For Real! Life on Mars

Winter 2016

Could this be your front lawn someday?Ever wonder what it would be like to live on Mars? There are big challenges to life on the “red planet,” aside from its lack of food, breathable air, and liquid water.

For one, Mars’s surface is really cold, sometimes dipping hundreds of degrees below freezing.

And Mars’s atmosphere is thin—too thin for us. We humans are used to the Earth’s protective ozone layer and magnetic field. Without a comparable block, Martian citizens would be exposed to a lot of cosmic radiation, which causes sickness—imagine the worst sunburn ever, but through your entire body (and leading to brain damage, as well as cancer). These rays would be an issue on the yearlong journey to the planet, too.

Furthermore, Mars’s gravitational pull—what keeps your feet on the ground—is weaker than what we’re accustomed to. Low gravity might be great for dunking a basketball, but it would be tough on a human body. Without strong gravity holding you down, your muscles and bones would grow weak from lack of resistance. Even the spine starts to straighten out—way beyond good posture.

So could the planet ever be colonized by the likes of us? Maybe. Living underground, bundling up, and lots of weight lifting could help, notes Pitt astronomy professor Arthur Kosowsky. And apparently, Martian colonists could stay abreast of what’s new on Earth. Thanks to modern technology, “People could stream Netflix on Mars and read the [newspaper] each day,” says Kosowsky.

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Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS