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Growing Produce on Mars May Soon Be a Reality

Growing Produce on Mars May Soon Be a Reality

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Canadian scientists are researching a method of growing strawberry and tomato plants on Mars using LEDs

Wikimedia Commons

The future Mars definitely looks less barren. Hello, Martian crops!

A Canadian research team at the University of Guelph in southern Ontario is working on a methodology for growing plants using LEDs, which would lead to scientists and farmers being able to one day grow crops on Mars. Right now the team is working on growing a strawberry or cherry tomato plant in Martian territory (focusing on this produce in particular because they are relatively high-value fruit crops).

(CBC)This diagram from the researchers show how differently crops behave under different light wavelengths.

“Over the next few hundred years,” Mike Dixon, a professor and chair of University of Guelph's environmental biology department, where the research is being conducted told the CBC, “[w]e will be marching around on Mars and exploring Mars on a large scale… and we will need life support systems based on plant biology, because you can't resupply Mars with groceries very efficiently."

The technology is still years away from action, and right now the researchers are looking at the most efficient light wavelength combination that would work for producing the most (and tastiest) fruits and vegetables. Within decades, said Dixon, astronauts and space explorers could be eating real produce in space.

For the latest happenings in the food and drink world, visit our Food News page.

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter@JoannaFantozzi

Climate change could soon allow Florida farmers to grow coffee beans, UF scientists say

Our state could soon be producing its own quality coffee beans. Researchers at the University of Florida said it’s all related to the changing climate.

SEFFNER, Fla. - The Sunshine State has never grown commercial coffee trees before, but that may change sooner than later.

"We are in a climate where it is almost perfect to grow coffee," said University of Florida graduate assistant Emily Pappo.

She said it is only "almost" perfect�use Florida winters can get cold enough to be harmful to coffee crops, but global warming is making scientists take a second look. 

Pappo is part of a research movement hoping to bring the caffeinated crop to Florida.

"As we start to experience climate change starting to create more warmer days and maybe less frost events, it might become more possible for the coffee plants to thrive here in the Florida climate," she explained. "That opens up a lot of really great opportunities for coffee production in this part of the United States."

Pappo&aposs team is currently growing the state&aposs first research crop of coffee. Currently, they&aposre keeping an eye on the crop&aposs progress.

"Knowing how coffee’s root system and how the coffee plant itself responds to different climate conditions is going to be really important for knowing how the coffee is going to do here in Florida," she said. 

That&aposs where UF Engineering is helping the agriculture team get a closer look under the ground. They slide small cameras down clear plastic tubes placed in the soil next to coffee trees.

The cameras take pictures of the roots and the soil, and those pictures help Pappo see how coffee roots handle things like drought or frost. By using new imaging technology, the engineering team will soon be able to provide an even better look.

"This will collect data over hundreds of wavelengths, outside of our visible range," said engineering professor Alina Zare. "Using all that information, we can learn more about the materials and the chemical compositions of the soil and the roots that we are imaging. We can learn more about their interactions and their changes over time."

It&aposs a combined effort to make a massive impact on Florida&aposs agriculture. Planting trees could one day lead to the implementation of processing and roasting in the state as well.

"It would be a huge investment to bring coffee into Florida," Pappo said, "so we have to make sure that our I’s are dotted and our T’s are crossed and we have a good idea of how it’s going to go."

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Pineberries: Conclusion

The pineberries available today are quite soft when ripe and do not hold up well to shipping. In fact, the inability to keep them in a “fresh” state from the growing location to the store is the primary reason you likely can’t find them on shelves near where you live. Home gardens are, therefore, likely the best place to grow them. Often, the care and nutrients received outside a commercial setting produce better fruits, as studies on growing organic strawberries are showing.

At present, the varieties of pineberries that are available do not produce high enough yields or big enough berries to gain widespread acceptance and heavily penetrate the commercial markets like the pineberry’s red-fleshed relative has. However, as they have now been re-introduced, new varieties will likely be bred. If the characteristic flavor is maintained while the size, yield, and firmness increase, those pale pineberries could have a bright future.

For a video that shows the shape and size of pineberries, as well as the relative quantity you can expect from healthy plants, watch this video:

Preparing for Mars

If this space gardening plan works, scientists say, it could help combat “menu fatigue” among astronauts, who typically lose weight while spending months in space.

Maintaining a garden could also serve as a hobby for crew members during monotonous months. “It’s kind of like, why do people like flowers?” Mr. Kelly said. “When you are living in an environment that is very antiseptic or laboratory-like, or on Mars, it would be pretty devoid of life with the exception of you and your crewmates. Having something growing would have a positive psychological effect.”

And it could also help the crew become more autonomous, in case something goes wrong.

4. Kentucky Fried Chicken

few hot fried chicken wings isolated white background (iStock)

KFC’s fried chicken famously contains a blend of 11 herbs and spices, which are supposedly produced at two different plants and then combined at a third, so nobody can be in possession of the entire recipe, which is locked away in a vault. Many people claim to have decoded the recipe, and a lab test discovered that the only ingredients were flour, salt, pepper, and MSG. When it comes to what’s actually in that chicken, the world will most likely never know for sure.

