dioxide, which protects the surface only slightly from the harmful rays of the sun. The barometric pressure on Mars is very low. at 600 pascals, it is only about 0.6 of the earth. They might as well be exposed to the vacuum of space, which can lead to a severe form of bends ̵
The idea that we will soon build colonies where hundreds or thousands of people live is nonsense.
Mars also has less mass than is normally estimated. Gravity on the Red Planet is 0.375 of Earth, which means that a 180-pound person on Earth would hardly weigh 68 pounds on Mars. While this may sound appealing, this low gravity environment would in the long term damage human health and possibly negatively affect human fertility.
Despite all this and a host of other problems, there is this popular idea that we can easily set up colonies on Mars soon. SpaceX chief Elon Musk is planning colonies on Mars as early as the 2050s, while astrobiologist Lewis Darnell, a professor at the University of Westminster, has provided a more modest estimate that it will take about 50 to 100 years. "A considerable number of people moved to Mars to live in self-sufficient cities. "The United Arab Emirates aim to establish a Mars city of 600,000 by 2117. This is one of the more ambitious visions of the future.
Unfortunately, this is literally science fiction. I'm sure people will eventually visit Mars and even set up one or two bases. However, the idea that we will soon build colonies that are inhabited by hundreds or thousands of people is nonsense and a total rejection of the daunting challenges posed by such a perspective.
Groundbreaking astronaut Louis Friedman, co-founder of the Planetary Society and author of Human Spaceflight: From Mars to the Stars compares this unfounded enthusiasm with the unfulfilled visions of the 1940s and 1950s.
"At the time, cover stories from magazines such as Popular Mechanics and Popular Science showed colonies under the oceans and in Antarctica," Friedman told Gizmodo. The feeling was that people would find a way to occupy every corner of the planet, no matter how challenging or inhospitable, he said. "But that just did not happen, we occasionally visit the Antarctic and even have some bases there, but that's been true – under the oceans it's even worse, with some limited human operations, but in fact it really, very little. "As for human colonies in both of these environments, not so much, in fact not at all, despite the relative ease with which we could achieve that.
After the moon landings, Friedman and his Colleagues deeply optimistic about the future, believing "we would do more and more things, like placing colonies on Mars and Moon," but "the fact is, not human." The space program, be it Apollo, the Space Shuttle program or the International Space Station ", has created the necessary conditions for the establishment of colonies on Mars, such as the construction of the necessary infrastructure, the search for safe and practicable ways to procure food and water, and to mitigate, inter alia, the harmful effects of radiation and low gravity. In contrast to other areas, the development of manned space travel had become "static". Friedman agreed that we are likely to build bases on Mars, but the "evidence of history" suggests that colonization is unlikely for the foreseeable future.
University of Florida neuroscientist Rachael Seidler says many people today can not predict how difficult it will be to preserve colonies on the Red Planet.
"That's at least thousands of years."
"People like to be optimistic about colonizing Mars," Seidler told Gizmodo, specializing in motor learning and the effects of microgravity on astronauts. "But it also sounds a bit pie-in-the-sky," she said. "Many people think we should not limit ourselves to practical aspects, but I agree, there are many possible negative physiological consequences."
Seidler said NASA and other space agencies are working very hard to create and test countermeasures for the various negative effects of life on Mars. For example, astronauts on the ISS, who are experiencing tremendous muscle and bone loss, try to counteract the effects by doing strength and aerobics training in space. Regarding the treatment of the resulting negative health effects, whether through longer stays on the ISS or through long-term living in the low-gravity environment of Mars, "we are not there yet," Seidler said.
