Astronomy Wonder Project

If we were to live on Mars, how would the different conditions affect the human body over time, and would one-day humans be considered a different species?

I have always had an interest in the side of astronomy that includes humans and us being able to explore other planets. Which lead me to wonder, how we react to other planets/space’s harsh conditions? If we were to one day live on Mars how would the people who colonize the planet change over time? What are the differences in conditions on Mars to Earth? Could this affect a human body over a lifetime or would it take generations? What makes a different species to a different race? Therefore my overall Wonder Question is; I wonder if we were to live on Mars, how would the different conditions affect the human body over time, and would one-day humans be considered a different species?

MARS. In our solar system, it is the fourth planet from the sun and it is the following planet beyond Earth. Also known as the Red Planet because of its red colour from the iron oxide (similar to rust) in the soil. From the sun, this planet is more than 142 million miles away. Mars is smaller than Earth, as it is around one-sixth of its size. Mars also resembles Earth by having a moon, but differently, it has two moons.  Clouds and wind are also present on the red planet.

What are the differences in conditions on Mars to Earth?

One appearance difference is that Mars’ surface is mostly covered in rest dust and is rocky with lots of craters, volcanoes, canyons and places that could have been great lakes in the past. Even though there isn’t liquid water on the surface of Mars, only a few feet below there are large clean sheets of ice. Some of these ice sheets are more than 300 feet thick.

Another difference in the conditions is the temperature. Mars is quite a bit colder than Earth because of the thinner atmosphere (as well as lack of an ozone layer) and the greater distances from the sun. According to the Nasa’s fact sheet, Mars’ atmosphere is;

  • Carbon dioxide: 95.32 percent
  • Nitrogen: 2.7 percent
  • Argon: 1.6 percent
  • Oxygen: 0.13 percent
  • Carbon monoxide: 0.08 percent
  • Also, minor amounts of water, nitrogen oxide, neon, hydrogen-deuterium-oxygen, krypton and xenon

The temperature on Earth varies to place to place but the average temperature on Earth is 0.87 °C. However, Mars’ average temperature is minus 60 °C and can range from minus 126 °C in the winter season closer to the poles, to 20 °C during the summer season near the equator.

Similar to Earth, the red planet does have season caused by the planet’s tilt on its axis, but the difference is it also has a second seasonal effect. Mars has this because of its high elliptical orbit. The days on Mars are a bit longer than 24 hours. A year on the planet is around 1.88 years on Earth.

Gravity. One of the biggest differences between the two planets. As Mars’ surface gravity is only 38% of Earth. Someone who was to weigh 100 pounds on Earth would only weigh around 37 pounds on Mars because of the gravity. As well as having a weaker gravitational pull than Earth, it has more harmful radiation that causes more cancer.

While Mars has harm conditions that can seem very drastic compared to Earth. There are places on Earth such as the Dry Valleys of Antarctica that also has an extremely hostile environment. These valleys are very dry and cold. However, recently there was a species of Beauveria Bassiana that was found in these valleys. Beauveria Bassiana’s living conditions are similar to those on Mars. So researchers believe that there might be a possibility that life might exist on Mars too.

How would these conditions affect a human body over time or in someone’s lifetime?

Even just the process of travelling to the red planet is going to a toll on the bodies of the people. Research has already shown that even astronauts who spend short periods in space with zero gravity have a fast list of alterations to their bodies. Zero gravity and a smaller amounts of gravity will weaken the bones, muscles of a body and changes the circulation of the body. Less gravity can also expand the space in between your vertebrae, making the person taller in height.

There could also have physiological effects that range from muscle atrophy to osteoporosis, effects on the balance and cardiovascular system. As the human bodies adjust to the lower level of gravity it would make it impossible to live under the Earth’s conditions if they were to return.

‘Superoxides’ are present in the ultraviolet radiation in the soil are hard to predict how there would do to the human body. Depending on how much time the colonists spend outside the habitation, they will be exposed to 22 mSv per year.

There could be two ways that humans adapt to the harm conditions of Mars:

The first way we could adapt is we could become weaker versions of our current bodies (shorter lifespans, health problems). One example if our skulls were to get smaller, we could have a neurological disorder. If we were to adapt in this way, it wouldn’t be long it until it would be more of a death sentence to live on Mars.

However, if we wanted to survive for longer. We would have to have the opposite changes. Becoming stronger, and taller versions of our current selves. Some scientist think we would could also develop orange skin. As the food we would need to eat that fights and protects harmful UV radiation on Mars; it could cause us to turn that colour from the protective carotene. The carotene found in these foods are also a good defense against the cancer that could be caused by the radiation on Mars.

On Mars, the high levels of the radiation on the surface could mutate our DNA at a quicker pace. Our species takes a few hundred of thousand of years to evolve on Earth. But there might be a higher mutation rate that could cause a new human species (10x faster than on Earth)

What makes a different species to a different race? Could a person living on Mars one day be considered a different species? 

A species is a group of individuals that could interbreed in nature. This means a species is the biggest gene pool that is possible under the natural conditions of the world. For example, humans can look different, but as we can all interbreed. Therefore we are all the same species. This answers the question could a person living on Mars be one-day a different species. Scientists believe that depending on how long people are living on Mars, it will be impossible to have a child with someone from Earth and Mars.

In Conclusion 

The conditions of Mars do not make sense to live and colonize this planet. As even on Earth there are some places (with extreme conditions) that we have science bases on with scientists living to study but won’t have normal people living there. It is also quite expensive to have a mission to Mars.