LED indoor farms could change the food industry, and help solve world hunger

According to Philips, the answer may be indoor farms that grow plants with LEDs. The company has recently opened its GrowWise City indoor farm in the Netherlands, and the facility has the potential to revolutionize the way we cultivate food, and maybe even solve world hunger issues

At the LED-powered, 2,500-square-foot facility, Philips’ scientists are working to create “LED light growth recipes” for producers, so that future farmers will be able to grow healthy and fresh crops all year long — without any soil or sunlight.

GrowWise City is a clean environment that allows for absolutely no natural light or air. Instead, the farm employs a connected, customizable LED system that provides specialized lighting sequences that target each plant’s ideal growth requirements — creating veggies and other fresh produce that’s completely organic and free of pesticides.

The research center is comprised of four-layered mechanized planting racks in eight climate rooms. Each of the planting rack’s layers uses Philips GreenPower LEDs that specialize specifically in crop-growth, and can be tweaked to suit individual plants. Right now, Philips researchers are focusing on light recipes for upgraded leafy vegetables, strawberries and herbs, and they’ll soon move on to grow better carbohydrate crops like wheat and potatoes.

Any favorite dishes among crew members?

Quite a few of the crew members like the spicy things. There are anecdotal comments that taste changes in space but there’s never been any research. It’s so subjective it depends on the person. And if you think about it they’re eating a completely prepackaged food, they have a fluid shift to the head in spaceflight, they have competing odors, they’re eating out of packages so there are a lot of things that could be influencing perceived taste changes. A lot of them say they like spicy things, the shrimp cocktail a lot of them really like that, the tortillas they really like but it really depends on the crew member.

Will 3D Printers Manufacture Your Meals?

Engineers and gourmands alike are dabbling with edible substances as raw materials for 3D printing. Among their hoped-for results: previously unachievable food shapes and textures, personalized grub, and varied menus on future long-term voyages to Mars. "There is some very cool stuff going on," says Jeffrey Lipton, CTO of Seraph Robotics and a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University.

Edible 3D printing emerged several years ago with Cornell's [email protected] printer, which won a 2007 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award. The syringe-based machine works like an inkjet printer, depositing layers of viscous liquids to build up an object according to a user's uploaded design. Cornell researchers posted the [email protected] blueprints online, much to the delight of tinkerers the world over. "People started experimenting, putting in different things like epoxies and silicones," Lipton says. "Then we started seeing what other people did when they went into their kitchens, things like Cheese Whiz, Nutella and frosting . . . You can extrude anything through it." Lipton says wild new shapes and textures for artisanal purposes might serve as some of 3D food printing's first, albeit limited, commercial successes. "You could see food tchotchkes find a little niche. We've pretty much exhausted every known process for inventing new foods."

In fact, foods created by printers have already hit shelves. "A lot of people don't know this, but all the microwave pancakes available in supermarkets in the Netherlands are printed," says Kjeld van Bommel, a researcher at the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO in Dutch). Van Bommel calls the pancakes "two-and-a-half-D-printing," because they are formed through a single deposition of batter. Other products out there meet the definition of 3D printing, or additive manufacturing. The U.K.'s Choc Edge, for example, sells printers that melt chocolate and pile it up in layers to create custom shapes. This past Valentine's Day, FabCafe in Japan crafted 3D-printed chocolate faces of customers' significant others. Last summer, Google introduced 3D-printed pasta in its employee cafeteria.

These early examples have all used simple, processed, single-ingredient pastes, powders or purees. No one is yet able to manufacture anything as diverse as, say, a burger with all the fixings. Cobbling together all the different ingredients and structures, given varying temperature requirements and sterility needs, is truly daunting. "Making one grain of wheat is a hell of a lot more complex than doing anything with wheat flour," van Bommel says. And in many cases, it doesn't yet make economic sense to try. "If a complex structure already exists in nature, like a lettuce leaf, why would you want to print it?" says van Bommel.

So rather than reinventing an organic object, van Bommel says one of the promises of 3D food printing is to create novel consumables with personalized nutritional content. "You can add extra calcium or omega-3 fatty acids, and all done in a patient-specific way," he says. To this end, his group is researching 3D food printing to help nursing home residents who suffer from dysphagia and have trouble chewing and swallowing food. These elderly people typically get their meals in the form of an unappealing milkshake of pureed chicken and broccoli, for example, leading to loss of appetite and malnourishment. Van Bommel has a grant from the European Union to develop 3D-printable soft replacement foods loaded with nutrients.

Printed foods could also use smarter, more sustainable caloric sources, such as algae protein in place of resource-intensive animal meat. "I'd rather that instead of printing a steak from cow protein, you could make it from algae or insects," van Bommel says. In one example, his group added milled mealworm to a shortbread 3D cookie recipe. "The look [of the worms] put me off, but in the shape of a cookie I'll eat it," van Bommel says. "You eat with your eyes."

