Why Humans Will Never Be Able To Live On Mars, Despite What Elon Musk Says

Even storied minds like the late Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have extrapolated on the Martian future, with people happily living on the red planet.

Science fiction has been filled with stories of human settlements on Mars for decades. Even storied minds like the late Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have extrapolated on the Martian future, with people happily living on the red planet. However, many scientists have started hitting back on those “pie-in-the-sky” predictions, according to Gizmodo.

All scientists agree that living on Mars would be difficult. The air on Mars consists primary of carbon dioxide, meaning humans would constantly need to bring a source of oxygen around. In addition, the air pressure on Mars is so low that it could potentially lead to ruptured lungs, dangerously swollen skin and body tissue, and even death. Finally, the lack of atmosphere means that there is very little heat on Earth’s neighbor. The average temperature on Mars is a bitter -81 degrees Fahrenheit, and there have been readings of nearly -200 degrees F.

But despite this, scientists such as Elon Musk believe that colonies will exist on Mars by the 2050s, with astrobiologist Lewis Darnell believing that the settlements will come to fruition around 2070 at the earliest. The United Arab Emirates is even planning on building a city on the red planet of over half a million people by 2117.

However, astronautics engineer Louis Friedman, co-founder of the Planetary Society and author of Human Spaceflight: From Mars to the Stars, is pessimistic of there ever being a human settlement on Mars, let alone in the near future.

Friedman has pointed out that humans have not even developed settlements in the less hospitable places of planet Earth. There are a few bases in Antarctica, but the continent is essentially untouched. Friedman adds that human development underwater has been even worse. Far from developing Atlantis-like colonies, there are at best “limited” human operations, with no plans at all for anything resembling a permanent settlement.

rocky red landscape
Yuliya Kosolapova/Unsplash

Astrophysicist Martin Rees echoes Friedman in his new book, On the Future: Prospects for Humanity.

“I disagree strongly with Musk and with my late Cambridge colleague Stephen Hawking, who enthuse about rapid build-up of large-scale Martian communities,” he wrote.

“No place in our solar system offers an environment even as clement as the Antarctic or the top of Everest. There’s no ‘Planet B’ for ordinary risk-averse people.”

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The one exception many scientists see is if humans can radically redesign their bodies, or “bio-hack” themselves to better exist on Mars, but Friedman adds that even “that’s thousands of years in the making.”

For example, pregnancy will have to be altered, as a lower gravitational state on Mars would mean that the growing fetus pushes against a mother’s lungs instead of her uterus. The nervous system will also have to be changed to exist in a micro-gravity environment. Finally, the extensive radiation means that some sort of skin shield will be required as well.

Doing all the necessary changes will require extensive genetic research. But more frighteningly, it will lead to the question of if the settlers on Mars could even be called human.

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Humans have an interest in inhabiting Mars

The company SpaceX, which is privately owned, unlike Nasa and our Isro, which are government organisations, is the farthest ahead in terms of its …

Last week, we looked at Chandrayaan 2, India’s moon mission, and I had referred in passing to Mars. I thought it would interest readers to know what is going on in the rest of the world on that front. Four missions to Mars are being planned next year by various agencies. Why so many together? The reason is that Mars and Earth come closest to each other once every 26 months. Because both are revolving around the sun in different orbits, Mars can sometimes be as far away as 40 crore km from us. At the closest, it can be less than 4 crore km away.

Obviously, that is the time when it is sensible to launch a rocket towards it and the next window that is happening is in July 2020.

On July 17, America’s car-sized Mars Rover will lift off. Eight days after that, the Russian-European mission named Rosalind Franklin, after the English chemist, will take off. Both vehicles will likely land on Mars in February 2021. They will perform experiments and look for signs of life.

China is also launching at the same time with an orbiter (meaning a satellite that will orbit Mars) and a rover, meaning a device that will land. There are currently six orbiters, including three from America’s Nasa, two from Europe and India’s Mars orbiter. And there are two operational rovers on Mars, both from Nasa. The solar powered Chinese rover will be around 250 kg. The fourth mission is from the United Arab Emirates and they are using a Japanese rocket to get to Mars.

