Science and technology have brought us a long way in understanding the world and the universe. We know things about our planet and the other planets in our solar system that we never thought possible. It is truly amazing and fascinating. One thing, however, is still eluding the human race. We have yet to send a manned mission to Mars.
Many countries and organizations are working towards sending people to Mars as soon as possible. There are many reasons why exploring and possibly colonizing Mars is important for us as humans. There are some reasons why this type of expedition has not been possible.
Lack of Technology
The technology needed to make a manned trip to Mars possible is within our means. It will be costly and take some time to develop, test, and perfect, but it is absolutely possible. The lack of technology creates problems across different areas.
Mars is a long way from Earth and it will take several trips to get everything needed for humans to survive on Mars. Current plans include sending supply craft and building parts ahead of humans. When they land on Mars, we will then assemble the equipment and housing. It will take a long time to get enough spacecraft to do this and develop the necessary technology to build housing to sustain human life.
Apart from the number of trips that will be necessary, the distance also presents a problem in terms of keeping humans alive in space. If we were to travel to Mars, it will take months. This means that new ways of storing food and carrying enough aboard a spacecraft to sustain several people will need to be created. Without enough food and stored resources, humans will not outlive the trip to Mars that is estimated at approximately 30 months.
At the moment, there are no rockets that can make the trip to Mars without damage or getting destroyed. There are several reasons for this. First of all, the lack of gravity and atmosphere on Mars makes landing an extremely difficult process. Secondly, the weight of a rocket that is carrying humans and supplies will very likely crash to the surface of Mars and make the whole trip a big mess. The space fleet has been retired and building new rockets that are small enough to land and can carry enough weight at the same time will cost a lot of money and take quite a bit of time.
Fuel storage is another important gap. Technology needs to be developed to store enough fuel for human survival as well as the several trips that will be required from Earth to Mars and back. Fuel will also be needed on Mars for vehicles and equipment. This will be an expensive fuel situation. Other dangers involved with fuel storage include that it can easily explode in space if not secured and stored well enough. Space temperatures can make fuel act unpredictably and cause explosions.
In-Situ Resource Utilization
Mars has many useful elements and materials. These can be used by astronauts or humans who go to Mars. They could cultivate these elements to farm and create oxygen. However, the technology for this is not yet developed. In-situ resource utilization (ISRU) basically means living off the land. This is a process that NASA and others are looking at for feeding people when on Mars. Plans include the development of a machine that can extract oxygen from the carbon dioxide on Mars. It also includes harvesting and utilizing other minerals for fuel and building materials. There is still a lot to look at with this as the soil on Mars is believed to be toxic and we will not be able to eat food grown in it.
The biggest concern about travelling to Mars is the effect it will have on humans. We don’t yet know enough about the effects of travelling and living in space. We can only predict and prepare based on what we now. Concerns that will have to be addressed include:
Being weightless for long periods will influence the human body. Astronauts who were in space for several months came back with decreased bone density and low calcium. Some also showed signs of blindness. There is too much about the influence of space that we don’t yet know and understand.
When we live on Mars, we won’t have the Earth’s atmosphere to protect us against radiation. Mars has a very thin atmosphere and space radiation will be a big problem. Before humans can be sent to live on Mars, we will have to find a suit or some other equipment to protect us against radiation properly.
One of the biggest psychological challenges as indicated by astronauts during real space trips or simulated ones was the isolation. You don’t have contact with the outside world. Chances are that when you live on Mars, you may not hear from your family or friends again for a long time. You won’t be able to send them text messages or email them. The infrastructure for such things will still have to be developed. You will have others around you, but you will all experience isolation from the planet that you grew up on and everyone you left behind.
Technology will need to be developed to properly isolate humans from their surroundings. It is very likely that we as humans can contaminate Mars and we don’t know if Mars can cause contamination for humans.
Dust damage is another big concern. It will likely cause a lot of damage to equipment and their moving parts. It will make maintenance very difficult. The dust may also be toxic to humans which bring about its own set of issues. The dust may cause allergies, pulmonary problems and can even contribute to causing cancer. Theradiation already increases the chances of cancer.
Cost and Collaboration
Costs to make a manned trip to Mars a reality will be enormous and will require international collaboration. There is no way that one country will be able to pull it off on its own. Many political issues will need to be sorted and the changing nature of politics and economics will need to be considered when collaborations are negotiated.
Legal, Ethical, and Societal Issues
Apart from all of these issues, we still need to keep in mind the legal, ethical, and social concerns that will also arise. The rules, laws, and societal norms on Mars will be vastly different from those we have on Earth. All of this must be considered and planned for.
As you can see, there are many issues that need to be resolved before a trip to Mars can be realized. The technology is within reach and the other problems can be researched and refined. The biggest issue remain the resources required to develop and perfect everything that will be needed.