A few days ago NASA blew the minds of just about every human on Earth when they announced the discovery of saltwater on Mars.
It didn’t come out of nowhere; scientists have known for years that giant ice chunks of liquid were hidden in the red planet’s crusty surface, and now their hopes of liquid water on Mars have been confirmed.
When scientists will pinpoint exactly where this water is coming from and if there is any life to be found will take some time. In the meantime though, the discovery has added some serious fuel to the fire for travel to Mars (you only need to look for ‘The Martian’ on your local movie theater marquee for evidence). People have actually been developing plans for travel to our space neighbor for quite some time now.
Ice igloo hotels.
“Hey, wait a second, I wanted to go to Mars, not Antarctica!” Well, an igloo made of ice is probably what you can expect for housing on Mars, and an architecture office already has a thumbs up for design from NASA. Designers from Clouds Architecture Office and Space Exploration Architecture have come up with a triangular dome structure built by robots called the Mars Ice House.
Housing on Mars is going to require a space that will offer humans some natural light – after all, a vacation in a cave doesn’t sound so fun – and Michael Morris, leader of the project says this shell within a shell structure would be the most comfortable for an extended stay.
“We don’t want to give someone a potential problem by denying them Circadian rhythms, because it’s very similar to Earth — there’s a 25-hour day, and they do have seasons”, he says. “On Earth, we take things for granted. We don’t think about the air we breathe. In extreme environments, you have to consider every element of being human.”
Making the ice domes would be done by two robots. One would collect the ice and then pressurize it so it turns into water (the ice would then be refrozen and 3D printed), and the other robot would actually construct the igloo.
There are no immediate plans to launch such a large-scale endeavor, but the project was given an award by NASA for the design.
Getting there is going to be pricey, really pricey.
Traveling to Mars isn’t a two-week jaunt. Just going there will take seven months, and once you’re there you’re likely going to be there for a very long time.
Planning for trips to Mars has actually been going on for some time now with Dutch company Mars One looking for volunteers since 2013. The company hopes to launch its first expedition by 2022, assuming the funds are there. They are estimating it will cost around $6 billion to send the first crew there. By comparison, it cost $2.5 billion to launch NASA’s Mars Rover.
If the mission does indeed launch – which is a pretty slim chance – it’ll probably be just as dangerous and lonely as anything Matt Damon encountered in ‘The Martian’. With an atmosphere made up of 95.97% carbon dioxide and average surface temperature of -63°C, peril is pretty much a definite.
As dangerous, expensive and downright difficult sending people to Mars might be, the discovery of liquid water on the planet only has people more interested in the possibility of mankind one day visiting the planet. A recent poll by the Mirror found that 75% of people believe humans will one day visit Mars. As Mars One’s CEO Bas Lansdorp put it, “If humans land on Mars, everyone will want to watch”, he said. “It will be bigger than the Olympic Games”. That’s probably an understatement.