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Where can people live on Mars?

Life on Mars Video screenshot

Let’s imagine for a moment that scientists were able to send people to Mars. But what will they do there? Mars is not the most friendly planet for life. There is at least no oxygen, not to mention cosmic radiation, from which the atmosphere protects us on Earth, but it does not exist on the Red Planet. In fact, the question of how representatives of our species can survive in the hostile environment of distant worlds has long been of concern to scientists. 

So, researchers believe that you can survive in the harsh Martian environment deep beneath Martian soil. Since scientists recently obtained evidence that Mars is a seismically active planet, there is a network of large underground tunnels that formed as a result of thousands of years of volcanic activity.

These tunnels, or, as they are called, lava tubes, remained after the fast-flowing lava burned through the Martian soil.

Lava tubes – cavities in lava flows, elongated like corridors. Such channels are obtained by uneven cooling of the lava flowing from the slopes of the volcano.

What threatens future Martians?

Space, as you know, is not a suitable place for life forms such as Homo Sapiens. The harsh space environment, penetrated by radiation, in the literal sense of the word destroys all living things. Even tardigrades are microscopic animals that can survive in the most extreme conditions. Back in 2007, researchers found that these “water bears” withstand the short-term effects of extremely low temperatures, cosmic radiation and an almost complete vacuum. Agree, this is amazing. But even they cannot be in outer space for a long time. What can we say about you and me.

And yet, we have created technologies with which you can go into the Earth’s orbit and even its moon. In theory, we are close to interplanetary flights, and I think it is no secret that the governments of many countries plan to send a man to Mars. But what do we have in practice?

Such colonies can only be built after we solve the problem of cosmic radiation

Our regular readers are probably aware that the biggest problem for future space travelers is space radiation. In a previous article, I said that the results of scientific research have shown that prolonged exposure to space has a devastating effect on the brain.

It turns out that if the flight to the Red Planet takes about 7 months, then people with severe brain damage can land on Mars and, most likely, they will not even understand where they are. We note that today there is no solution to this problem. 

Lava tubes on Earth look like this

Life on Mars

So, given all the available knowledge about Mars, the only more or less safe habitat for humans are underground tunnels or lava tubes. According to astrophysicist Antonio Paris and his team, which has been researching and assessing the safety of Martian lava pipes, sheltering future colonists in deep underground tunnels can significantly reduce exposure to hazardous cosmic radiation. Moreover, the researchers are convinced that the “Greek plain” of Hellas Planitius is the best place to land.

The fact is that less cosmic and solar radiation falls on this part of Mars than on most of the rest of the planet’s surface. According to Antonio Paris, sheltering astronauts in deep lava tubes can reduce its impact even more, thereby ensuring the colonists survival. But how to measure the level of radiation in the lava tubes on Mars?

It is hoped that no one lives under Martian soil

This is where knowledge of lava tubes on Earth comes in handy – by measuring their external and internal radiation levels, Paris got a general idea of ​​whether the structure of lava tubes can reduce the effects of cosmic radiation. The results of the study are published in the journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences.

“Lava tubes can help in the study of Martian geology and geomorphology, and also potentially help to find any evidence of the development of microbial life in the early stages of the natural history of Mars,” Paris writes in his twitter.

So, lava tubes may very well become our new home on another planet. Agree, the prospect sounds so-so. Surely everyone remembers horror films about cave dwellers and other troubles that can happen there (for example, in the movie “Descent” or the TV series “LOST”), but given the fact that we may not have another option – life in lava tubes – this is far from the worst that awaits a person on other planets.

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Space

It’s a good start: TESS orbiting telescope discovers the first habitable world, with oceans

The TESS Space Telescope has discovered a planet on which oceans may exist. In addition, the exoplanet revolves around a quiet star, and this compares favorably with other candidates for the title of the cradle of extraterrestrial life. This is the first, but certainly not the last potentially inhabited world discovered by the TESS Observatory.

The space telescope was launched in 2018. Its task is to search for exoplanets, including those similar to Earth.

TESS has discovered 17 Earth-like planets orbiting 11 stars so far, according to a press release for the new study. All these luminaries are red dwarfs, which are smaller and colder than the Sun.

The TESS team divided almost the entire sky into sectors, each of which is observed for 27 days. However, these areas partially overlap, so some luminaries remain in the field of view of the device for much longer.

The TOI-700 star (aka TIC 150428135) is one of those “lucky ones”. Thanks to this, astronomers have discovered as many as three exoplanets about the size of the Earth.

The first of them (TOI-700b) has a radius almost equal to that of the Earth and revolves around its sun in 10 Earth days. The next planet, TOI-700c, is much larger than its neighbor (2.7 times the Earth’s radius). It makes a complete revolution in 16 days.

However, the most interesting of all is the third exoplanet from the planet TOI-700d. Its radius is 1.1 terrestrial, and its orbital period is 37 terrestrial days. It is this orbit around the cool local sun that makes the TOI-700d “right to life.” 

According to scientists, the planet receives 86% of the heat that goes to the Earth. This means that the temperature on this celestial body allows for the existence of liquid water and, therefore, the biosphere. According to experts, the exoplanet is in the habitable zone.

Planetary system TOI-700. The habitable zone is shown in green. One astronomical unit (AU) is equal to the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Illustration by Rodriguez et al. / Astronomical Journal (2020).

Three scientific articles published in the Astronomical Journal are devoted to the newly discovered world.

