Welcome to an unorthodox article for World Seeds Catalog. I am going to discuss if humans can survive on Mars; something that I have been following for a few years now. But don’t worry, there will be plenty of discussion for the gardening folks out there! I just want to give a full perspective on what it would require us to get a healthy colony up and running with regard to specific aspects such food production.
Let me know down in the comments if you like this trend? 😉
Mars is a symbol of human progression and every day more and more people discover it. This has been mainly fueled by decades of space missions and a recent newcomer with great ambitions, namely Elon Musk.
These days he is seen as the forerunner for Mars colonization, getting people excited about many possibilities by doing extraordinary things like launching a car into space.
Elon Musk had this to say why we should colonize Mars.
The distance between Earth and Mars would allow Mars colonies to survive if a global war breaks out on Earth and eventually decimate humanity. But to achieve this, vast amount of resources would be required in order to build a self sustainable colony.
Furthermore, Musk mentions artificial intelligence as a catalyst that will spark WW3, mainly due to its development not being regulated.
Musk argues that the post-war period would then be shortened if Mars citizens were to return to Earth and shorten the period of the dark ages.
A quick read on Quora shows that people are arguing against the colonization of Mars, with stating valid reasons. Why not just colonize above Earth’s atmosphere in space stations? Well, I go back to my statement that Mars is a symbol of human progression. You have to know little about Mars to get fixated on it. Will a space station even above Mars’ atmosphere have that same effect?
At the end of the day, the cold hard answer is that Mars will supply resources that is not commonly found on Earth such as Magnesium, Aluminum, Titanium, Iron, and Chromium. The same goes for developing a moon base; a scenario much more likely to happen than settling on Mars.
The red planet may look calm in the image on the right but it offers a cacophony of reasons to be weary of.
The atmosphere of the planet is thin and unbreathable (made up mostly of carbon dioxide) which permits greater amounts of radiation to reach the surface.
The soil itself is fine, electrostatically charged and poisonous, which can damage equipment as well as create health issues for local inhabitants.
The most important resources required for a pioneering settlement are absent and should transported from Earth. This brings in another dilemma; rocket fuel is very expensive and cumbersome.
To make a journey between Earth and Mars, an alternate and lighter resource should be incorporated into the fuel system. Recently ion propulsion have come a long way and Helium-3 is also another option.
This is a daring feat if it is successful! You simply cannot plant a seed in Martian soil and wish for the best. Like I mentioned, the soil is poisonous. So first, it needs to be decontaminated before any vegetation can be planted and harvested.
After this, the soil won’t harm your plants or transfer poisonous elements to the crop, which allows you to move into the next phase of food production, sowing.
This brings up another problem; the nutrients required to grow a healthy plant is absent. Nitrogen forms part of the 3 macro nutrients necessary to sustain plant life. Calcium also appears to be low, but the scientists have barely scratched the Martian surface. If this is missing, you won’t get very far in producing food for colonists, would you?
Above that, the soil is also alkaline, meaning there is a pH imbalance that needs to be rectified. As mentioned in a previous post, fertilizer and other nutrients need to be at the correct pH level in order to be taken up. You can read more about it here.
But you can add fertilizer like feces, right? Yes, but you should beware of transferring viruses and diseases as well.
An alternative to this is to create artificial environments to grow crops from. An example of this is aquaponics or aeroponics, which allows nutrients to be recycled between the plant and tanks that contain fish. That is if the fish survive the trip to Mars.
Kurzgesagt made a very informative video on how humans will survive on Mars. You can have a look at it below.
But Let’s say that you are able to cultivate a crop using Martian soil; how do you get past its poisonous characteristic? You simply dig deeper. Recently, it was discovered (but not confirmed) that deeper layers of Martian soil might not be as poisonous as its surface. Combine that with the fact there might usable nitrogen as well, and you get a higher success rate for colonization!
I’d like to answer a few questions that you may not have considered or that I think relates to this topic. Here are my top picks!
It is very possible for plants to survive on Mars; but not easy. NASA funded researchers have been busy since 2005 in finding ways to improve plant survival rates by doing research similar to gene splicing.
Take for example plants that have been modified to survive cold climates as well as have exceptional resistance to UV radiation. The result is a pioneering species that is tough, edible healthy and boosts morale. Read more about it here.
But they will still need to be kept in greenhouses with precision climate control until there is a breathable atmosphere on Mars.
In short, definitely! This is according to the Utah State University.
But you cannot survive on potatoes alone. You’ll need additional supplements like protein and vitamins which is part of an astronauts diet.
Another factor to consider is micro gravity. Plants a sense of direction, something to give it an idea of what is up and what is down. Fortunately the gravity on Mars is strong enough to direct plant growth as well as let water filter into the soil. To read more about this click here.
Yes… but you need to process it. See, human feces contains pathogens that when combined with plants can return to whomever is eating it.
This not a new practice though. We have done it for thousands of years right after our night soil, aka feces have been taken out. Today though we use processes similar to composting to remove the pathogens. The outcome is biosolids; if it is regulated it’ll be safe.
Many people are concerned with the pharmaceuticals we use as well as the heavy metals. Will it return through the plants and cause illnesses to us? Animals today, especially those we eat receive a lot more pharmaceuticals than we use. Yet it is safe to use, and we do not have a lot of concern when we use it.
To be sure, do not use unprocessed human feces for below the earth crops or tubers. These are hard to remove any pathogens from its soil covered surface.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this post.
I’d like to know what you think of it, so why don’t you leave me some feedback here or a comment below! Should I write more posts like these?
I am a keen follower of the mars colonization projects currently underway. Elon Musk does really dream big and I’d like to see more ideas like those out in the world. I don’r believe that something cannot be achieved; if you look in the post about what people think about using human feces as fertilizer for example. There is always a way to go about progress and close mindedness does not help.