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Can People Live on Mars?—Possibilities for Colonization

A Terraformed Mars

Mars Facts

  • Olympus Mons, a shield volcano, is the tallest mountain in the solar system at 21km high and 600 km in diameter.
  • Scientists have discovered small pieces of Mars on Earth, brought here by small meteorites ejected from the surface of Mars.
  • Every 687 Earth days, Mars orbits the sun.
  • Mars is roughly half the size of Earth with a diameter of 53% and a surface area of about 38%.

The Infamous War of the Worlds Broadcast


Introduction: Can People Live on Mars?

I think humans will reach Mars, and I would like to see it happen in my lifetime. - Buzz Aldrin

Mars. Just saying the name calls to mind a myriad associations. For me, I'm reminded of the stark blood-red color of the barren planet, the result of it's being rich in iron oxide. Others may recall the many stories of Martians, but one thing is clear about the mysterious red planet, the fourth from the sun, it's uninhabited and uninhabitable -- or is it? There is new evidence that suggests humans can live on Mars but first, a little background.

War of the Worlds

I am almost certain that Mars gained its first real dose of fame in the modern era with the creation of The War of the Worlds in 1898, a novel written by H. G. Wells in which Martians invaded Earth. As if the book wasn't enough, the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network aired an adaptation of the novel on 30th October 1938 as a Halloween special. Needless to say, it sparked nationwide panic, causing many Americans to flee their homes and thousands more to flood the radio station with phone calls, seeking to clarify the validity of the broadcast. How far we've come. Back then we were terrified there might be aliens on Mars, now we're seriously considering if humans can live on Mars or not. What a turn around!

The Face

Later in 1976, when Viking 1 mission returned with photographs of a face-like landmass on the surface of Mars, the tales of an alien civilization returned with enthusiasm. All this attention has made Mars the most well-known of all the planets aside from our own - Earth.

Oh we've explored aliens, alright. Almost to the point of exhaustion. Mars has become something of a pop-culture, alien breeding ground with dozens of movies and novels pitting the human race against the more often than not; nasty little aliens on Mars.

There's one other question I'd like to pose, one I think doesn't receive the attention it deserves from the general public and it is:

Can people live on Mars?

I don't mean to sound glum but the situation on Earth is poised on a sword edge and it's a double edged sword at that. On the one hand, we may harm this planet so much that we destroy it. On the other, if we do manage to thrive and prosper here there's the growing concern of overpopulation.

Can people live on Mars and relieve the strain upon our beautiful Earth? Let's find out!

How Much do You Really Know about Mars?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation

  1. Mars has ...
    • The largest dust storms in the solar system.
    • The smallest mountain in the solar system.
    • The largest crater in the solar system.
  2. What two things are currently on the surface of Mars?
    • 2 craters containing ice.
    • 2 NASA rovers.
    • 2 Landers.
  3. On Mars, the sun appears about ...
    • Twice the size as it does on Earth.
    • Half the size as it does on Earth.
    • A quarter of the size as it does on Earth.
  4. Which roman god does Mars take its name from?
    • The god of love.
    • The god of Knowledge.
    • The god of War.
  5. What do Mars and Earth have approximately the same of?
    • Water.
    • Carbon Dioxide.
    • Land Mass.
  6. What was Mars once thought to have?
    • Civilizations.
    • Water and canals.
    • Gold.
  7. What two objects are orbiting Mars?
    • 2 asteroid sized-Moons.
    • 2 space stations.
    • 2 satellites from Earth.
  8. How many successful missions have there been to Mars?
    • 9
    • 23
    • 16

Answer Key

  1. The largest dust storms in the solar system.
  2. 2 NASA rovers.
  3. Half the size as it does on Earth.
  4. The god of War.
  5. Land Mass.
  6. Water and canals.
  7. 2 asteroid sized-Moons.
  8. 16

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 2 correct answers: Well ... erm, better luck next time.

If you got between 3 and 4 correct answers: Nice try. You're not quite ready to volunteer for the next mission to Mars though.

If you got between 5 and 6 correct answers: Not bad. You know your stuff.

If you got 7 correct answers: Impressive. You're pretty clued up aren't you?!

If you got 8 correct answers: Well done! Your knowledge of Mars is highly impressive. If there were a coming mission to Mars - you gotta be on it! ;)

This is the Closest We Have Come to Mars so Far

Could humans really live on Mars?

