You know what they say, nothing worth doing is easy – and that is making something of an understatement when it comes to colonizing Mars. It is not just hard, it is also incredibly dangerous. In this post I will look at some of the the dangers which the future brave explorers and colonists if the martian surface will face. I am not doing this for sensationalism or fear-mongering, but rather, with the intent to take a realistic look at the challenges and dangers which must be anticipated and planned for if we want to successfully colonize the red planet.
The harsh reality of life on Mars
According to science20.com, Mars is unlike any environment found here on Earth; it is much harsher. It has a much colder average temperature, much lower pressure – and finally, much more dust. The resulting dust storms are problematic for various reasons, including the extended periods of darkness they would bring, and we don’t even fully know what it is composed of. Why, according to the article, even the moon or the cold dark unforgiving vacuum of space would be easier to colonize. The authors say it would make more sense to attempt colonizing one of the many harsh and largely uninhabited environments here on Earth. So, why go to Mars at all? Well, as the article rightly points out, we are going to need a pretty good reason if we expect people to remain interested in living there once the initial novelty has worn off. That is beyond the scope of this article, but it is so important that in the near future I will make a post dedicated to answering that question. Offhand, it could be pointed out that humans tend to undertake their most ambitious projects for rather impractical reasons, or at least it can seem that way to those outside the endeavoring civilization in question. Basically, humans do many things just because they can, because they want to prove to themselves and others that they can, because they want to find out if they can, and to defeat the unknown. Also, if your planet becomes uninhabitable due to pollution or some major catastrophe, it would, almost undeniably, be nice to have a new planet that can be lived on, no matter how hard it might be. At least compared to sending as many people as possible to live indefinitely on a relatively small artificial structure floating in space.
Habitats are currently insufficient for the harsh conditions
According to science20.com, any shelter needs to facilitate self-sufficiency. Many things that we take for granted will become quite troublesome when we first set up house on the barren landscape of Mars. Everyday things like sanitation and waste disposal will become technological challenges. And then there is the question of creating an artificial atmosphere, which we very briefly mentioned in the last post. This is, of course, along with the always present dangers of the effects of low gravity and high radiation exposure, which the habitats would ideally mitigate somehow.
Then there are the many psychological dangers of living on a barren planet.
You can imagine how it might be depressing leaving your friends and family to live on some nearly empty planet, forced to share a rather cramped environment with a few hundred potentially complete strangers. Then throw in the dull grey landscape and isolation from Earth culture and entertainment, and a lack of any strong immediately present governing body, and there is bound to be trouble.
It is clear that any mission to Mars will require great thought as to both why we want to go there, how we will survive long-term, and how we will plan our new society to minimize the psychological and social problems that will arise.