But what about the dream of a universal 3D food printer&mdashsomething like a Star Trek replicator that could fabricate whatever you request? This prospect, while theoretically possible, poses immense challenges, van Bommel notes. "Obviously if you're going for universal 3D food printer, you can't have 50 million cartridges lying around for the moment you want to print a tomato," he says. "It sounds simple to say 'we'll have a fat cartridge,' but there are hundreds of kinds of fats." Instead, he envisions a machine with a limited range of inputs. "Maybe three types of proteins, three types of carbs . . . It could happen, but we would need to know a lot about how to make different types of foods from those building blocks."

A major obstacle for all 3D printing, and especially for that of food, is that the printing process is slow, requiring cooling or curing periods, for example, before more material is deposited. "If I can start a steak and it takes three months to print, no one is going to eat it&mdashit needs to work in minutes or hours," Lipton says.

Some researchers are trying to speed up the process to make 3D-printed food more realistic. Van Bommel's TNO has a process that uses a laser-based technique to locally cook the food (the company used it to cook an egg white into the world's smallest fried egg, less than an inch across). TNO recently demonstrated a machine called PrintValley that aims to accelerate the process. PrintValley runs 100 platforms under deposition nozzles consecutively, assembly-line-style, building up 100 objects about a square inch in size in less than 10 minutes, or about 6 seconds per widget. "We developed this to show it doesn't need to take so long to print a 3D object," van Bommel says.

Printing food in 3D isn't quite practical in most places, at least not yet. But there's one place where it could make a major meal-making difference: in space. Michelle Terfansky recently explored this concept in a master's degree project at the University of Southern California. Terfansky heard how astronauts on the International Space Station get bored with the regular weekly meal rotations travelers on a future journey of many months to Mars will deal with similar cabin fever. Three-dimensional printers could let friends and family on Earth transmit recipes to break the tedium. Storage-space-wise, 3D printers could allow for a wide variety of dishes without having to stockpile pieces of animal carcasses and heaps of vegetables. "It's a very basic way of making people happy and feel at home, whether on the Moon or Mars or an asteroid," Terfansky says. "It's a morale booster."

But there's one more important area&mdashperhaps the most important area&mdashwhere 3D food printing will need to improve to be a factor in the future of food, and that is taste. Lipton notes that some of the lab-grown, 3D printed meat stand-ins have been dubbed "shmeat," in a crudely obvious portmanteau. To address this issue, TNO is teaming up with a culinary school to devise more gastronomically advanced and delicious offerings. "As long as it looks okay and it's not toxic, we call it 3D printed food," jokes van Bommel. "But the recipes could be optimized a lot further. We're technicians, not cooks."


Since the 20th century, there have been several proposed human missions to Mars both by government agencies and private companies. [ vague ]

All of the human mission concepts as currently conceived by national governmental space programs would not be direct precursors to colonization. Programs such as those being tentatively planned by NASA, Roscosmos, and ESA are intended solely as exploration missions, with the establishment of a permanent base possible but not yet the main goal. [ citation needed ]

Colonization requires the establishment of permanent habitats that have the potential for self-expansion and self-sustenance. Two early proposals for building habitats on Mars are the Mars Direct and the Semi-Direct concepts, advocated by Robert Zubrin, an advocate of the colonization of Mars. [3]

SpaceX has proposed the development of Mars transportation infrastructure in order to facilitate the eventual colonization of Mars. The mission architecture includes fully reusable launch vehicles, human-rated spacecraft, on-orbit propellant tankers, rapid-turnaround launch/landing mounts, and local production of rocket fuel on Mars via in situ resource utilization (ISRU). SpaceX's aspirational goal is to land their cargo starships on Mars by 2024 and the first 2 crewed starships by 2026. [4] [5]

Earth is similar to Venus in bulk composition, size and surface gravity, but Mars' similarities to Earth are more compelling when considering colonization. These include:

  • The Martian day (or sol) is very close in duration to Earth's. A solar day on Mars is 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35.244 seconds. [6]
  • Mars has a surface area that is 28.4% of Earth's, which is only slightly less than the amount of dry land on Earth (which is 29.2% of Earth's surface). Mars has half the radius of Earth and only one-tenth the mass. This means that it has a smaller volume (

Atmospheric pressure comparison
Location Pressure
Olympus Mons summit 0.03 kPa (0.0044 psi)
Mars average 0.6 kPa (0.087 psi)
Hellas Planitia bottom 1.16 kPa (0.168 psi)
Armstrong limit 6.25 kPa (0.906 psi)
Mount Everest summit [7] 33.7 kPa (4.89 psi)
Earth sea level 101.3 kPa (14.69 psi)

Gravity and magnetosphere Edit

The surface gravity of Mars is just 38% that of Earth. Although microgravity is known to cause health problems such as muscle loss and bone demineralization, [8] [9] it is not known if Martian gravity would have a similar effect. The Mars Gravity Biosatellite was a proposed project designed to learn more about what effect Mars' lower surface gravity would have on humans, but it was cancelled due to a lack of funding. [10]

Due to the lack of a magnetosphere, solar particle events and cosmic rays can easily reach the Martian surface. [11] [12] [13]

The atmosphere Edit

Atmospheric pressure on Mars is far below the Armstrong limit at which people can survive without pressure suits. Since terraforming cannot be expected as a near-term solution, habitable structures on Mars would need to be constructed with pressure vessels similar to spacecraft, capable of containing a pressure between 30 and 100 kPa. The atmosphere is also toxic as most of it consists of carbon dioxide (95% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen, 1.6% argon, and traces totaling less than 0.4% of other gases including oxygen).

