A Comprehensive Blueprint for Life on Mars
25.10.2023 - 06:21
/ Emma Doughty
Header image: An artist’s depiction of a fictional Mars colony, with solar arrays and underground greenhouses. Image credit: NASA
Will humans ever set foot on Mars? During the first Space Race, when the US and Soviet Union competed to land the first astronauts on the Moon, it felt as though a mission to Mars would quickly follow. But that didn’t happen, and over 50 years later – as NASA’s Artemis astronauts prepare for their trip to the Moon – it’s still not clear whether we could send them much further.
In a new paper posted to the arXiv preprint server (and currently being reviewed for publication by Elsevier), a Leiden University researcher outlines the challenges a Mars mission faces and the opportunities for growth and innovation they present.
In 2018, Jim Green (then NASA chief scientist) said that the first people to live on Mars ‘have already been born’. However, in April 2022, the UK’s Astronomer Royal (Lord Martin Rees) went on record to say that space agencies should ditch plans to send astronauts on deep space missions and concentrate on robotic explorers. Moon and Mars missions are “hugely risky, hugely expensive, and there’s no practical or scientific benefit to sending humans,” he said. “It’s a pretty bad bargain for the taxpayer.” He feels that such risky endeavours should be privately funded by explorers and billionaires.
So there’s clearly a need to justify our desire to establish a presence on Mars. In the new paper, Florian Neukart, an Assistant Professor at Leiden University lays out four reasons to go:
Florian Neukart addresses the technology needed to face these challenges, including in situ resource utilization (ISRU) – using the resources we find on Mars. Water will be one of the most pressing needs,
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