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  • Writer's pictureAlec Weinstein

Could Mars be Our Future?

As humanity looks to the future and the long-term sustainability of our species, Mars has emerged as a tantalizing possibility for establishing a permanent human presence beyond Earth. The red planet holds many advantages - it is the closest terrestrial planet to Earth, has surface features reminiscent of deserts and dry areas on our home world, and evidence suggests it was once warmer with flowing water on its surface. However, establishing a colony on Mars represents a monumental challenge that will require overcoming a multitude of obstacles through bold technological innovations.



One of the foremost challenges is the harsh environment on Mars. With an average temperature of around -60°C, air pressure less than 1% of Earth's, no breathable oxygen, and constant radiation exposure due to the lack of a magnetic field, the Martian surface is extraordinarily inhospitable for human life as we know it. Any colony will need to create tiny bubble-like habitats with Earth-like conditions to shelter inhabitants. These hermetically sealed habitats, likely underground to shield against radiation, will require complex life support systems to maintain habitable pressure, temperature, water recycling, and supplies of oxygen and food. Engineering systems reliable enough to operate for years with little maintenance on Mars is a huge technical hurdle compared to systems designed for Earth use or short robotic missions.


Another major obstacle is the sheer expense and risk of transporting people and resources hundreds of millions of miles through the vacuum of space. Innovative new propulsion technologies may be needed to make human travel affordable and safer. Techniques like utilizing the moon as a launch/construction platform or employing reusable transfer vehicles could drastically reduce costs and risk. Additionally, processes for producing rocket fuel from in-situ Mars resources like water ice and carbon dioxide could make travel more feasible. Ice mining on Mars and establishing propellant production facilities will be vitally important for sustainable transportation to and on the planet's surface.


Ultimately, any vision of large-scale human colonization and a permanent, self-sustaining civilization on Mars will require extensive utilization of indigenous resources. Water ice reservoirs at the poles and subsurface are an obvious first resource - providing water for drinking, growing food hydroponically, manufacturing, and extracting hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel. But everything needed to support industry and civilization - metals, minerals, structural materials, chemicals - will eventually need to be sourced from the Martian regolith to avoid unsustainable shipping from Earth. Developing techniques for resource prospecting, mining, extraction, and processing Mars-derived materials will be critical.


Looking ahead 100 years, if we can overcome the substantial challenges and make the considerable investment required, human society on Mars could potentially be an amazing achievement. Perhaps underground colonies housed in lava tube cities, utilizing a combination of surface and subsurface facilities, supported by manufacturing and mining operations producing all their needs locally. With artificial atmospheres, water systems, and agriculture allowing conventional human activities. Wide-spread adoption of space manufacturing and resource utilization technologies pioneered on Mars could revolutionize human civilization into a multi-planet species not reliant on the limited resources of a single world.


Ultimately realizing this vision demands not just technological breakthroughs, but incredible determination, investment, and commitment by authorities on Earth over decades. The payoff of having a self-sustaining city on Mars could enormously expand human economy, science, and philosophy by creating an entire new branch of human civilization on another world. While the challenges are immense, if we rise to meet them, Mars could become a remarkable foothold expanding into the solar system.





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