Man on mars Man on mars A 3D-rendering of an astronaut walking on Mars. (Photo: Spectral-Design / Shutterstock)

Could you live on Mars?

200,000 people just volunteered to start a Mars colony. Would you join?

Are you searching through the real-estate ads for a new home, perhaps one in a quieter neighborhood than your current place? Well, here's a thought for you: Have you considered looking in a different zip code, or perhaps on a different planet?

When a group dedicated to starting a human colony on Mars issued a public call seeking volunteers to move to the most isolated cul-de-sac in the known universe, 200,000 people signed up for the opportunity. That number was recently whittled down to 100 and consists of a community of global citizens ready to become the ultimate homesteaders. After rigorous training, the group will be cut down to 24 and, if all goes as planned, their colony will be launched into space in less than 10 years.

All this talk of moving to Mars has got people asking: Is it even possible? What would life in space be like?

"The environment is going to be very harsh, and they will need an infrastructure," says Dr. Zvi Shiller of Israel's Ariel University. Shiller, who worked with NASA on the Mars rover and is the chair of the Israeli Robotics Association, suggests sending robots first to the red planet.

"The robots will be able to assemble the living quarters," Shiller told From The Grapevine. "They will have to prepare the infrastructure before the first person can live on Mars."

Florence Porcel wants to move to MarsFlorence Porcel of France was one of 200,000 people from around the world who volunteered to move to Mars. (Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images)

Once the colony is built and the humans arrive, what can the team expect?

Each home "will contain bedrooms, working areas, a living room and a 'plant production unit' where they will grow greenery," according to Mars One, the group leading this mission. "They will also be able to shower as normal, prepare fresh food (that they themselves grew and harvested) in the kitchen, wear regular clothes, and, in essence, lead typical day-to-day lives." Solar panels could provide power. In addition, each home will be connected via passageways, so residents can freely visit their neighbors without having to first don a special space suit.

If they do venture outside, citizens of Mars will have to contend with erratic temperatures and carry an oxygen unit with them. But as any astronaut can tell you, it's smart to have backups as even the best-laid plans can go wrong.

"Any mission plan has to deal with failures," says Andy Weir, the author of a novel about a NASA astronaut who accidentally gets left on Mars and is forced to improvise to survive. "What if this happens? What if that happens? So I made an unfortunate protagonist and subjected him to all of them." His book, "The Martian," is a New York Times bestseller and is being turned into a movie starring Matt Damon to be released later this year.

Acting like MacGyver in space, the protagonist in "The Martian" uses his astronaut know-how to seek food, shelter and hopefully find his way back to Earth. But Weir cautions against non-professionals going into space. "I don't think if you're just a layman sent up to Mars you would be able to survive for very long," Weir told From The Grapevine. "It's an extremely dangerous environment. It would be like if you just took some eager, yet untrained, volunteer and sent them to Antarctica. They wouldn't be able to survive for very long either."

The surface of MarsA photo of the actual location on Mars where the main character in Weir's book is stranded. (Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

The Mars One mission, it should be noted, is a one-way ticket. These pioneers would be in it for the long haul.

Asked what non-essential item he would bring with him on a trip to Mars, Weir thought about it for a moment and responded: "I'd want to bring a computer with a compiler on it, which would let me write my own software so I can amuse myself for a long time if I could do that," he said, revealing his geek bonafides. "I could make my own video games, and then when I'm done playing them I could make new ones.

"Also," he added, "I would bring a big old collection of '80s synth music. That's what I grew up with and that's what I like."


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Related Topics: Space

Could you live on Mars?
200,000 people just volunteered to start a Mars colony. Would you join?