Can we go to Mars?
Can we survive on Mars?
A human mission to Mars is no longer a sci-fi fantasy. But what problems would we need to overcome? And should we even try?
A trip to Mars is planned for the 2030s. In preparation for this, Nasa and the European Space Agency (ESA) are studying Mars with a host of spacecraft, in an attempt to solve the mystery of how Mars lost most of its atmosphere. In 2021, Nasa’s rover will test an experimental weather station on Mars and also a device to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
Much has been discovered already. Two of the most exciting finds this year concern water, one of the vital ingredients for life as we know it. Using powerful infrared telescopes, Nasa scientists have confirmed that Mars once had more water than the Arctic Ocean, and some of this remains locked up in Martian polar caps.
How do we get to Mars?
The furthest we have sent astronauts is to the moon, about 240,000 miles away. This is small fry compared to the 35-million-mile journey to Mars. Reaching the red planet will require some serious hardware. Nasa will use its new heavy-lift rocket the Space Launch System (SLS) to propel Orion, the new generation of spacecraft into space.
How will we live?
Humans will need self-sustaining water, food and oxygen to survive on Mars. Extracting water locked up in ice will be crucial, but with the recent discovery of flowing water on Mars may not be too difficult.
Food will need to be grown and harvested, but farming in space isn’t easy. Plants can be grown in space, but all require the management of gasses, water and a growing substrate.