As individuals begin to use up all the resources on Earth, the human race needs to start thinking about future generations. These generations will need a safe place to live and accessible resources of food and water. Recently in the news, many famous entrepreneurs and supporters of space exploration have begun to question our ability to travel to the distant planet Mars, living there permanently and safely. Researchers know we are not able to live on Mars with our current technologies, but by analyzing medical possibilities of a Martian colony, understanding what hardships humans will face in the environment while living there, and investigating future research needed to support a flourishing environment, perhaps our efforts will enable us to colonize the unknown.
Regarding a Mars colony, one controversial issue has been whether sending humans to Mars will be safe for the individuals hoping to live there. Most people assume that sending humans will be very dangerous. They are absolutely correct. Starting with the journey there and a possibility of a one-way lifetime trip for individuals, scientists have to think of everything that could go wrong and take precautions against all the dangers. One main precaution is how to care for humans who are hurt and need quick emergency assistance. As a Mars exploration literature review states, “[c]rew health care needs for long-duration missions should include highly accurate and reliable monitoring and diagnosis systems” (Krishen, 2009, p. 6). If there is not more advanced medical technology on the mission than on Earth, then something as simple as a third degree burn can easily become life-threatening. Fortunately, there is active research going on with biotechnology that could be used on a Mars colony. With the help of “genetically engineered spider-silk” (Pereira et al., 2017, p. 1), scientists have started creating materials to solve more advanced medical situations. This new research enables a “silk-based blended material” (Pereira et al., 2017, p. 1) to have “cell adhesion properties” (Pereira et al., 2017, p. 1). Cell adhesion could allow doctors to possibly bind new cells to damaged parts of a body and prevent a loss of life. This technology could save a burn victim and could easily be used in Mars without a constant supply of new materials. One spider colony may be able to produce enough silk to never have to worry about receiving materials from back on Earth for the use of this technology. Nevertheless, this is a major medical benefit of colonization and results in a possible solution for humans to be able to live on Mars (Pereira et al., 2017, p. 1-10).
As examined in new research, health care for life threatening situations may be possible with silk technology and could also be useful on Earth (Pereira et al., 2017, p. 1-10). However, another hardship for humans to live on Mars will be allocating the correct materials to withstand Martian conditions. Material is very expensive to carry in space, in terms of the amount of weight allowed in space crafts. So naturally a light weight flexible material would be essential for a Mars colony and must be very strong to withstand many types of weather conditions (Krishen, 2009, p. 5). A flexible and sturdy material would allow humans to build shelters and research facilities to house individuals of the exploration. New research has begun exploring dust storms on Mars and what they would be like on the surface (Geissler, Fenton, Enga, & Mukherjee, 2016, p. 1-22). Dust storms are a weather condition that scientists will need to study, making sure the materials for the structures on Mars can withstand the elements. Using different images “to quantify the changes that took place from one martian year to the next” (Geissler, Fenton, Enga, & Mukherjee, 2016, p. 6), scientists were able to see different storms and their magnitude of how harsh they were. One storm in 2001 was so large it covered all of Mars “except for the poles and the peaks of the tallest volcanoes” (Geissler, Fenton, Enga, & Mukherjee, 2016, p. 5). This proves that during a colonization of Mars, scientists need to make sure everything that is protecting the humans is sturdy and can withstand the strong winds that come along with the dust storms. Studying the storms will also bring us useful information of the topography of the land, for example, like where the volcanoes are located. This information will become invaluable to colonizers when they begin to explore the vast areas around their bases on Mars (Geissler, Fenton, Enga, & Mukherjee, 2016, p. 1-22).
After exploring new research that can relate and also indirectly impact Martian missions in the future, there are still areas in which scientists need to investigate to enable the possibility for humans to live on Mars. These topics include the Martian atmosphere, how to gather energy on the surface, technology needed to propel a space ship back and forth between Earth and Mars, and last but not least “advanced air- and water-recovery systems” (Krishen, 2009, p. 6). Research in these areas will prove greater chances for the possibility for humans to live on Mars in the upcoming decades.
Overall, recent studies such as these shed new light on the technology that will allow the colonization of Mars, which in some previous studies had not been addressed yet. For example, studying dust storms will allow insight as to how to design materials to withstand the weather conditions Mars will bring. It is clear that humans are not ready or able to live on Mars, but with more research, humans will definitely reach their goal of colonization. These studies are not only exciting famous billionaires and supporters around the world, but also exciting a whole new subject area in space exploration. As the technology becomes more and more accessible to scientists, there will be an endless amount of studies done on the Martian environment. As Elon Musk says, “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor” (Pelley, 2012).
Geissler, P. E., Fenton, L. K., Enga, M., & Mukherjee, P. (2016). Orbital Monitoring of Martian Surface Changes. Icarus, 278, 279-300. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2016.05.023
Krishen, K. (2009). Technology Needs for Future Space Exploration. IETE Technical Review, 26(4), 228-235. doi:10.4103/0256-4602.52992
Pereira, A. M., Machado, R., Costa, A. D., Ribeiro, A., Collins, T., Gomes, A. C., Leonor, I. B., Kaplan, D. L., Reis, L. R., & Casal, M. (2017). Silk-based biomaterials functionalized with fibronectin type II promotes cell adhesion. Acta Biomaterialia, 47, 50-59.doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2016.10.002
Pelley, S. (2012, May 22). U.S., China, Russia, Elon Musk: Entrepreneur’s “insane” vision becomes reality. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-china-russia-elon-musk-entrepreneurs-insane-vision-becomes-reality/