Colonizing And Terraforming Mars: Will It Ever Be Possible?

in #steemstem3 years ago

Humans have been known to screw up things. Okay that statement appeared hard but it is the truth. We are doing that to the earth already - talk about pollution, release of CFCs that contribute to global warming, so many man-made disruptions that are affecting the earth negatively. Not satisfied with that, humans are now planning to take their troubles to another planet. But just so you know, unlike the eath, other planets may not be too nice and will fight back. In the bid to screw em up, you might get screwed yourself. Okay enough of the sarcasm! We'll try to consider the factors to consider before humans can colonize or terraform another stellar body. By "terraforming", I mean: Altering a planet to make it suitable for habitation.


If I was to take a random sampling of the closet possible planet to host human life apart from the Earth, the top respond will be "Mars". Obviously, Mars would be the most suitable to bet on and you will find out the reasons as you read on. Humans have been adventurous and curious, and this can explain why the first ever space trip happened. In April 1961, history was made as Soviet Union (USSR) successfully sent Yuri Gagarin to space. As if that was not enough, few years later, U.S landed the manned Apollo 11 on the near side of moon, ever since then, dozens of others have visited space, and even space stations have been built. The question now is; how about landing manned space shuttle on another planet like Mars and how about forming a colony there? Well, let's take a look at the possibility (or impossibility) of having a Martian colony.

[A demo Extraterrestrial Colony. Image from Wikimedia Commons. Author: NASA. Public Domain Licensed]

Many government corporations (like NASA, ESA) as well as private space corporations (like Elon Musk's SpaceX) have become so much interested in extraterrestrial colonization more than ever before. In a statement made by Elon Musk a few days ago about his prototype reusable spaceship called Starship MKI, he said that Martian colonization is next on his agenda.. What a witty statement.

As Elon Musk is busy doing his own homework, NASA is also busy with the big one "Mission-To-Mars" which, according to this report by NASA, should be effected in 2030 (few years behind Elon Musk). However, there are untold facts about Mars that one should be aware of, so that the "Mission-To-Mars" will not turn to "Suicide Mission". At least, the knowledge of the problem is the first and crucial step towards proffering solution to it.


For each day we live here on earth, we face countless ways to die, and as it stands, earth is the only home humans have at the moment. Let's take a look at this: How long will the earth sustain and ensure our survival? This is not to talk about the possibility of natural phenomena (like Cataclysm or stellar body collision) that can end the future of the Earth - I guess this is part of the reasons other alternatives have been sought.

However, the journey of a million miles starts with having an indepth knowledge of your proposed destination. Here, Mars is the destination, so let's consider a few facts about Mars first. Mars is roughly 53% smaller than the earth, with a diameter of 6790KM [ref] and with a much lower gravitational pull. Talking about the land mass, there are similarity between Mars and Earth. However, the problem here is; Martian atmosphere is not just too thin but is almost majorly made up of CO2 - Well, that's where the problem begins, cos I mean, how da heck are you supposed to breathe in CO2?

[Earth to Mars ration in size. Image from Wikimedia Commons. Author: NASA. Public Domain Licensed]

Someone might also ask "how is the Martian temperature like?" First of all, let me remind you that Mars is the 4th planet from sun and this also means that you will not expect as much heat that is experienced on earth to be experienced in Mars. In plain terms; Martian temperature can get as low as -87oF (with that kind of low temperature, your words might even freeze as you speak... okay I'm kidding, but it's better than the kind of hell-like heat being experienced in Nigeria and maybe Brazil - @abigail-dantes will understand). Talking about length of day on Mars, it is almost similar to what we have here on earth (with just a difference of about 40 minutes in a day).

Now that we have had a considerable knowledge of our destination, we'll now talk about moving people from earth to Mars.