This thin atmosphere does not filter out ultraviolet sunlight, which causes instability in the molecular bonds between atoms. For example, ammonia (NH3) is not stable in the Martian atmosphere and breaks down after a few hours. [14] Also due to the thinness of the atmosphere, the temperature difference between day and night is much larger than on Earth, typically around 70 °C (125 °F). [15] However, the day/night temperature variation is much lower during dust storms when very little light gets through to the surface even during the day, and instead warms the middle atmosphere. [16]

Water and climate Edit

Water on Mars is scarce, with rovers Spirit and Opportunity finding less than there is in Earth's driest desert. [17] [18] [19]

The climate is much colder than Earth, with mean surface temperatures between 186 and 268 K (−87 and −5 °C −125 and 23 °F) (depending on the season and latitude). [20] [21] The lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 184 K (−89.2 °C, −128.6 °F) in Antarctica.

Because Mars is about 52% farther from the Sun, the amount of solar energy entering its upper atmosphere per unit area (the solar constant) is only around 43.3% of what reaches the Earth's upper atmosphere. [22] However, due to the much thinner atmosphere, a higher fraction of the solar energy reaches the surface. [23] [24] The maximum solar irradiance on Mars is about 590 W/m 2 compared to about 1000 W/m 2 at the Earth's surface optimal conditions on the Martian equator can be compared to those on Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic in June. [25]

Global dust storms are common throughout the year and can cover the entire planet for weeks, blocking sunlight from reaching the surface. [26] [27] This has been observed to cause temperature drops of 4 °C (7 °F) for several months after the storm. [28] In contrast, the only comparable events on Earth are infrequent large volcanic eruptions such as Krakatoa which threw large amounts of ash into the atmosphere in 1883, causing a global temperature drop of around 1 °C (2 °F). Perhaps more importantly, these storms affect electricity production from solar panels for long periods, as well interfering with communications with Earth. [16]

Mars has no rain and virtually no clouds, [ citation needed ] so although cold, it is permanently sunny (apart from during dust storms). This means solar panels can always operate at maximum efficiency on dust-free days. And Mars' orbit is more eccentric than Earth's, increasing temperature and solar constant variations over the course of the Martian year. [ citation needed ]

Soil Edit

The Martian soil is toxic due to relatively high concentrations of chlorine and associated compounds which are hazardous to all known forms of life. [29] [30]

Survivability Edit

Although there are some extremophile organisms that survive in hostile conditions on Earth, including simulations that approximate Mars, plants and animals generally cannot survive the ambient conditions present on the surface of Mars. [31]

Conditions on the surface of Mars are closer to the conditions on Earth in terms of temperature and sunlight than on any other planet or moon, except for the cloud tops of Venus. [32] However, the surface is not hospitable to humans or most known life forms due to the radiation, greatly reduced air pressure, and an atmosphere with only 0.16% oxygen.

In 2012, it was reported that some lichen and cyanobacteria survived and showed remarkable adaptation capacity for photosynthesis after 34 days in simulated Martian conditions in the Mars Simulation Laboratory (MSL) maintained by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). [33] [34] [35] Some scientists think that cyanobacteria could play a role in the development of self-sustainable crewed outposts on Mars. [36] They propose that cyanobacteria could be used directly for various applications, including the production of food, fuel and oxygen, but also indirectly: products from their culture could support the growth of other organisms, opening the way to a wide range of life-support biological processes based on Martian resources. [36]

Humans have explored parts of Earth that match some conditions on Mars. Based on NASA rover data, temperatures on Mars (at low latitudes) are similar to those in Antarctica. [37] The atmospheric pressure at the highest altitudes reached by piloted balloon ascents (35 km (114,000 feet) in 1961, [38] 38 km in 2012) is similar to that on the surface of Mars. However, the pilots were not exposed to the extremely low pressure, as it would have killed them, but seated in a pressurized capsule. [39]

Human survival on Mars would require living in artificial Mars habitats with complex life-support systems. One key aspect of this would be water processing systems. Being made mainly of water, a human being would die in a matter of days without it. Even a 5–8% decrease in total body water causes fatigue and dizziness and a 10% decrease physical and mental impairment (See Dehydration). A person in the UK uses 70–140 litres of water per day on average. [40] Through experience and training, astronauts on the ISS have shown it is possible to use far less, and that around 70% of what is used can be recycled using the ISS water recovery systems. Half of all water is used during showers. [41] Similar systems would be needed on Mars, but would need to be much more efficient, since regular robotic deliveries of water to Mars would be prohibitively expensive (the ISS is supplied with water four times per year). Potential access to in-situ water (frozen or otherwise) via drilling has been investigated by NASA. [42]

Effects on human health Edit

Mars presents a hostile environment for human habitation. Different technologies have been developed to assist long-term space exploration and may be adapted for habitation on Mars. The existing record for the longest consecutive space flight is 438 days by cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, [43] and the most accrued time in space is 878 days by Gennady Padalka. [44] The longest time spent outside the protection of the Earth's Van Allen radiation belt is about 12 days for the Apollo 17 moon landing. This is minor in comparison to the 1100-day journey [45] planned by NASA as soon as the year 2028. Scientists have also hypothesized that many different biological functions can be negatively affected by the environment of Mars colonies. Due to higher levels of radiation, there are a multitude of physical side-effects that must be mitigated. [46] In addition, Martian soil contains high levels of toxins which are hazardous to human health.

