"That's one step for a man, one giant leap for mankind", uttered Neil Armstrong as he took the first ever step on the moon, leaving a historic footprint on its surface.
On 20 July 1969, a crewed Apollo 11 landed on the Moon with one of the historic and famous astronauts Neil Armstrong on board. Mission to the Moon not only has its place in the history of books but it has also initiated the golden era of space discoveries and space travelling. Since then humans have been studying the underlying phenomenon of each planet and have made discoveries which were thought, years ago, to be fairy tales.
However, among all other exoplanets, Mars a.k.a The Red Planet has been the center of attention of many scientists for years. The idea of mars colonization has prompted the entire world to start contemplating mars even more vigorously now.
This idea has been thought provoking enough to raise numerous questions like:
Why planet Mars? Why colonize the red planet when we can still save planet earth ? Will humans be able to adapt to the Martian environment? What makes mars similar to Earth?
Earth’s habitability has made it so unique from the other planets that the existence of extraterrestrials still seems questionable. Earth’s location is amid giant spiral arms of the milky way, within our orbits which have protected our planet from the dangers of the inner regions of our galaxy. Furthermore, our solar system’s sun has relatively fewer stars which is why Earth has managed to survive risks from supernovae and giant gravitational tugs. Our planet revolves in an orbit known as the Goldilocks zone, where Earth has perfectly set its position in order to keep water liquid on its surface, any disturbance in our coordinates could lead to either frozen water or evaporation of the water. Water itself is an important source of life that has sustained life on Earth. In fact it is one important factor that plays a role in the existence of humans since we ourselves are made up of 70% of water.
Few months ago, astrologists noticed a disturbance in the interstellar medium. After a few days of the disturbance, gravitational waves were detected originating from Betelgeuse's location which prompted the researchers to believe that the red giant is running out of its juice. The red giant has already spent 40000 years, and now is on the verge of death. However, we are lucky enough to have a Sun which is long lasting and has not only survived 4.6 billion years but also has a stable temperature unlike other massive red giants.Bear in mind, our sun itself does not spare us completely. Sun creates these sudden flashes of brightness called the solar flares. These solar flares emit UV radiation which is known for causing skin cancers , Gene mutation and cataracts in our eyes. However, the dust and cloud that formed Earth contained enough radioactive elements to power our core for billions of years which has also protected us from radiation through creating a magnetic field.
Isn't it fascinating how radioactive elements have been keeping us safe from radiation itself?
The thought of colonizing Mars was provoked due to several reasons that make Mars habitable.
Mars has few resources in abundance which means it would be a fresh start for mankind. Mars has 95% of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere which could be used as a methane propellant and casting molds in metal industries. Despite being a dry planet, it is still considered to be abundant in water when compared to other planets. It has generous amounts of water stored in its polar cap regions and a few meters under the surface regolith Mars’ polar cap also comprises a mixture of water ice and carbon dioxide dry ice and even at non polar latitudes water ice is still known to exist. It’s not only the water’s abundance that intrigues the researchers but it’s also Martian rocks that are as rich as basalt rocks are in metal oxides such as Iron(I)oxide, Silicon oxide and Aluminium oxide.
However, there’s a flip side of this mission as well.
The Red Planet is approximately 4.6 billion years old, which is even older than the Earth. And like all other planets, Mars has gone through some imperceptible changes, few of which were observed by the mankind which led to a very common belief :
Planet mars was also once an Earth-like planet.
This belief implicitly indicates the challenges which have provoked skepticism. Mars once had a thicker atmosphere with abundant water flowing through rivers and lakes, which now are nothing but just some witness marks. The atmosphere has changed abruptly and is extremely thin; thin enough to choke you! Mars’ atmosphere comprises less than 3% nitrogen, less than 2% argon and only 0.2% oxygen. The atmosphere would kill people instantly.
Mars has a weak magnetic field, which is the worst problem that humans will face on its surface. Its weak magnetic field has not been able to retain much gas around its surface hence, Mars has an extremely thin blanket of atmosphere which rests at -81 degree Fahrenheit which is much colder than Antarctica that rests at -26 degree Fahrenheit. This will probably freeze us to death.
Weak magnetic fields also mean low gravity. Mars has so low gravity that it might degenerate and collapse our muscles and bones. So there is now way you’re stepping on its surface without bulky and ponderous suits and oxygen tanks.
This seems to be a big problem for environmentalists who have been debating on space exploration and its usefulness in reducing pollution on Earth. They believe that space pollution has escalated in recent years and have polluted Earth’s low-orbit to a greater extent. And someday this orbital junk could surround Mars or the Moon. This escalating debate also provokes the risk of driving native organisms extinct if there are any on its surface. Therefore, Mars might not be the solution.
As far as the present is concerned, “Saving Earth” seems to gain more attention as global warming drives extreme climate changes. Meanwhile NASA plans to send 3 more rovers to Mars in 2020, as the mission to Mars still looks ambiguous because of the lack of some certain information.