Welcome to Mars, Sorry About the Face-Melting!

artist rendering of a satellite approaching mars
Image by NASA, in the public domain

Ready to be first in line when humans colonize Mars? As Rebecca Boyle explains at Five Thirty-Eight, the Red Planet presents scientists with kinks they’ll need to figure out before you can book a shuttle.

Even when we manage to navigate the quirks of landing on Mars, this jerk of a planet will still throw plenty of problems our way. One is temperature fluctuations. The atmosphere isn’t thick enough to stabilize temperatures the way Earth’s does, so Mars experiences 100-degree-plus temperature shifts from day to night. This is hard to fathom on Earth, where most people live in places that undergo 20- to 30-degree diurnal swings, at most.

“In L.A., I can’t leave my laptop outside in my yard overnight and expect it to work the next morning. It’s barely designed to survive that,” Vasavada said. “If things are not built in a way to deal with that on Mars, they’ll just peel apart.”

By the way, that is what will happen to your skin and eyes if you step onto Mars without a pressurized spacesuit. Mars’s atmospheric pressure is only 0.6 percent of Earth’s, so the water in your eyes, lungs, skin and blood would turn instantly into steam, killing you in less than a minute.

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