Mars ain’t the kind of place ...

Travelling  to Mars will not provide a "quick fix" for mounting environmental woes on Earth, a Dunedin academic warns.

Associate Prof James Scott, of the University of Otago geology department, has studied fragments of ancient Mars rock which have been blasted out of the red planet by asteroid strikes.

Prof Scott, who is also the Geoscience Society of New Zealand president, has given talks around the country about Mars, and several current missions to the planet, including Nasa’s Perseverance rover.

Humans had evolved under Earth conditions, and we had also adapted to Earth’s temperature range and gravitation strength and could breathe the atmosphere, he said.

Associate Prof James Scott, of the University of Otago, with a piece of Mars basalt rock. PHOTO:...
Associate Prof James Scott, of the University of Otago, with a piece of Mars basalt rock. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
"While Mars is a top target for space exploration, Earth is where humans will be best suited.

"Therefore, while we should keep our eyes to the heavens and expanding our horizons, it’s pretty important that we also pay careful attention to our home — it is the perfect place," he said.

On Mars, we could never take off our protective suits to feel the wind on our face.

"We would likely live in cramped conditions, with little personal space, and probably worried that a storm might damage or destroy the habitation chambers (or we’d live underground)."

"I can’t imagine living under those conditions," he said.

There was no liquid water, the surface was bombarded with radiation, and swept by strong dust storms and the average temperature at the equator was -63degC.

When studying tiny Martian rocks that had reached Earth as meteorites, he was "constantly amazed" to be holding" a piece of another planet".

The tiny basalt rocks showed the Martian surface was mostly volcanic, and trapped gases showed the atmosphere was 95% carbon dioxide.

"It is just amazing to be able to know what geological processes have taken place on another planet in the solar system, especially when we can look up in the night sky and see a tiny orange speck," he said.


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