Humans on Different Planets Audrey Wijono

Dust storms rush across Mars like a tornado, coming at you. Running in panic, you trip on the rocky surfaces. Your coat gets stuck on a jagged rock. The dust storm rushes up at you. Just as you think you’re a goner, the dust storm passes you. Just a few small bruises, that’s it. If that’s just the environment on Mars, imagine how unique other planets’ environments are too! Some planets that have a possibility of one day being inhabited by humans are Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, Venus, Earth’s twin sister, and Mars, the planet that has sparked theories of habitability since the 19th century. Which one will be habitable?

Before jumping into the different planets, you need to know what the criteria to sustain human life are. For starters, every living thing needs food, water, and air to survive. For humans specifically, their bodies can manage temperatures ranging from about 0-40 celsius so anything drastically higher or drastically lower would not be suitable for human life.

Mercury

Mercury is a very unique and different planet from Earth. Since it’s the closest planet to the sun, it’s very hot and dry there, and has no liquid water. Nevertheless, Mercury still has a potential to one day be inhabited by humans. It just depends on when and where humans live on Mercury.

Physical Characteristics

Before comparing Mercury to Earth or any other planets, you first need to know the characteristics of Mercury itself before comparing it to Earth. For example, the size of the planet, the mass of the planet, the gravity of the planet, how the planet orbits around the sun, and how it turns on its axis since this can all depend how humans would have to live on the planet.

Imagine living on a planet far smaller than Earth. Less places to go, and denser populations. Can’t be that hard, right? Mercury is only ⅖ the size of the Earth. The surface area of the Earth is 501.1 km2 while the surface area of Mercury would be 204.04 million km2. Can you believe that big of a difference? That surface area would only be equivalent to the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and the Arctic Ocean. That covers only about a quarter to a half of all of the Earth’s water. In fact, Mercury is only slightly larger than our moon!

The gravity on Mercury is also only 38% of the Earth’s gravity. That would mean humans would have to learn how to run and jump with control again since you would jump way higher, 3 times as high as you could jump on Earth, and run way faster. In fact, weightlifters would be in luck since you could carry heavier objects with more ease. But if someone were to throw a heavy object at you, you would still feel the force of the object since the mass is still the same.

Mercury orbits the sun in one of the weirdest ways in our Solar System. Just visualize drawing an egg in art class. If you drew the egg on its side, then think of the planet Mercury orbiting the sun the way you drew the egg. Mercury has an elliptical orbit. Since Mercury’s orbit isn’t a perfect circle, there will be some times that the planet is closer or further from the sun than other times. For example, the closest it can get to the sun with its elliptical orbit is 46 million km away from the sun, and the furthest it can get from the sun is 70 million km. Either way, that isn’t very far from the sun if you compare it to how big the universe is.

Mercury's orbit around the sun is not very centered.

On Earth, a rotation around the axis is the equivalent of 1 day since the sun rises and sets. On Mercury, a rotation around its axis takes about 59 Earth days, while a year, orbiting around the sun, takes about 88 Earth days. Even though a rotation on the axis is 59 Earth days, it doesn’t count as a day since a day means having the sun rise and set. Because of this, an actual day on Mercury is 176 Earth days due to the speed of its orbit, the speed of the time taken to rotate on its axis, and the patterns of which parts of Mercury faces the sun and which parts don’t face the sun, kind of like when Singapore has sunrise, some other country or countries in the world have their sunset and when you go to sleep, people in America are usually awake.

“Here on Earth at sea level, the molecules of air are colliding billions of times per second."- David Blewitt

Environment

What if Mercury had grass? How would that impact and change the planet it is today? The environment of a planet could be the key to whether or not planet can support life. Some things that can affect it are the temperature of the planet, what the crust looks like, and whether the planet has an atmosphere.

Since Mercury is the planet closest to the sun in our Solar System, its temperatures would, obviously, be very high. Much much higher than temperatures on Earth. Temperatures in the daytime are about 430 celsius, but at night, the temperature drops to about -180 celsius. Just try living on Mercury when the temperature in the morning or afternoon is hot enough to melt zinc and almost hot enough to melt sulphur! Then a drastic drop in temperature from scorching unlivable temperatures to temperatures colder than the Arctic. At the poles of the planet, it’s cold enough to store megatons of water in ice form, except it would be too cold for any human to live on without any special gear.