Physical effects Edit

The difference in gravity would negatively affect human health by weakening bones and muscles. There is also risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular problems. Current rotations on the International Space Station put astronauts in zero gravity for six months, a comparable length of time to a one-way trip to Mars. This gives researchers the ability to better understand the physical state that astronauts going to Mars would arrive in. Once on Mars, surface gravity is only 38% of that on Earth. Microgravity affects the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and neurovestibular (central nervous) systems. The cardiovascular effects are complex. On earth, blood within the body stays 70% below the heart, and in microgravity this is not case due to nothing pulling the blood down. This can have several negative effects. Once entering into microgravity, the blood pressure in the lower body and legs is significantly reduced. [47] This causes legs to become weak through loss of muscle and bone mass. Astronauts show signs of a puffy face and chicken legs syndrome. After the first day of reentry back to earth, blood samples showed a 17% loss of blood plasma, which contributed to a decline of erythropoietin secretion. [48] [49] On the skeletal system which is important to support our body's posture, long space flight and exposure to microgravity cause demineralization and atrophy of muscles. During re-acclimation, astronauts were observed to have a myriad of symptoms including cold sweats, nausea, vomiting and motion sickness. [50] Returning astronauts also felt disorientated. Journeys to and from Mars being six months is the average time spent at the ISS. Once on Mars with its lesser surface gravity (38% percent of Earth's), these health effects would be a serious concern. [51] Upon return to Earth, recovery from bone loss and atrophy is a long process and the effects of microgravity may never fully reverse. [ citation needed ]

Radiation Edit

Mars has a weaker global magnetosphere than Earth does as it has lost its inner dynamo, which significantly weakened the magnetosphere—the cause of so much radiation reaching the surface, despite its far distance from the Sun compared to Earth. Combined with a thin atmosphere, this permits a significant amount of ionizing radiation to reach the Martian surface. There are two main types of radiation risks to traveling outside the protection of Earth's atmosphere and magnetosphere: galactic cosmic rays (GCR) and solar energetic particles (SEP). Earth's magnetosphere protects from charged particles from the Sun, and the atmosphere protects against uncharged and highly energetic GCRs. There are ways to mitigate against solar radiation, but without much of an atmosphere, the only solution to the GCR flux is heavy shielding amounting to roughly 15 centimeters of steel, 1 meter of rock, or 3 meters of water, limiting human colonists to living underground most of the time. [52]

The Mars Odyssey spacecraft carries an instrument, the Mars Radiation Environment Experiment (MARIE), to measure the radiation. MARIE found that radiation levels in orbit above Mars are 2.5 times higher than at the International Space Station. The average daily dose was about 220 μGy (22 mrad)—equivalent to 0.08 Gy per year. [53] A three-year exposure to such levels would exceed the safety limits currently adopted by NASA, [54] and the risk of developing cancer due to radiation exposure after a Mars mission could be two times greater than what scientists previously thought. [55] [56] Occasional solar proton events (SPEs) produce much higher doses, as observed in September 2017, when NASA reported radiation levels on the surface of Mars were temporarily doubled, and were associated with an aurora 25-times brighter than any observed earlier, due to a massive, and unexpected, solar storm. [57] Building living quarters underground (possibly in Martian lava tubes) would significantly lower the colonists' exposure to radiation.

Much remains to be learned about space radiation. In 2003, NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center opened a facility, the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory, at Brookhaven National Laboratory, that employs particle accelerators to simulate space radiation. The facility studies its effects on living organisms, as well as experimenting with shielding techniques. [61] Initially, there was some evidence that this kind of low level, chronic radiation is not quite as dangerous as once thought and that radiation hormesis occurs. [62] However, results from a 2006 study indicated that protons from cosmic radiation may cause twice as much serious damage to DNA as previously estimated, exposing astronauts to greater risk of cancer and other diseases. [63] As a result of the higher radiation in the Martian environment, the summary report of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee released in 2009 reported that "Mars is not an easy place to visit with existing technology and without a substantial investment of resources." [63] NASA is exploring a variety of alternative techniques and technologies such as deflector shields of plasma to protect astronauts and spacecraft from radiation. [63]

Psychological effects Edit

Due to the communication delays, new protocols need to be developed in order to assess crew members' psychological health. Researchers have developed a Martian simulation called HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) that places scientists in a simulated Martian laboratory to study the psychological effects of isolation, repetitive tasks, and living in close-quarters with other scientists for up to a year at a time. Computer programs are being developed to assist crews with personal and interpersonal issues in absence of direct communication with professionals on Earth. [64] Current suggestions for Mars exploration and colonization are to select individuals who have passed psychological screenings. Psychosocial sessions for the return home are also suggested in order to reorient people to society.

