By Adrian Lemaigre, edited by Caroline OstermanAdrian Lemaigre is a Master of Engineering student in the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR) department. She is originally from France where she did her undergrad specializing in applied maths and computer science, and at Berkeley she’s been studying data science and machine learning. Her goal is to become a data scientist in the Bay Area. Adrian enjoys everything related to new technologies and space exploration — more specifically, the advancement of human civilization. One year ago, SpaceX unveiled the rocket with which Mars would be colonized: the Interplanetary Transport System. However, reaching Mars is only half the adventure. What comes after is no less challenging — how do we keep a human colony on Mars alive? One of the major issues of space exploration remains the exposure to cosmic rays. Studies have shown that their effects on human health included higher risks of cancer in most organs, specifically leukemia as well as breast and lung cancers (Francis A. Cucinotta, Marco Durante, 2006). Protection against these rays is therefore primordial for the survival of a human colony on Mars. A possible solution is the construction of underground habitats where human settlers would be sheltered from cosmic radiations. When lava cools down, it may leave behind a cylindrical cavity below the surface called lava tube. Due to the lower gravity on Mars, these tubes are believed to reach diameters of more than a hundred meters, large enough to house a human colony (Jacques Blamont, 2006).
A possible solution is the construction of underground habitats where human settlers would be sheltered from cosmic radiations.Studies have shown that cosmic rays can be stopped by two to four meters of rock, making underground colonies one of the safer options for humans inhabiting the red planet (Morteza Sheshpari, Yoshiaki Fujii, Takuya Tani, 2017). Furthermore, its lesser gravity and cold climate (the average surface temperature on Mars is -50°C whereas it is about 15°C on Earth) lowers the risks of collapse, allowing the settlers to drill and expand these caves (Morteza Sheshpari, Yoshiaki Fujii, Takuya Tani, 2017). Underground colonies are one of the most hospitable locations on the red planet, both for their protection against cosmic radiations as well as the easiness with which they can be created and expanded. So, if you plan to move to Mars in the near future, just don’t forget to bring your drill and your pickaxe!
Op-Ed: Can there be life on Mars? was originally published in Berkeley Master of Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.