We understand why colonizing Mars is so attractive. We even discussed why this might be a great idea.
Today we’re going to take a look at some of the alternatives to Mars, places that are close to our home planet, and could function as strategic bases or potential long-term homes.
But first, let’s eliminate a question. Why is Mars so attractive?
Why is Mars Colonization so appealing?
For decades, some have been obsessed with colonizing Mars, but for good reason. The red planet shares some similarities with our current home.
Recent studies on Mars have shown that the planet probably once had water, warmer temperatures, and a thicker atmosphere.
Mars has experienced severe climate change, with rocks, sediments, and soil provide clues to the planet’s past. Unlocking this past could help humans better prepare for their journeys to come.
First and foremost, this is the most hospitable planet we can reach yet. A trip to Mars would only take about 6-8 months. While Mars is about half the size of Earth, it has about the same total area as the Earth’s continents.
And the temperatures on Mars aren’t too extreme, even compared to Earth. If Mars had a thicker atmosphere, its temperature would be closer to that of Earth. And what about gravity?
It has a gravity 2.7 times less than the Earth.
It’s reasonable for a living and it makes Mars a great base for more distant missions. However, staying on Mars for the long term would require some terraforming.
What is terraforming?
As mentioned above, if Mars’ atmosphere were thicker, our space colony on the Red Planet would have a much easier time. However, some researchers and scientists have proposed terraforming or the process of releasing gases (greenhouse gases).
So we will be able to thicken the atmosphere and raise the temperature to the point where liquid water can form on the surface.
The bad news is that a recent study sponsored by NASA clearly showed that we currently do not have the technology to terraform Mars.
Even without terraforming, Mars could still be a good option for a colony. Some people believe that at some point the Earth will not be able to support life as we know it, or that a cataclysmic event could one day endanger life on Earth, like what happened to the dinosaurs.
These people argue that in order to survive, humans must become a multi-planetary species.
The moon might not be the best place to live, compared to some of the other options on this list, but it has a lot of advantages. These could possibly make the moon the best option for a future base/gas station, or even a tourist spot.
Elon Musk is among those who came up with the idea of moon tourism. In 2017, Musk announced a plan to fly two space tourists around the moon by 2023; while Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin plans to launch its own lunar lander in 2023.
In 2018, NASA selected nine companies to participate in its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, in which the agency will purchase space on future commercial lunar landers to transport scientific instruments and other payloads.
The nine companies included Boeing, Lockheed’s Martin, Masten Space Systems, and Firefly Aerospace Inc.
If you wanted to fly to Mars from Earth, you would need to fly off the surface of the Earth at a minimum speed of around 11.2 km per second. It requires large amounts of fuel.
However, to do the same thing from the moon, it only takes about ⅓ of this speed or about 2.38 km / s. Another factor is that there may be natural resources available on the moon that could be tapped and turned into rocket fuel.
The moon could help us better understand our planet. The moon might even have been formed from part of the Earth.
Second, the moon’s atmospheric density is very thin. This could make the moon the ideal location for an astronomical observatory that would allow us to better observe the universe.
The moon could help fuel our lives. Nuclear fusion using helium-3 has been proposed as the fuel of the future.
The fusion of helium-3 atoms releases large amounts of energy without the surrounding material becoming radioactive. Although helium-3 is rare on Earth, it is believed to be abundant on the moon.
Saturn’s moon could become our home too.
Mars attracts a lot of attention due to its proximity to Earth. However, there is also a lot of interest in Saturn’s moon Titan. Titan was a bit of a mystery until around 2005.
That year, the European Space Agency’s Hydrogen probe landed on the surface of Titan. Information from the probe led researchers to theorize that Titan might be one of the best places in our solar system for a colony or base.
Titan has much lower radiation. One of the biggest problems is solar radiation. Neither place has an atmosphere thick enough to prevent lethal levels of radiation from reaching the surface.
Aside from Venus, Titan has the densest atmosphere of any rocky body in our neighborhood, which could shield a colony from lethal levels of solar radiation.
Titan has all the fuel a colony would need. On Titan, it is believed that there are large areas of liquid hydrocarbons, some in the form of seas of methane and ethane.
These could be used to help maintain colonies on the planet, while Titan’s oxygen-free atmosphere keeps these “oceans” from being flammable.
Titan has water, comfortable air pressure, and lots of building materials. The water may not be the most accessible, but it is probably there. Although Titan’s water is solid and frozen, researchers believe there is a lot of water on the surface and locked in rocks below the surface.
Equally important, Titan could provide the vast resources needed to build a base, as well as possible access to other resources near Saturn’s 62 moons.
A space colony on Venus.
Yes, the surface of Venus looks absolutely terrifying. However, despite the acid rain, the clouds of Venus effectively block solar radiation. In fact, besides Earth, Venus’s upper atmosphere is one of the most habitable places in the solar system.
At an altitude of about fifty to sixty kilometers above the surface, the atmospheric pressure is close to a bar, and the temperatures vary between 0 and 100 C. There is also a lot of solar energy and raw materials in the form of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen.
We would create a giant floating city in the shape of a balloon. It might not be as crazy as you might think. Think of it as Lando Calrissian’s Cloud City in Star Wars.
This hypothetical pressurized balloon city is said to be floating about 50 km above the surface of Venus. Gravity and atmospheric pressure would be similar to that of Earth and would have temperatures of around 27 ° C.
Venus also has gravity similar to that of Earth, and the thick atmosphere would shield from radiation. There can also be abundant resources that could be used to support a Floating City if they can be reached.
Where else could we go?
We could create underwater habitats on Europa. It might sound a little crazy, but please be indulgent with us. On paper, Jupiter’s moon doesn’t look so appealing.
It has only 13% of Earth’s gravity, almost no atmospheric pressure, and an average temperature of around -260 ° F. Due to the cold temperatures, the surface of Europe is ice, but under this ice, there may be a liquid ocean.
Due to Jupiter’s intense gravitational pull, these oceans could be habitable. We could also eventually move towards exoplanets. However, we are still decades away from this type of technology.
The best approach is probably to work with what we have in our solar system and build from there. Where do you think we should colonize? Where and when do you think humans will have their first space colony?