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Will humans be able to live on Mars?

Dust storms, long distances and cold temperatures make life on Mars incredibly difficult. But since we can live in Antarctica and in space, it all depends on the logistics. To move to another planet, you need to prepare long and carefully, writes Aeon Magazine, quoted by “Focus”.

Will humans be able to live on Mars? The answer is surprisingly simple. Can people live in Antarctica, where temperatures regularly drop below -50ºC and it’s dark half the year? Can people live at the bottom of the ocean where the pressure is crushing? Can humans live in space where there is no air at all?

As the limits of our ingenuity, materials science, and chemistry have expanded, we have gone from being able to withstand a narrow range of conditions to expanding our presence to almost every corner of the globe and even beyond. Man is capable of surviving even in the most hostile environment he has ever encountered – the vacuum of space.

So why not go to Mars? Since we can live in Antarctica and in space, it all depends on the logistics. If enough material and technical resources are placed on the surface of the Red Planet, then we can probably not only survive there, but also prosper.

But that “if” involves a colossal amount of work. Going to the moon, the astronauts had to load everything they needed into small and fragile landers. The Apollo missions spent one to three days on the surface plus three days en route. The journey to Mars will take more than a month, and spending only a few days there will not be enough. Each mission, even the first one, would have to be calculated for months, and this complicates the logistics immensely.

Landing on Mars is particularly difficult. Remote control of the process is impossible due to the distance from Earth – on average, the radio signal will be delayed by 12 minutes – so everything will have to be programmed in advance. A single error in the data will cause a new crater to appear, this time very expensive. And as soon as the command to land is given, mission control will be powerless to change anything – the period of time between the command and a safe landing is called the “seven minutes of terror”.

Landing is also difficult due to the thin and dense Martian atmosphere. Without a heat shield, a spacecraft descending from orbit will simply burn up in it, and even the latest generation of huge supersonic parachutes can hardly provide the necessary protection. The residual orbital velocity must also be taken into account, otherwise the landers will crash on the frozen surface of Mars.

Various methods have been tested for this purpose, but the technology that has proven itself is the “sky crane”, a disposable frame with jet engines that help it float several meters above the surface. It then smoothly lowers the module onto the cables, disconnects the connecting cables, and flies to a safe distance, where it crashes when it runs out of fuel.

You dream of a huge silver rocket slowly descending on a dusty red surface with everything you need for a multi-month stay on board, you need to understand that this is simply impractical. Such a rocket and the even larger spacecraft required to deliver it are already beyond our reach for decades, if not centuries. Planning a successful mission with a permanent presence requires foresight and taking advantage of all possible advantages, including those that can be found on Mars itself.

The Red Planet is full of useful resources and specific dangers. If you choose a sensible place to land, you won’t need to take water with you. It’s heavy and takes up a lot of space, and there’s no way to change that. Even with advanced waste recycling facilities, astronauts will still need some water in reserve. On Mars in many places it is present in the soil in the form of ice. Shovel dirt and half of its contents are water ice. This water can be used for a variety of purposes, not just for drinking. This is where chemistry comes in.

It is possible to separate water into its components by electrolysis. The resulting oxygen can be breathed, and its recombination with hydrogen will give us an explosive mixture that is quite suitable for the role of elementary rocket fuel. In the next stage, we will be able to extract carbon from the carbon dioxide atmosphere of Mars and synthesize hydrocarbons.

The most important thing is the temperature. Mars is 80 million kilometers further from the Sun than Earth, and its atmosphere is too thin to compensate for extreme diurnal fluctuations. In summer, daytime temperatures can reach a pleasant 21°C, but on the same day, before dawn, the thermometer will show -90°C. Temperatures can drop so much that carbon dioxide is frozen out of the atmosphere. A nice bonus will be the extra insulation that a few meters of Martian soil will provide.

Another danger is radiation. On Earth, we are protected by the solar wind and our planet’s magnetic field. There is no such thing on Mars. There, every hour spent on the surface of the Red Planet, the astronauts will be irradiated in 10-20 times more than on Earth. Building underground bases is one solution.

Another challenge is red dust. It was formed over hundreds of millions of years, and these nanoparticles pose a serious danger to humans and equipment.

The challenges are many, but one thing is clear – independent Mars will not copy Earth society, but will be unique and unique.

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