The interest in Mars is more than just scientific. There are currently people working on trying to establish a permanent human colony on Mars. The logic of this is as follows. Mars is the closest to Earth in terms of its environment. It has an atmosphere, albeit one that is made up almost completely of carbon dioxide. And it has a 24 and a half hour day, almost the same as Earth. Then, it is about half the size of Earth, and so it has a gravity that will be familiar to us, though it is less. Someone weighing 50 kg on Earth will weigh less than 20 kg on Mars.

The other planets of our solar system are very different from Earth. They are very far away from the sun and therefore are very cold, some like Jupiter are huge and with a gravity that is very high and some have atmospheres that are poisonous.

Mars also has plenty of water in ice form. And because it has carbon dioxide, it is possible to make hydrocarbons, meaning plastics, from the materials already available there. The other big issue of space travel is that of fuel, and there are rockets being designed today that will be powered by methane and liquid oxygen, both of which can be produced on Mars.

There are people working today on terraforming Mars. This means that they are trying to transform the planet to make it Earth-like, with an atmosphere that resembles ours and with a surface that is green. This is not as impossible as it sounds and many think it is not even difficult, though it will take time. Plants and vegetation need mainly sunlight and carbon dioxide, as we know, and both of these are available there. The third thing, nutrients in the soil, can easily be introduced. This in turn will produce the oxygen that humans need. All of these factors make Mars attractive as a destination and that explains the deep interest in it and the many missions going there.

The company SpaceX, which is privately owned, unlike Nasa and our Isro, which are government organisations, is the farthest ahead in terms of its plans and its ambitions to reach Mars and colonise it. The company is only 17 years old but already dominates satellite launches around the world. It is currently testing the engines powered by methane and liquid oxygen and will probably have a full design ready by late next year. It is also the pioneer of reusable stages, meaning those parts of the rocket that contain fuel and boost it into orbit and are usually discarded. SpaceX is the only organisation in the world that can safely and automatically land these back on the launching pad (you can see some of their amazing work on YouTube).

They have also developed the largest capacity rockets in the world. And they have a strategy for being able to take 100 tons on a ship all the way to Mars. This means that the next window that opens up, in August 2022, will likely see even more launches and more complex and larger ones with the aim of sending man.

Of course, questions open up such as who owns Mars, nations or companies or all of us as a species. These will have to be answered in time because there is no stopping the progress that is being made in this field.

While all of this is exciting, it will also change the Earth significantly. How will someone who has stood on Mars and looked at Earth, only a tiny blue dot in space, then see the idea of nations and religions and all of our divisions? When SpaceX launched a huge rocket last year, the payload on it was an electric car which they sent into Mars orbit. Perhaps some alien species will find it in millions of years. On the car is written the message: “Made on Earth by humans”.

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Elon Musk introduces technology that will turn humans to supercomputers

Elon Musk, the South African billionaire and co-founder of Neuralink has several times warned of the dangers posed by artificial intelligence. As per …

Elon Musk, the South African billionaire and co-founder of Neuralink has several times warned of the dangers posed by artificial intelligence. As per Musk, the introduction of humanoid robots powered by AI could result in the extinction of the humankind, as these machines will grab command over the entire planet. So, he believes that the only way to combat the threats posed by AI is by turning humans to supercomputers.

Elon Musk’s company ‘Neuralink’ is now working to achieve this goal of connecting the human brain with a computer. If this project becomes a success, humans will be capable of accessing any information they need and they can also share thoughts with anyone within a fraction of second. Interestingly, advancements in this technology could even allow a person to have sex with another person sitting in a different nook of the world just by connecting the minds together.

This technology will also help paralyzed people control devices and will even empower people with brain disorders.

The making of this advanced technology is apparently now in its final stage of development and Neuralink is planning to approach the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant them permission to conduct human trials. This system developed by Neuralink is based on threads that can be inserted into the brain to transfer files between the human brain and external computer devices.

Neuralink reveals that a sewing machine-like robot will place these ultra-thin threads deep into the human brain.

In a recent demonstration event, scientists at Neuralink showed a system connected to a rat reading information from 1,500 electrodes implanted in its brain.