Some planets, like the Earth, have different parts of the planet look different at different times of the year. For example, Singapore is a tropical country with trees compared to Egypt which is a dry and arid country that has a desert, but both of those places also look different from Japan or New York where you have snow and winter in some parts of the year in parts of the country. On Mercury, you should just forget about looking at different types of scenery since the crust of the planet is just all-around the same: Grey, dusty, and filled with craters, just like our moon.

The layers of Mercury including the crust.

This thing protects the planet from radiation, heat, and other dangers that can’t harbor human life. The one on Earth is getting thinner and thinner, but we’re pretty lucky since at least we still have an atmosphere. On Mercury, you can forget about relying on an atmosphere for protection from radiation, gamma rays, and heat from the sun. Because of the radiation from space, the sky in the day is black instead of blue. The difference is that with an atmosphere, Earth can scatter the rays and light from the sun so that it’s not black since something that is black is just an absence of light. “Here on Earth at sea level, the molecules of air are colliding billions of times per second,” David Blewett, a member of the Senior Professional Staff at John Hopkins University, suggests that the molecules in the atmosphere smashes into the radiation in the air and neutralizes it.

Ice on Mercury

Can Humans Survive on Mercury?

What if the Earth is somehow destroyed? What if you just wanted a new vacation spot? What if you just want to move out of the Earth for good? Before those questions cross your mind, you need to look at how safe it would be to go to Mercury first. What would it be like living in a place where the size and gravity are so different as well as the fact that there is no atmosphere?

When the size of Mercury is only ⅖ the size of the Earth and the gravity is 38% of the Earth’s gravity, a lot changes. Your muscles are basically helping you move against the will of gravity, so if you’re in an area with a lot less gravity, like Mercury, the muscles would slowly lose their mass until they get used to the gravity in the planet or area. You blood also reacts to gravity in a way that usually on Earth, your blood is mostly a gradient starting from your legs and feet going up because of gravity, but if there is no gravity, the blood would equal up making parts of your body look weird like maybe your face would be red or pink or it would start puffing up. That’s what astronauts in space face when they go out of the Earth, except it’s at an even higher degree since there is no gravity in space, and at least there is some gravity on Mercury. When the astronauts come back to Earth, though, they are shown to be able to reverse the effects of living in a no gravity zone, it just takes some time and therapy. If you are in an area where there is very little or no gravity and you don’t exercise, your bones will also slowly deteriorate.

Living on a planet with no atmosphere poses a lot of problems, especially when it’s the planet closest to the sun. With no atmosphere, radiation can just come in without anything to stop it, including gamma rays. The sun would also be a lot brighter and you would have a lot higher UV rays around. These things cause cancer and just mess up your DNA to the point that you could be a Ninja Turtle. And if these hazards haven’t messed you up yet, either your offspring will be messed up or you would’ve died by now.

In conclusion, Mercury has a potential to one day be habitable, but at the same time, maybe not since Mercury has no atmosphere to block out UV rays which cause cancers, mutations, and deaths. It also doesn’t have a suitable temperatures for humans to live on, and its gravity and size will certainly mess up your body, but on the other side, the poles of the planet can store water in solid form, and humans can only go a few days without water, so I believe that in the future, when space gear is more commercialized, when we have the equipment, and more knowledge, Mercury can be filled with bustling cities and quiet getaway villages inhabited by humans.

Venus

“The atmosphere of Venus is so alien compared to Earth, yet it’s our sister planet. We’ve got the same size, same materials and almost the same gravity,” Kevin Baines, NASA’s planetary scientist, points out that even though Venus is known as Earth’s twin sister, it’s dead. So different from the Earth, yet still so similar. What an interesting planet Venus is, being Earth’s twin sister, but still unable to support life.