Terraforming Edit

Various works of fiction put forward the idea of terraforming Mars to allow a wide variety of life forms, including humans, to survive unaided on Mars' surface. Some ideas of possible technologies that may be able to contribute to the terraforming of Mars have been conjectured, but none would be able to bring the entire planet into the Earth-like habitat pictured in science fiction. [65]

Interplanetary spaceflight Edit

Mars requires less energy per unit mass (delta V) to reach from Earth than any planet except Venus. Using a Hohmann transfer orbit, a trip to Mars requires approximately nine months in space. [66] Modified transfer trajectories that cut the travel time down to four to seven months in space are possible with incrementally higher amounts of energy and fuel compared to a Hohmann transfer orbit, and are in standard use for robotic Mars missions. Shortening the travel time below about six months requires higher delta-v and an increasing amount of fuel, and is difficult with chemical rockets. It could be feasible with advanced spacecraft propulsion technologies, some of which have already been tested to varying levels, such as Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, [67] and nuclear rockets. In the former case, a trip time of forty days could be attainable, [68] and in the latter, a trip time down to about two weeks. [3] In 2016, a University of California, Santa Barbara scientist said they could further reduce travel time for a small robotic probe to Mars down to "as little as 72 hours" with the use of a laser propelled sail (directed photonic propulsion) system instead of the fuel-based rocket propulsion system. [69] [70]

During the journey the astronauts would be subject to radiation, which would require a means to protect them. Cosmic radiation and solar wind cause DNA damage, which increases the risk of cancer significantly. The effect of long-term travel in interplanetary space is unknown, but scientists estimate an added risk of between 1% and 19% (one estimate is 3.4%) for males to die of cancer because of the radiation during the journey to Mars and back to Earth. For females the probability is higher due to generally larger glandular tissues. [71]

Landing on Mars Edit

Mars has a surface gravity 0.38 times that of Earth, and the density of its atmosphere is about 0.6% of that on Earth. [72] The relatively strong gravity and the presence of aerodynamic effects make it difficult to land heavy, crewed spacecraft with thrusters only, as was done with the Apollo Moon landings, yet the atmosphere is too thin for aerodynamic effects to be of much help in aerobraking and landing a large vehicle. Landing piloted missions on Mars would require braking and landing systems different from anything used to land crewed spacecraft on the Moon or robotic missions on Mars. [73]

If one assumes carbon nanotube construction material will be available with a strength of 130 GPa (19,000,000 psi) then a space elevator could be built to land people and material on Mars. [74] A space elevator on Phobos (a Martian moon) has also been proposed. [75]

Colonization of Mars would require a wide variety of equipment—both equipment to directly provide services to humans and production equipment used to produce food, propellant, water, energy and breathable oxygen—in order to support human colonization efforts. Required equipment will include: [3]

  • Basic utilities (oxygen, power, local communications, waste disposal, sanitation and water recycling)
  • Storage facilities
  • Shop workspaces
  • Airlock, for pressurization and dust management —initially for water and oxygen, later for a wider cross section of minerals, building materials, etc.
  • Equipment for energy production and energy storage, some solar and perhaps nuclear as well
    production spaces and equipment. , generally thought to be hydrogen and methane through the Sabatier reaction[76] for fuel—with oxygen oxidizer—for chemical rocket engines
  • Fuels or other energy source for use with surface transportation. Carbon monoxide/oxygen (CO/O2) engines have been suggested for early surface transportation use as both carbon monoxide and oxygen can be straightforwardly produced by zirconium dioxideelectrolysis from the Martian atmosphere without requiring use of any of the Martian water resources to obtain hydrogen. [77]
  • Off-planet communication equipment
  • Equipment for moving over the surface—Mars suit, crewed rovers and possibly even Mars aircraft.

Basic utilities Edit

In order to function at all the colony would need the basic utilities to support human civilization. These would need to be designed to handle the harsh Martian environment and would either have to be serviceable whilst wearing an EVA suit or housed inside a human habitable environment. For example, if electricity generation systems rely on solar power, large energy storage facilities will also be needed to cover the periods when dust storms block out the sun, and automatic dust removal systems may be needed to avoid human exposure to conditions on the surface. [28] If the colony is to scale beyond a few people, systems will also need to maximise use of local resources to reduce the need for resupply from Earth, for example by recycling water and oxygen and being adapted to be able to use any water found on Mars, whatever form it is in.

Communication with Earth Edit

Communications with Earth are relatively straightforward during the half-sol when Earth is above the Martian horizon. NASA and ESA included communications relay equipment in several of the Mars orbiters, so Mars already has communications satellites. While these will eventually wear out, additional orbiters with communication relay capability are likely to be launched before any colonization expeditions are mounted.

