Professor Brian Cox has said that living on Mars would be “no fun at all” and that he doesn’t see it occurring anytime soon, thereby putting Elon Musk’s goal of colonizing the Red Planet to rest. Mr. Musk, the founder of SpaceX, thinks that the first humans will arrive on Mars in 2029 and that he will have built a self-sustaining metropolis of one million people by 2050. Professor Cox, on the other hand, believes it will be at least 20 years before a human sets foot on the planet since “we don’t have the technology now.”
While he believes a modest human base – consisting of a handful of people for study and exploration – will ultimately be established on the planet, he believes a fully functional civilization is implausible. Although Professor Cox did not specifically mention Mr. Musk, he is by far the most prominent supporter of establishing human habitation on Mars.
Mars isn’t an enjoyable place to visit
“I simply don’t see how you could construct a new civilization,” Professor Cox told me. “I don’t believe you’ll see hundreds of people on the surface of Mars – and if you do, it’ll be millennia away.” Why would you do that? It’s difficult. It’s hardly a pleasurable experience, to be sure. It’s difficult enough to spend six months aboard the International Space Station (ISS), and it takes a certain sort of person to do it.
“Any astronaut will tell you that it’s a fantastic experience, but it’s not simple, and you have to train for it.” You’re also an hour distant from Earth. “On a purely psychological level, if you get unwell on the space station, you may board a dragon [spacecraft] and return.” You’re just a few hundred kilometers away. It’s still a difficult task for the human body and mind.
“You’re just a few days away, even with the Moon.” The Earth can be seen in the sky, and you may connect with it in almost real-time. “Mars is a whole different task.”
The difficult voyage
The physical hurdles of a seven to nine-month journey to Mars begin before you ever set foot on the red planet. He said that an astronaut would be exposed to more than 30 times the yearly radiation limit for a nuclear power plant worker, offering a very significant risk of cancer. Meanwhile, Nasa has issued a warning that astronauts are prone to “space brain.” It was shown that a persistent bombardment of cosmic rays is likely to cause long-term brain damage, resulting in dementia-like symptoms such as memory loss, anxiety, and depression among astronauts both during their mission and throughout their lifetimes.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the travel wrecks havoc on the microbial world, which is becoming more important to human health. According to studies, the space environment makes people more prone to illness while also making bacteria more ferocious and resistant to medications. The portions of a mocked-up spaceship that were occupied for 17 months by a crew of six people became bacteria hotspots and were infested with microorganisms, according to the findings of researchers.
In addition, the variety of microorganisms decreased as many species died off throughout the voyage. Microbial variety is typically considered to be healthier because different bacteria tend to keep each other’s populations in check, preventing dangerous bacteria from spiraling out of control.
Professor Cox expects that a few daring astronauts may face the lengthy voyage and set up business for a while, but their numbers will be tiny. “We’ll go there and set up a little base, which will essentially be tiny pods.” We’ll send some folks down to base once they’re up and running. So, I believe we will have a permanent presence on both the Moon and Mars, but they will be modest bases,” he remarked.
Living situations that are dangerous
Things won’t get any easier after the tourists and temporary settlers have finished their difficult trek, according to Professor Cox. And, although scientists are striving to address the issues that may arise, they still have a long way to go. Even if a solution is found, it will still be significantly less pleasant than life on Earth. For starters, Mars’ atmosphere is only one-thousandth the thickness of Earth’s, implying that there is essentially no oxygen, making breathing difficult.
A “reverse fuel cell” is being developed by scientists to remove CO2 from the Martian atmosphere and produce clean oxygen. To make things worse, the atmosphere on Mars is often 100% humid. Nasa is working on a system that can create water by sucking in wet air and passing it through a mineral known as a tealight, which acts like a sponge. When the tealight is full of water, it may be squeezed to solve the water scarcity and humidity issue, theoretically.
Weightlessness, poisonous soil, a dearth of food and water, and very frigid temperatures will all be challenges for Mars residents. The average temperature on Mars is -60°C, although it may drop as low as -126°C in a single week. These temperature changes often result in severe dust storms that may envelop the whole globe in a matter of days.
According to Sylvia Ekström of the University of Geneva, a livable bubble would have to be developed to recreate a sustainable atmosphere with the necessary degree of oxygenation, maintain a pressure that a human body can operate in, and guard against radiation in such settings.
The bubble must be the size of a typical home, including a kitchen, rest spaces, and sanitary facilities, as well as an air and water recycling system, as well as food and equipment reserves. “Water is the one thing Mars possesses that the Moon doesn’t.” Professor Cox said, “The Moon may hold water in certain locations, so there are spots on the Moon where you might collect water, but it is clearly more prevalent on Mars.”
While water on Mars is currently limited – and what there is frozen over – its existence has sparked speculation that there may have been, and maybe still is, live there. Professor Cox, on the other hand, freely confesses, “I simply don’t know, nobody does.” For a BBC program airing on Friday, he spent a week at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, mission control for Mars 2020 — a continuing expedition that may eventually disclose whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.
What about the possibility of life on Mars?
“We know there was water on Mars, and we know there was geological activity,” says the researcher. So what you can conclude is that those circumstances occurred at some point – approximately around the time life originated on Earth,” explains Professor Cox. “Imagine the impact if you discovered that life originated independently on Mars. In a single solar system, a second genesis, the same circumstances, and the same conclusion. Then you know that life will be prevalent across the cosmos – at least basic, single-cell life,” he added, adding that “there’s a tremendous difference between single cells and multi-cellular animals.”
Complex life, defined as life comprising more than one cell, will be significantly less common, and human-level intellect will be very rarer, he says. “There’s a distinct issue of how far you’ll have to go to discover complicated life – and it’ll be a long way.” “I believe we can confidently state that there is no other complicated life in the solar system,” he stated.
“From a single cell to a sophisticated creature — that is, anything more complicated than one cell – it took nearly three billion years.” By any standard, that’s a very long time. But once you had that, it was quite rapid, so you just have to go back half a billion years or so to get really fascinating stuff like trees.
“However, I see it as an indication that you could have to go hundreds of light-years – possibly millions, even outside our galaxy – to find anything as complicated as civilization.” “My working assumption is that there are at most a handful of civilizations in a normal galaxy, possibly one on average,” you could also say that this is the average number. Humans who can construct spaceships and compose symphonies, for example.”