Physical Characteristics

Despite being a planet that has a lot of similarities to Earth, there still are a few noticeable and drastic differences between Venus and Earth. If there wasn’t, then why doesn’t Venus support or harbor any form of life? What will Venus’ gravity and size, its orbit around the sun, and its rotation around its axis be like that affects it to not be able to harbor life compared to the Earth?

As Earth’s twin sister, Venus must have a good amount of similarities to our planet. It’s gravity is about 91% of the Earth’s gravity, which is 8.87 m/s2, so there wouldn’t be much adjustments needed for the human body to deal with compared to Mercury regarding your muscles and blood vessels. The size of the planet compared to the Earth is almost identical so humans would be spread out pretty well on the planet, roughly like how humans are currently spread out right now. In that sense, Venus would be like a second Earth.

A year on Venus, also known as the time it takes for Venus to orbit the sun, is about 225 Earth days, but a day on the planet is 243 Earth days. Wouldn’t that be odd having New Year’s Day before a day has actually passed? No one really knows why a day is shorter than a year on Venus, but the most supported theory is that an asteroid collided with Venus which changed how long it takes for the planet to rotate on its axis.

Unlike every planet in our Solar System except for Uranus, Venus has a retrograde rotation. So unlike the Earth, Mercury, or other planets that orbit the sun in an anti-clockwise rotation as well as their rotation around their planets’ axis, Venus and Uranus orbit the sun in an anti-clockwise rotation, but rotate on its axis in a clockwise rotation if you look from on top of the sun. Another thing to know is Venus is the most spherical planet in our Solar System, and has the most circular orbit around the sun. Another thing about the retrograde rotation is instead of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, it rises in the west and sets in the east.

If you’ve ever lived in a country that has had 4 seasons in a year. Now think about how many seasons Singapore has. That’s right, 0. Imagine that all around the world. No snow, no trees with falling leaves, and no super hot weathers. That’s what the Earth would be like if the planet weren’t titled to a side. Well, that’s exactly what Venus is like! No cold weather, just hot, dry, and arid throughout the whole year.

"Venus is extremely inhospitable for life, whereas Earth is a great place to live. If these planets were created around the same time, why would Earth take on such a different character?"- Don McCoy

Environment

“Venus has become somewhat of a ‘forgotten planet’ with the emphasis on Mars exploration in the U.S.. But Venus can tell us about Earth’s future and about planets around other stars-- I expect we will discover a number of surprises from this most capable new mission,” Larry Esposito, an American planetary astronomer and professor at the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, notes that Venus is much like Earth, and if humans explore Venus more than Mars, they could find clues to the future of the Earth and what other habitable planets might look like through the weather, natural disasters, the atmosphere, its crust, and the air on Venus.

You’d think that Mercury is the hottest planet in the Solar System since it’s closest to the sun. Good guess, but you’re wrong. It’s not because of where Venus is that makes Venus hotter than Mercury, but more of what the air on the planet is made of and its atmosphere. Venus has the hottest temperatures in the Solar System as a planet with an average temperature of about 462 celsius. Since this is an average temperature of the planet, it means that the temperature ranges around 462 celsius, so it would be hot enough on some days to melt lead, which melts at 467 celsius. The temperature on the planet is fairly consistent since the planet is only very slightly tilted at a 3.39 degree angle, so that means there are no seasons on the planet, but as the part of the planet you’re on is further away from the sun, temperatures cool down a bit. Temperatures on the northern hemisphere, though, can range from -43 celsius to -173 celsius, way colder than when the part of the planet you’re on is facing the sun. Because of how hot the weather is, lightning and rain drops never touch the surface of Venus, so you won’t have to worry about another rainy day preventing you from going outside or playing sports, but then again, with such hot weather outside year-round, wouldn't you want even a little bit of rain?