The one-way communication delay due to the speed of light ranges from about 3 minutes at closest approach (approximated by perihelion of Mars minus aphelion of Earth) to 22 minutes at the largest possible superior conjunction (approximated by aphelion of Mars plus aphelion of Earth). Real-time communication, such as telephone conversations or Internet Relay Chat, between Earth and Mars would be highly impractical due to the long time lags involved. NASA has found that direct communication can be blocked for about two weeks every synodic period, around the time of superior conjunction when the Sun is directly between Mars and Earth, [78] although the actual duration of the communications blackout varies from mission to mission depending on various factors—such as the amount of link margin designed into the communications system, and the minimum data rate that is acceptable from a mission standpoint. In reality most missions at Mars have had communications blackout periods of the order of a month. [79]

A satellite at the L4 or L5 Earth–Sun Lagrangian point could serve as a relay during this period to solve the problem even a constellation of communications satellites would be a minor expense in the context of a full colonization program. However, the size and power of the equipment needed for these distances make the L4 and L5 locations unrealistic for relay stations, and the inherent stability of these regions, although beneficial in terms of station-keeping, also attracts dust and asteroids, which could pose a risk. [80] Despite that concern, the STEREO probes passed through the L4 and L5 regions without damage in late 2009.

Recent work by the University of Strathclyde's Advanced Space Concepts Laboratory, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, has suggested an alternative relay architecture based on highly non-Keplerian orbits. These are a special kind of orbit produced when continuous low-thrust propulsion, such as that produced from an ion engine or solar sail, modifies the natural trajectory of a spacecraft. Such an orbit would enable continuous communications during solar conjunction by allowing a relay spacecraft to "hover" above Mars, out of the orbital plane of the two planets. [81] Such a relay avoids the problems of satellites stationed at either L4 or L5 by being significantly closer to the surface of Mars while still maintaining continuous communication between the two planets.

The path to a human colony could be prepared by robotic systems such as the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity and Perseverance. These systems could help locate resources, such as ground water or ice, that would help a colony grow and thrive. The lifetimes of these systems would be years and even decades, and as recent developments in commercial spaceflight have shown, it may be that these systems will involve private as well as government ownership. These robotic systems also have a reduced cost compared with early crewed operations, and have less political risk.

Wired systems might lay the groundwork for early crewed landings and bases, by producing various consumables including fuel, oxidizers, water, and construction materials. Establishing power, communications, shelter, heating, and manufacturing basics can begin with robotic systems, if only as a prelude to crewed operations.

Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander MIP (Mars ISPP Precursor) was to demonstrate manufacture of oxygen from the atmosphere of Mars, [82] and test solar cell technologies and methods of mitigating the effect of Martian dust on the power systems. [83] [ needs update ]

Before any people are transported to Mars on the notional 2020s Mars transportation infrastructure envisioned by SpaceX, a number of robotic cargo missions would be undertaken first in order to transport the requisite equipment, habitats and supplies. [84] Equipment that would be necessary would include "machines to produce fertilizer, methane and oxygen from Mars' atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide and the planet's subsurface water ice" as well as construction materials to build transparent domes for initial agricultural areas. [85]

As with early colonies in the New World, economics would be a crucial aspect to a colony's success. The reduced gravity well of Mars and its position in the Solar System may facilitate Mars–Earth trade and may provide an economic rationale for continued settlement of the planet. Given its size and resources, this might eventually be a place to grow food and produce equipment to mine the asteroid belt.

Some early Mars colonies might specialize in developing local resources for Martian consumption, such as water and/or ice. Local resources can also be used in infrastructure construction. [86] One source of Martian ore currently known to be available is metallic iron in the form of nickel–iron meteorites. Iron in this form is more easily extracted than from the iron oxides that cover the planet.

Another main inter-Martian trade good during early colonization could be manure. [87] Assuming that life doesn't exist on Mars, the soil is going to be very poor for growing plants, so manure and other fertilizers will be valued highly in any Martian civilization until the planet changes enough chemically to support growing vegetation on its own.

Solar power is a candidate for power for a Martian colony. Solar insolation (the amount of solar radiation that reaches Mars) is about 42% of that on Earth, since Mars is about 52% farther from the Sun and insolation falls off as the square of distance. But the thin atmosphere would allow almost all of that energy to reach the surface as compared to Earth, where the atmosphere absorbs roughly a quarter of the solar radiation. Sunlight on the surface of Mars would be much like a moderately cloudy day on Earth. [88]

Economic drivers Edit

Space colonization on Mars can roughly be said to be possible when the necessary methods of space colonization become cheap enough (such as space access by cheaper launch systems) to meet the cumulative funds that have been gathered for the purpose.

Although there are no immediate prospects for the large amounts of money required for any space colonization to be available given traditional launch costs, [89] [ full citation needed ] there is some prospect of a radical reduction to launch costs in the 2020s, which would consequently lessen the cost of any efforts in that direction. With a published price of US$62 million per launch of up to 22,800 kg (50,300 lb) payload to low Earth orbit or 4,020 kg (8,860 lb) to Mars, [90] SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets are already the "cheapest in the industry". [91] SpaceX's reusable plans include Falcon Heavy and future methane-based launch vehicles including the Starship. If SpaceX is successful in developing the reusable technology, it would be expected to "have a major impact on the cost of access to space", and change the increasingly competitive market in space launch services. [92]

Alternative funding approaches might include the creation of inducement prizes. For example, the 2004 President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy suggested that an inducement prize contest should be established, perhaps by government, for the achievement of space colonization. One example provided was offering a prize to the first organization to place humans on the Moon and sustain them for a fixed period before they return to Earth. [93]

Equatorial regions Edit

Mars Odyssey found what appear to be natural caves near the volcano Arsia Mons. It has been speculated that settlers could benefit from the shelter that these or similar structures could provide from radiation and micrometeoroids. Geothermal energy is also suspected in the equatorial regions. [94]

Lava tubes Edit

Several possible Martian lava tube skylights have been located on the flanks of Arsia Mons. Earth based examples indicate that some should have lengthy passages offering complete protection from radiation and be relatively easy to seal using on-site materials, especially in small subsections. [95]

Hellas Planitia Edit

Hellas Planitia is the lowest lying plain below the Martian geodetic datum. The air pressure is relatively higher in this place when compared to the rest of Mars.

