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Let’s say the future has come and mankind has managed to populate Mars and get comfortable there. What would a Martian colonist look like after thousands of years? Would his appearance be different from that of an earthling?

Photo: Joseph Ventura / Artist's idea of ​​how people might look after several thousand years of life on Mars
Photo: Joseph Ventura / Artist’s impression of ​​how people might look after several thousand years of life on Mars

Scientists say that prolonged residence on the Red Planet, where gravity and sunlight are weaker than on Earth, and radiation is much stronger, will lead to rapid evolutionary changes. Experts even believe that Martians can turn into a new kind.

“Two populations of the same species, settled in different isolated territories, begin to differ from each other – remember the Galapagos finches studied by Charles Darwin. The finches living on one island are different from the finches on the other island: in different territories they have signs that help to survive in the very environment where they settled, Biologist Scott Solomon writes 

in his book Future Humans: Inside the Science of Our Continuing Evolution. – If speciation on Earth’s islands takes thousands of years, then on Mars this process will go much faster due to the huge difference in conditions. In just 100-200 generations, or 6000 years, a new kind of person may appear on the Red Planet.”

The new kind?

Six thousand years is a short time for a person to change beyond recognition. Modern Homo sapiens exist as a separate species for an estimated 160,000 – 45,000 years. And some scholars doubt the words of Solomon.

Biologists Philip Mitterreker of the University of Vienna in Austria, says :

“Speciation is a lengthy process that usually requires reproductive isolation (the inability of members of one population of a species to interbreed with another – Ed.) for millions of years and a large population. Some human groups have been isolated for thousands of years and are still far from becoming a separate species. Therefore, it is unlikely that the people who colonize Mars will last for 6,000 years. On the other hand, conditions on the Red Planet are suitable for minor physical changes to begin to appear among the colonists after a hundred generations.”

For Mars to undergo any evolutionary changes:

1) natural selection should work;

2) the local habitat must be different from the terrestrial. If you create completely terrestrial conditions on the Red Planet: strengthen gravity, put artificial lighting, produce the same food as on Earth, people will not change;

3) differences in conditions should not be too strong so that the population does not die in the first weeks.

How Martians will differ from earthlings

Bones

When a person settles on the Red Planet, he will no longer need a heavy, well-mineralized skeleton. The attraction on Mars is much weaker than the Earth, the colonist’s weight here will be almost 3 times less, which means that the load on the skeleton is lower. The need for massive bones will disappear, the body will become unprofitable to spend energy on their content.

“People with heavy bones will spend more calories, energy and minerals to build their skeleton, so on Mars they will “lose” evolutionarily to people with thin bones,” Drobyshevsky notes in the lecture.

The same goes for the digestive tract. In conditions of reduced gravity, a person needs less energy for walking and physical labor, so he will not consume as much food as on Earth. The digestive apparatus will contract, the bodies of the colonists will become narrow.

Photo: Ville Ericsson / Colonization of Mars as an artist
Photo: Ville Ericsson / Colonization of Mars

When the Martian arrives on Earth, people will see a thin man with fragile bones. The weight of a Martian will increase almost 3 times: a 38-kilogram individual on our planet will weigh 100 kilograms, this will cause an additional load on his bones. Most likely, he will not be able to move around without help, he will need a cane or a wheelchair. Another “surprise”: a Martian colonist could injure their chest even with a friend’s “pat in the back”.

Heart

A Martian visiting Earth will die after some time from heart failure.

On the Red Planet, in conditions of low gravity, the heart muscle does not need to work so hard and contract quickly to pump blood through the circulatory system, as on Earth. Therefore, the Martian’s heart will become “weaker”, that is, less “trained.” In terrestrial conditions, it simply can not cope with the load.

Eyes

Mars is much farther from the Sun than Earth. The red planet receives 1.5-2 times less light, because of this the eyes of the colonists can change.

“A sunny day on Mars is like a cloudy day on Earth, – explains Natalie Kabrol, a planetologist at SETI. – Our eyes are accustomed to a certain amount of light. Martians will have to adapt to new conditions: either the brain will develop a new method that allows the retina to perceive and process more of the light that is, or over time, the colonists will have more eyes.”

Skin

There is not much sunlight on the Red Planet, but the ultraviolet radiation (UV) subtle Martian atmosphere transmits many times more than the Earth.

On our planet, for UV protection, the skin produces the pigment melanin, or rather, its variety – eumelanin , which acts as a natural sunscreen and gives the skin a brown tint. The more eumelanin in the skin, the better the ultraviolet rays are absorbed, and the darker the skin color becomes.

