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Which fuel will be used for the colonisation of Mars?

Speculating the prospect of habitating Mars

The creation of a “Planet B” is an idea that has been circulating for decades; however we are yet to find a planet that is similar enough to our Earth that would be viable to live on without major modifications. Mars has been the most widely talked about planet in the media, and is commonly thought to be the planet that we know the most about. So, could it be habitable? If we were to move to Mars, how would society thrive?

The dangers of living on Mars

As a neighbour to Earth, Mars might be classed as habitable without more knowledge. Unfortunately, it is quite the opposite. On Earth, humans have access to air with an oxygen content of 21% however Mars only has 0.13% oxygen. The difference in the air itself suggests an uninhabitable planet. Another essential factor of human life is food. There have indeed been attempts to grow crops in Martian soil, including tomatoes, with great levels of success. Unfortunately, the soil is toxic therefore ingesting these crops could cause significant side effects in the long term. It could be possible to introduce a laboratory that crops could be grown in, modelling Earth soil and atmospheric conditions however this would be difficult. Air and food are two resources that are essential and could not readily be available in a move to Mars. Food could be grown in laboratory style greenhouses and the air could be processed. It is important to note that these solutions The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) was a component of the NASA Perseverance rover that was sent to Mars during 2020. Solid oxide electrolysis converts carbon dioxide, readily available in the atmosphere of Mars, into carbon monoxide and oxygen. MOXIE contributes to the idea that, in the move to Mars, oxygen would have to be ‘made’ rather than being readily available. The MOXIE experiment utilised nuclear energy to do this, and it was shown that oxygen could be produced at all times of day in multiple different weather conditions. It is possible to gain oxygen on Mars, but a plethora of energy is required to do so.

What kind of energy would be better?

With accessing oxygen especially, the energy source on Mars would need to be extremely reliable in order to ensure the population is safe. It is true that fossil fuels are reliable however it is increasingly obvious that the reason a move to Mars would be necessary is due to the lack of care of the Earth therefore polluting resources are to be especially avoided. A combination of resources is likely to be used. Wind power during the massive dust storms that find themselves on Mars regularly and solar power in clear weather, when the dust has not yet settled over the surface. One resource that would be essential is nuclear power. The public perception is mixed yet it is certainly reliable and that is the main requirement. After all, a human can only survive for around 5 minutes without oxygen. Time lost due to energy failures would be deadly.

By Megan Martin

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