Why colonizing mars is hard?

Mars colony illustration by Max Rymsha from Ukraine

Neil Armstrong while stepping onto the moon back in 1969 said “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,”. This historic achievement set the landmark for the future exploration and colonizing of space. In recent years, humanity seems to be particularly interested in our neighboring red planet named MARS. SpaceX founder Elon Musk is determined to build a self-sustaining city on the MARS by the end of 2050. While this idea seems interesting we’ll look into the factors that make the plan of colonizing Mars very hard to implement. Essentially, we are going to discuss two types of limitations;

1) Difficulties due to the planetary nature of Mars and

2) Difficulties due to the current technological limitations.

The first and foremost difficulty in building a human base on Mars is the scarcity of liquid water. Water is an essential part of life and it is impossible to build a self-sustainable base on Mars without the availability of water. Mars has a weak gravitational and magnetic field. It means that it is unable to retain liquid water on its surface and in the atmosphere. Today, water is only found on Mars in frozen form on its poles or in the form of frozen clouds.

Ice cap on one of the Mars poles.
“The ice cap on one of the MARS poles. Photo: space.com”

The atmosphere of Mars is much thinner than the Earth which would cause problems for humans to live on its surface. Its weak magnetic field is unable to retain gases in its atmosphere. The Earth’s atmosphere forms a thick blanket around its surface, thus capturing the solar heat and maintaining the surface temperature of around 14.5 degrees Celcius on average. On the other hand, this blanket around Mars is much thinner which is unable to retain the solar heat and results in an average surface temperature of -62.7 degrees Celcius.

Harmful radiation emitted from different celestial bodies is present throughout the cosmos. Stars are basically fusion reactors that spit out ample quantities of electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays, Gamma rays, and ultraviolet radiation. Our sun and other celestial bodies such as the galactic centers, additionally emit high-power protons, atomic nuclei, and different debris (Read: X-rays from behind a supermassive black hole) that could purpose radiation sickness, have a very bad effect on the human body and increase the chances of cancer, and degenerative disease.

Although, there is no evidence of how low gravity will have an effect on the human body. But we do know that living in zero gravity at ISS causes muscles and bones to weaken. All these factors make colonizing mars very very hard to achieve.

Technological Limitations in Colonizing Mars

Current technology is not suitable for placing hundreds of people on Mars. It takes almost 7 months for a one-way trip to Mars and it will take a certain kind of person to do so.  If we speak to an astronaut and they’ll definitely say ‘it’s an awesome experience but it’s not easy, you have to train for it. This is when you are only a couple of miles away from Earth. If you are not feeling well on the space station you can get back to Earth in an hour. You’re roughly about two hundred miles away. But it’s still a great challenge for the human body and mind.

It’s understandable that the CEO of SpaceX is busy selling the dream of humanity as a spacefaring civilization, but his Mars 2050 statement risks putting him in similar territory as he was with Tesla’s progress on Level 5 autonomy. The more he makes unsustainable claims, the more people will forget how far SpaceX has come in such a short amount of time.

It’s understandable that the CEO of SpaceX is busy selling the dream of humanity as multi-planetary living beings, but his claim of colonizing mars in 2050 is putting him in a similar situation as he was with Tesla’s progress on Level 5 autonomy. The more he makes unrealistic claims, the more people will start undermining the overwhelming achievements of SpaceX.

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