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NASA Chief Scientist Says Humans Will 'Absolutely' Live On Mars

Jun 11, 2018 10:54 PM EDT
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Humankind's new home? Photo shows an artist's concept of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft approaching Mars.
(Photo : NASA | JPL-Caltech)

Life on Mars seems to be a distant possibility, but for scientists, it is a solid goal that's already taking shape.

With recent advancements in technology and Mars exploration, it's not surprising that astronomers are positive about humankind's future of getting there.

Scientists Hopeful For Journey To Mars

In an interview with USA Today, NASA chief scientist Jim Green weighs in on the chances of humans getting to Mars.

"Absolutely," Green says, adding that the first ever person who will step on the Red Planet is most likely already alive. "Now, we see Mars is an even better location for having past life. It's just getting better and better."

The hope is bolstered even more with the recent discovery of organic compounds on Mars by the Curiosity rover. These are potentially traces of building blocks of life in Earth's closest neighbor, telling scientists they're heading in the right direction of finding alien life that used to exist in the seemingly barren planet.

Mankind's eye has long been drawn to Mars, History.com notes, from 1877 when Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli spotted the planet and saw its potential as a lush world similar to Earth.

Now, scientists are on their way to making Schiaparelli's dream a reality.

Challenges To The Mars Mission

While Green is confident that humankind will get to Mars within a couple of decades — NASA's target is 2040 — he explains that there are currently significant obstacles to reaching this goal.

For one, existing spacecrafts are still not ready to bring people to the Red Planet. While NASA can currently land 1 ton vehicles on Mars, this is not enough for a manned mission. A vehicle around 10 tons should be able to land on Mars' surface. The precision also has to be spot on with no shaky landings on mountains, hills, or other rocky terrain.

It also goes without saying that men or women who will make the trip to another planet should be able to get back, which means blast off needs to be possible from Mars.

Other challenges for humans involve the wildly different living conditions on Mars. Astronauts who make the trip will have to be in their spacesuits 24/7 due to the extreme weather conditions and steep carbon dioxide levels in the planet.

The strange climate there also means that summer brings constant dust storms, which can cover the atmosphere and bring perpetually dark days that could last months. A dust storm as large as North America is currently raging over the Opportunity rover's location on Mars.

Finally, humans who get to Mars would have to start from scratch. Everything that's taken for granted on Earth would be absent from its twin planet.

"The people that would go there are real pioneers," Green says. He points out that the first inhabitants there would need to get everything started such as farming and the construction of homes.

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