But before humanity can decide whether or not we can turn the crimson dessert world into an oasis, we have to first discover a way to land humans on the red planet.
(Universe Today) The real problem is the combination of Mars’ atmosphere and the size of spacecraft needed for human missions. So far, our robotic spacecraft have been small enough to enable at least some success in reaching the surface safely. But while the Apollo lunar lander weighed approximately 10 metric tons, a human mission to Mars will require three to six times that mass, given the restraints of staying on the planet for a year. Landing a payload that heavy on Mars is currently impossible, using our existing capabilities. “There’s too much atmosphere on Mars to land heavy vehicles like we do on the moon, using propulsive technology completely,” said Manning, “and there’s too little atmosphere to land like we do on Earth. So, it’s in this ugly, grey zone.”
But what about airbags, parachutes, or thrusters that have been used on the previous successful robotic Mars missions, or a lifting body vehicle similar to the space shuttle?
None of those will work, either on their own or in combination, to land payloads of one metric ton and beyond on Mars.
If humanity is ever going to colonize Mars, then scientists will need to figure out a way to bring the populace (en mass) to the surface (preferable alive).
A combination between gigantic rockets and enormous Ballutes may be the preferable method to landing on this dusty world, as the Martian weather may be too violent for a space elevator to ever be constructed (at least in the traditional sense).
Landing humans on Mars may be one of the most difficult task our species has faced since the Apollo era. But if our species can find a way to safely land people on the surface of the red planet, then Earth citizens will be able to conquer any terrestrial world orbiting our star system.