Whilst the exploration and colonization of Mars dominates most of the topics surrounding the Red Planet, certain properties that could ease in its feasibility are often left out of the discussion. For example, one of the lesser known facts about Mars is that its surface gravity is significantly weaker than ours — this means that objects weigh less on there than they do on Earth. According to Sir Isaac Newton’s Theory of Universal Gravitation, Big Red’s gravity is roughly 3.7 m/s2, or 37% of our own Big Blue planet. But what does this mean on a practical scale?
On one hand this could be incredibly useful, as equipment weighing 100kg on Earth would feel like 37kg on Mars. This would be especially helpful for the shifting of materials or goods of any kind if astronauts were to begin living on the planet. That being said, that also means that small things would be able to float away if not latched down, as motion, velocity and movement would have different properties – although it is easy enough to counteract if you are expecting it.
On top of this there are physical demands on anyone who will be sojourning on Mars for long periods of time, as reduced gravity will begin to affect astronauts’ bone density, muscle mass, physical performance and aerobic capabilities. However, this is not necessarily new, as these are the exact issues faced by the crew of the International Space Station as well as any other manned mission to space. Prolonged exposure will most definitely continue to impact humans negatively, and is something scientists will need to consider when planning missions to the Red Planet.
There is a base of knowledge and experience they will be able to build upon though, as manned missions to the Moon where gravity is a lot lighter (17% of Earth’s) have been successful. When paired with decades worth of data collected on the ISS, this would help provide government agencies and private contractors with enough information to accurately work these issues and find viable solutions.
Lower gravity certainly has its perks, but can most definitely have its drawbacks. One thing is for sure though, it will certainly be an interesting feeling for the first astronauts to step foot on the dusty planet’s surface – although it will be less hard on them physically as the Moon landing, it will no doubt be met with just as much, if not more, fanfare.