Mars Can Be A Quick Killer: Boiling Blood, Toxic Dust, And An Unbreathable Atmosphere

There is little question that a Mars mission will be a potentially deadly venture -- from launch to maintaining a colony -- for whoever becomes part of said mission. And many already know that the radiation on Mars, if an explorer/colonist were to not be properly protected, would ensure within a few months the deaths of those exposed to it. But Mars can be a quick killer as well. In fact, the Red Planet is inhospitable in ways that could kill you within minutes and even seconds.

Planetary scientist Pascal Lee, who works for NASA's Ames Research Center and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute (both of which are located in California), recently said, according to Space, during a webcast at the 2017 Humans To Mars Summit in Washington, D.C., that an unprotected astronaut or colonist on Mars would be at the mercy of a harsh planet. After surviving the dangerous launch, the 150- to 300-day voyage to arrive there (per Universe Today), and the various problems that the astronauts/settlers will inevitably face upon setting up an outpost/colony, Lee noted that there were five relatively fast ways to die on Mars.

Radiation would take the longest, perhaps several months, the planetary scientist said. Without proper suits and housing, humans would quickly succumb to the harsh radiation from the Sun, something from which the Earth's atmosphere and magnetic belts protect humans.

Exposure to the dust, which is toxic, could also kill an individual, taking just a few weeks to do so. Being fine and abrasive, the Martian dust would also be a hazard to equipment and ventilation systems, causing breakdowns and the need for continuing repair and constant cleaning. Otherwise, systems and/or said equipment might fail, providing deadly scenarios, especially if such systems include life support hardware.

Mars colony with space ship
Future explorers on Mars will have to find ways to deal with the Martian dust, which is fine-grained, toxic, and deadly. [Image by Algol/Shutterstock]

And radiation and the dust are the slow killers. Mars comes complete with a set of quick killers as well.

The temperature on Mars can plunge from a comfortable 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) along the equator to an average of minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 62 degrees C) at night. An individual finding themselves without the ability to maintain a warm environment would die within hours if exposed to such cold.

But if an individual found themselves without proper breathing apparatuses or somehow were caught outside enclosures without oxygen, the planet's predominantly carbon dioxide-filled atmosphere would be an even crueler killer. Breathing the air on Mars would kill a person within a few minutes, Lee said during the webcast.

Mars' atmosphere can also quickly kill in another way. The air pressure on the Red Planet, where the atmosphere is roughly 100 times thinner than it is on Earth, would literally, if the individual were without proper protection, boil that individual's blood inside their bodies.

"If you are unprotected on Mars … your blood would boil, even at ambient temperature," Lee said. "All the gases that are dissolved in your bloodstream [would] just turn into bubbles. Like popping a can of Coke, you would fizz to death. And that's within seconds."

Two explorers on Mars
For the colonist or explorer that becomes exposed on Mars, the planet will waste little time trying to kill them. [Image by SergeyDV/Shutterstock]

With such a harsh environment to overcome and continuously combat, it might seem to be counterintuitive that anyone would want to suffer the rigors of going to Mars if the destination might be even deadlier than the trip. But several nations already have plans in the works for future Mars missions, including the United States and China.

In fact, at the same 2017 Humans To Mars conference, famed astronaut Buzz Aldrin presented his vision of humankind's next steps that would eventually lead to a full-fledged colony on Mars. According to the Inquisitr, Aldrin said that NASA needed to stop spending money helping to fund the International Space Station and put that money toward a push to Mars. He also promoted increased private sector participation in low Earth orbit space and cooperation with China, the production of an international Moon base, and the maintenance of fleets of space ships to run circuits between various destinations in space, including Mars and the aforementioned lunar base.

[Featured Image by Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock]