Space's Deepest Secrets (2016–…): Season 4, Episode 2 - Mission to the Red Planet - full transcript

The latest science reveals what it would take to build colonies on Mars, and how our future on the Red Planet might be closer than we think.


on July 20th 1969 at 10:56 p.m. Neil

Armstrong became the first human to step

into another world the moon

at fun all fit for man one giant leap

for me

now the race is on to send an astronaut

to the next frontier Mars from a

technical point of view we are much

closer today to being able to send

humans to Mars than they were to being

able to send men to the moon in the

1960s reaching Mars would bring us

closer to achieving one of mankind's

greatest ambitions inhabiting another

planet the survival of our species may

depend on it

but it won't be easy the atmosphere is

so thin that if you were not protected

by spacesuit your blood would boil

instantaneously that would kill you

within minutes this is a game where you

have to do everything right and roll

7-eleven are doubles


since astronauts first ventured into

space we have dreamed of being able to

live on another planet

of all the planets of the solar system

the one that appears best suited for

human life is Mars Mars is the most

similar planet in terms of environmental

circumstances and it is the one that has

the most resources to support the human

settlement since the first close-up

pictures of Mars were captured on

Mariner 4 in 1965 several NASA

spacecraft voyages to the red planet

have revealed a very familiar world if

you look at the landscape on Mars it

looks like Australia or you know Arizona

it's a red coloured rocky desert with a

lot of sand we have that in many places

on the earth like Earth Mars has polar


than clouds in its atmosphere seasonal

weather patterns dunes mountains canyons

and other recognizable features all of

it is aroused the curiosity of the

scientific community and kicked off a

series of missions

since the 1996 launch of the Mars Global

Surveyor broke nASA has developed the

Mars exploration program its goal is to

provide scientific information through a

series of robotic orbiters Landers and

mobile laboratories the program started

by searching for water a key ingredient

for life as we know it on earth there's

a one-to-one connection between life and

liquid water and so instead of looking

for life directly NASA is doing with its

partners the easier thing first which is

to look for water from 2001 to 2007

several missions discovered evidence of

past and present water on Mars

bringing scientists one step closer to

finding evidence of life itself

I want to find out if there is alien

life there of course not

big aliens tiny little microbes because

it would be the first example of an

alien form of life that we would find

and Mars is a good place to go look for

that in 2011 NASA's Curiosity rover

landed on Mars and found evidence of an

earlier existance of water this prompted

a search for organic elements the

building blocks of life


now the ExoMars mission a collaboration

between the European Space Agency at

NASA is on the hunt for signs of life

past and present on Mars


the next step for NASA's Mars

exploration program is to send

astronauts to continue the search and

that already started we're already

planning the human exposure on Mars I

personally hope that it will happen in

maybe the late 2030s

that huge milestone will mark the true

beginning of space colonization the

dream of living on another planet

has been pursued for decades but now our

survival and evolution as a species may

depend on it space colonization may be

the next logical link in our evolution

as a species this is a way that the

human population can grow and thrive

with thousands of years we can clean up

the biosphere and humanity can't expand

into the solar system

space colonization might be the only way

to escape catastrophic destruction on


the choice could be is HG Wells once

said the universe or nothing climate

change has become a serious threat to

life as we know it we are already

starting to feel its first consequences

the threat of an asteroid impacting our

planet is another real danger and

depending on its size the consequences

could be apocalyptic

we have the probability that a big

asteroid might hit the earth like it was

done in the past when the dinosaurs died

out it's not likely to happen tomorrow

or even in our lifetimes but it is

definitely going to happen sooner or


and so it would be best if we were

prepared for that a permanent base

beyond the earth would guarantee not

only an alternative home if the earth

becomes uninhabitable it would also

provide access to a huge number of

resources in addition to Mars the moon

and the asteroids are also considered

targets for a multi planetary


private companies are developing

projects to extract resources in rocket

propellant from asteroids while the

discovery of water on the moon has led

to the development of concepts like the

moon village proposed by the European

Space Agency to carry out scientific

research but Mars offers several

advantages it's bigger than the moon and

it also has more useful resources and

unlike the moon Mars also has some

atmosphere which is about 96% carbon

dioxide along with other gases like

argon and nitrogen Mars as water frozen

is ice but and in permafrost in the soil

but nevertheless there in large

quantities it has carbon dioxide

atmosphere which is carbon and oxygen

that's what we need to make fuel it's

what we need to grow food as nitrogen

which life also needs these things are

our extremely rare or completely absent

for example on the moon if we compare

our own planet to Mars they're

surprisingly alike in many ways in fact

the temperature and atmospheric pressure

on Mars are the closest in the solar

system to that of Earth

the temperatures get to about 20

centigrade in the daytime at the equator

which is entirely acceptable at night

they can get very cold but it's not

difficult to shield against cold by

wearing a heated spacesuit as different

as they are from Earth the conditions on

the surface of Mars are acceptable for

human exploration and settlement

compared to the moon the gravity on Mars

is also more like the Earth's

