Would you go live on Mars if you were given the opportunity? Would you want to be part of the exploration team and see what Mars holds for us? It will be very many years before you will have to answer these questions, but you may want to have an idea of what will happen to you on Mars. Mars is not like Earth even if it is the most like Earth of all the planets in the solar system.
The many differences between Earth and Mars will have both physiological and psychological impacts on humans. The physical differences like a lack of gravity, extreme temperatures, etc. will influence how our bodies work and our health. Isolation from Earth and everything we know will also have its impacts. It is different living on Earth and knowing your friends and family are on the same planet even if they are in a different country. When you’re Mars it will not take a few hours to visit and you will not be able to have fast and constant communication. All of this affects how we as humans will experience living on Mars.
Expected Physiological Effects
Gravity – On Earth, we are used to gravity. Our bodies are adjusted to this and everything in our bodies works according to the fact that there is a force we have to work against to move our feet, do exercise, etc. During the trip to Mars, which takes about 6 months, you will be weightless. There will be no gravity for that time. When you get to Mars, you will only experience a third of the gravitational pull of the Earth. Every time the gravity situation changes, your body has to adapt. During this process, your body will lose bone density due to the loss of calcium and other minerals. Your muscles may atrophy because the work they will do will be less strenuous. Bodily fluids will rise in the body with the reduced gravitational pull and this may cause vision and eye problems.
Radiation – The Earth has a magnetic field as well as a thick atmosphere layer that protects us from space radiation. When you travel to space and live on Mars, you will be exposed to this radiation because Mars does not have those protective features. Increased exposure to radiation can increase the risk of developing cancer and it can cause degenerative tissue diseases, amongst others.
Expected Psychological Effects
Isolation – The brave men and women will take on the first trip and settlement in Mars will experience a great sense of isolation from Earth and everyone and everything they know. Not only will they not be able to see Earth, but they will also have very limited communication with it. Communication signals between Mars and Earth can take up to 22 minutes. This means that it would be impossible to have a proper conversation with someone on Earth.
On Earth, we have cell phones and the Internet that connects us. On Mars, the crew will likely not even have regular contact with the command center as it would be impractical. The Mars team will have to function autonomously and without contact with friends and family. Some experts predict that the crew on Mars will see themselves as separate from Earth and become Martians within a few months of their stay. The distance and lack of contact with what they know will have a huge psychological impact.
Close Quarters – Aside from the isolation, the Mars team will also have to get used to living with the same few people for a long time. It is inevitable that conflict will arise due to psychological discomfort, homesickness, and being in close and constant proximity with people they may not get along with. The people who travel to Mars to work there will have to be resilient and capable of handling and dealing with conflict quickly and without causing further problems.
These are only some of the major effects that NASA and researchers expect. There is no way of knowing exactly what will happen when we land on Mars because we have never been there before. The knowledge we do have about the red planet will help a lot with preparing for all kinds of conditions. NASA and other research stations are making use of what they know to plan the habitats, medicine, health monitoring and more.
Ongoing Research and Studies
There have been and still are experiments being conducted with astronauts living in Mars-like conditions for a long period of time. The data gathered from these astronauts will further help researchers, doctors, and psychologists understand what they will need to do and out in place to ensure the safety and well-being of humans on Mars.
The actual trip and landing on Mars are still a far way off, but all the information that can be gathered today and in the next few years will help those who get to go to Mars to know how to stay healthy and sane in their new environment.