I’m a geek. I know, you’re shocked. But I am. Self-confessed and proud. I even have the thick rimmed glasses to prove it. >
And as a geek, I naturally enjoy nothing better than a good science-based programme. I mean, if Discovery are running one of their special Space Days (or even better, weeks) then I’m all over it. And my TiVo box is almost always clogged up to the max with Morgan Freeman’s Through the Wormhole. Series link, bitchezzz.
Anyway, this week NASA launched a rocket that could, one day, see humans walk on the surface of the Red Planet. For the geek inside me, this is unreal exciting. The program is called Orion and it marks the next step in human exploration of our solar system.
This got me thinking about another Martian mission in the pipeline called Mars One, which I had looked into a few months ago after seeing a documentary about it on the telly. It’s particularly interesting because for a start, it’s essentially a cross between Big Brother and space exploration (and BB is my guilty pleasure, I can’t lie) and because secondly Mars One wants to send humans to the dusty red rock in the sky and never return them back to earth. Essentially, Mars One wants to start colonising Mars.
How fooking amazing is that?
What even is Mars One?
As I understand it, Mars One is a project set up by private enterprise (not publicly funded like NASA is) that wants to raise some dolla to transport people in an economically viable manner to Mars with the ultimate aim of making humans a multi-planetary species. And one way they want to earn the money to do it is by making a reality show out of the project and selling the broadcasting rights to TV networks across the globe. I know I’d watch it.
The company also wants to cut costs by making the Martian trips one-way only. I imagine that researching and developing safe methods of getting people back to planet Earth safely is rather time consuming and costly. So Mars One simply plans to plonk you on the planet and leave you there until you die.
But it goes even further than that. Some scientists have even considered turning Mars into a second planet Earth that humans could inhabit and go for a stroll outside without the need to even wear a spacesuit. “How is that even possible?” I hear you ask. The answer: terraforming.
We all know that us humans have warmed up our native planet by polluting it with greenhouse gases. And if you don’t believe that, please leave my blog now and never return. Lolz. Seriously but, climate change deniers get on my tits. Nearly as much as UKIPpers, but let’s not get into them… that’s a different blog post entirely. But the same ‘greenhouse effect’ could actually be beneficial on Mars. You see, Mars lost its atmosphere a long time ago when the planet died (the volcanos stopped erupting and so the planet lost a magnetic field, the kind that is essential to life on Earth).
If we were to purposefully ‘pollute’ Mars with carbon dioxide for example, it would mean that we could possibly start to grow plants on the planet. They ‘breathe’ in CO2 and ‘breathe’ out oxygen, which just happens to be the gas that us humans breathe in. So if we were to introduce enough CO2 to Mars and grow enough oxygen producing plants, we could end up creating an atmosphere on Mars that humans could breathe without needing a spacesuit. Covering Mars in trees and plants is known as terraforming. Even if you’re not into this sort of thing, you have to admit that is pretty cool.
We’re all going to die
As they say, all good things must come to and end, and our planet is no exception. It’s pretty clear that our little blue planet isn’t going to be able to support us for all eternity. So if we as humans are to survive as a species for as long as we possibly can, we need to obviously start inhabiting other planets. Or at least it’s obvious to me, but I discussed this with my American cousin one drunken night in Ireland and she didn’t agree. But, I think that every species has one fundamental, subconscious, primal instinct and that is to survive. And if us humans have evolved to the point that we can start considering colonising other nearby planets, why the hell shouldn’t we?
But would you die on Mars?
You’ve built a great many strong relationships here on Earth with your close friends and family. Do you really think you could give that up in order to be one of the first humans to live on Mars? I honestly don’t think I could. Whoever the first humans are to colonise Mars, they’re going to have to be a hell of a lot stronger than I am. If Mars One has anything to do with it, they’ll share every moment of their lives on television and live what I would think would be an awfully lonely existence. Until, at least a few more people join them on the project. Not only that but the first Martian settlers face other potentially lethal hazards. Deadly radiation from the Sun, for example.
Here on Earth, we’re incredibly lucky. We have an atmosphere that’s kind to our human lungs and we have an active molten iron core that keeps our planet ‘alive’. The liquid iron in the centre of our little rock is constantly churning and swirling, creating a magnetic field that helps shield us from the radiation spurted out by our Sun in the centre of our solar system. And that produces one of the most beautiful natural phenomena in the world – the Aurora Borealis, aka the ‘Northern Lights’.
Mars on the other hand has no such luxury. It’s essentially devoid of atmosphere because its atmospheric gases where blown off into space when its magnetic field shut down. Bummer. But if we could replace those lost gases with man-caused ones, we might just be able to turn Mars into a life supporting planet – a planet home to human life.
But what to you think? Would you be up for volunteering for a one-way trip to the Red Planet? Or do you think you’d miss your home comforts too much?
Either way, I’m sure it’s going to happen eventually. I just hope I live long enough to see it.