In his latest book On the Future: Perspectives on Humanity the cosmologist and astrophysicist Martin Rees quite succinctly addressed the question of the colonization of Mars: bases that are independent of the Earth – on the Mars or maybe on asteroids. Elon Musk (born 1971) of SpaceX says he wants to die on Mars – but not on impact. But never expect a mass emigration from Earth. And here I contradict Musk and my late Cambridge colleague Stephen Hawking, who rave about the rapid development of large Martian communities. It is a dangerous delusion to believe that space offers an escape from the earth's problems. We have to solve these problems here. Dealing with climate change may seem daunting, but it is child's play compared to terraforming on Mars. No place in our solar system offers an environment as beautiful as the Antarctic or the summit of Everest. There is no "planet B" for ordinary, risk-averse people.
Indeed, the entire terraforming theme has to be considered. With terraforming, scientists point to the hypothetical prospect of geotechnically engineering a planet to make it habitable to humans and other people. For Mars, this includes injecting oxygen and other gases into the atmosphere to increase surface temperature and pressure. A common argument for the colonization of Mars is that we can begin to turn the planet into a habitable state. This scenario was tackled by a number of science fiction writers, including Kim Stanley Robinson in his celebrated Mars Trilogy . But as Friedman Gizmodo said, "that's at least thousands of years."
Bringy Horgan, assistant professor of planetary science at Purdue University, said Mars terraforming is a dream, a perspective that "goes far beyond any kind of technology. We'll soon have time," she told Gizmodo.
When it comes to terraforming Mars, logistics and materials must also be considered, Those who are available to the geoengineers dare to tackle such an intergenerational project. Bruce Jakosky and Christopher Edwards of the University of Colorado, Boulder, examined in their Natural Paper 2018 how much carbon dioxide is needed to increase the air pressure on Mars so that people can work on the surface without having to put pressure on suits , and raise the temperature so that liquid water on the surface could exist and persist. Jakosky and Edwards concluded that not nearly enough CO2 is required for terraforming on Mars, and that future geo-engineers would somehow have to import the required gases.
To be clear, terraforming is not necessarily an impossibility, but the timeframes and technologies required preclude the possibility of sustaining large, vibrant colonies on Mars for the foreseeable future.
Until then, non-terraformed Mars will be a hostile environment for pioneers. First and foremost, it must deal with the intense radiation that confronts the colonists with a permanent health burden.
Horgan said that the colonization of Mars poses many challenges, including radiation exposure. This is a "problem many people, including those at SpaceX, do not think too clearly," she told Gizmodo. Living underground or in shielded bases may be an option, she said, but we must expect cancer rates to continue to be "an order of magnitude higher" over time given the extra exposure.
"You can only do so much for radiation protection," Horgan said. "We were able to quantify the risks for about a year, but not over a very long period of time. The problem is that you can not stay there forever [i.e. underground or in bases]. As soon as you go outside to do something, you're in trouble, "she said.
Horgan referred to a recent Nature study that showed that radiation on Mars is far worse than expected. He added that "we do not have long-term solutions yet, unless you want to risk radiation sickness." Excessive radiation can cause skin burns, radiation sickness, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
Friedman agrees that we are in principle The problem of radiation may be solvable, he said, "but the problems are still enormous and in some ways inhumane."
Das Living in a Mars colony would be miserable if people were forced to live artificially lit metro stations or in heavily protected grounds ations with very limited access to the outdoors. Living in this closed environment with limited access to the surface can lead to other health problems associated with exclusive indoor living, such as depression, boredom due to lack of stimuli, lack of concentration, poor eyesight, and hypertension all mention a complete separation from nature. And as with the International Space Station, Mars habitats are likely to be a microbial desert with only a tiny sample of the bacteria needed to maintain a healthy human microbiome.
Another problem concerns motivation. As Friedman said, we do not see any colonists in the Antarctic or under the sea. Why should we expect that many people want to live in a place that is much more unpleasant? It seems to be a bad alternative to life on earth, and it is certainly a great loss of quality of life. It could even be said that it is cross-border cruelty for budding families who want to produce future generations of Mars colonists.
And this on the assumption that humans could reproduce even on Mars, which is an open question. Apart from the harmful effects of radiation on the developing fetus, there is the question of conception, which has to be considered in the context of living in a minimal gravity environment. We do not know how sperm and egg behave on Mars or how the first critical stages of conception will take place. And above all, we do not know how low gravity affects the mother and the fetus.
