Challenges we need to address before life on Mars
Priya Wadhwa
Space Exploration

Challenges we need to address before life on Mars

Now that Hazza is back, let's look at what's next for UAE's space vision.

Hazza Al Mansoori has come back to his home in the UAE. For almost a week after he landed, he has undergone several medical tests, the results of which are critical to his core mission: to study the impact of microgravity living on the health of humans.

This was one of the first major steps taken by the UAE in its vision to one day, in the coming 100 years, be able to settle and form human colonies on Mars.

The impact of microgravity on humans can be quite dangerous, as it affects the movement of fluids in our body, including our blood, as well as our bones, putting one at a greater risk of a heart stroke and fractures.

So if we are to succeed in travelling to and living on Mars, we need to be very healthy to survive the travel. The harsh conditions on Mars are another major challenge.

Challenges on Mars

The planet Mars is about half the size of Earth, but it does not have water in the form of oceans that separate land masses. It used to have a lot of water on its surface, but that has dried up from the harsh heat from the Sun, at least from the surface anyway. Some scientists theorise that in spite of the dry surface, Mars could have an abundance of ground water deep under its surface.

The fact is that if humans were to survive on Mars, they’ll need to work with the resources they have.

Mars does have the elemental needs for life to exist on the planet. It has the Sun as an energy source, the elements of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, water as ice on its poles, as well as a possibility of water under the ground.

These are things we can work with to survive. However, one of the biggest problems on Mars is its atmosphere.

Its atmosphere is 1 percent as dense as that on earth, with very little oxygen. This not only makes it difficult for earth dwellers to breathe on the red planet, but the lack of pressure reduces the boiling temperature of water to 0°C. Since human bodies and the fluids in them rest at 37°C, the lack of pressure would see our bodies boiling from within.

The temperature of Mars itself is -63°C. While at its hottest point near its equator, it is at -20, at night it can go as low as -73. On the poles and in winter months, it goes far lower. This has a huge impact on human bodies as well, as we would freeze at those temperatures.

So it is the air, its temperature, as well as its atmospheric pressure that are dangerous to humans.

Yes, space suits are an option in the above cases, so are temperature-controlled closed-off colonies that people never leave, like Biosphere 2, but those are not ideal or sustainable scenarios for the long term.

The experiments of sustaining life in Biosphere 2 were of enormous help, as they highlighted the challenges of life in confined places. But the sheer inability for people to continue living there happily and in peace shows that it is not a long term solution.

Inspiring generations to solve these issues

When Hazza live streamed education and science experiments for children, many didn’t get the gravity or importance of him doing so.

What he did there, was inspire a generation of children in the UAE to be interested in space. Ultimately, they will be the ones who work on solutions to realise UAE’s centennial plan for life on Mars.

Solutions to solve the challenges on Mars will take decades. Yet, some scientists expect humans to make the physical journey to Mars, even if it is for a short time, in the 2030s. That journey will be crucial in getting more reliable first hand data regarding its atmosphere, level of elements, and more.

The actual journey to Mars will take almost 1 year. So one can understand why Hazza’s experiments at the International Space Station were so crucial for the UAE to be better prepared to embark upon realising its vision for life on Mars.