For those that have tried to compare space trips with any other journey on earth, I'll like to burst your bubbles. The distance from Earth to the near side of Mars is over 54 million Kilometers [ref]. Assuming you are travelling with one of the fastest space shuttles that has ever been launched by NASA - which is the Juno (having a speed of 165,000miles/hr), it will still take you an excess of 6-8 months to breach the Martian atmosphere. Just to let you know: A particular statistics was released by NASA which states that, out of the many rockets (unmanned obviously) that have been sent to Mars, just a small percentage of less than 33% successfully got to Mars. Okay let's assume y'all are ninjas and can survive such journey, then we'll move over to the next problem.

[NASA’s Infographics on Mission-to-Mars. Image from Wikipedia Commons. Author: NASA. Public Domain Licensed]

For survival and sustenance of the human species in any place (earth and Mars inclusive), a few primary needs must be met - like water, food, shelter and of course, the air to breathe. I know someone is already considering the option of shipping all these from earth to Mars, just like we ship products with DHL from China to Nigeria. Okay hold on! According to this background fact by NASA, shipment from earth to space costs about $10,000 for just one pound of material. Okay how many pounds of food stuff and other materials do you want to ship and what will the price look like? Remember, the above figure is just the shipment to space, not even to Mars. It may also interest you to know that it took about $25billion to land Apollo 11 crew members on moon [ref], that figure should run into 100s of billions of dollars in this current time. Just a fun fact: That amount is more than some countries' annual budget (Nigeria inclusive). The only possible solution to this high cost of shipment is to source for what you need in Mars from Mars and not from earth. How possible is this? Before we continue, I saw a very interesting space exploration Sci-Fi movie (The Martian) a few months back and I thought y'all may want to watch it too (not for @lemouth though, cos he doesn't watch movies:)).

[The Martian Trailer. Video Credit: 20th Century Fox. You can get the full video on Amazon]


Having passed the hurdle of travelling to Mars, now you have successfully landed on Mars, it's time to figure out how to survive. Let's start with sourcing for water. People have often referred to Mars as "the Red Planet" and have portrayed it as a vast expanse of desert. However, from the information and footage gathered from some unmanned rovers that have been sent to Mars, it has been discovered that water actually exists in Mars but majorly as ice and some of these ice-bed lie beneath the Martian lithosphere, while small amount exist as vapour.

This means that, instead of shipping water from earth and incurring heavy expenses, water can be extracted from Martian atmosphere. Initially, this was thought to be an equally expensive feat to achieve until NASA created a water-vapour-adsorbing device known as WAVAR. Below is a prototype of WAVAR.

[Prototype of WAVAR. Image from Wikimedia Commons. Author: NASA. Public Domain Licensed]

The work of this device is to adsorb the vapour from the Martian atmosphere, which is then converted to liquid water and can be used for drinking and other purposes. Solved!! Over to the next and very crucial question.

Breathing in Mars. Again, it will be unnecessarily expensive to ship oxygen cylinders to Mars and remember what I told you about the abundance of unbreathable CO2 in Martian atmosphere. Well, we can leverage on that. For those that did a little bit of chemistry, you must have been taught that there is a mass percentage of about 72% oxygen in CO2. Well, a feasible solution to this has been created by NASA. A device known as MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) has been created by NASA to effectively draw in CO2 from the atmosphere of Mars and produce breathable oxygen without needing to ship oxygen from earth. Below is the prototype of NASA's MOXIE.

[Prototype of MOXIE. Image from Wikimedia Commons. Author: NASA. Public Domain Licensed]

We're a few steps closer in our quest to terraform the red planet. One more thing is very crucial: Ain't we gonna eat food there? This will obviously pose a serious challenge. Meanwhile, did you watch the Movie (The Martian) I dropped earlier? When Mark Watney (Matt Damon) was abandoned in Mars, he had to come up with an idea to use a special hydroculture device to grow potatoes on Mars. Well, there is a major flaw in using that same method to terraform Mars: It can only hold a small amount of crop. Also, you can't plant crops on the ground of Mars because crops will need surface water (at least) to thrive, which is lacking in Mars. While we are figuring out ways to plant crops in Mars, your mom will still need to ship food from earth to you. Cos you don't wanna survive Mission-To-Mars and then die of starvation.