Seidler, an expert in human physiology and kinesiology, said that the problem of human pregnancy on Mars is an annoying unknown. The developing fetus, she said, is likely to sit higher in the womb due to the lesser gravity pushing the mother's diaphragm and making her mother's breathing difficult. Low gravity may also "confuse" the gestational process and retard or interfere with the critical stages of fetal development, such as: For example, the fetus that falls off in the 39th week. On Earth, bones, muscles, the circulatory system and other aspects of human physiology are observed to work against gravity. It is possible that the human body will adapt to the low gravity situation on Mars, but we just do not know. An artificial uterus may be a possible solution, but we will soon have no access to it and the problem of low gravity associated with the development of the fetus will not be resolved (unless the artificial uterus is placed in a centrifuge) simulate gravity).
It can be argued that any attempt to reproduce on Mars should be banned until more is known. Enforcing such a policy on a planet that is 55 million miles away is another matter, though it would be hoped that Martian societies will not return to lawlessness and total disregard for public safety and established ethical standards.
 For other colonists, minimal gravity on Mars could lead to long-term serious health problems. Studies on astronauts who have been on missions lasting more than a year show worrying symptoms, including bone and muscle atrophy, cardiovascular problems, immune and metabolic disorders, blurred vision, balance and sensorimotor problems, and many other health problems. These problems may not be as acute as those on Mars, but we just do not know. There may be similar gravity-related disturbances after five, ten or twenty years of constant exposure to low gravity.
Seidler's research on the effects of microgravity suggests that this is clearly possible.
"Yes, there would be physiological and neuronal changes that would occur on Mars due to its partial gravitational environment," she told Gizmodo. "It is not clear if these changes would eventually reach a plateau." My work showed a shift of the brain up the skull in weightlessness, some areas of gray matter are increasing and others are, structural changes in the white matter of the brain and Fluid shifts upwards. "
Seidler Some of these changes can scale from two weeks to six months with the duration of exposure to weightlessness, but she has not looked beyond.
"Some of these effects would eventually reach a plateau – there is a structural limit to the volume of liquid that the Skull, for example, "she said," and the nervous system is very adaptable It can learn to control movements in weightlessness despite changes in sensory input. But even here it is unclear where the upper limits are.
The effects of life in partial gravitation compared to microgravity may not be so serious, but in both cases different sensory inputs enter the brain as they are not loaded by weight as usual. This can lead to poor sense of balance and impairment of motor functions, but research suggests that astronauts may adapt to weightlessness.
"There are still many questions about how weightlessness and partial gravity affect human physiology," Seidler told Gizmodo. "We do not yet understand the implications for safety and health, there is more to be done."
Astronauts returning from long-term missions experience severe nausea, dizziness, and weakness in the first few days on Earth Astronauts, such as NASA's Scott Kelly, never feel at home, including a decline in cognitive test scores and altered gene function.The work of NASA's Scott Wood has shown that the recovery time for astronauts is proportional to the duration of the mission – the longer the mission, the longer the recovery. It is disturbing that we have no data for exposure to weightlessness beyond a year, and it is an open question what effects low gravity will bring after years or even decades an exposure to the human body.
Against this background, it is an open question, as it de Mars colonists could go on a return visit to Earth. It could actually be a brutal experience, especially after years in a partial gravity environment. Children born on Mars (if that's even possible) may never visit the planet where their species originated.
And these are the health issues we consider a problem . There are likely to be a host of other problems that lead to cancer-specific diseases that affect our brains, our bodies, and our emotional well-being. The human life expectancy on Mars is probably much shorter than on Earth, although we just do not know it.
Finally, daily survival is still to be considered. Limited access to basic resources such as food and water could further limit a colony's ability to grow and thrive.
