Despite the obvious difficulties of the Martian life of future settlers, the superpowers do not abandon ambitious plans to conquer the Red Planet. How militant Mars will surrender its defenses in front of earthlings - read right now.
Apple trees on Mars
Mars, as the true god of war, is dry and cold. However, according to scientists, this is in many ways just an outer shell. The red planet is not as harsh as it seems, there are many valuable resources hidden in its depths that future settlers can use for their needs. For example, from a rarefied atmosphere filled with carbon dioxide, astronauts will be able to obtain oxygen and rocket fuel. Vital water will remain under their feet, in the form of ice and permafrost.
“We know that Martian soil contains water,” says Robert Zubrin, president and founder of the non-profit Mars Society. “Even at the equator, water makes up 5 percent of its weight. In the Arctic regions, it is 60 percent. And we have already developed a technology that allows us to extract water from the soil and make it usable."
This water (in combination with a large amount of carbon dioxide), of course, is also needed in order to grow those very "apple trees" on Mars - to organize crop production there. However, first you will need to bring there plants that could exist in the harsh climate conditions of the Red Planet. Perhaps it will be genetically modified lichens. Crop farming will provide the settlers not only with food, but also with clothing. Water and CO2 will help colonists make certain types of plastics. And the bowels of "Ares" are also rich in iron and silicon oxides - compounds from which, as is known, iron, steel and glass are obtained.
“Human civilization on Earth until the 20th century was built on iron, steel and natural fibers,” continues Zubrin. "We can do the same on Mars."
Of course, complex compounds and products made from them (for example, computer chips) will have to be delivered from Earth for a long time. But after all, most of these items are light enough, so the cost of such cargo missions will not be very high.
Pollute and bombard
It is worth mentioning the large supply of oxygen on Mars, which is found mainly in the composition of carbon dioxide in the polar caps, as well as in the composition of Н2О2 (regoliths). When regoliths are heated, oxygen is released, which can be breathed. If carbon dioxide is heated, the oxygen released can be used for photosynthesis. In addition, carbon dioxide will create a greenhouse effect and raise the planet's temperature. To release carbon dioxide and create a greenhouse effect, scientists propose to melt the cap at the South Pole.
However, this is not so easy to do. To do this, it is necessary to increase the surface temperature by 4 degrees Celsius. This can be achieved in different ways. For example, to build industrial enterprises on Mars, which, paradoxical as it may sound, would simply pollute the planet's atmosphere, which would lead to a greenhouse effect. But you can create one with the help of tetrafluoromethane gas (CF4). Only it will still need to be delivered to Mars, which will cost much more than the first option.
Regardless, Mars is the most suitable candidate for terraforming. In terms of the magnitude of gravity, Venus would be preferable, its gravity is 0.9 from the earth, while on Mars it is 0.38.But it is very difficult to bring the Venusian atmosphere to favorable conditions for us, and the Martian climate, although harsh, is not so far from ours. The atmosphere on Mars is very thin, but it can be condensed by releasing bound oxygen from compounds in the soil (peroxides and ozonides). Mars has significant reserves of water in the form of ice below the surface and in the polar caps. If only the southern cap is completely melted, the surface of Mars will be covered with a layer of water 11 meters thick. And the surface area of Mars is almost equal to the land area on Earth. The Martian day is similar to the terrestrial one and lasts 24 hours 39 minutes 35 seconds. In addition, Mars and Earth have almost the same axis tilt to the plane of the ecliptic, so the Red Planet also has seasons.
The next way to warm up the planet is to bombard it with asteroids from the Main Belt, or even drop one of its own satellites onto Mars. However, all this will require complex and extremely accurate calculations. And we must not forget that such measures can both affect the speed of rotation of the planet and change the inclination of its axis. What this will lead to is difficult to say, but, possibly, to even greater difficulties in the exploration of Mars.
Some of the scientists suggest using special mirrors - solar sails. They should increase the amount of solar radiation received by the planet (while such mirrors should be located at the Lagrange point, where the total attraction of celestial objects is zero).
