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Are Humans Ready to Colonize Other Planets?

Vlad Sima

Stony Brook University


This literature review examines articles and papers surrounding the topic of Mars

colonization and specifically whether humans are currently ready for it. There are two aspects to

this subject that existing literature has divided its focus on. The first looks at our capability of

settling Mars in regard to our present technology, as there are many obstacles that make it a

difficult feat. A lack of an ozone layer invites violent solar rays right to the surface on Mars, low

temperatures inhibit the growth of plants and make day to day operations hard, and high

transportation costs make multiple necessary trips less likely are a few examples of hurdles. The

second aspect looks at political and ethical issues. How can peace be assured between the

countries participating in the race to colonize Mars? Do current space laws cover colonization in

space and do they in a proper manner? Most of the literature surrounding these questions dictate

that participants should consider waiting until the right regulations are formed, yet many private

companies and countries are known to act first and suffer the consequences later.
Are Humans Ready to Colonize Mars?

Humans have their eyes set on colonizing Mars, but to do this they must overcome many

obstacles that are in the way. These obstacles start on Earth, where people are working on

creating the best spacecraft for the job, fixing current rockets that explode during launch,

researching proper diplomatic, ethical, and economic policies for the venture, as well

overcoming problems that are not an issue here on Earth, such as food, water and harmful solar

radiation. Unfortunately, even though colonizing Mars is almost within reach, private space

organizations are rushing to get there as quickly as possible and they should slow down even if it

means waiting additional years to get there in order for the venture to be peaceful and safe.

One reason why Mars colonization is rushed is because private companies have a desire

to sell colonization to the public for the wrong reasons, and this makes them act less carefully

than how they should. Rayna Slobodian (2015) advocates the idea that corporations are in a rush

to put people into space and her research separates the motivations of colonizing Mars into two

categories: valid and corrupt. In her research, she states that private enterprises are leading the

race to colonize Mars, which before was only an interest of governmental organizations. This

causes less regulation and these companies are able to get away with risky activities because of

this. She believes companies should evaluate the important reasons for colonizing Mars and

slow down and dedicate the time that is necessary to ensure a safe colonization instead of rushing

as they are presently doing.

Regarding the possibility of colonizing Mars in respect to natural obstacles, particularly

solar rays and low gravity, humans are not yet prepared and should wait before settling the planet

until solutions are found. Journalists at UWIRE (2016) recorded a former NASA surgeon’s

insight on the viability of colonizing Mars. James S. Logan, the surgeon and a co-founder of
Space Enterprise Institute, researched the topic and came to the conclusion that immediate

colonization of Mars is unrealistic at the moment due to “low-gravity and high-radiation effects

on the human body” and presented an alternative plan to dig deep into one of Mar’s moons and

set up a colony there. While humans have a desire to build civilizations on the surface of Mars

in a way that mimics what exists on Earth, the current technology that exists does not yet support

this wish. Ultimately, Logan’s message supports the idea that humans are not ready to colonize

other planets in the way that they would like; however, the obstacles of low-gravity and solar

radiation will not be problematic forever.

Another article which reviews the obstacles of settling on Mars mentions low-gravity and

solar radiation, but also brings light onto different ones too. In the article, Joseph Dussault

(2016) questions Elon Musk’s intended colonization date of sending people to Mars by 2025 by

bringing up concerns such as how food and water necessities will be dealt with, how scientists

will neutralize Mars’ toxic soil, and lastly, how Musk’s transport system will generate enough

thrust to carry colonies to Mars. The article continues by doubting Musk’s ability to keep to his

declared schedule considering not just a few weeks ago one of his rockets exploded during a

firing test. Overall, there is a lot of doubt pertaining to Mars colonization dates and the general

trend in belief is that it is going to take longer than expected to colonize Mars. There are a

multitude of problems both on Mars and on Earth that must be dealt with before humans should

be sent to Mars. Still, companies that are planning dates for colonization remain confident in

their abilities to solve the issues at hand and succeed in their goals.