Could humans really live on Mars?

Space Shuttle Columbia

Warp Technology

Ways in Which we Might Travel to Mars in the Coming Years

At present, the most sophisticated space-flight technology generally takes from 150 - 300 days to reach Mars. A number of factors are involved in the journey time such as the speed of the launch, the amount of fuel expended and the alignment of Earth and Mars. Every 2 years, Mars comes within 55,000,000 km of Earth and this is the perfect time to begin a mission to the red planet by shuttle.Though with such a massive distance between Earth and Mars it's hard to imagine anyone would want to live there.

Wormhole Space Travel

Known as the Einstein-Rosen bridge, travel through space by wormhole is still unfortunately nothing more than a hopeful theory. In short, a wormhole works by connecting two different points in space-time, essentially a shortcut which cuts travel time drastically. The one hope we have is that Einstein's theory of relativity, mathematically prognosticates the existence of such wormholes, though as of yet, none have been discovered.

Still, it's a fascinating idea! If you will, just envision a sleek spaceship, sun glinting on its surface as it slips from within the folds of space and time with a ship full of humans ready to live on Mars.

Warp Drives

Remember Star Trek and those nifty warp drives? Such technology would allow us to travel to Mars at faster than the speed of light though apparently we are far from reaching a breakthrough in this area. The good news though, is that in 2012 Physicist Harold White announced to the world that he and his team had started to work on the creation of a faster-than-light warp drive. Just imagine, with this technology we could reach Mars in mere minutes as opposed to months. With this technology, humans could live on Mars and turn it into a second Earth.

Although we are still confined to relying on rocket technology to reach Mars, at least we know that it is possible to send human beings there.

Humans Will Live on Mars.

My vision is for a fully reusable rocket transport system between Earth and Mars that is able to re-fuel on Mars - this is very important - so you don't have to carry the return fuel when you go there. - Elon Musk

Can People Live on Mars? - Reasons for and Against

Reasons For Going to MarsReasons Against Going to Mars

Overpopulation on Earth.

Colder than the coldest enviroments on Earth. Often below minus 100 degrees celsius!

Abundant resources including water.

Almost no atmosphere meaning unprotected humans die within 30 seconds.

Open up the galaxy for further exploration.

Massive dust storms occur especially during the Martian summer meaning sunlight drops by 99%. No light for growing crops, no vision, no solar power.

Mars has roughly the same 24 hour cycle as Earth meaning plants can be grown there.

Current habitat technology is risky. Many things can go wrong.

A surge in new technology, some of which can be utilized to save Earth and its dying plant and animal species.

Low gravity on Mars means possible health risks such as bone mass reduction.

Water Ice Clouds Hanging above Tarsis

Martian Weather Facts

  • Near the poles the temperature can drop as low as -125 degrees C.
  • Huge dust storms can rage for days on end.
  • Temperatures as high as 6 degrees C have been recorded recently.
  • Mars has four seasons, like Earth.

How's the Weather on Mars?

As Mars is 50% further from the sun than Earth, it's unsurprisingly much colder than our green paradise with an average temperature of minus 60 C, however, in winter near the poles, temperatures drop to a goose-bump inducing minus 125 C! As well as this, Mars is also regularly hit by the largest dust storms in the solar system which can last for days, blocking out 99% of sunlight and obscuring visibility. Can humans live on Mars with such cold temperatures to contend with? We've adapted to every environment Earth has to offer, so why not?

Despite that, Mars does have 4 seasons, much like Earth due to the fact that the planet tilts on its axis and recently, in 2012, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity detected temperatures as high as 6 degrees C in the afternoon. It's still relatively cold compared to Earth but that is a temperature humans could and do survive in without too much trouble. Felipe Gómez, of the Centro de Astrobiología in Madrid said:

"If this warm trend continues on into summer, we might even be able to foresee temperatures in the 20s and that would be really exciting from a habitability point of view."

On the weather front then, although our colonists will need protection during storms and throughout the cold nights, daytime summers look very promising for the future, especially for growing crops. An another exciting possibility is the potential improvement there might be in the weather if humans are able to transport massive amounts of water to the planet and induce the kind of atmosphere we have here on Earth. Imagine humans lounging on the red sand beaches of Mars...