Someone says that it is possible to warm up the planet with the help of bacteria, which are capable of producing oxygen and methane (or ammonia) in the presence of water and carbon dioxide (or water and nitrogen, respectively). The point is that ammonia and methane are greenhouse gases. The important thing here is that the effect caused by these gases is much stronger than the effect of carbon dioxide. At the same time, methane and ammonia are able to protect the planet's surface from harmful solar radiation. If the climate of Mars still cannot be called warm, then there is an option to increase the temperature more. With the help of all the same tiny helpers - the so-called "dark" bacteria. The latter will have to not only produce greenhouse gases, but also perfectly absorb light (thus reducing the reflectivity of the planet's surface).
Which method will be preferable is still unknown. But if you still manage to warm up the planet, then as a result of the evaporation of carbon dioxide, atmospheric pressure will increase, which, in turn, will help keep water in a liquid state. As a result of photosynthesis, the atmosphere will gradually become saturated with oxygen, which will contribute to the creation of the ozone layer, which will protect the surface of Mars from radiation.
But the colonists will need energy, and in large quantities. Today, NASA's rovers are powered by solar panels and radioisotope thermoelectric generators. But for human settlements, different technologies are needed - more powerful.
The development of the latter is also occupied today by the employees of the US National Administration. They are considering several options, including more efficient fuel cells and improved batteries. At first, this will help the settlers, however, in the future, the energy sources should be more powerful. Robert Zubrin believes that such a source can be found underground, or rather, under Mars.
Some Martian volcanoes last erupted only a few hundred million years ago. In addition, the orbiters found traces of groundwater. And they, as you know, can exist on a cold planet only in the presence of an internal underground heat source.
That is why scientists hope that sources of geothermal energy may exist under the surface of the Red Planet.But it is precisely such energy that is the fourth most important on our planet (fossil fuels take the first place, nuclear energy second, and hydroelectric energy third). To gain access to geothermal energy, it is, of course, necessary to drill through the Martian crust. And this, in turn, is likely to help astronauts obtain liquid water as well. Nuclear energy can be used for initial drilling.
With successful terraforming, the most favorable places for creating colonies on Mars will be the lowlands in the equatorial zone. Among such places, scientists note, first of all, the Hellas depression (the highest pressure on the planet), as well as the Mariner valley (the highest minimum temperatures).
Of course, in the future, the Martian settlers must find a way to fit into the "capitalist relationship" and support themselves financially on their own. They themselves will have to "earn" the delivery of goods to Mars. How will they pay off the earthlings? This question is still open. Perhaps it will be gold and other valuable metals that can be mined on the Red Planet. However, the transportation of such heavy materials is likely to exceed their cost by several times. Therefore, most likely, the main "monetary unit" between earthlings and "Martians" will be intellectual property - scientific and technical developments of the latter.
According to experts, Mars in general will be an extremely powerful stimulator for the development of innovations. This is exactly what happened during the conquest of various fronts on Earth.
“Typically, you face severe labor shortages and incredibly difficult environmental conditions. Thus, you are forced to invent new methods and technologies, says Zubrin. “This is the reason for the flourishing of the culture of invention in America in the 18th, 19th and even 20th centuries.”
The most demanded innovation clusters on Mars are likely to be robotics and agriculture. If local life forms are ever found on the planet, then the most valuable, no doubt, will be precisely their genomes - both from a scientific and financial point of view.
Mars is close
Despite the fact that the colonization of Mars is the main goal of NASA's space flight program, it is not the only organization that intends to settle its astronauts on the Red Planet. A small country like Holland, for example, is not wasting any time either, and in accordance with its non-profit program Mars One also plans to land four astronauts on the Red Planet. This should happen in 2023. These four daredevils will join the American settlers. The Dutch estimate that the initial Mars mission will cost the country about $ 6 billion. In order to somehow cover the costs, the Netherlands intends to organize a global advertising and media campaign.