The prospect of colonizing Mars is no longer a fantasy, as NASA has already completed the first phase of its latest Red Planet mission, namely the one-year-training of astronauts Scott Kelly (United States) and Mikhail Kornienko (Russia) on the International Space Station.
Titled "Journey to Mars," this mission hopes to achieve the momentous goal of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s.
Some scientists believe, however, that man may not yet be ready for the colonization of Mars. The journal Space Policy recently featured a paper suggesting there are many aspects to living on Mars as an established colony that are virtually impossible to replicate while training for this purpose on Earth.
According to Konrad Szocik, study lead author and cognitive scientist at the University of Information Technology and Management in Rzeszow, Poland, since there is no way of mimicking the physical and environmental conditions of the Martian environment, Earth-based training remains fairly limited.
Szocik particularly points to aspects such as Martian microgravitation and radiation exposure, which can't be replicated on the ISS.
"Consequently, we cannot predict physical and biological effects of humans living on Mars," Szocik explains.
Super Human Training
Szocik believes that, if humans are to terraform the Red Planet, they need to be prepared for anything and be thoroughly aware of the numerous perils awaiting them.
In his opinion, the reality of Martian settlers potentially never returning home as well as all the dangers that accompany this mission are impossible to experience during training.
The study author argues that even the extreme conditions found on the frozen continent are no match for what the first human colonists will find on Mars. In consequence, training either on the ISS or in Antarctica would not sufficiently prepare astronauts for their bold mission.
Although he concedes that trainees accommodated to life in a harsh environment would certainly be more qualified for the exploratory mission on Mars, he stresses that this is not enough. Szocik suggests the success of this mission will require significant mental and physical changes for the journey ahead.
His study's main focus is that future colonists will only be able to adapt to their newly conquered environment by possessing enhanced traits, specifically designed to help them survive on Mars. Szocik refers particularly to electronically heightened senses and a hyper-evolved ability to cope with crisis, the latter achieved via prescription medication that attenuates emotional reactions.
Life In A Space Colony: Social And Ethical Implications
More than the technological and financial difficulties of building and maintaining a colony on Mars, Szocik is interested in the inner workings and social ramifications of a space colony, given the sociability of human nature.
The scientist has also studied the problem of reproduction on Mars and believes it will not only require a technological and medical support system but also a large-enough colony to avoid the risk of inbreeding.
His recommendation is that the minimum number of adult colonists sent to the planet's surface should be 500. In addition, he advocates that medical officials should take steps to reduce the expected mortality rate associated with disease, potential technological failures, and exposure to radiation.