Space agencies and commercial space companies are taking the idea of colonizing Mars very seriously. There’s just one problem: the red planet isn’t entirely habitable for humans (at least not yet).
Astronauts could technically live inside of pressurized live support bubbles and wear space suits with oxygen tanks every time they wanted to set foot outside. On the other hand, this isn’t the ideal solution for long-term colonization. That’s why scientists are now throwing around the idea of ‘terraforming’ Mars, which means transforming the planet’s atmosphere, temperature, and topography to make it habitable like Earth’s.
Sounds like something right out of a science fiction movie, right? That’s because it is; on the other hand, it also might be possible with the right mix of know-how and technology, and perhaps a whole lot of patience too.
It’s thought that there could be enough oxygen trapped in Mars’ polar ice to harness for life support and water production, but pumping oxygen alone into the Martian air would be a far cry from Earth’s rich atmosphere, which is comprised mostly of nitrogen, slightly of oxygen, and a plethora of other gasses.
Creating a livable atmosphere would solve a lot of problems with Mars’ current habitability, including the ability to breathe, blocking harmful space radiation, and warming up the planet’s average frigid temperature of -80 degrees Fahrenheit. But just how feasible is this?
The short answer is, we aren’t sure. Scientists have some ideas to make this terraforming project happen, but much of it necessitates insane amounts of energy, resources, and time we don’t have. Moreover, it would be cheaper and more feasible to simply build pressurized life support systems akin to stationary land-based versions of the International Space Station.
Will we ever terraform Mars? Perhaps, but it doesn’t look likely in the foreseeable future. Given just how long it’s taking to put the first human astronaut on Mars, it would be a miracle if a terraforming project had any impact on the red planet anytime in the next several generations. Then again, only time will tell…