Infographic: Horrible Things That Will Happen to the First Humans on Mars
So, you've got ambitions of being the first human to set foot on the Red Planet, eh? Maybe you've watched The Martian a few too many times and you're fancying yourself a regular Mark Watney. Maybe you've been to Space Camp and behind the controls of a Cessna and you've got it all planned out: Air Force academy, a physics degree, NASA... and then Mars. Maybe you've been training your entire life. Maybe you were made for it.
Then again, maybe not. Maybe you should consider what awaits you on that rust-colored dustball that beckons you to its sepia surface 34 million miles away from your comfortable little life on a planet that all but coddles you. Here's a look at just a few of the ways that your voyage of discovery will offer just as many insights into human fragility as it will into whatever's watching you from that rock in the distance. Brace yourself, human. The seven-month journey to Mars and the effects of its colonization will offer up all kinds of new experiences.
1) First and foremost, the decrease in gravity will literally warp your body.
As organisms that evolved to live on Earth, stuff our faces with carb-laden junk food, and troll the comment sections on social media, our bodies have developed to move our internal fluids in accordance with this planet's gravity. That's a good thing, because 60% of body weight consists of fluid. In the absence of Earth's gravity however, those fluids – which are drawn to the legs by gravity on Earth – rise to the highest point of the human body: the head.
Your legs, however, will look skinnier due to the lack of fluids flowing downwards. Meanwhile your face will begin to look fat and puffy as a result of the large increase of fluid in your head. Not a good look for space selfies.
If having a giant head wasn't painful enough, your vertebrae, which are normally kept stacked and compact in your spinal column on Earth, will begin to elongate, increasing your height by anywhere from two to three inches until you return to Earth.
To complicate matters, you will permanently lose bone density thanks to the atrophy engendered by the lack of gravity. Speaking of atrophy, your hard-earned gains will vanish as your hubris propels you toward the War God's planet: astronauts lose a generally large portion of their muscle mass on flights that last from five to eleven days, this immense loss requires them to exercise for two and half hours every day just to maintain functional strength.
2) Your vision will suffer.
According to NASA, "in spaceflight... pressure inside the eye, or intraocular pressure, changes significantly. A significant number of astronauts report changes in visual acuity during orbital flight. Perfused blood flow in the dense meshwork of capillaries of the choroidal tissue provides necessary nutrients to the outer layers of the retina (photoreceptors) to keep it healthy and maintain good vision. Unlike the vascular system, the choroid has no baroreceptors to autoregulate fluid shifts, so it can remain engorged, pushing the macula forward and causing a hyperopic (farsighted) shift of the eye." Eventually, however, the brain begins the process of self-correction, adapting to these changes and vision returns to normal-ish.
Sadly, while you're stumbling around on your chicken legs, feeling sorry for yourself and waiting to be able to see clearly, your torments will have just started.
J. Walsh/Outer Places
3) Once you land on the dusty rustball of a rock, you will not be reaching a planet similar to Earth, instead you will be on a smaller planet, about a third of the size of earth.
Unfortunately, this means that the muscle and bone atrophy of low gravity will only be perpetuated while you continue to live on the red planet. This has drastic implications on your overall life quality and wellbeing, along with the health of all subsequent offspring of any other interplanetary explorers.
If none of that rubs your the wrong way, Mars also does not have the benefits of a magnetic field nor an atmosphere to protect living organisms from the extreme radiation emitted by the sun and by general cosmic radiation. Not to mention the extreme fluctuations of the temperature of Mars, ranging from 70º to -195º. Considering all of this, if you are still feeling adventurous, we wish you the best of luck!