We've seen the possible solutions to the major problems you'll encounter while trying to form a Martian colony, so what other problem remains to be treated? "Ermm.., how are we going to have sex on Mars? Well, you'll figure that out when you get to Mars.


Humans, as curious beings, have been involved in exploration beyond the earth. This started as space trips, moon landing, and now the next point of call is going to (and possibly establishing a colony in) Mars. But before you undertake such a journey, you have to weigh the potential risks, the problems to encounter and the possible solutions. We've taken a look at what to expect on your quest to terraform Mars. I hope that one day, this feat will be achieved and humans will have a secondary home... See y'all in Mars.

> References for further reading

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Sammi, you've provided me with a most pleasant read during my post-lunch coffee. Your post is well-written, as always, incredibly smart,but aso light-hearted :)

Oh and ...

@abigail-dantes will understand.

Yep! 😂

From your writing here, I've learnt a new terminology 'terraform' as well as NASA's solution to extract breathable oxygen from Mar's atmosphere. I'd never heard about this MOXIE device!

I have watched the movie The Martian and actually enjoyed it! :) Have you watched Interstellar, Sammi? I recommend it. It starts addressing the very issues you discussed at the beginning of your post. The impact human activity has had on the planet earth. Well, if I remember correctly, I saw this a few years back :)

Wonderful write-up Sammi. Your writings are always incredibly enlightening!
Thank you my dear :*

Much love to you from rainy Portugal <3

Dear Abbey, I must confess, the movie; Interstellar; you recommended is so so cool. I'm gonna look for the full length video. A particularly statement got me in the trailer:

... Mankind was born on earth but is not meant to die on earth... We're not meant to save the world, we're meant to leave it.

I saw Matthew McConaughey in the trailer. I remember his role in "Dark Tower".

I'm so glad you enjoyed the post and that you learnt something new from it. Thanks for coming around Abbey.

Much love always from hot Nigeria

I really enjoyed this blog. I liked especially the way you "solved" the problem of extracting water and oxygen from the environment. This is so well-written and accessible for people who don't have a technical background (me!). However, I bring a certain bias against colonialism to your piece. As far as we know there's nobody on Mars, but humans have a sorry history of arrogance when it comes to taking over other lands. You allude to that issue (tongue-in-cheek)

But just so you know, unlike the earth, other planets may not be too nice and will fight back. In the bid to screw em up, you might get screwed yourself.

in your first paragraph, but this arrogance may be the greatest danger we face. And then, when we think of how groups fought over colonized territory in the past (and still fight!)...territory that wasn't (isn't) even theirs. I don't know.

We--people-- may be the biggest obstacle to successfully colonizing any other place in the universe :))

humans have a sorry history of arrogance when it comes to taking over other lands

Exactly buddy. Humans will always be human. I think "battle of territory" will be the greatest battle humans will face while terraforming Mars.. I'm already imagining that. That's one of the reasons I said that humans are known to screw up things. No wonder aliens don't talk to us, lol.

Thanks for coming around buddy

No seriously, how are we going to have sex on Mars?

Alyssa Carson is already being prepared by NASA for the first Mission-to-Mars.
I was listening to her speak on YouTube.. One of the things the kid wants to do in Mars is to "observe and run around".. But you bro, you're already thinking of having sex in Mars :) baba wassup naa? 😂😂

Meanwhile, meet Alyssa Carson

I'm going one step further. She probably has enough sex on earth, I'm hoping going to mars will revitilise my dying sex life 😂

Hahahahahaha. I'm laughing hard here baba. Looks like I'll follow you to Mars... at least to be selling condoms to you 😂😂

You're two steps ahead of the game 😂

@tipu curate

Upvoted 👌 (Mana: 0/3)

Thanks brother Joe

You're welcome

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