Just to keep your hopes up, there is even talk among scientists that a greenhouse effect (warming) could be created on Mars, using mirrors. That would heat up the planet and thicken the atmosphere to allow space-suited humans to live on Mars a little more comfortably.

The Eerie Martian Landscape

Are Aliens Studying Us with "Envious Eyes?"

Is there Life on Mars?

Martian Attacking Thunder Child in War of the Worlds

Is there Life on Mars or Worse - Evidence of Martian Habitation?

It was popular belief for many years that Mars was inhabited by an alien species which naturally came to be referred to as Martians. The discovery of the face-like rock formation on the surface of Mars in 1973 only served to compound this belief and dozens of movies based on extraterrestrial beings invading Earth followed in its wake.

According to NASA, there are no aliens, nor is there any evidence that the thin atmosphere of Mars can support life.

A year ago, NASA's Curiosity rover landed in Gale Crater and began its examination of the planet's air to determine whether or not life was or could be present. As the rover has been unable to find any traces of methane -a gas produced by living things - scientists are now saying that the conditions on Mars are not capable of supporting life.

What if?

Then again, what if Mars does support life, life that is completely different to anything found on Earth in its physiology and biological makeup? The same could be asked of the other planets in the solar system too but I guess we won't find out until we actually get out there and explore. Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.

So it looks as though Mars is there for the colonizing. The question is: can humans live on Mars? Or even, Would humans live on Mars, given the chance?

Thriving ball of warmth or cold, lonely ball of death? It appears that the latter still has a few fans, several hundred thousand of them...

Could this become ...

This? Or if not then how about ...

This? It's not much but it's a start.

According to these Fellows, Humans CAN Live on Mars and WILL!

Okay, I saved the best for last!

As it turns out, it appears that my question is about to be answered, well, not immediately but if all proceeds well, we will know in 2023 if its possible for people to live on Mars.

Bas Lansdorp, a Dutch entrepreneur and co-founder of Mars One - a non-profit organization, announced plans for the mission to Mars in May 2012 and caused an immediate stir among the population. He believes humans can live on Mars and is now providing the means to do so.

Two Hundred Thousand Applications

Four lucky individuals (depending on how you look at it!) will get the chance to become the vanguard of the human race, the first of a long-term plan for colonization by the Mars One organization - provided they make enough money, that is. Since April 2012 when the first applications were received, over 200,000 applications have been put forward and that number is likely to increase.

Long Term Plan

If that wasn't exciting enough, if the first mission is a success and the four colonists survive and successfully make Mars their new home, four more colonists will be sent every two years along with supplies and equipment to build the new colony on Mars. Anyone that goes to Mars, however, will not be coming back.

So I'll know if humans can live on Mars or not come 2023 and I have a feeling the answer will excite me, however, for those brave humans going to's a one way ticket.

After all that, what do you guys think?

Let's Face it, We're Gonna Have to go to Mars Sooner or Later


Conclusion: So Can People Live on Mars?

Well, we now know that the answer to that is yes and no because on the one hand, it's clear that the lack of an atmosphere, freezing temperatures and the fact that there is no oxygen mean that we couldn't live there without protection - lots of it. Couple that with systems never before tested on the surface of Mars, not to mention the chance of malfunction we all know comes with any mechanical or electrical system and it becomes clear that death on Mars is a very real possibility for the colonists going there. Should an O2 producing system fail in one of the habitats, the results would be catastrophic.

On the other hand, A LOT of time and money is going to be invested in the Mars One project and that means any systems developed for habitation on Mars, will be state of the art.

I for one am extremely excited about the future regarding the colonization of Mars. When 2023 rolls around I'll only be forty three years old which means there will still be plenty of time to see the colonization of Mars unfold - provided it is a success!

Can people live on Mars?

What do you think?

What do you think? Can people live on Mars and should we be?

Richard Candler on May 30, 2019:

When people eventually colonize on Mars have other factors,been taken in consideration regarding if the Grays from Zeta Reticuli or Reptillian races abduct the people on Mars.Light years away maybe but they 5th dimensions and above that,can travel vast distances in less time.Warp speed is when imagine a piece of paper put one end to the opposite end like a triangle shape ,that would be half the distance plus the worm holes lead to other galaxys whichno humans have tried yet?

