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Colonizing Mars Might Not Be Possible After All

In our past articles, we briefly mentioned Mars One, a not-for-profit Dutch company considering to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. It’s a daring plan and comes with substantial risk.

This once in a lifetime chance, which was initially set to launch in 2024, has previously drawn the attention of over 200,000 eager adventurers and soon-to-be astronauts. Yet, according to a new study by a team of grad students at MIT, this trip may be too good to be true. Actually, new arrivals would most possibly start dying within just 68 days of touching down.

Specially, the major problem concerns the amount of breathable air that is available. On Earth, plants inhale what animals exhale and visa versa. This produces a flawlessly stable habitat to provide all life with sufficient carbon dioxide and oxygen to survive.

Though, to recreate the same atmosphere on Mars is a bit more complex. The problem rises with lettuce and wheat, both of which are considered vital crops to our diet. Bringing the crops to Mars, though, would push 02 levels past “3 molar fractions”, or the point at which the danger of fire rises to dangerous levels. The risk is mainly high after 30 days, when lettuce matures and again at 68 days, when wheat matures.

A simple solution to the problem would be to exhaust the surplus O2 out. Though, at this time, venting apparatuses are not capable of distinguishing one gas from another. Thus, nitrogen – a vital gas required to make up the atmosphere – would also be filtered out. Without nitrogen, the internal pressure of the planet would be too low to live in.

The equipment that Mars One plans to utilize also raises some questions. Though much of the hardware has at present been proven functional aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Mars’ gravity – which is 40% of Earth’s – is completely different from the micro-gravity (principally zero gravity) that the hardware presently operates in. Thus, a piece of equipment weighing 10 lbs. on Earth would weigh 0 lbs. in zero gravity and 4lbs. on Mars. The difference in partial gravity will “inevitably lead to different [environmental] technologies.”

Without taking this into concern, technical failures are definite to happen at alarming frequencies. Actually, according to the MIT graduates, over the course of 130 months, the necessity for spare parts would consume 62% of the payload space on resupply missions. This leaves little room for the essentials, such as food and medicine.

Then there are the smaller details to take care of, such as the budget. The graduates forecast that the expected price tag of $6 Billion would hardly scratch the surface of the actual amount required to effectively go through with the mission. But until these kinks in the plan are catered to, don’t expect to see any flags on Mars just yet. We can’t say we aren’t hopeful though.

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