You feeling rumbling beneath you, the ground growling at you, cracks form on the road, buildings fall down. The rumbling gets louder and louder, until you realized it’s stopped. Waves crash on the shore, getting more and more inland each time. Every wave gets bigger, higher, and deeper. You’re in deep trouble. The waves come in some much you hear screaming, people drowning in the water as it flows more and more inland. Running, the waves come at you, then, they sweep you into them. Everything turns black. Natural disasters occur on Earth a lot, so it’s absolutely possible that natural disasters can occur on Venus. Due to the hot weather, the natural disasters that can occur on Venus are limited, but the natural disasters that can happen on Venus have their effects multiplied. For example, tsunamis can’t occur on Venus since water will evaporate straight away, but volcano eruptions build up over millions of years of heat, then they erupt with so much heat you’d burn and die immediately. Earthquakes can’t occur on Venus. They can’t occur because there are no tectonic plates inside the planet to release heat and cause an earthquake. Tornadoes and hurricanes can occur on Venus though, and they go up to 400 km/h.

A volcano eruption on Venus would be tons of times worse than the one shown.

If Earth didn’t have an atmosphere, it would not support human life, but if its atmosphere is too thick, it wouldn’t support human life either. That’s the problem with Venus. Its atmosphere is so thick, that once something comes inside, it can’t come out easily. Its atmosphere traps heat into the planet, and since 96% of the air on Venus is carbon dioxide, it doesn’t help with getting the heat out, and instead traps the heat in the planet. That’s why Venus is hotter than Mercury.

Mountains, river, valleys, hills, seas, and oceans. How would you relate those 7 words to the Earth? The crust. Those geographical features are super important as they determine what kind of materials are in the area, the weather, and what you need more than others. It’s the same on Venus. Venus is filled with volcanoes, craters, and canals which can potentially be an inconvenience to humans. Just imagine the volcanoes like if you needed to climb across a volcano to go to school or go to a park, that would take much longer than if it were flat. Even though there are a lot of volcanoes, craters, and canals, about ⅖ of the crust on Venus are flat plains, so that would be more convenient to live on.

What do humans need to breathe to survive? Oxygen. It’s vital that humans have the correct type of air to breathe, because if humans breathe in too much of a toxic kind of air, they’d die. On Earth, most of the air we have is oxygen and a bit of carbon dioxide, so they’re ok. But on Venus, the air is 96% carbon dioxide. Too much carbon dioxide not only traps heat in the planet, but an overdose of CO2 is also toxic towards humans, so that could be a problem for humans.

Can Humans Survive on Venus

Known as Earth’s twin sister, can’t humans also move to Venus if they wanted to? That would be cool if they could right away at this second, but maybe we can’t. I will explain how the different atmosphere and air will affect whether we can live on Venus with the material, knowledge, and technology that we currently have.

Because of how thick the atmosphere is, it would be super hot. There is absolutely no way humans can survive in that temperature with the technology they currently have, so that would pose a huge problem. Universetoday.com quoted, “More recently, NASA scientist Geoffrey A. Landis wrote a paper titled “Colonization of Venus“, in which he proposed that cities could be built above Venus’ clouds. At an altitude of 50 km above the surface, he claimed, such cities would be safe from the harsh Venusian environment:

“[T]he atmosphere of Venus is the most earthlike environment (other than Earth itself) in the solar system. It is proposed here that in the near term, human exploration of Venus could take place from aerostat vehicles in the atmosphere, and that in the long term, permanent settlements could be made in the form of cities designed to float at about fifty kilometer altitude in the atmosphere of Venus.” Geoffrey A. Landis is saying that maybe the secret to colonizing Venus is to live on its clouds, where the planet is the most Earth-like part of Venus. It’s also because of how dense the atmosphere is that it would be hard to move around quickly. If you tried, it would feel like trying to run in a pool.

When 96% of the air on Venus is composed of carbon dioxide, it would be too deadly and toxic for humans to live on since our lungs and respiratory system are not built for breathing in that much carbon dioxide. You would need an oxygen tank, like the ones you use for scuba diving or what astronauts use to breathe on Venus.

In conclusion, Venus currently cannot support life the way it is for humans, but it could support life for tiny microbes known as extremophiles. These microbes survive and live in some of the harshest environments on Earth, like Yellowstone National Park, where they live in battery acid and survive in temperatures beyond boiling temperatures. These microbes have evolved to live in these harsh environments, so maybe one day humans can evolve to survive in such harsh conditions. If you look back at its history and what’s left of today, there is a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that Venus could’ve been a habitable environment 3-4 million years ago. This means that if humans had more technology and were around 3-4 million years ago, maybe they could’ve inhabited Venus. Nevertheless, what Venus is like today gives astronomers and scientists clues on what Earth might look like in a few million years.