John Logger on October 26, 2018:

This is interesting post, and endless becomes real after being discovered by Allen Omton and Serge Dobrow

Iggy on August 06, 2017:

Just ask the Martians. NASA found Advanced Intelligent Life on Mars with its first rovers in the 1970's and just continues to reveal more images of them to the wise. Here's who I've found on Mars and these people are on every Planet, Moon and Asteroid:

1) Mr. Belly Button: OR OR ----- Zoom your browser to 400% and at the top of the landscape go to the right vertical line of the darkened box. He's standing there with a Camcorder in his left hand over his left eye.

2) Carol from Where the Wild Things Are: ----- Put your cursor at the bottom of Ridout's line and click the picture to enlarge or zoom your browser to 400% or more. The black wavy thing is his arm, they're snaky and don't have joints.

3) Mr. Borg: or ----- Zoom your browser to 400% and at the far right is a Borg styled guy just about ready to inspect our rover.

4) EXCELLENT Birdhead Snaker: ----- Just click the picture for its zoom and in the center top of the picture you'll see a blinking or sleepy little guy's head with his hand up like he's got a headache. His right forearm is up on the rock in front of him and that's his snake or mermaid-like body to the left with a single lighter claw on the end. A very bird-like head, but not beaked.

5) Entries and Actual or Normal Doorway: - Zoom your browser to 400%. ----- 1 - Lower left corner you'll see a rectangular "cave" with a guy walking out of its right side. ----- 2 - 1 Scrollbar click right and 1 Scrollbar click up to see the quite clear squared doorway that survived NASA's artwork.

6) Barge Vehicle: - Zoom your browser to 400%. ----- At the top right you'll notice a Barge or open front Vehicle. This open or empty front end vehicle is very common and can be seen in many pictures, with careful study.

7) Dogger Alien: - Zoom your browser to 400% or more. ----- A few inches in from the right side and about 1/3rd down your screen you'll see a decent dark Dogger alien. He's actually carrying his kid while walking behind the "boulders".

8) Humaner Snaker Sunbathing:

Click the picture at the big off-center boulder for it's own zoom and then take your browser to 400%. ----- On the boulder you'll find the Humaner Snaker with a black body seated on the boulder and facing to the right.

9) Wheel-Track hiding attempt: - Click the picture at the big off-center boulder for it's own zoom and then take your browser to 400%. ----- Go to the 3rd square within the right wheel-track to see the wheel-track was actually a hiding attempt of a big headed alien by NASA. You'll notice there are smaller aliens in most of the wheel-track squares.

10) Puckheader and Flying Box: - Click the picture for its own zoom and then bump your browser up to 400%. ----- 1 & 2 - Start at the bottom right of the picture and then click the side Scrollbar up once and the bottom Scrollbar 3-times left, then back-up the bottom Scrollbar cursor to the right just an inch. Both are about an inch under the jagged black line. On the left edge is a white headed Puckheader with his right (your left) black arm and claw in front of his mouth and on the right edge is the little flying box with a shadow (a rarity in this shot) about 2-inches down and 1-inch behind it.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on November 19, 2016:

I found this to be a very interesting discussion about the question if humans can live on Mars. You came up with a lot of important points that need to be further researched.

I was confused about something you said, and hopefully you can elaborate further. You said plants can be grown there because of the 24 hour cycle, but you also said that sunlight drops by 99% during dust storms and there is no light for growing crops. So this seems to be a contradiction.

I was reading elsewhere about an idea for a long-term future plan to grow trees in order to slowly change the atmosphere to be more similar to earth's atmosphere with 19% oxygen, but those dust storms may interfere with that. And being that Mars is so much farther from the Sun, the colder temperatures put the growing of crops into a totally different category. Any thoughts?

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on July 06, 2016:

Hello Rich, I can see the validity of your article because would you believe -- only recently, I heard about a course being given regarding legal laws on land in outer space. Why would people be studying this, if there is no reason for it? So, yeah, it seems there are people involved in space who know stuff we may not know and are preparing for it. Thank you for this highly informative article about Mars.

Richard J ONeill (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on December 10, 2014:

Thank you BeatsMe.

Yes, I think it's probably best if we try to take care of this planet while we still have it, rather than try to turn other planets into habitable ones.