“This has the potential to solve several brain-related diseases. The idea is to understand and treat brain disorders, preserve and enhance your own brain and create a well-aligned future,” said Elon Musk during the demonstration event, Business Insider reports.

In the meantime, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is busy gearing up with their human Mars colonization program. A few months back, Musk had revealed that the future government on the Red Planet will be based on direct democracy.

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    “Sending crews to Mars in four years, I think that, that sounds pretty doable,” Musk says. “Like, internally, we would aim for two, two years, and then reality might be four.”

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    Make Mars Habitable Again: Scientists Unveil New Plan to Allow Life on The Red Planet

    A new way of making Mars habitable has been announced by a team of scientists led by Harvard’s Robin Wordsworth. Researchers say just a thin …

    September 21, 2018

    We know the Red Planet once had liquid water, with oceans covering a large part of the surface. It is thought that Mars could have been habitable for hundreds of millions of years, before its atmosphere was stripped away and its water lost to space. It is now a barren landscape with temperatures plummeting to around minus 62 degrees Celsius.

    Scientists have proposed a number of different ways of making Mars habitable. In 1971, Carl Sagen suggested vaporizing Mars’ northern polar ice caps could lead to the creation of an atmosphere that would result in the planet getting warmer by greenhouse gasses getting trapped inside. A warmer planet, he said, could result in liquid water—and therefore the potential for life would increase.

    Different methods for releasing Mars’ carbon dioxide have been suggested in the past. However, none have been found to be feasible—at least with our current technological capabilities.

    But instead of trying to terraform the whole of Mars, Wordsworth and his team suggest focusing on small regions. In a paper published in Nature Astronomy, they look using silica aerogel—a material that mimics the greenhouse gas effect on Earth.

    “Mars is the most habitable planet in our Solar System besides Earth,” Laura Kerber, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and one of the study authors, said in a statement. “But it remains a hostile world for many kinds of life. A system for creating small islands of habitability would allow us to transform Mars in a controlled and scalable way.”

    The aerogel has incredible insulating capabilities. It is 97 percent porous so light flows through. However, the nanolayers within slow down heat being conducted. This means that when placed on the Martian surface, it could increase average temperatures to closer to what we have on Earth. Experiments show that when placed at Mars’ mid latitudes, a layer just an inch thick could transmit light for photosynthesis, block UV radiation and raise temperatures so liquid water could exist.

    “Spread across a large enough area, you wouldn’t need any other technology or physics, you would just need a layer of this stuff on the surface and underneath you would have permanent liquid water,” Wordsworth said in a statement. “This regional approach to making Mars habitable is much more achievable than global atmospheric modification. Unlike the previous ideas to make Mars habitable, this is something that can be developed and tested systematically with materials and technology we already have.”

    The team say the aerogel could be spread over an area with habitation zones built over. They stress, however, that thorough research should be carried out before any trials on Mars take place: “If you’re going to enable life on the Martian surface, are you sure that there’s not life there already? If there is, how do we navigate that,” Wordsworth said.

    Zach Dickeson, from the Department of Earth Sciences at London’s Natural History Museum, who was not involved in the study, said the findings were interesting as it changes the way we think about Mars’ habitability.

    “What makes this study more feasible is that instead of trying to change the entire climate or atmosphere of Mars to make it habitable for life, it focuses on just a thin layer at the surface, and relies on existing materials and technologies,” he said in an email to Newsweek. “Of course, this plan wouldn’t allow a human to walk around on the surface of Mars without a space suit, but it could be a great way to melt water currently frozen as ice under the surface or collect oxygen released by photosynthetic organisms living under the aerogel sheets.”

    He also said, however, that the proposed layer would still constitute a “huge undertaking” and that the reality of it is still some way off: “But a small demonstration of the concept on the surface of Mars might be achievable sooner,” he said.

    Dickeson also flagged the planetary protection issues raised by the team: “The plan proposed in this study would require intentionally introducing Earth organisms to Mars, and although the current conditions at the surface of Mars are very hostile to life, any area where this would be implemented would first have to be carefully examined for signs of life.”

    Parts of Mars could become habitable under a new terraforming plan. NASA
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    Make Mars Habitable Again: Scientists Unveil New Plan to Allow Life on The Red Planet | Tech & Science

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