Photo: mic.com / Colonization of Mars as an artist
Photo: mic.com / Colonization of Mars

In his book, Solomon writes that people who have more eumelanin will be better able to withstand extreme ultraviolet radiation on the Red Planet. Therefore, the skin of the Martians will be much darker than anyone on Earth.

To summarize

In the crowd, an earthman will easily notice a Martian. A guest from another planet will be distinguished by very dark skin, a narrow body, large eyes, and will move on a wheelchair.

Most likely we would see a Martian dressed in a protective suit, since direct contact with the earth’s environment for him could end in disrepair.

So far, scientists believe that there is no microbial life on Mars – pathogenic bacteria and other “creatures harmful to the body.” Therefore, the immune system of the colonists will stop working in the form in which it works for us – it will lose the ability to fight earthly infections. In order not to die, the Martian on Earth will never have to take off his protective suit and eat only sterilized food.

Post scriptum

All the information cited in the article is hypothesis based on the tenets of evolutionary biology. It is impossible to know exactly what adjustments nature will be made in the appearance and organism of Martians.

If the colonists really change a lot and differ from earthlings, what will we consider them? Aliens, or just another species?

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Space

Voyager 2 has discovered something amazing: Denser space outside the solar system

In November 2018, after a 41-year voyage, Voyager 2 crossed the boundary beyond which the Sun’s influence ends, and entered interstellar space. But the mission of the little probe is not yet complete – it continues to make amazing discoveries

Perhaps the probes have found some kind of traffic jam at the edge of the solar system. The Voyager flight continues and we will soon find out what it was.

Voyager 2 discovered something amazing: as the distance from the Sun increases, the density of space increases.

Voyager 1, which entered interstellar space in 2012, transmitted similar indicators to Earth. New data have shown that the increase in density may be a feature of the interstellar medium.

The solar system has several boundaries, one of which, called the heliopause, is determined by the solar wind, or rather by its significant weakening. The space inside the heliopause is the heliosphere, and the space outside is the interstellar medium. But the heliosphere is not round. It looks more like an oval, in which the solar system is at the leading edge, and a kind of tail stretches behind it.

Both Voyagers crossed the heliopause at the leading edge, but within 67 degrees heliographic latitude and 43 degrees longitude apart.

Interstellar space is usually considered a vacuum, but this is not entirely true. The density of matter is extremely small, but it still exists. In the solar system, the solar wind has an average density of protons and electrons from 3 to 10 particles per cubic centimeter, but it is lower the further from the Sun.

The average concentration of electrons in the interstellar space of the Milky Way is estimated to be about 0.037 particles per cubic centimeter. And the plasma density in the outer heliosphere reaches approximately 0.002 electrons per cubic centimeter. When the Voyager probes crossed the heliopause, their instruments recorded the electron density of the plasma through plasma oscillations.

Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause on August 25, 2012 at a distance of 121.6 astronomical units from the Earth (121.6 times the distance from Earth to the Sun – about 18.1 billion km). When he first measured plasma oscillations after crossing the heliopause on October 23, 2013 at a distance of 122.6 astronomical units (18.3 billion km), he found a plasma density of 0.055 electrons per cubic centimeter.

After flying another 20 astronomical units (2.9 billion kilometers), Voyager 1 reported an increase in the density of interstellar space to 0.13 electrons per cubic centimeter.

Voyager 2 crossed the heliopause on November 5, 2018 at a distance of 119 astronomical units (17.8 billion kilometers. On January 30, 2019, it measured plasma oscillations at a distance of 119.7 astronomical units (17.9 billion kilometers), finding that the density plasma is 0.039 electrons per cubic centimeter.

In June 2019, Voyager 2’s Instruments showed a sharp increase in density to about 0.12 electrons per cubic centimeter at a distance of 124.2 astronomical units (18.5 billion kilometers).

What caused the increase in the density of space? One theory is that the lines of force of the interstellar magnetic field become stronger with distance from the heliopause. This can cause electromagnetic ion cyclotron instability. Voyager 2 did detect an increase in the magnetic field after crossing the heliopause.

Another theory is that the material carried away by the interstellar wind should slow down in the heliopause, forming a kind of plug, as evidenced by the weak ultraviolet glow detected by the New Horizons probe in 2018, caused by the accumulation of neutral hydrogen in the heliopause.

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Space

NASA has banned fighting and littering on the moon

New details of the agreement signed by representatives of a number of countries on the development of the moon and the extraction of minerals within the framework of the Artemis program have appeared. Reported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

So, astronauts involved in the mission are prohibited from littering and fighting on the territory of a natural satellite of the Earth.

