The many ways living on Mars will kill you

Credit: BBC

With the prospect of a permanent human colony on the surface of Mars seemingly drawing nearer with every press release from the Mars One project, we thought we might take a moment of your time to mention that any person who permanently relocates to Mars will very likely die a horrific and untimely death. Here's how those brave — possibly dangerously so — first people to set foot on Mars will likely meet their end, technical failures notwithstanding.

For starters, potential Martian colonists could be cooked by radiation before they even get to their new home. Generally speaking, radiation levels along the trip from Earth to Mars are survivable, but the Sun is a massive, unpredictable mass of churning radioactive death. A single solar flare during the time that Mars-bound astronauts are in transit would send highly energetic particles straight through any shielding we can currently produce. In a nutshell, it would cook everybody outside of a planetary magnetic field like so many microwave dinners. Solar flares will likely be at the peak of their 11-year cycle in 2022, only a couple years before Mars One is slated to make its maiden voyage.

Once on the surface of Mars, there's the planet's lower gravitational field to contend with. Mars has only a third of the gravity Earth does, and over the long haul that can be deadly. Everything from the way your heart functions to how strong your bones are is related to gravity. Take that force away and all of a sudden you're losing bone marrow, your heart is beating incorrectly and your inner ears are off-kilter, making sure you feel seasick as your body shuts down and falls apart. This is why astronauts don't stay aboard the International Space Station longer than they do. The effects of what basically amounts to "space sickness" would be reduced on Mars when compared to the weightlessness of space, but would still cause devastating, likely terminal health problems over the long haul.

Then there's the problem of sustainable living on Mars. Resupply missions would cost billions of dollars and likely be far too late if you run out of something as vital as air, water or food. Of course, any Mars colony worth its salt would be self-sustaining in theory. It would take only a single crop failure, however, for food and the oxygen those dead plants provided to go the way of the dodo, taking your chances of survival right along with them. We salute those of you out there willing to brave the risks of setting up a lonely, isolated existence upon the surface of Mars. We'd just like to feel a bit better about your chances once you get there.

Extreme Medicine, via Wired

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