- The only one possible way out for human as a species which can neutralize the problem of resource depletion – is expansion.
- We have to understand how this is a global, multi-stage process, and how expensive technologies because of their specificity will need to be developed.
- Although the conditions on the red planet do not differ as much from those on earth as previously thought, it is a very harsh planet that will throw up a lot of complex engineering problems.
The meaning of the problem of overpopulation of the Earth came back in the 18th century. Demographer Thomas Malthus proposed the theory that overpopulation of the planet, which has become the cradle of mankind, is inevitable, and this will eventually lead to starvation, degradation of homo sapiens as a species and its disappearance. The scientist’s gloomy forecasts did not come true due to constantly developing medicine, first of all, mass vaccination, mechanization of agriculture, technology of deep freezing of products and wide development of the chemical industry.
In the beginning of XXI century mankind returned to the problem mentioned by Malthus: the population of the Earth is growing so fast that according to forecasts, already in 2040 it is necessary to build the same number of housing that humanity has built over the past 2000 years. The only one possible way out for human as a species which can neutralize the problem of resource depletion – is expansion. But within our planet there is nothing to colonize, all the territories have already been studied and used.
A logical and consistent conclusion, to which both scientists and writers have repeatedly come: the colonization of the Solar system, the closest planets to Earth. Otherwise, the cradle of humanity will become a grave for him.
Right question – is half the answer. How does colonization begin?
The great American writer Ray Bradbury, published in 1950 “The Martian Chronicles”, could hardly have imagined that in some way he would be a prophet. Mars is the closest planet to us, studied enough to begin preparing research missions with an aim to colonization.
The development of programs of sending people to Mars, its settlement has been underway for a long time. But we have to understand how this is a global, multi-stage process, and how expensive technologies because of their specificity will need to be developed.
It is obvious that colonization requires a number of problems, ranging from transportation to the construction of infrastructure and residential modules. And, as the final stage, terraforming, that is, the creation of suitable conditions for humans, which, in turn, also includes many tasks at the intersection of sciences: the creation of a breathable atmosphere, the production of energy, water and food, and, of course, protection from radiation.
It is the Red Planet
The planet not simply so named after the Roman God of battles and war – Mars. This is very allegorical. And, perhaps, it will be the fairest of all wars ever held – when mankind will direct all its forces not to exterminate each other, but will unite to fight the elements, to capture and conquer a new world for all.
Let’s look with what humanity will have to face when creating its first colony outside Earth. Although the conditions on the red planet do not differ as much from those on earth as previously thought, it is a very harsh planet that will throw up a lot of complex engineering problems. Briefly consider the problem.
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Temperature. The average temperature on Mars is minus 63 degrees Celsius. Unacceptable for human life. However, this is exactly the average temperature. Research shows that in the area of the equator during the summer season the temperature is in the range of plus 20 degrees Celsius.
Atmosphere. The atmosphere of Mars is almost entirely composed of carbon dioxide with a small addition in the form of nitrogen and argon. The oxygen necessary for a human is present about a one hundredth of a percent.
Radiation. This is the most serious problem. On Mars, the radiation is above acceptable limits. In addition, measurements made using the sensors of the Mars Rover Curiosity, say that the astronauts are at risk of getting a potentially dangerous dose of radiation during the flight Earth-Mars.
The advantages of Mars for colonization largely outweigh the disadvantages. First, there is water, and in a significant amount – it is present in the ground in the form of ice. And there is ground. Therefore, using modern agricultural developments, first of all, hydroponics and fertilizers, it is possible to start food production already on Mars.
It is clear that the cost of transporting several tons of products every year from Earth to Mars will be truly astronomical. In addition, as we all know from biology lessons, vegetation is able to process carbon dioxide into oxygen, which, in turn, greatly simplifies the process of terraforming.
What are we doing today and what will we face tomorrow?
It is obvious that the first “Martians” will not be people, but robots. The process of terraforming, even put on a scientific basis, will take decades – and this is the most optimistic forecast.
A new generation of robots is being actively developed to replace wheeled Rovers. Developed by NASA, the humanoid robot Valkyrie not only carries numerous sensors that allow you to get an idea of the terrain of the surface of Mars, but also has manipulators, thanks to which it can carry objects and perform a number of manipulations.
This is the first step to creating robot-builders who will build residential modules, elements of infrastructure, hydroponic farms. Future robot-builders are seen as self-propelled builders with a retractable boom for printing buildings from the inside using 3D-printing technology.
The construction mix can be obtained on the spot – from regolith. While robots will equip the planet, engineers on Earth will have to solve the main problem: how to deliver a huge amount of cargo to Mars? And later the colonists.
It is clear that such an operation will require reusable rocket carriers, new types of fuel and engines running on it, otherwise the project will not just be astronomically expensive, but in general will pass into the category of science fiction. Such giant companies and flagships of innovations as SpaceX, Mars One, and Inspiration Mars are currently working on this issue.
Any path, no matter how long, begins with the first step. Perhaps it will not be as solemn and memorable as Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon. Perhaps only experts will notice it, but this does not detract from its importance on the way to the development of other planets, because the road appears under the feet of the walking.
Therefore, we would like to devote a separate material to what is being done today, and talk about the competition 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, organized by the National Aeronautics and space administration of the United States.
The goal of this NASA competition is to promote additive technologies that are needed to create a habitable environment on Mars.