Human beings have always seemed to have a strange and undeniable fascination with Mars, one of its closest neighboring planets. We have studied the Red Planet for centuries, with some of the earliest recorded observations dating back to the second millenium BCE. The more we learn, however, the more we seem to wonder one thing in particular: Can Mars sustain life?
Humans have yet to find a definitive answer to this question. However, recent research, such as the discovery of water under a polar ice cap, indicates that the Red Planet may be more than capable of sustaining life. And instead of seeking out life that may already exist on Mars, humans have begun thinking about the possibility of living on Mars themselves.
Humans living, even thriving, on Mars just might be possible. After all, NASA plans to bring humans to Mars in 2030, and SpaceX is aiming for 2024, with the intention of building a base for future explorations. But before that time comes, humans must adequately prepare themselves for living on another planet.
Certain places on Earth — such as Moab, Utah and Craters of the Moon, Idaho — are frequently compared to Mars because they share similar physical characteristics. Earthlings who wish to venture into space should spend time in these Mars-like environments to try and get a feel for what the landscape is like. They can bring important emergency kits and put necessary survival skills to the test. Being on the Red Planet will be vastly different from any place on Earth, but it can still provide ample opportunity to practice living in a similar environment.
In recent years, biological scientists have made huge strides in gene editing, immunotherapy, evolutionary medicine, and other important fields — all of which bodes well for those hoping to explore Mars someday. But if humans ever want to flourish on a planet that isn’t Earth, they must be physically optimized to do so. Despite these exciting advances in medicine and biology, the same level of medical care will not be available on Mars (at least, not yet).
Even something as simple as having poor vision may have a negative impact on humans looking to go Mars. Glasses and contacts aren’t always practical to bring on trips around Earth, let alone another planet. A more permanent option that requires less upkeep, such as corrective vision surgery may be a better option for Earthings who want to explore Mars firsthand. Scientists will also have to develop other low-maintenance solutions to common health issues for humans to prosper on Mars.
According to the World Health Organization, millions of people around the world experience some kind of mental health disorder in their lifetime. The majority of these people don’t seek or receive treatment for these disorders — and that’s with the wealth of resources available on Earth.
Going to Mars may create new or exacerbate existing mental health issues. The isolation of space, distance from loved ones and comforts on Earth, and loss of privacy can all have a profound impact on the human mind. Lack of resources, however, is one of the biggest concerns humans who go to Mars will have to face. In order for humans to thrive on the Red Planet, we will have to devise a way to deal with common mental health problems that astronauts experience both before and after leaving Earth.
Living on Mars may feel like a surreal, far-off dream, but it is a very real possibility for a few lucky Earthlings. Though we are still years away from the first missions to Mars, now is the time for astronauts to begin thinking about how humans will survive on another planet. With planning, practice, and good old-fashioned human ingenuity, it won’t be long before humankind is thriving on Mars.