Can Humans Really Survive on Mars?

My husband and I have been watching the new National Geographic Series Mars and were talking about many of the problems that people colonizing and learning to survive on Mars would have to overcome.

To start with, Mars is the smallest of the planets beyond earth’s solar orbit and only has about 1/3 the gravity that earth has. That may sound like no big deal as a 180-pound person would only weigh about 60 pounds on Mars, but it does present some serious physiological concerns.

Our bodies were designed by God to function on Earth with Earth’s gravity. In Mars’ lower gravity, the heart may have to work harder, as it does in space, to keep blood flowing properly. Additionally, one of the problems found with extended stays in space is that fluids tend to accumulate in the head, increasing the pressure around the brain and eyes. This can cause brain damage and vision problems. The trip to Mars would take 7 months and then any extended stay on Mars could create similar problems for the heart and cranial pressure. Something would have to be developed to compensate for these potential life-threatening conditions.

The sunlight on Mars is less intense than on earth and anyone colonizing on the Red Planet would have to either spend time under sun lamps or take the necessary vitamins and supplements to maintain their bone density. They will also have to spend more time exercising to maintain muscle mass.

A colony on Mars would need sources of oxygen, water and food. Since the atmosphere on Mars is extremely thin and the sunlight less intense, food would have to be grown in massive greenhouses as they do on the program. However, it would take a sufficient power source to keep the grow lights on 12 hours a day. Sufficiently large sealed greenhouses could help produce vital oxygen necessary for breathing.

However large greenhouses will also require additional water which could be a challenge to provide on the mostly desolate planet. Most space exploration uses water to produce oxygen for breathing, but then they have the luxury of just venting the highly flammable hydrogen gas out into space. Since Mars does have a thin atmosphere, adding additional hydrogen may or may not be a safe thing to do.

In space, and on the International Space Station, urine is collected and then recycled and used for drinking water. Leftover products are then just discarded into space. Solid human waste is collected into canisters, and then allowed to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere – yep, some of those fleeting shooting stars you see at night may just be a burning clump of human waste.

On Mars, they would have to find another method of dealing with human waste. It’s possible that it could be processed and used for fertilizer for the greenhouses, but it would have to be properly sterilized to prevent the spread of various diseases. However, all of this would require valuable energy that may or may not be available.

When humans breathe, they expel carbon dioxide, one of the worst greenhouse gases. In space, filters are used to remove the carbon dioxide in a larger environment like an enclosed Mars colony and those filters may have to work overtime to keep the air clean. One consideration is to somehow filter out the carbon dioxide and pump it to the greenhouses as plants use it as part of photosynthesis. The problem with this is that it would make breathing very difficult for anyone working in the greenhouse.

Then there is the problem of dealing with methane, ammonia and acetone build up. Humans excrete small amounts of ammonia and acetone through their skin. In an enclosed environment like a Mars colony, these compounds can build up and cause foul odors and toxic breathing. Something would have to be developed to collect and properly dispatch the ammonia and acetone. The ammonia could be added to the soil in the greenhouse as a source of valuable nitrogen. Venting combustible acetone into the thin Mars atmosphere could present the same environmental hazards as venting the excess hydrogen gas.

People produce methane when they belch, pass gas or when going to the bathroom. Methane, if not eliminated can build up to toxic and combustible levels. Far left wackos, like those in the California legislature, are taking steps to lower methane production of livestock in their state because it’s also a greenhouse gas. On the International Space Station, methane is collected and just vented out in to the vacuum of space. However, just venting methane into the Mars atmosphere may not be a viable solution either.

There are probably other issues that some of you can think of that would have to be overcome for humans to survive in an enclosed colony on that tiny reddish dot in the sky known as Mars.

It seems that there is more to colonizing Mars than many of us realize and all of these issues would need to handled before any attempt to colonize Mars could ever be a reality.

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