Elon Musk's initiative of SpaceX has once again brought the intriguing concept of mars Colonization into the discussion. SpaceX CEO Musk is planning to send cargo to Mars via SpaceX rocket by 2024. If he succeeds He also aims to send another rocket containing cargo as well as crew to Mars by the year 2026 and many people are already willing to volunteer for it even Elon Musk himself is hoping to get on that first spacecraft. The biggest and most challenging plan of Mr. Musk is to send one million people to the Red planet by 2050.
We are going to try and send a crewless vehicle there in two years, said Musk in Berlin attending Axel Springer Award in 2020, I'd say six years from now, highly confident [for sending crew]. If we get lucky, maybe four years.
The reason behind this compelling step is to become multi-planetary and to ensure our survival for emergencies like some disaster. Elon Musk has described it earlier in 2016 at the International astronautical congress in Mexico.
This is not about everyone moving to Mars, this is about becoming multiplanetary, This is really about minimizing existential risk and having a tremendous sense of adventure.
Mars Colonization is looked at as a far-fetched idea but evidently, it seems possible to establish life on the cold red planet.
NASA is also aiming for Mars exploration in a mission called "Moon to Mars". NASA plans to send the first spacecraft without any crew, the second one will include astronauts which will fly around the moon and the third one will take the first woman and next man to land on Moon by the year 2024. This mission will be followed by the same spacecraft moving towards the red planet to explore it.
Mars is also known as the red planet contains carbon dioxide and little to no oxygen (0.16%) thus making it impossible to breathe. It is called a red planet due to the sediments of rusty iron on its surface. It does have weather, ice caps, volcanoes, etc. but still chances of life are not possible without the involvement of technology. The gravity at mars is only 38% of the Earth which scientists believe is enough for humans to adapt. Astonishing inventiveness is required to become able to land even a small spacecraft there.
The weather of mars is freezing cold and the average temperature is - 85 degrees Celsius. Yes, you heard it right. In winters it can drop to - 125 degrees Celsius and the maximum temperature in summers is 20 degrees Celsius. Being 50 million miles away from the sun only little light reaches it and is not sufficient to keep it warm. The atmosphere is really thin with the pressure of 610 pascals only. These two are major problems alongside no oxygen in the atmosphere but if we look at how far we have come in the field of technology nothing seems impossible.
Genetic engineering would play a major role in this field. If scientists become successful in changing the genome of humans and modify it in such a way that it becomes possible to survive in low temperature and pressure, it would be a great step towards the establishment of the Human community on Mars. Scientists have already started working on it by taking samples and they got positive feedback. Tardigrades are small organisms said to be almost indestructible and are able to survive space vacuum. By inserting genes from them into human cells scientists have found that genetically altered cells showed a visible increase in resistance against pressure and radiation as compared to original cells. Professor Mark Blaxter from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland has said.
This is just the start -- with the DNA blueprint we can now find out how tardigrades resist extremes, and perhaps use their special proteins in biotechnology and medical applications.
Another major problem is the presence of perchlorate in the soil which can be harmful to humans because perchlorate impairs thyroid function and ultimately it would become impossible to cultivate anything in contaminated soil. This problem can be readily solved by either washing the soil because perchlorate dissolves in water or by using perchlorate eating bacteria which on one hand diminish perchlorate from the soil on the other hand it also produces oxygen as a metabolic by-product. This would be a better option because scientists can use a bioreactor that contains perchlorate-eating bacteria to remove perchlorates from the soil and to produce oxygen to make breathing possible. Also, the higher concentration of carbon dioxide will be sufficient to be used by plants to produce oxygen. Thus breathing can become possible on Mars by cultivating plants and trees. This will be the major step towards terraforming the red planet.
In order to inhabit Mars, it is said that it should become a self-sufficient planet and this self-sufficiency does not entirely mean oxygen, water, etc. because these things are not impossible in this era of deadly modern technology but they are rather talking about industrial efficiency of Mars to repair and produce it's own electronics, technologies and every other thing by making use of its own elements so that it don't have to rely on Earth for supplies. That is why it is said for establishing a human community on the red planet about one million people are needed.
In conclusion, terraforming the red planet is becoming more and more necessary every day. The reason behind this is the rapid increase in human population which is ultimately making pollution levels skyrocketed thus making Earth easily vulnerable to various disasters and catastrophes. Becoming multi-planetary has become a major debate topic but rather than opposing this idea we should think about it for the sake of the existence of our species. The compelling idea of inhabiting Mars will come into reality in near future rather than being just a topic over which people are having arguments today.