"It is possible to create stable resources to live off for a long time, but it will be difficult," Horgan said. "We want to be close to water and ice, but we have to go quite far north, but the farther you go north, the harsher the conditions on the surface, the winters are cold and there's less sunlight."
Colonists also need stable food sources and find a way to protect plants from radiation.The regolith or soil on Mars is poisonous and contains dangerous perchlorate chemicals, so this must also be avoided Colonists are likely to build subterranean hydroponic greenhouses, requiring special lighting, genetically modified plants engineered specifically for Mars, and plenty of water that will be hard to find on Mars.
Horgan "Thinking about the founding of colonies, to the point that we consider safe, will be a big one It may be a challenge. "
There may be technical solutions to these problems, as well as medical interventions to treat cancer-specific diseases. But again, nothing we could possibly develop soon. And even if we develop therapies to treat people living on Mars, the scope of these interventions is likely to be limited and patients need constant care and attention.
As Martin Rees pointed out, Mars and other space environments are "inherently hostile to humans," but as he wrote in his book
[We] (and our descendants here on Earth), we should encourage brave outer space adventurers because they play a key role in guiding the posthumous future and determining what happens in the twenty-second century and beyond.
With the posthumous future, Rees refers to a hypothetical future era in which humans live undergo extensive biological and cybernetic changes so that they can no longer be considered human. While Mars may remain inaccessible to ordinary people, the Red Planet could become available to those who dare to change themselves and their offspring.
One possible solution is to radically modify human biology to make Mars colonists live, work, and reproduce specifically on the Red Planet. As Rees wrote in About the Future :
Unable to adapt to their new habitat, the pioneer researchers have a more compelling incentive than we on Earth to reshape ourselves. They will leverage the superior genetic and cyborg technologies that will be developed over the coming decades. It is hoped that these techniques will be heavily regulated on Earth for regulatory and ethical reasons, but "settlers" on Mars will go far beyond the power of regulators. We should wish them good luck in tailoring their offspring so they can adapt to foreign environments. This could be the first step on the way to a new kind. The genetic modification would be complemented by the cyborg technology – in fact, it could lead to a transition to fully inorganic intelligence. So it's these space-savvy adventurers, not those of us who are comfortable with life on Earth, who will lead the era after man.
In fact, dramatic changes will be needed to adapt people to life on Mars.
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Our DNA would need to be tailored specifically to enable a long, healthy life on Mars, including genetic improvements for the health of muscles, bones and muscles Brain. These traits could be made inheritable so that Mars colonists could pass the traits on to their offspring. In cases where biology is not suited to this task, scientists could use cybernetic improvements, including artificial neurons or synthetic skin, capable of repelling dangerous UV rays. Nanotechnology in the form of molecular machines could deliver drugs, perform repair work, and make breathing and eating superfluous. Taken together, these changes would lead to a completely new species of humans – a species specifically built for Mars.
Synthetic biologist and geneticist Craig Venter believes that this is a definite possibility – and a tantalizing prospect. When giving a keynote speech at a NASA event in 2010, Venter said, "Not too many things stimulate my imagination to design organisms – even humans – for long-term space travel and possibly colonization of other worlds."
As with this will not happen soon or be easy in some other proposed solutions. And it can not even happen. What brings up a rather daunting prospect: we could be stuck on earth.
Friedman pointed out that this involved significant existential and philosophical implications brings. If humans can not make it to Mars, it means that we are destined to be "a species with a planet," he said. In addition, this indicates that extraterrestrial civilizations may be in the same boat and that the potential for "spreading intelligent life in the universe is very, very bleak," he told Gizmodo.
"If we can not make it to a nearby planet with an atmosphere, water and a stable surface – which in principle suggests we could do it – then we certainly will not be able to do much further." said Friedman. "But if we are condemned to be a single planet species, we must realize, psychologically as well as technologically, that we will live within the borders of the earth."
That's a good point. That we can eventually become an interplanetary or interstellar species remains open. We need to work to make this futuristic perspective a reality, but until then, we need to make sure Earth, the only livable planet we know, stays that way.