Could we live on Mars? This is a question that is getting asked more and more as as organizations like Spacex and Mars One are publicly working towards a future human settlement on the Red Planet. Granted, it can be argued that Spacex is a serious contender while Mars One is not...but that's a topic for a different article. We'v included our comments below - you can view the entire video at the bottom of the post.
[bctt tweet="Could we live on #Mars? Watch this video to find out #NASA"] The video does a good job highlight the differences (besides the obvious ones) and the similarities. While the axial tilt of Mars is very close to Earth's (one of the contributors to our seasons). It also points out the that eccentricity of Mar's orbit is MUCH greater than Earth's causing more extremes in seasons.
Mars has giant worms that come out of the ground and eat people (apparently). No human has ever been there and our rovers and probes have explored only a fraction of the Martian surface...and it's easy to add in a few unknown terrors. This effect has been done so often that it's referred to as "Here be dragons" - a common phrase that indicated unknown territories and the possible dangers they contained.
Arnold may have done it best in Total Recall but I love the "Don't take off your helmut on Mars" meme. Mars' atmosphere is less than 1% of Earth's (95% Carbon Dioxide, 3% Nitrogen, 1.6% Argon with some trace amounts of Oxygen and water vapor for giggles. Source - Universe Today)
Bonus - it does not protect occupants on the surface from the Sun's UV rays nor retain heat (resulting in large temperature swings between day and night).
This means that ALL human occupants must live in pressurized and heated buildings. The "heated" part is not a huge issue - we've been living in Antarctica for 50 years and that place is cold. The real problem is pressurizing the entire settlement FOREVER (or at least until we terraform the planet...so it will be a while). So far, the only large scale pressurized habitat we've built is Biosphere 2. Of course the experiment ended in failure for various reasons (including low oxygen levels).
Good news! According to the video, Mars has "some" resources" to aid in settlement. And by "some" what they should have said is "a lot." Why you ask? Mars has silicate-rich rocks and soils, gasses that can be extracted from the atmosphere to provide oxygen and water. Because water may have flowed freely on the surface, the planet is likely to have rich deposits of metals, minerals and salts. Oh...and tentacles...because you know, dragons.
Water is known to be trapped in the soil (small amounts but we'll take it). This last point was not mentioned in the video - instead they only mentioned water being located at the Martian poles.
No video on Mars colonization is complete without a shout out to Elon Musk. He's publicly announced his plan to create a self sustaining human settlement on Mars starting in 2026. A goal we firmly support and would love to see happen. Why does he want to do this?
Because the Solar System is a dangerous place. Asteroids wiped out the dinosaurs and could happen again. If humanity only lives on one planet (Earth) and another disaster strikes...that could mean the end of our species. Could we live on Mars? It's better to ask how could we NOT live on Mars.