Humans “colonize” Mars? That’s probably going to send bacteria and algae first…

On July 17, the Long March V remote four carrier rocket was vertically transferred to the launch zone, which means that the implementation of china’s planetary exploration project”, The Sky Question 1, is imminent. Although this is our first Mars exploration mission, it has sparked the endless reverie of Mars fans – can we build a hotel on Mars in the future? Can you mine on Mars? What scientific experiments can be carried out on Mars? What’s more, the most realistic question in the world of sci-fi is: What kind of food should we eat when we immigrate to Mars?

Human colonization of Mars may have sent bacteria and algae first.

This reporter Fu Yifei.

“In the long run, the development of a unique human civilization on Mars, including various agricultural civilizations, industrial civilizations and technological civilizations, can be expected.” Zheng Yongchun, a researcher at the National Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told science and technology daily.

So how can man’s colonisation of Mars transform and build the red planet? Listen to what the experts have to say.

Growing up on Mars is much more than solving the problem of eating.

In the sci-fi film Mars Rescue, the hero, Mark, survives on Mars alone by growing potatoes. Zheng Yongchun said that human spending time on Mars and building an agricultural civilization is certainly the first step, but its role is much more so than solving the problem of eating.

If the daily agricultural technology is mainly committed to improving agricultural production, crop quality, agricultural diversification, etc. , on Mars to open up a new field of agricultural research, the primary purpose is to transform the environment. “In addition to providing food, we need plants to supply oxygen, purify water, and so on, providing the most basic living conditions for humanity.” Zheng Yongchun said.

He believes that some low-level plants and even microorganisms, such as bacteria, algae, and so on, need to be put first. Let them first adapt to Mars, absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and then produce organic matter, transform the Martian soil, so that the surface environment of Mars more and more Earth-like, more life-friendly. This process will require scientists to conduct a large number of forward-looking research on Earth, screening for microbes, plants and crops that can adapt to the Martian environment as the “pioneers” of migration to Mars. Today, there are already scientific research institutions at home and abroad in carrying out related research work. In 2016, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the Florida Institute of Technology jointly launched the Mars Garden project, which aims to screen plants that can adapt to the Martian environment. The project is now in beta.

However, there are many factors that affect plant growth, including moisture, heat, light, fertilizer, and gravitational conditions. There are too many questions to be studied about whether the plants screened on Earth will grow normally, if they do not mutate, lack biodiversity, and whether ecosystems can remain stable. In addition, there is still a lot of uncertainty about this work. For example, how will the “first army” evolve upon arrival on Mars, will it be quick enough to “occupy” Mars? All of this requires in-depth study.

Build a semi-basement in a near-water, lighted area on Mars.

When humans arrive on Mars, they are bound to face residential problems, which require the construction of a Mars base.

Pang Zhihao, the chief scientific communication expert in space exploration technology, said that building a Mars base is a long-term vision for mankind, from the initial construction of a temporary base, to achieve a medium-term stay, to the transformation of Mars to build a permanent base, it will take a long process. The ultimate goal is to immigrate to Mars.

In recent years, the enthusiasm of countries around the world to build lunar bases is very high, and many countries have formulated plans or put forward proposals. There are conditions on Mars that are better suited to building bases than the moon. Mars, for example, has a rotation period of about 24 hours and 40 minutes, about the same as Earth. At the same time, there is water on Mars, a thin atmosphere, and year-round. These environmental conditions are similar to Earth’s, giving people hope of colonizing Mars.

Pang said that the construction of a temporary base for Mars, before astronauts arrived on Mars, the use of unmanned cargo spacecraft to meet basic needs of the living module and non-renewable life support system to Mars. To build a medium-term base on Mars, at least materialized regenerative life support technology is required to achieve more efficient recycling of material. In order to build a permanent base on Mars, a bio-renewable life support system is needed to achieve 100% recycling of material.

At the same time, Mars bases should have power systems, such as small nuclear power plants, and mars rovers, after all, astronauts can’t stay in the house all the time, and need to expand their range of activities.

In addition, Pang believes that the location of the Mars base is important, preferably close to the water, sunny. In order to protect against storms and radiation, early bases should be in the form of underground or semi-subsurface.

In the process of building a mars base, it is obviously unrealistic to rely solely on the delivery of supplies from Earth. Zheng Yongchun believes that local material extraction is an important principle. Dust, soil, hematite and even salt minerals in dry lakes are all targets we can use, he says.

Research on Mars, think of Mars as another Earth.

Humans landing on Mars, in addition to planting food, engineering, but also should do something else. Someone asked, can we explore the mineral resources and bring them back?

Zheng Yongchun said that from the current technical capabilities analysis, even Mars is full of gold bricks is not worth getting back, because the cost is far more than its value.

This is by no means an exaggeration. Half a century ago, the Apollo program in the United States brought back 382 kilograms of rock samples from the moon, which, some calculate, cost more than 30 times as much as diamonds of the same weight. The moon, more than 300,000 kilometers from Earth, is still the same, not to mention the most recent on Earth, mars, 50 million kilometers away.

As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of Mars resources are only valuable if they are used in situ, and as long as they can reduce the weight of materials transported from Earth, it is cost-effective to develop expensive resources.

Although the road of mining is not accessible, but human beings on Mars can engage in scientific research, which is also one of the important purposes of human exploration of the universe.

At present, humans have carried out a lot of scientific research with the help of the moon, including several aspects, such as the study of the Earth from the moon, from the moon to see space, and the study of the moon itself.

But Zheng Yongchun believes that scientific research on Mars is different.

First of all, Mars is too far away from Earth, from where the observation of the Earth has no advantage, the greatest significance may be just to soothe the soul, to rely on homesickness.

Astronomical observations on Mars are not significant either, since near-Earth space and the moon already provide good astronomical observation platforms, and it is not easy to transport large telescopes to Mars.

Zheng Yongchun said the most valuable research on Mars is to study Mars as another Earth. Now, he said, humans have studied the earth’s surface, depth, atmosphere, biosphere, almost once, but the human understanding of the earth is still not deep enough, the reason is the lack of a suitable reference object, did not jump out of the earth to see the earth. If there is a planet that is very similar to Earth, but the ultimate fate is different, then this comparative study can be a lot of enlightenment.

Mars is like the twin brother of earth. Zheng Yongchun said, for example, Mars once had the ocean, but now it is not, for scientists, its coastline, marine sediments, water vapor cycle, etc. , can be used as a research topic.

For example, weather forecasting is always not accurate, because the Earth has vegetation, atmosphere, water surface and other factors, making weather forecasting models very complex. There are also sandstorms and snowons on Mars, and various meteorological phenomena, but their weather models are much simpler than those of Earth. By matching the two, scientists can find many new research topics, and there is much to be done.

In addition, there are mountains, canyons, volcanoes, glaciers, and dry zones on Mars. . . If the institutes of the Chinese Academy of Sciences are moved to Mars, many disciplines will find research topics there and get a new perspective. Zheng Yongchun said.