While there are many scientific and technological issues hindering the colonization of

Mars, there are many political and ethical matters that should be considered before any

colonizing should be done too, which also supports the notion that humans are not ready to
colonize Mars. Calanchi, Farina, and Barbanti focused their studies on the ethics of managing

the environment of Mars and respecting the territories of Mars and Earth. They also have

analyzed the potential negative consequences of colonialism, specifically, the consequences of

external control and economic exploitation of people and lands. The goal of their research is to

get people thinking about these issues because there is risk of repeating the issues of the past

from an uncareful and speedy colonization of Mars. They also wish for people to study issues

that are not technologically or scientifically based, both of which are the most common areas of


An additional concern that needs a proper review before humans are ready to colonize

Mars is diplomacy. Is there a possibility of war ensuing either on Mars or on Earth due to

conflicts between space-rivaling countries? Would we be prepared if there was a war, or is it in

everyone’s best interests to avoid war altogether? Bruhns and Haqq-Misra (2016) examine the

OST, the Outer Space Treaty, which is the current official document outlining the permissions

countries have in their special activities. So far, the treaty has successfully prevented any issues

from occurring, but the treaty was written in 1967 and Bruhns and Haqq-Misra argue that it

needs to be updated to account for colonization before humans are sent to settle on Mars. This is

because, as they have discovered, organizations with commercial interests have inconsistent

principles with the OST and if there are no specific rules to ensure peace, things can get out of

hand. Therefore, the OST should be updated to establish a system that fits scientific,

governmental, and private interests on Mars, and it should be based on intensive research on the

specific interests of these three groups as well as be easily amendable to account for new

interests that arise, all of which should be done before colonizing Mars.
While war could be a serious effect of colonizing Mar, Szocik, Wojtowicz, and Baran

(2017) studied the potential of international cooperation in the future space policy of sending

humans to Mars and the obstacles that would deter countries from joining together. In their

research, they map out peaceful and conflict scenarios that they believe are the most likely

situations that would occur. Their research is stemmed from the belief that a collaboration

between the countries interested in colonizing Mars would ease the pressure of getting there

quickly, and in turn would allow adequate time for the right preparation and guaranteed safety.

Unfortunately, even though colonizing Mars is almost within reach, private space

organizations are rushing to get there as quickly as possible and they should slow down even if it

means waiting additional years to get there in order for the venture to be peaceful and safe.

Problems range from ones present on Earth such as creating the right technology for the job,

writing proper diplomatic policies, and ensuring ethical motivations drive company desires to

colonize Mars, and ones that exist on Mars, including ethical considerations, avoiding war with

competing countries, and overcoming harmful solar rays and toxic soil. While humanity is close

to colonizing Mars, it is best to ensure these issues are adequately prepared for before departure.
Bruhns, Sarah, Jacob Haqq-Misra. “A pragmatic approach to sovereignty on Mars.” Blue Marble
Space Institute of Science, Nov. 2016, p 57-63.
Calanchi, Alessandra, et al. "An eco-critical cultural approach to Mars colonization." Forum for
World Literature Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, 2017, p. 205+. Literature Resource Center,
e65ca. Accessed 4 May 2018.
Dussault, Joseph. "Musk's Mars colonization plan: Time to get real?" Christian Science Monitor,
21 Sept. 2016. Infotrac Newsstand,
93526. Accessed 4 May 2018.
Slobodian, Rayna. “Selling space colonization and immortality: A psychosocial, anthropological
critique of the rush to colonize Mars.” Elsevier, Aug. 2015, p 89-104.
Szocik, Wojtowicz, et al. “War or peace? The possible scenarios of colonising Mars.” Elsevier,
Nov. 2017, p. 31-36.
"Former NASA surgeon talks viability of Mars colonization." UWIRE Text, 22 Jan.
2016, p. 1. Academic OneFile,
xid=24368b75. Accessed 4 May 2018.