So, we present to you the new rules for being on the Moon:

Everyone comes in peace;

Confidentiality is prohibited, all launched objects must be identified and registered;

All travel participants agree to help each other in case of emergencies;

All received data is transferred to the rest of the participants, and space systems must be universal;

Historic sites must be preserved and all rubbish must be disposed of;

Rovers and spacecraft should not interfere with other participants.

“”It is important not only to go to the moon with our astronauts, but also that we bring our values ​​with us,” said Mike Gold, acting head of NASA’s international and inter-agency relations.

According to him, violators of the above rules will be asked to “just leave” the territory of the moon.

The effect of these principles so far applies to eight signatory countries of the agreement: the USA, Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. Countries other than China can join if they wish.

 It should be noted that at the moment NASA is prohibited from signing any bilateral agreements with the PRC leadership.

The first NASA mission to the moon, known as “Artemis 1”, is scheduled for 2021 without astronauts, and “Artemis 2” will fly with a crew in 2023.

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Space

Methane snow found on the tops of Pluto’s equatorial mountains

Scientists believe that it arose as a result of the accumulation of large amounts of methane at an altitude of several kilometers above the surface of the planet.

In the images of the Cthulhu region – a dark region in the equatorial regions of Pluto – planetary scientists have found large reserves of methane snow that covers the peaks of local mountains and hills. It formed quite differently from how snow forms on Earth, astronomers write in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

“The white caps on the tops of Pluto’s mountains did not arise from the cooling of air currents that rise along the slopes into the upper atmosphere, as it happens on Earth, but from the accumulation of large amounts of methane at an altitude of several kilometers above Pluto’s surface. This gas condensed on the mountain tops, “the scientists write.

We owe almost everything we know about Pluto to the New Horizons interplanetary station. It was launched in January 2006, and in mid-July 2015 the station reached the Pluto system. New Horizons flew just 13 thousand km from the dwarf planet, taking many photographs of its surface. 

New Horizons data indicated an interesting feature of Pluto – in its depths, a giant subglacial ocean of liquid water can be hidden. It can be a kind of engine of those geological processes, traces of which can be seen on the surface of a dwarf planet. Because of this discovery of New Horizons, many discussions began among planetary scientists. Scientists are trying to understand how such a structure could have arisen, as well as to find out the appearance of Pluto in the distant past.

Members of the New Horizons science team and their colleagues from France, led by planetary scientist from NASA’s Ames Research Center (USA) Tanguy Bertrand, have discovered another unusual feature of Pluto. They studied the relief of one of the regions of the dwarf planet – the Cthulhu region. This is what astronomers call a large dark region at Pluto’s equator, which is whale-like in shape and is covered in many craters, mountains and hills.

Snow in Pluto’s mountains

By analyzing images of these structures taken by the LORRI camera installed on board New Horizons, astronomers have noticed many blank spots on the slopes of the highest mountain peaks. Having studied their composition, scientists have found that they consist mainly of methane.

Initially, planetary scientists assumed that these are deposits of methane ice. However, Bertrand and his colleagues found that the slopes and even the tops of Pluto’s equatorial mountains are actually covered not only with ice, but also with exotic methane snow that forms right on their surface.

Planetary scientists came to this conclusion by calculating how methane behaves in Pluto’s atmosphere. In doing so, they took into account how the molecules of its gases interact with the sun’s rays and other heat sources. It turned out that at the equator of Pluto, at an altitude of 2-3 km from its surface, due to the special nature of the movement of winds, unique conditions have formed, due to which snow is formed from methane vapor.

Unlike Earth, where such deposits are formed as a result of the rise of warm air into the upper atmosphere, on Pluto this process goes in the opposite direction – as a result of contact of the cold surface of the peaks and slopes of mountains with warm air masses from the relatively high layers of the dwarf planet’s atmosphere.

Previously, as noted by Bertrand and his colleagues, scientists did not suspect that this was possible. The fact is that they did not take into account that due to the deposition of even a small amount of methane snow and ice, the reflectivity of the peaks and slopes of mountains in the Cthulhu region increases. As a result, their surface temperature drops sharply, and snow forms even faster.

Scientists suggest that another mysterious feature of Pluto’s relief could have arisen in a similar way – the so-called Tartarus Ridges, located east of the Sputnik plain. A distinctive feature of this mountainous region is strange peaks that are shaped like skyscrapers or blades. Bertrand and his colleagues suggest that these peaks are also methane ice deposits that grow “from top to bottom.”

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