As we write this piece, Mars is busier than it’s been in the past 50 years. Three different space agencies (United Arab Emirates, China, and USA) have sent probes to the Red planet, in hope of better understanding it and, ultimately, advancing humanity’s dream of setting a space-colony.
But why is everybody rushing to the fourth rock from the Sun? And why is Mars the best planet for colonization?
As you might suspect, the issue is far more complicated than we could see with bare eyes. We’ll need a spaceship to explore the immensity of possibilities that lie on Mars and beyond.
Hop on board, this article will launch you into orbit and explain why Mars is our best chance at finding a new home. Plus, we’ll reveal why now is the perfect time for exploration.
The Red Planet at a glance
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the seventh biggest in our Solar System. It’s only half of Earth’s size, and compared to our planet’s splendid blue, it appears rusty and quiet.
In theory, seasons on Mars are similar to those on Earth: one hemisphere experiences spring and summer, while another winter and fall. But don’t be fooled, because there are also massive differences.
For one, Mars is 50% farther from the Sun, meaning the time to make a full rotation is longer. This leads to longer seasons and even a longer year (the equivalent of 687 Earth days).
Geographically, Mars is fascinating, with mountains, valleys, and volcanoes. Mars’ peaks are massive in height and length, visible from space, and its valleys are equally impressive.
While things appear to be at a standstill on Mars, scientists are restlessly exploring its surface to understand its past. Because despite appearances, Mars is the best planet for exploration.
Mars, our next home?
Okay, maybe it’s not going to be our next home, and it might not even be yours. But your kids — or your children’s kids — have a pretty good chance at seeing the sunrise from Mars.
But why do all the big scientists put their faith in Mars? Why are so many agencies, state and privately owned, building spaceships and robots with Mars as an end destination?
Here are 3 good reasons why Mars is the best planet for colonization.
Close by in our Solar System
Mars is one of Earth’s closest neighbours, which makes a great candidate for space exploration. The relatively short distance between Earth and Mars means that travelling from one to another takes around six to nine months. Of course, distance alone wouldn’t be enough for Mars to be in scientists' top preferences.
After all, we have two other two space objects close to Earth: Venus and the Moon. Buuut...ehm...they’re not great candidates for colonization.
You see, the Moon doesn’t even have an atmosphere. Plus, a Moon-day is the equivalent of a month here on Earth.
How ‘bout Venus, you ask? Putting it mildly, Venus is a flaming oven. The average temperature on Venus is around 400 degrees Celsius, and not even rainy days can bring it down, as most showers on Venus are acid. Oh, and nights here can last up for 120 days. Not promising, we tell you.
However, Mars seems to be just perfect for exploration.
The most similar planet to Earth
In addition to being so close to Earth, Mars resembles our home planet in lots of aspects.
Compared to Venues, Mars is paradise! In summer, the average day temperature can settle at 20 degrees Celsius. Rather pleasant, right? Well, in a way, because at night things can take an immediate turn, and the temperature can drop to minus 70 degrees Celsius. Not ideal, but definitely more bearable than on Venus.
Unlike the Moon, Mars does have an atmosphere. A thin one, sure, but one that offers protection against radiation. Plus, Mars’ atmosphere allows for enough sunlight to come through for solar panels to capture energy.
Another thing that makes Mars the best planet for colonization is its day/night rhythm, which is super similar to Earth’s. A day on Mars is 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds. Cool fact: a day on Mars is called sol (from solar day).
Mars was once full of water
Billions of years ago, Mars had vast areas of water covering its surface. This picture might be hard to grasp, given the barren desert that the Red Planet appears to be today.
However, we know that Mars had a watery past — the rovers we sent there found enough evidence supporting this claim. Even if water might not be visible today, icy reserves are believed to lie underneath the surface.
That means that life (microbial at least) might be possible on Mars, which is reason to get overly excited to our deepest core. And this makes Mars the best planet for colonization — at least in our Solar System.
Why the crowd on Mars in 2021?
The distance between Earth and Mars ranges between tens and hundreds of millions of miles. Why do we say ranges? Because as the two planets make their way around their Sun orbit, the distance between them changes.
Since rockets cannot carry enough fuel to make it to Mars, scientists use a neat trick: they accelerate the rocket enough for it to make it into the Sun’s orbit. Once there, it waits for Mars. This is the most efficient path between the two planets (with a pit-stop so to say). And this path becomes available once every two years. As you guessed, now is the perfect window frame.
Ever since they could muster the technology to do so, humans have dreamed of exploring Mars. From the 1960s onwards, around 50 robotic missions have been launched. Almost half of them have failed to reach the Red Planet because — make no mistake about it — getting to Mars is a daunting mission.
However, people still aspire to discover as much as they can about Mars, as they one day aspire to send astronauts instead of robots. Before this dream becomes a reality, we need to fully understand the risks and reduce them as much as possible.
But the dream lives on with every mission. And right now, humanity has three new ones!
Want to one day land on Mars?
Start your journey early on with one of our amazing participative programmes.
Who knows, maybe one day you’ll become an astronaut and pave the path to Mars’ colonization.
So, what do you say, junior astronaut? Ready for Mars?