Mars is the only planet in the solar system that is similar enough to planet Earth to possibly allow human habitation. The conditions, presence of water, and available minerals make it possible for humans to eventually live on Mars if we can develop the necessary technology and make the planet more human-friendly.
Certain characteristics of Mars make it the ideal planet to explore for colonization opportunities. Some of these characteristics are:
The Duration of a Day
The duration of a day on Mars is only a little bit longer than that of a day on Earth. This will make it easier for humans to adapt to Mars. However, a year on Mars is almost twice as long as a year on Earth. That will likely be a bit of an adjustment and having an Earth-born birthday may get complicated.
Similar Seasons to Earth
Mars has an axial tilt that is close to that of Earth’s. This means that the seasons on Mars are similar to that of the seasons on Earth. However, because of the year length that is much longer than on Earth, the seasons will last for more months than we are used to here on Earth.
The Area of Available Dry Land
The surface area of dry land on Mars is basically the same size as the dry land on Earth. It is a little smaller, but not with a lot. This makes habitation easier. The soil presents some problems because it is toxic to humans. Growing plants and food may not be possible without some preparation and extraction technology.
The Presence of Water Ice
It has been found through satellite images and the data captured by the Curiosity Rover that there is water in the form of ice on Mars. The polar caps are completely frozen. This means that there is water available for human use and that cultivation of food will be possible if we can remove the toxins from the soil. Water is a very crucial part of sustaining human life and this will be a key aspect when we decide to colonize Mars.
So, what are the differences from Earth that may make colonization difficult?
Mars is much smaller than Earth. You could fit more than 6 times the size of Mars into the Earth. This has implications for the number of people that will be able to live on Mars one day.
The Lack of Gravity
On Earth, we have gravity to keep us walking on the surface. Mars has only about a third of Earth’s gravity which means that we will float on Mars. If we are to live on Mars, we would need spacesuits to keep us grounded and help work against the lack of gravity. This obviously holds some interesting questions about human health and the working of certain equipment. Everything we have on Earth is built and functions with the knowledge that we have gravity. This will make things very interesting in Mars.
The average temperature on Mars is minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a lot colder than what we are used to on Earth. Summer on Mars will be several degrees hotter than on Earth and similarly, Winter will be a lot colder. This will be a condition that spacesuits will have to take into account. We will likely learn to adapt and our bodies will get used to the temperatures, but it will take time.
Less Sun Exposure
Humans need sunlight to survive. So does the plants and animals that make up our ecosystem and food pyramids. Mars receives approximately 50% less sun exposure than Earth. This will also have implications for our survival on Mars. It will also influence the ability to generate electricity through solar panels. Luckily, these are things that can be resolved with technology and planning.
The Thin Atmosphere and Lack of Magnetic Field
Earth has a magnetic field that protects us from space debris, asteroids, radiation, and other such dangers. Mars does not have a magnetic field to perform this very important function. Its atmosphere will offer some protection from cosmic storms and incoming meteorites, but we will be more exposed than we are on Earth. The thin atmosphere means that we will be exposed to radiation and unfiltered sunrays.
Most of the atmosphere on Mars consists of carbon dioxide. A very small percentage of the atmosphere is made of oxygen. There are some nitrogen and argon and that’s about it. With the right technology, we will probably be able to create or extract oxygen from the carbon dioxide that is present. However, the majority makeup of carbon dioxide means that we will not be able to live and breathe on Mars without oxygen masks.
Human colonization of Mars is something that is definitely part of our future. It may be several decades or even millennia away, but it is likely to happen. At the moment, the differences between Earth and Mars are more than the similarities. However, technology can help address most of the challenges. The necessary technology just needs to be developed and tested. Once the funds for such development are assigned to Mars exploration and colonization, the technology development will happen fast.
So, now you know what the differences and similarities between Earth and Mars are. You can learn more about Mars and its conditions here. Also, have a look at the plan NASA has set forth for making a manned mission to Mars a reality.