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No living in rosy glow

23 January 2014
John Harvey

SO what will life be like on Mars?

A playground for dust-buster addicts? A Mecca for mountain climbers? Or a mundane existence where the colour red has become "so last season"?

According to the chief scientist in the Mars Programme Office at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Dr Richard Zurek, while the Martian year is twice as long as the earth's year, there will still be summer and winter seasons because of the Red Planet's tilted axis.

However that hardly translates into lazy days tanning in the warmer months.

"Mars is definitely a desert world," Zurek says. "Its atmosphere is very thin [only 1% as massive as our own], there is no liquid water and temperatures are distinctly chilly."

However, he does say the topography of the landscape, dotted with vast canyons, mountains and sand dunes, is exceptional for explorers.

Dust is the order of the day (and night), giving the daytime sky an orange appearance and the sunrise and sunset a blue tinge. A Blue Curacao cocktail is thus recommended if you visit the Mars Bar.

Zurek says a nice day is a notch above freezing, but at night temperatures plunge by 100C.

Fashion plates will also have to face the fact that clothing will not be a big priority.

"The cold, coupled with a lack of oxygen, very low pressures and solar radiation, would confine astronauts to their spacecraft or enclosed vehicles, with the occasional Mars-walk in their spacesuits."

Environmentalists and Earth children may not like this, but deliberately poisoning the atmosphere may actually be beneficial to Martians.

"Adding carbon dioxide to the Red Planet's atmosphere would increase air pressure and at the same time cause the planet to warm up through the greenhouse effect. This would mean liquid water could be sustained on the surface, possibly allowing plants to be grown, which in turn would increase oxygen levels."

So vegetarianism it is then on the Red Planet - or at least until the cow-like being from Jupiter pops in for a bring and braai.



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