10 Recent Tech Advances That Bring Colonizing Mars Closer To Reality


The red planet is the next horizon humans have their eyes set on. While landing on the moon was a titanic human accomplishment, a trip to Mars is both farther and more inhospitable to humans and technology. Luckily, technology is advancing at an increased rate, helping humans get closer to colonizing Mars.

As computers advance at an astonishing rate, they are also becoming smaller and lighter, ideal for space travel. For the most part, anything humans send to space will never return, so it is crucial that all technology is optimal and can survive harsh environments.


10/10 Communications Via Lasers

A fast and clear communications system is essential for the colonization of Mars. A laser communications system on the planet could send large amounts of real-time information to Earth. This data can include audio recordings, video feeds, high-definition, and research results.

Sending information via lasers is a much faster process, with current radio systems, even a map of Mars sent to Earth would take approximately nine years. If this information was sent through lasers, it could take as little as nine weeks. NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications experiment is testing how laser communications will fare in deep space, as their payload will be traveling millions of miles away from Earth.

9/10 Durable & Reliable Power Via Nuclear Fission & Fusion

Humankind has been interested in space and science as long as they have been around. Traveling to the stars and other planets has been ingrained deep into humans, and luckily, scientific advancements are getting humans closer to that goal. A fission or fusion reactor-based power system is seen as the most competent choice for travel to the red planet, according to NASA. Nuclear technology has played an important part in space missions; however, its role is set to increase dramatically. Nuclear fission is energy collected from splitting atomic nuclei, while nuclear fusion is energy created from joining atomic nuclei.

Both processes will help humans embark on this long-awaited journey by providing efficient-running power to onboard spaceship systems. While ships like the Voyager spacecraft are unmanned, colonizing Mars will require space travel that features temperature regulation, life support systems, and communications.

8/10 Martian Lab On Wheels

What sounds out of a science fiction movie is being worked on today. An important part of space travel is efficiency, every piece onboard serves a purpose. A way to boost this efficiency is to combine functions, such as an RV-like home that functions as the crew’s lab on wheels.

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Currently, NASA has been conducting experiments on rovers to collect data on how a pressurized mobile home on the Moon would fare. Artemis’s astronauts who live and work on this rover will, in turn, be able to offer feedback on the Martian design and requirements. This rover allows astronauts to freely roam the terrains, and when a discovery presents itself, they can don their spacesuits without the worry of oxygen levels.

7/10 Spacesuits

Spacesuits are becoming so high-tech that the latest generation, called the extravehicular mobility unit (xEMU), can function for use anywhere in space. While the suits for the Apollo missions were iconic and catapulted humans into a new era, they were stiff and immobile. These new suits are created to allow astronauts better flexibility and natural movement.

For future upgrades that will be for Mars, additional life support functions will be addressed for the carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere. For humans, Mars is a climate they can’t survive in: while the heat stays at a comfortable 70 degrees °F, the colder regions can quickly dip below 220 °F. The new suits will contain modified outer garments to prevent overheating in the summer and to keep astronauts warm in the Martian winter.

6/10 Inflatable Heat Shield

Safely landing cargo and equipment is a major element of visiting and potentially colonizing any planet. Currently, the largest rover that has landed on Mars is roughly the size of a car, landing astronauts and the equipment needed will require a much larger system. NASA is creating an inflatable heat shield that will allow spacecraft to do this.

The shield is designed to take up less space in a rocket than in a rigid one. The larger surface area can expand and inflate before it enters the Martian atmosphere to slowly and safely bring astronauts to the ground. What seems simple in theory has much more technical aspects to it. The shield needs to be able to handle the environment of low-orbit and entering an atmosphere, hence why several experiments are being conducted before it is put on missions.

5/10 Advanced Propulsion Systems

While 140 million miles is minuscule in terms of space, for humans, it is deep space: a place no soul has ever gone to. Reaching this destination takes time, and time is crucial in any operation involved in space. The advancements in propulsion systems will help astronauts reach Mars as quickly and safely as possible. NASA is working on creating the most powerful and efficient propulsion system, even showcasing the vision in the 2015 film The Martian where the science behind the ion impulsion drive was used.

It is too soon to properly say which propulsion system will be used. However, it will be nuclear enabled. The two options considered are nuclear electric and nuclear thermal propulsion, both have merits. While a nuclear electric rocket is a more efficient option, it doesn’t generate the same thrust as thermal propulsion.

4/10 Satellites

In order to reach for Mars, science is not the only element needed, but also funding. The satellites SpaceX has launched in the last two years have had two missions: one, to provide affordable internet, and two, to help fund Starship.

Starship is the 100-passenger reusable spaceship that is being developed that is designed to transport passengers between planets. In 2019, a prototype name Starhopper went through experiments at SpaceX’s South Texas facility, giving the SpaceX team groundbreaking data they could apply to the larger ship.

3/10 Reusable Rockets

The SpaceX team’s “mission to Mars” features steps in their rockets that include refueling in Earth’s orbit, transporting multiple passenger ships, and creating the largest rocket in existence. Elon Musk’s vision is to send over 1 million to Mars by 2050, an ambitious venture to say the least.

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The aerospace company has developed technology for full and fast reusability of different spacecraft; however, the ultimate goal is that their orbital launch vehicles can be fully ready for use only a few hours after their return. Currently, the Falcon 9 is the only functional, orbital-class reusable rocket. This makes replacing parts less costly, eventually making space travel more accessible.

2/10 Plasma

While most associate plasma with neon signs, its use can have an impact on humans, space, and their desire to survive on Mars. Plasma is currently being experimented on to synthesize oxygen in the atmosphere of Mars. In other terms, the plan is to use Plasma to pull oxygen out of the thin Martian air (per Universe Today).

Plasma technology is versatile, scalable, and, most importantly, produces more oxygen while reducing the bulk of machinery needed. While NASA has an experimental system named Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource (MOXIE), the machine still has its own drawbacks. Plasma could be the next step in producing oxygen on the red planet.

1/10 Radiation Shields

Astronauts traveling to the red planet will be in space for an extremely long amount of time. Months, even years in space can not only have effects on the mind but also on the body. With an abundance of cosmic rays and ionizing radiation, humans need to be properly shielded or risk severe effects on their organs.

At the Ames Research Center, researchers are working on developing a space-friendly radiation shield. The team has created a compactor that takes daily non-organic waste and converts it into a disc approximately 20 cm by 1.5 cm thick, which serves to compose a light cosmic ray shield on the walls of space capsules.

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