How charting Mars could aid in enabling human habitation

Not the glowing green masses with three eyes and unstable radio wires, yet people, brought up on the Red Planet.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is preparing for the first round-trip from Earth to Mars at the end of the decade, while NASA researchers are currently spending a year in a simulated Mars habitat in Texas in preparation for the space agency’s ambitious plan to land the first astronauts on Mars as early as the 2030s.

However, safe landing of spacecraft necessitates precise land maps and local weather information. With their Mars Atlas, researchers at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) are making this dream a reality.

According to Dimitra Atri, head of the Mars Research Group at NYUAD, the team created “a beautiful color mosaic of the whole planet,” by carefully combining over 3,000 high-resolution images gathered by the Hope probe, which has been orbiting Mars since 2021.

“If you look at the history of Mars, so many probes have just crashed,” says Atri, adding that the thin atmosphere makes it difficult for rockets to slow down and even low winds can alter landing trajectories. “If a probe crashes, it is a big loss of science and resources. But when you’re sending humans you need to be very careful.”

Atri asserts that researchers can identify the safest time and location to land by comprehending daily and seasonal weather patterns.

Accurate atlases can assist in overcoming a number of obstacles, including landing: Another is figuring out where the best landscape, temperature, and resources are for human settlements. We can make water that can be used for living if there is ice available,” Atri explains.

According to Atri, “It might sound silly, but maybe in the future it will be very common for people to go to Mars and even live there,”

Astronomers have been mapping

Mars for nearly two centuries, mapping dust and desertification. Wilhelm Beer and Johann von Mädler in Germany created the first map of Mars in 1840. Yet, it was Italian space expert Giovanni Schiaparelli’s 1877 guide that ignited a getting through interest with the possibility of a Martian development, when the normal water channels he set apart on the guide were mislabeled as counterfeit streams.

The first images of volcanoes, lava flows, rocky canyons, and massive dust storms were captured by NASA’s Mariner missions in the 1960s and 1970s, giving us a better understanding of Mars’ topography. In the a very long time since, NASA has made various guides, including ones in light of the planet’s mineralogy, and recently, the US space organization delivered a nitty gritty intelligent 3D guide of Mars.

NYUAD’s map is “the first one to entirely use actual color photographs of the entire planet,” says Atri.

NYUAD’s map is currently being used by NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Sciences in its Mars 24 software, which keeps precise timings on Mars. The atlas has also been incorporated into JMARS, a NASA mission planning database that is accessible to the public.

Scott Dickenshied, a representative of JMARS, told CNN in an email that NYUAD’s map is “created from more recently acquired data than some of the previous global maps” and provides an “additional perspective of what Mars looks like.”

According to Dickenshied, the instrument used to collect data for the NYUAD atlas is able to “observe the entire disc of Mars at once,” and this perspective “could be very useful to researchers looking to observe clouds or dust storm activity at a planetary scale.” In contrast, the instruments used by NASA and ESA provide data with a higher resolution over a longer period of time.

Mars and Earth

It is hypothesized that Mars was once a planet covered in water like Earth and could have been home to life. However, the thinning of its atmosphere caused it to cool and dry out, which made it dry today. According to Atri, it now experiences regular global dust storms, which have a significant impact on its climate by absorbing heat and blocking radiation.

Atri believes that climate scientists can apply the information gathered about Mars’ desertification to Earth “to understand what could happen to our own planet going forward.” Desertification is a growing issue on Earth, particularly in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

“My worry is that if we don’t do enough on Earth (to tackle climate change), then it might become Mars-like,” he adds.

Atri intends to replicate Martian conditions in the laboratory in the future to study plant behavior. Mars has a harsh and unforgiving environment: very little air, very low temperatures, and a lot of ultraviolet light.

Atri says the plants he will study, which fill normally in dry, pungent soil in desert areas, similar to the Unified Middle Easterner Emirates, could assist us with understanding how plants could endure the Red Planet’s brutal environment, and permit analysts to track down better ways of developing food in space, or enhance agribusiness in parched districts on The planet.

Atri anticipates receiving his first real Mars samples in the year 2033. This research is still in the early planning stages. However, other researchers are already looking into how Mars-based food-growing innovations might affect Earth.

Food production, which requires a significant amount of land and water, accounts for 34% of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans worldwide. However, the system’s inefficiencies cause one-third of the world’s food to be wasted, resulting in extreme food insecurity for over 345 million people and an increase in hunger and malnutrition. Restricted assets in space imply that food creation innovation on Mars should be profoundly proficient and shut circle, with practically no waste.

Two food scientists in Canada have written a book arguing that growing food on Mars could transform agriculture on Earth, and researchers in the UK published an article last month in the journal Nature Food that looked at how controlled environment agriculture in space could be a “gateway” to developing technology that is similar to that for Earth.

According to Atri, our understanding of Mars’ geology, climate, and atmosphere can also help us determine whether any of the thousands of planets orbiting stars outside our solar system are habitable or capable of maintaining an atmosphere.

Numerous researchers accept life on Earth began on Mars billions of years prior, and Atri considers the Red Planet to be the ideal lab to investigate the hypothesis.

“We need to understand our neighbor,” says Atri. “Maybe it had life at some point, or maybe there is some life below the surface that still survives. Maybe we had common origins. Who knows?”

“This is our best bet to understand ourselves, and where we came from.”