The first describes the discovery of this planet using the TESS telescope.

The second publication is devoted to the observation of an exoplanet using the Spitzer space infrared observatory. The telescope received this data in October 2019 and January 2020, shortly before the termination of its mission.

Finally, the authors of the third research paper simulated the possible climate of TOI-700d.

The researchers examined two dozen scenarios that differ from each other in the composition of the planet’s atmosphere, the amount of water on it, and other characteristics. Their conclusion is optimistic: a climate suitable for life is obtained in a fairly wide range of conditions.

It is important that TOI-700, unlike most other red dwarfs, is a calm star, not prone to catastrophic flares. That is, TOI-700d has every chance of preserving the atmosphere and hydrosphere for billions of years.

Of course, not without a fly in the ointment. TOI-700 is more than a hundred light years from Earth. It’s too far away to directly study the atmosphere of a small planet like TOI-700d, even with the future James Webb telescope .

However, the capabilities of astronomical instruments are growing rapidly. Perhaps in a few decades, scientists will carefully study the mysterious exoplanet and (who knows?) will find signs of the existence of life on it.

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Space

Apophis: A dangerous phenomenon was noticed on an asteroid threatening Earth

The asteroid Apophis, potentially dangerous for the Earth, experiences the Yarkovsky effect, as a result of which it gains acceleration and shifts to more and more threatening orbits with a collision with the Earth.

The asteroid Apophis, 325 meters in size, was discovered in 2004. The discovery caused a stir – calculations showed that there is a 2.7 percent probability that Apophis, named after the ancient Egyptian god of evil and destruction, will collide with the Earth in 2029. Then scientists ruled out this threat, calculating that on April 13, 2029, the asteroid will fly at a distance of 37.6 thousand kilometers from the center of the Earth.

The report on the detected displacement was presented at the Planetological Section of the Virtual Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in 2020 by a specialist from the Institute of Astronomy, University of Hawaii, Dave Tholen. According to the speaker and his colleagues, the asteroid Apophis is strongly susceptible to the Yarkovsky effect, which consists in a weak force effect on an object moving in space due to the inhomogeneity of thermal radiation.

All asteroids emit in the form of heat the energy of the sunlight they absorb in order to remain in a state of thermal equilibrium – and as a result of this process, the asteroid’s orbit changes weakly. Until now, it was believed that collisions of the asteroid Apophis during its approach to Earth in 2029 and 2068 are impossible. Taking into account the Yarkovsky effect with respect to a 325-meter potentially dangerous asteroid means that the scenario of its collision with the Earth in 2068 is updated again.

Apophis is the most likely candidate for a collision from the aton asteroids passing near the Earth, was discovered in 2004 and received its own name on July 19, 2005 in honor of the ancient Egyptian god Apop (Apophis) – a huge destroyer snake living in the darkness of the underworld and trying to destroy Sun (Ra).

During its approach to Earth on Friday, April 13, 2029, this asteroid will be visible to the naked eye as it passes within the orbits of Earth’s communications satellites.

One of the discoverers of Apophis, David Jay Tolen, in particular, said:

“We already know that the collision of this cosmic stone with our planet is impossible during the approach of 2029. However, the quality of our new observations with the Subaru telescope was high enough to reveal the acceleration resulting from the Yarkovsky effect on this asteroid.

Calculations have shown that the asteroid is annually displaced from a “purely gravitational” orbit by about 170 meters, and this displacement is enough to return the scenario of a collision with the Earth in 2068 among the probable outcomes .”

There are a number of services on Earth that track the potentially dangerous approaches of our planet with asteroids, but significant in body size, such as Apophis, attract the attention of scientists.

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Space

US professor said that the space expansion of earthlings will lead to the spread of totalitarianism

Political scientist Daniel Dodney believes that the foundation for future space conflicts is being laid on Earth today.

Space exploration is one of the main priorities for humanity in the 21st century. But not everyone agrees that the exit of our civilization beyond the boundaries of the globe will do more good than harm. For example, Daniel Dodney, professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University in the United States, believes that we should not attempt space expansion at all.

Dewdney is confident that the emergence of new habitats for people, in addition to the Earth, will lead to the emergence of interplanetary totalitarian empires. And if mankind somehow manages to master at least a few planets of the solar system, then nuclear weapons will become the “gold standard” in all wars (which, according to the professor, will not stop).

Although many colleagues consider Daniel’s arguments too pessimistic, the political scientist himself generally believes that people should abandon the exploration of outer space and search for a new home. 

“The large-scale expansion of human activity into space <…> must be included in the growing list of catastrophic existential threats to humanity,” Dodni insists.

No matter how gloomy the views of the American political scientist may look, they have certain grounds. So, in 2019, the United States announced the creation of a new type of its Armed Forces – space: they are “designed to protect the interests of the United States in space, deter aggression at long distances and conduct operational and consistent space operations.”

Daniel Dodney / The Brown Daily Herald
Daniel Dodney / The Brown Daily Herald

Other countries followed the American example: France, Canada and Japan announced their intentions to create similar troops. According to Dodnya, all this testifies to laying the foundation for future “near-earth conflicts.” According to his forecasts, space special forces will one day be able to control asteroids and comets to destroy settlements on rival planets or change the climate there, causing total extinction.

At the same time, the political scientist notes that he has nothing against “using space in ways that will benefit the Earth.” However, he doubts that this is possible.

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