Mars – it’s the red planet, one of Earth’s neighbors, and a consistent source of sci-fi lore from authors and script writers across the world.
Ever since the beginning of recorded human history, humans have called Earth their home. This would’ve seemed like an extremely redundant statement to anyone before the 20th century, as space travel was a fiction back then.
But with humans sending their own into the cosmos and also gathering data from planets like Mars using specialized rovers, a big question has surfaced – can humans live on Mars someday?
Terraforming is the process of colonizing a planet and making it similar to Earth so humans can inhabit it safely. Obviously, this term has only been used in the theoretical sense up until now. But could that change?
How much work would need to be done to colonize the red planet and make it a second home for humans if Earth is someday unable to support the population? And given the complexities of such a prospect, how likely is it humans will achieve this goal within the current century, or even the current millennium?
A Concept That Stretches from Reality to Fiction
The concept of terraforming a planet like Mars has become so interesting, everyone from scientists to casual observers have considered the notion.
While the technology and resources necessary to make such a move are far below where they need to be at the moment, experts understand most of the major obstacles humanity will face if they ever attempt to terraform another planet.
But this interesting prospect has led to movies, books, and even games to be developed. Jacob Fryxelius’s Terraforming Mars game puts people in control of their own corporation, allowing them to play and buy cards depending on what projects they’re pursuing. These projects can contribute directly to the terraforming efforts.
The goal is to achieve a good terraforming rating and enough victory points all while managing time and resources.
Terraforming Mars rules are based on the game’s time periods, which are measured in generations. Players draw 4 cards then choose which ones they’d like to buy for their hand. There is no hand limit, and the action phase sees players use their cards and utilize standard projects on their quest to win.
This game, while made for entertainment purposes, illustrates the complexities and long timeframe experts are looking at when it comes to really putting people on another planet.
Common Questions About Living in Space
Technically we already live in space, but humans’ home has always been the Earth. This means any trip into the cosmos in the question of terraforming another planet means a big task is ahead.
Can you breathe on Mars? Given the atmosphere consists of 95 percent carbon dioxide and very little oxygen, the answer is an emphatic no – at least until the atmosphere is modified.
If shelters and communities were ever set up on Mars, gases inside could be optimized for human respiratory systems and pressurized properly to help humans breathe with no problem. That is, as long as they stay inside the optimized areas.
As for adapting the entire planet’s atmosphere to make it possible to breathe, that would involve a massive amount of research and resources using technology that hasn’t even been discovered yet. However, it doesn’t mean scientists have nothing to go off of.
Every trip into space by a human or machine provides more data that experts can use to refine plans for future colonization of the cosmos.
Can Humans Live on Mars in the Next Century?
With the rate space exploration and terraforming efforts are progressing, lovers of space have good reason to be optimistic.
There is a chance that if technology continues progressing and accelerating at its current rate, humans may have a chance of getting into other planets. Can humans live on Mars? Someday, maybe – but as for now, the research period and prep phase is still in full effect.
Space travel to other planets for long-term colonization is unlikely even by the end of the current century. But as time goes on and the cumulative efforts of scientists, mathematicians, and cosmologists come together, it is likely significant leaps toward terraforming will be made.
Terraforming Mars rules and guidelines are still developing. It is a young science, and therefore the parameters and framework surrounding it aren’t complete. High-ranking space exploration organizations will likely play a big role in setting the terraforming Mars rules. The same could be said for colonizing other planets when the time comes.
It is possible humans could find Earth isn’t enough at some point. Overpopulation or environmental damage could leave humanity without a home. If this happens, terraforming another planet could be the human race’s last hope.
Feature image via Outer Planet