Yellowstone National Park

Mars

Writers have written about humans living on Mars since the 19th century. Meeting aliens known as martians, or just colonizing it for the sake of humans. Either way, it is very controversial on whether or not humans can live on Mars. Many things will determine whether we can, so if you hope to live on Mars one day, read on.

Physical Characteristics

From a spaceship, you look out at Mars. Red, white, and black. Most important of all, it looks dead. Like an old abandoned town that you walk through, dead, but somehow feels alive. Almost like ghosts are following you, awaiting what you’ll find in their once lively town. Things to consider about the dead Mars are its orbit around the sun, its atmosphere, its gravity and size, as well as whether or not it has a magnetic field.

The time it takes for Mars to orbit the gigantic, fiery ball of heat and radiation is about 1.88 Earth years. That’s about 2 Earth years, and the time it takes for Mars to have a sunrise and sunset is a little over 24 hours, which is about an Earth day, just slightly longer. This means that it wouldn’t be too hard for humans to adjust to how long a day is, but humans would have to wait twice as long for New Year’s Day.

Mars’ atmosphere is far thinner than the atmosphere on Earth, and certainly much, much thinner than the atmosphere on Venus. Because of how weak the atmosphere is, more radiation and heat can come in. As you know, radiation does all sorts of things to your body that just messes you up. That would mean humans would have to wear astronaut suits to prevent radiation or at least reduce the effects of the radiation.

With only half the diameter of Earth, you can see that Mars is pretty small. In fact, its diameter is only equal to the radius of the Earth. That’s pretty small! It doesn’t even equate up to how much land is on Earth, and there’s more water than land on Earth. Its gravity is also significantly lighter than the gravity on Earth making it easier to jump high and run fast, but with that also comes a lot of sacrifices made to your body like your blood vessels and muscles. Mars only has a gravity of 3.711 m/s

Having a magnetic field is like having a second atmosphere. Kind of. Well, not exactly, the only similarities they have are that they can both block out radiation. But a magnetic field also has some useful things it does that make the Earth what it is today. For example, in ancient times, people often used compasses to sail boats or get around. A compass would work because it’s magnetic. The Earth also has magnetic fields at its poles, some a compass will always face north and south.Without a magnetic field, a compass would be practically useless, so if you go to Mars, you’re better of selling your compass since there’s no magnetic field to direct you using a compass.

"Mars is there, waiting to be reached,"- Buzz Aldrin

Environment

Red, dusty, rocky. What does that describe? Mars, but knowing just that isn’t enough to just whether or not Mars is suitable for life. Thus, I will be talking about the weather and temperature on Mars, natural disasters on Mars, and what it’s like in the daytime and at night on Mars.

Mars is pretty unique. With an average temperature of -66 celsius, it would be freezing for us humans, but temperatures can change drastically throughout a week on Mars. For example, today could be -66 celsius, but tomorrow could go up to -50 celsius or go down to -72 celsius. This makes Mars’ temperatures unpredictable on a daily or weekly basis. Even at the poles of Mars, temperatures would reach -125 celsius, while in the summer, temperatures would reach 20 celsius, which is about how chilly some countries are right now.

On Mars, you’d never have to really worry about a storm or rain since lightning and rain will never touch the surface of Mars. Add that with 20 degrees celsius temperature and you’d have a pretty nice and cool day. Another cool thing about Mars is if you get lucky, you could see an occasional cloud pass by.

What if a hurricane hits where you live and destroy where you live, your house left in ruins, and now you live in a tent or live in an area full of debris. You absolutely need to know what kind of natural disasters will or might occur on the planet you live on. For example, mars has dust storms on its planet, but the Earth doesn’t have any.

