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What Will Mars Look Like In 100 Years? | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Noah Baum WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
Humans are going to Mars! But when? And what will we do once we get there?? In this video, Unveiled discovers what Mars will look like in 100 years' time, if all of our various plans are put into action. Whether it's NASA, SpaceX or someone else entirely, the days of talking are over... and the time for action is upon us!

What do you think? What would you like to see happen to Mars in the next century?
Transcript

What Will Mars Look Like In 100 Years?


The odds are good that within the next decade we’ll finally send the first humans to explore the Red Planet. It’s a long journey, seven months on average, meaning anybody who goes will be away for a long time. Soon enough, humans could even be going to Mars indefinitely, changing the solar system forever.

This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; what will Mars look like in 100 years?

In science fiction, writers envision humans terraforming other planets to make even the most inhospitable places friendly to human life. Mars is one of the safer celestial bodies in our solar system besides Earth, but it’s far from ideal and would need a lot of work! Unfortunately however, a century isn’t going to be long enough to transform Mars into a green utopia. One method that’s been discussed involves creating a greenhouse gas effect on Mars like the one currently occurring on Earth. This would make the atmosphere thicker, increase the pressure, and make it warmer. But according to NASA, there aren’t enough greenhouse gases on Mars to exploit this way. Any terraforming method more ambitious than this will have to wait for new technologies to arrive. So no, Mars won’t be a second Earth in the near future.

Many also believe it wouldn’t be ethical to go and change Mars’s environment like this because we could potentially be destroying whatever microbial life occurs on Mars naturally. If this remains a concern once the first humans settle down on Mars, it means that we’ll have to live in self-contained habitats, and won’t be able to grow plants outdoors even once we start changing the atmosphere.

But humans will have to survive on Mars somehow! What methods will we have that don’t involve completely changing the Martian environment? Well, the first humans to establish a permanent presence on the Red Planet will need artificial habitats capable of maintaining Earth-like conditions. NASA ran a competition that ended in 2019 challenging people to design the best Mars habitat. The habitats all had to be assembled autonomously by rovers with little to no intervention from humans back on Earth.

The technology that makes this possible is 3D printing, which has developed rapidly in the last few decades. This means that complete, working habitats will be constructed before humans ever step foot on the Red Planet. On top of that, the winning habitat, a design called Marsha, is made entirely of biodegradable and eco-friendly materials. Keeping the Martian environment intact, rather than drastically changing it, is the route space agencies want to follow. These strange habitats will make up human settlements not only on Mars but on other planets or moons we want to visit, too. This means that while there may not be intelligent life there, it will certainly look alien enough.

In a century, these habitats could become a common sight, but we might still be a long way off 3D printed Martian cities. It takes a long time for a city to grow; many start off by being close to valuable resources or along important trade routes, and neither of those things is yet true of Mars. The only reason a city would be built on Mars is for people who want the novelty of living on Mars, and it’s doubtful that space agencies would foot the bill for this.

In the first decades of exploration, Mars settlements will remain scientific outposts. The only people who go to Mars will be scientists and researchers who’ve been through grueling and extensive training. They’ll be there to study the planet hands-on and learn more about it than we can from probes and rovers. Some might move there with their families, meaning that outposts could gradually become towns. But Martian cities and suburbs would still be a long way off by 2120. If you want to live on Mars in the next century, your best option is to train to become an astronaut or researcher.

Speaking of families, within the next 100 years we may be able to bring up children on the Red Planet. Currently, anyone travelling to Mars would be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation in space; this would be especially hazardous for expectant mothers. There’s less radiation on Mars itself, but still more than on Earth. So in order to have children on Mars, we’d need better ways to protect against it. Of course, this obstacle needs to be surmounted before we can send anybody to Mars, and researchers are hard at work on solving it. Once we do, within the next century, we could see children born and raised entirely on Mars.

We currently use aluminum to protect astronauts against cosmic radiation, but aluminum isn’t perfect and it degrades. Some drugs have also been trialled that may help astronauts, but whether it would be safe to take these while pregnant is a different question. Perhaps we’d need entire, artificial wombs to hold the first Martians while they develop. While Mars is never going to be a great environment for children, at least they’ll be surrounded by some of the best minds Earth has to offer.

By this point, research outposts will be self-sustaining to a degree. Developing a food source there is a vital first step in longer, and perhaps permanent, missions, so that astronauts don’t have to rely on supply runs from Earth. If something goes wrong with a supply run, that could mean they’re without food for months. Remarkably, research has found the Martian soil isn’t completely barren; it has lots of the essential nutrients plants need. So it could, with some fertilizer, be used to grow seeds transported from Earth. We’ll have enormous gardens and greenhouses growing fruits and vegetables using hydroponics. Experiments into growing plants this way are already being carried out on the ISS. Those high-tech, printed habitats will be full of greenery and plant life.

Unfortunately for anybody who doesn’t want a plant-based diet, getting meat or other animal products to Mars would be a huge undertaking. It would be a waste of resources to try and take animals all the way there and then breed and farm them. Imagine trying to take cows, pigs, or chickens on a spacecraft for 7 months! This means that Martians may still rely on Earth for supply drops of all kinds of food products, if not for nutritional reasons then purely for variety. Thankfully, since the 50s and 60s, many countries have developed all kinds of ways to get different foodstuffs into outer space, and that will only improve in the next century.

By 2120, humans will be living on Mars, most likely in small, scientific outposts boasting high-tech and alien-like designs. They’ll be self-sustaining and will only get more successful with every passing year. And that’s what Mars will look like in 100 years.
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