Stepping on to the red planet has fascinated us, humans, for centuries now. It has inspired the work of filmmakers, science fiction writers, storytellers, designers. But the real question is, will we really get to set foot on the planet where the air is dusty and radiation-laden?
Mars is the nearest, Earth-like planet that glows red in the night sky asking for our curiosity to get the best of us. This planet has a sort of atmosphere and the ground temperature on a warm day can reach up to 25 degrees.
However, winter nights on this planet can be as cold as -140 degrees. On this planet, a year consists of 687 days while a day lasts for 24 hours like on earth. The atmosphere Mars has is 95% of unbreathable carbon dioxide.
As far as gravity is concerned, this planet has a mass of about a 10th of that of the earth. So we will experience only about a third of the gravitational pull of what we experience here on planet earth.
Humans on Mars; the next mission
Now as much as we want to set foot on Mars we need to keep in mind that the Apollo Moon Missions which took place in the 1970s took only four days to reach the moon.
However, if astronauts were to go to Mars with all the advanced technology, it will take them about 9 months to reach this planet.
Reaching this planet is not the only thing which is concerning but staying there, studying the planet, and then returning back to planet earth is the goal.
If the astronauts were to wait for the planets to align in the right positions again for a safe return, NASA claims that it can take up to 2-3 years for the whole thing to be executed.
Astronauts will need food, water, protection from radiation, and of course oxygen for all this time from the start of the journey till the very end.
Robot missions were another option but the average doesn’t seem so good. Russia launched 21 rockets to Mars which included 5 robot landers. Only two out of 21 rockets completed their mission.
However, the US lost 5 rockets out of 23 they launched. What is yet to worry is that there has been no return mission yet. As mentioned before not only stepping on the planet but coming back safely is the real mission for humans.
Ray of hope
NASA’s own plans are a bit more cautious. The International Space station ISS is also retiring in some years. Humans at this point have to rely on other options to get the explorations going.
Former PayPal entrepreneur and founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk already has a NASA contract to deliver goods and supplies to the ISS. Musk says “Mars is something we can do in this lifetime”.
Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule by SpaceX are already a success. These machines are delivering cargo and supplies to the ISS with both their sections returning to earth for reuse.
Musk thinks more than just delivering cargo and supplies to the space. He has his eyes set on building a colony on Mars and taking the first humans to Mars in 2026.
But again, the question is, even if in the far future, we get to set foot on this dusty planet, will the human species be able to survive in its harsh uninhabitable atmosphere?