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Can humans ever live on Mars?

Can humans ever live on Mars?
In this illustration made available by NASA, the Perseverance rover casts off its spacecraft's cruise stage, minutes before entering the Martian atmosphere
Could humans ever land and live on Mars? (Credits: AP)

As Nasa’s Perseverance rover is set to land on Mars– it’s only natural to wonder: could we ever live there?

Add in Greta Thunberg’s damning video about climate change and colonising the red planet, and it raises interesting questions about whether it’d ever be possible.

So, could humanity ever decamp from Earth and set up camp on our solar system neighbour?

Here’s what you need to know about whether humans could live on Mars

Can humans live on Mars?

No. Right now, it would be impossible for humans to live on Mars.

For one thing, planet Earth has only ever successfully landed a probe or rover on Mars a few times so far – though there are three unmanned missions to Mars happening right now.

The first image of planet Mars as taken by the Hope Probe after it entered the Mars orbit
A photo of Mars taken by the UAE’s Hope probe in 2021 (Credits: EPA)

It’s 34.8 million miles away at its closest, and 250 million miles away at its farthest. It would take seven months to travel there, at least.

Then, on arrival, you’d find very little oxygen in Mars’s atmosphere – it’s mostly carbon dioxide.

The atmosphere is high in radiation, too. It’s also so low in pressure your blood would literally boil as a result.

Mars has 38% of the gravity Earth does – and the lack of gravity could lead to serious health risks. Water is scarce and the soil is pretty toxic, too.

And if all of the above wasn’t a barrier to life on Mars, we’d probably freeze to death first.

In this illustration made available by NASA, The aeroshell containing the Perseverance rover guides itself towards the Martian surface
Mars may be red, but it’s not as hot as Earth (Credits: AP)

Nasa puts the average temperature of the red planet at around -63°C, which makes Earth’s 14°C sound quite pleasant. Temps can go up to 20°C or drop as low as -126.111°C.

Could humans EVER live on Mars in the future?

Though it seems an impossibility right now, it could perhaps be doable in the very distant future.

However, we couldn’t live on Mars like we do on Earth (see above), so we’d have to stay in extremely carefully-controlled environments, with life support systems to keep us alive.

Think something like the fictional futuristic facility Matt Damon inhabits in the (totally made-up) sci-fi film The Martian.

Indoor ‘cities’ could in theory be designed to provide us with the water, food, oxygen and atmosphere we need to survive.

Or we could start by living on the spaceship or station, as suggested by the likes of SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk, and building a suitable civilisation from there.

Needless to say, none of this is going to happen any time soon.

When could humans live on Mars (in theory)?

There are plenty of scientists who believe it is possible for humans to reach Mars in the next decade or so.

Indeed, Nasa aims to send astronauts to Mars by 2030. Journalist Stephen Petranek, who gave a TED talk on living on Mars in 2016, said we’d be able to live there in 20 years – so by 2036.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has said it is aiming for a million humans on the red planet by 2050.

Ambitious, but doable? Only time will tell.