APR 13, 2020 10:27 AM PDT

Here's Why Humans Need Spacesuits When Exploring Other Earth-Like Worlds

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

At one point, the idea of colonizing another planet was merely science fiction. But as technology evolves and space agency initiatives become bolder, one might be inclined to say anything is possible. In fact, both NASA and SpaceX have rather openly tossed around the idea of sending astronauts to Mars to initiate a space colony on another planet besides Earth.

One thing to note right off the bat is that colonizing another planet won’t be easy. Life evolved on Earth because of our planet’s habitability, which can be largely attributed to its robust atmosphere and ideal chemistry. Other planets, including Mars, lack complex life because they simply aren’t habitable or chemically-feasible. For this reason, astronauts would depend on spacesuits and life support systems to survive on the red planet (or anywhere else for that matter).

This may not seem like that big of a deal, but there are several ways that a spacesuit could potentially fail. Whether the cooling system stops doing its part or the spacesuit itself depressurizes, the astronaut inside could potentially be placed in serious life-threatening danger if any of these critical systems stopped working as designed. So with that in mind, have you ever wondered what would happen to an astronaut on another planet without their spacesuit?

Realistically, detailed circumstances would depend heavily on the planet that said astronaut visits, but the end result would be the same: death by asphyxiation. 

Apart from suffocating, a person would potentially experience other life-threatening scenarios depending on the planet. For example, residing on Mercury’s surface would mean dealing with two extremes – either the very hot side facing the Sun or the very cold side facing away from the Sun. In one case, a person would be cooked to death, while in the other, they would freeze to death.

Similar dangers exist on other worlds, including Venus, which is so hot that a person would effectively be vaporized, and Mars, where atmospheric pressures are so low that you wouldn’t be able to breathe. Mars is perhaps one of the most habitable potentials for sending astronauts to, however, as the temperatures and chemistry aren’t too different from Earth’s. On the other hand, it just isn’t the same, and astronauts would still necessitate spacesuits to survive.

Other planets in our solar system are just too unrealistic to consider. They’re either too far away or comprised of nothing but gas. Fortunately, no one is thinking of sending humans to any of those planets any time soon, and it’s a good thing that space agencies are actively working on space suit and life support technologies for more realistic targets such as Mars.

Related: Should we colonize the Moon instead of Mars?

About the Author
Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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