Robotic spacecraft to Mars are required to be sterilized, to have at most 300,000 spores on the exterior of the craft—and more thoroughly sterilized if they contact "special regions" containing water, [96] [97] otherwise there is a risk of contaminating not only the life-detection experiments but possibly the planet itself.

It is impossible to sterilize human missions to this level, as humans are host to typically a hundred trillion microorganisms of thousands of species of the human microbiome, and these cannot be removed while preserving the life of the human. Containment seems the only option, but it is a major challenge in the event of a hard landing (i.e. crash). [98] There have been several planetary workshops on this issue, but with no final guidelines for a way forward yet. [99] Human explorers would also be vulnerable to back contamination to Earth if they become carriers of microorganisms should Mars have life. [100]

It is unforeseen how the first human landing on Mars will change the current policies regarding the exploration of space and occupancy of celestial bodies. In the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty, it was determined that no country may take claim to space or its inhabitants. Since the planet Mars offers a challenging environment and dangerous obstacles for humans to overcome, the laws and culture on the planet will most likely be very different from those on Earth. [101] With Elon Musk announcing his plans for travel to Mars, it is uncertain how the dynamic of a private company possibly being the first to put a human on Mars will play out on a national and global scale. [102] [103] NASA had to deal with several cuts in funding. During the presidency of Barack Obama, the objective for NASA to reach Mars was pushed to the background. [104] In 2017, president Donald Trump promised to return humans to the Moon and eventually Mars, [105] effectively taking action by increasing NASA budget with $1.1 billion, [106] and mostly focus on the development of the new Space Launch System. [107] [108]

Colonialism Edit

Space colonization in general has been discussed as continuation of imperialism and colonialism, [109] especially regarding Mars colonial decision making and reasons for colonial labor [110] and land exploitation have been questioned with postcolonial critique. Seeing the need for inclusive [111] and democratic participation and implementation of any space and Mars exploration, infrastructure, or colonialization, many have called for dramatic sociological reforms and guarantees to prevent racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and bigotry. [112]

The narrative of space exploration as a "New Frontier" has been criticized as unreflected continuation of settler colonialism and manifest destiny, continuing the narrative of colonial exploration as fundamental to the assumed human nature. [113] [114] [115]

The predominant perspective of territorial colonization in space has been called surfacism, especially comparing advocacy for colonization of Mars opposed to Venus. [116]

Dangers to pregnancy Edit

One possible ethical challenge that space travelers might face is that of pregnancy during the trip. According to NASA's policies, it is forbidden for members of the crew to engage in sex in space. NASA wants its crewmembers to treat each other like coworkers would in a professional environment. A pregnant member on a spacecraft is dangerous to all those aboard. The pregnant woman and child would need additional nutrition from the rations aboard, as well as special treatment and care. The pregnancy would impede on the pregnant crew member's duties and abilities. It is still not fully known how the environment in a spacecraft would affect the development of a child aboard. It is known however that an unborn child in space would be more susceptible to solar radiation, which would likely have a negative effect on its cells and genetics. [118] During a long trip to Mars, it is likely that members of craft may engage in sex due to their stressful and isolated environment. [119]

Mars colonization is advocated by several non-governmental groups for a range of reasons and with varied proposals. One of the oldest groups is the Mars Society who promote a NASA program to accomplish human exploration of Mars and have set up Mars analog research stations in Canada and the United States. Mars to Stay advocates recycling emergency return vehicles into permanent settlements as soon as initial explorers determine permanent habitation is possible.

Elon Musk founded SpaceX with the long-term goal of developing the technologies that will enable a self-sustaining human colony on Mars. [102] [120] Richard Branson, in his lifetime, is "determined to be a part of starting a population on Mars. I think it is absolutely realistic. It will happen. I think over the next 20 years," [from 2012] "we will take literally hundreds of thousands of people to space and that will give us the financial resources to do even bigger things". [121]

In June 2013, Buzz Aldrin, American engineer and former astronaut, and the second person to walk on the Moon, wrote an opinion, published in The New York Times, supporting a human mission to Mars and viewing the Moon "not as a destination but more a point of departure, one that places humankind on a trajectory to homestead Mars and become a two-planet species". [122] In August 2015, Aldrin, in association with the Florida Institute of Technology, presented a "master plan", for NASA consideration, for astronauts, with a "tour of duty of ten years", to colonize Mars before the year 2040. [123]

A few instances in fiction provide detailed descriptions of Mars colonization. They include:


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