The closest thing humans on Earth have to dust storms are sand storms, which you can only find in a desert. Either way, it’s vital to know what kind natural disasters are on Mars and what their effects on humans are. Dust storms occur on Mars since it’s a fairly dusty planet. Even if you get caught in a dust storm, they won’t hurt you too critically. You might get a few bruises or cuts here and there, but it’s nothing much to fret about. In our world today where electricity is very important, just hypothetically, if a dust storm were to pass through your house on Earth where there is electricity, it would clog up your electricity so that you wouldn’t be able to use it through outlets, but that and cuts and bruises are the worst dust storms will get on the outside, but if the dust gets into your lungs, that’s a big problem. Dust storms also are generally more common in certain seasons and regions. The dust storms can be 20-30 km high in height, and sometimes, in this way, attract lightning to strike in the dust storm. Worst part is they could last for weeks

Another good thing about Mars is there are no earthquakes even though there are tectonic plates on the planet. This is because they were still moving and bumping into one another millions of years ago, but after a while, Mars started cooling down much faster than the Earth so the tectonic plates’ movements ground to a halt.

On the other hand, it’s also due to these tectonic plates that Mars is home to the largest volcano in the Solar System, known as Mount Olympus. That’s a natural disaster you should be scared of on Mars. Its big, dangerous, and you just don’t want to get near it. In fact, scientists and astronomers have concluded that Mount Olympus is neither an extinct volcano nor a sleeping volcano. It’s an active volcano that may have just recently had an eruption either a couple years ago or a couple of decades ago.

An ariel view of Mount Olympus

On Earth, you squint your eyes while looking at the clouds. The sun glaring at your eyes while the white puffy clouds compliment the light blue sky with a nice touch to it. If you plan to go to Mars, you should take a picture of the daytime on Earth and bring it with you to Mars as memories since you’ll expect a different daytime scenery on Mars. Instead of a light blue sky, you’d have a navy blue sky with a bit of orange in it. Kind of like Earth and sunset or sunrise, except that it’d be the whole day until night time. Although it’s different, it doesn’t look all too bad. It’s just different from Earth.

While looking up at the night sky, you keenly look at the stars you can see trying to connect the dots and find Orion. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to match the stars up to the picture of it you found on the internet. There’s no need to worry about constellations or stars on Mars. In fact, you should be worried about how many constellations you can piece up together and find before the sun rises again. At night, it has a blackish blue like on Earth, but the sky is packed with stars. In fact, some rovers on Mars have captured pictures of Earth from Mars’ sky at night.

Can Humans Live on Mars?

If only humans had more technology that’s commercially sold and more knowledge on Mars, then yes, humans can live on Mars. But what they currently have, no. Since the explanation is for what humans currently have, my answer is no. Humans cannot inhabit Mars at the moment. For example, what would be the solution for its thin atmosphere? Creating more cures for radiation caused illnesses, making effective space suits that are commercially sold, or both?

And also, what about Mount Olympus, what are humans going to do about that. It’s such a large volcano on such a small planet that even if we lived far from the volcano, it would still indirectly affect you.

In conclusion, Mars is currently not habitable, but in the future, when humans have more knowledge and technology, Mars could be a getaway planet or a vacation spot for some humans. All we can hope for is it just so happens to be in our lifetime.

Discussing planets beyond the Asteroid Belt is completely irrelevant since they are all non terrestrial planets and if humans tried to settle down, they’d fall straight down into the core if the cold from the gaseous crust hadn’t already frozen us to death, or in some cases of a few planet like Jupiter, haven’t had their immense amount of gravity rip us into pieces already.

You look up at the orange blue sky, pondering on a time where living on different planets was a dream. You look up at the night sky with your space suit on to block out radiation and heat from the sun. Then, you go back to your house. Whether you plan to go to different planets in the Solar System for a vacation or to live there, you’ll just have to wait a while before humans have the technology to do so. For example, we’d need suits that can block out heat and radiation on Venus, living on Mercury where the gravity messes your whole body up from your blood vessels to your muscles which takes a long time to restore back to normal through physiotherapy. The worries of Mount Olympus just erupting and burning you to death and all your accomplishments of living on Mars. Those are just a few problems of travelling to these 3 planets alone humans must solve, so imagine if you wanted to travel to other planets!

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