The human mission to Mars has excited the public as the red planet is looked upon as the next destination for the biggest space mission after the human foray into Moon in the late 1960s.
In the run up to the mission, NASA's robotic probe, Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) gathered useful data for supporting the preparations for the crewed missions.
Mars Mission And The Challenges Ahead
There are significant challenges in every step of the human mission to Mars, and life on the planet after landing may be more daunting.
• It requires supersonic retro-propulsion technology to deliver the spacecraft weighing 20 metric tons on the Martian surface. Let us recall that the tiny Curiosity rover was just about 1 metric ton.
• Both oxygen and carbon dioxide ions are escaping Mars' remaining atmosphere at the rate of 100 grams (0.22 pounds) per second, this will most likely require automated breathing equipment.
• The planet is extremely cold and conditions will be appalling to those used to the comforts of Earth — raising concerns if astronauts can survive against such odds.
• Long travel Time To Red Planet: The travel time to Mars is almost 260 days.
• Landing: Richard McGuire Davis, co-leader of the Mars Human Landing Sites at NASA says the "landers" have to dive deep into the Martian atmosphere since the atmosphere of Mars has the highest thickness near the surface.
• Puzzle Of Martian Habitats: Customized habitation to survive on the Martian surface is yet another major challenge.
Habitable World That Went Barren
Amidst the preparations for the Martian journey, the looming question comes why there is so much attention on Mars when there are many planets.
The plans for a possible colonization of Mars come from the assumption that 3.5 billion years ago, Mars was a habitable world similar to Earth. It had a thick atmosphere, liquid water, and life on the surface.
However, the planet fell into misery after a drastic celestial event damaged its atmosphere and rendered it a cold, barren world with all life snubbed out.
Mars Still Better Than Other Planets
For human exploration, Mars is still the best bet as the most habitable place in the solar system after Earth, for many reasons.
On the waterfront, Martian soil offers the promise of extracting water as the planet is neither too cold nor too hot. Sunlight is also sufficient for solar panel use.
According to scientists, the gravity of Mars is 38 percent of Earth and the human body can adapt to it. The atmosphere can still also offer protection from cosmic and solar radiation. Moreover, a Martian day is almost similar to Earth, spanning 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds
Other celestial bodies closer to Earth are Moon and Venus. But the moon has limitations it is short in vital resources and a lunar day takes a month. Also, there is no atmosphere to thwart radiation.
Venus, on the other hand, is a burning cauldron where the average temperature is more than 400 degrees and the barometric pressure is around 900 meters.
Adding to it is the scare of acid rain and the nights in Venus that last for 120 days.
It is obvious that despite the requirement of high technology, life on Mars is far better than Venus or Moon.