the moon's gravity is 1/6 of the Earth's

while Mars is 1/3


studies done at the International Space

Station the only available laboratory of

zero gravity indicate that the lack of

gravity is a health problem in the long

term having gravity much closer to the

Earth's is a distinct advantage for a

colony on Mars the Mars day is twenty

four and a half hours nearly identical

to the Earth's and despite its greater

distance from the Sun it still has

acceptable sunlight

the similarities between the two planets

have inspired NASA and private companies

to develop manned missions for the near


NASA's journey to Mars program has been

gathering data for several years leading

to a dramatic increase in our knowledge

of the red planet and paving the way for

future human explorers

and private initiatives by aerospace

transport companies like SpaceX continue

to make progress with a clear goal to

colonize Mars that would take several

generations of crews maybe the first

mission will just set up the green house

and then the second mission might start

growing a few plants but experimentally

you know they might eat them but they're

not gonna rely on them and then maybe

it's only with mission number 10 that

will stop bringing food from the earth

that we're really going to count on the

food that we're growing a little more

but farming may be the least of the

problems facing life on Mars basics like

oxygen water and gravity must be covered

before we can live in this hostile



establishing a permanent settlement on

Mars will require time and ingenuity to

conquer a variety of technical and

environmental challenges despite its

surprising similarities to Earth Mars is

a hostile place for life as soon as you

dig a little bit deeper you realize that

Mars is actually a very different planet

compared to the earth it's actually

lethal for human beings and most

life-forms that we know of on the earth

survival on Mars will require complex

life support measures to overcome the

difficult conditions there

the atmosphere is so thin that your

blood would boil instantaneously you

would you would die of depressurization

within seconds if that did not kill you

well the atmosphere is unbreathable

that's made of carbon dioxide we need

oxygen to breathe that would kill you

within minutes if that did not kill you

then the dust the dust on Mars is very

fine-grain very abrasive cutting and

also toxic chemically toxic that will

kill you in a matter of several weeks

one possible solution to make conditions

on Mars acceptable for human life would

be to transform the planet itself

adapting it to the needs of human life a

concept known as terraforming

through planetary engineering

terraforming would create a local

biosphere similar to Earth's making the

Red Planet

a habitable place for humans


the idea is to transform Mars into the

earth to make the atmosphere thicker to

make the planet warmer with a warmer

climate to over time transform the

composition of the atmosphere from what

it is today

co2 carbon dioxide into oxygen

using climate models and ecological

theories many scientists have concluded

that the terraforming of Mars is

possible with existing technology the

climate of Mars could be transformed

making it capable of supporting life

right now the red planet is very cold

and dry and its atmosphere of carbon

dioxide is too thin to sustain life but

these conditions are intertwined and the

three of them can be altered with a

combination of human intervention and

biological changes if we could increase

the temperature on Mars enough we could

create a thick atmosphere and liquid

oceans it takes a long time to

progressively thicken the atmosphere

transform the climate into one that has

that's warmer and then over time change

the chemistry of the atmosphere and make

it oxygen-rich we're not talking about

decades we're talking about many

centuries many centuries and it would be

very expensive to do one way to warm

Mars might be to place a series of

mirrors in orbit around the planet to

increase the total sun exposure Mars

receives the mirrors would direct

sunlight onto the surface increasing

Mars surface temperature directly


what you have to do is heat up the

surface using mirrors in space to get

some of the trapped water ice and the

carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere

another strategy to raise the

atmospheric temperature would be to

trigger an artificial greenhouse effect

we know about gasses that are much more

powerful than carbon dioxide as

greenhouse agents and these are like

fluorocarbon gases and we could produce

these artificially on Mars on earth we

do produce these things we use them for

refrigerants on Mars we would just

release them into the atmosphere

greenhouse gases would warm the planet

and also help thicken the atmosphere

with massive amounts of carbon dioxide

released from the soil boosting

temperatures by more than 100 degrees


now if you had that then what you would

have is really earth-like temperatures

on Mars and it means that the water that

is frozen into the Martian soil would

melt and start to flow again but all of

it is easier said than done

terraforming Mars would require a

massive investment of time and money we

want to build a permanent colony there

we must figure out a way to protect

human life from existing dangers chief

among them is radiation a natural

phenomenon that can cause severe damage

by seriously affecting DNA on the

Martian surface radiation levels are

dangerously high due to its thin

atmosphere and lack of Earth's global

magnetosphere and from time to time

solar proton events produce even higher

doses of radiation Mars doesn't have a

magnetic field so galactic cosmic rays

get through the thin atmosphere solar

flares some of that gets through and

that can disrupt the DNA so you need a

habitat that that shields the astronauts

the Mars Odyssey spacecraft measured

this cosmic radiation and found that the

levels in orbit above Mars are two and a

half times higher than at the

International Space Station a three year

exposure to these levels would be close

to NASA's safety limits

the effects on living organisms have

been closely studied protons from cosmic

radiation may cause twice as much damage

to DNA than previously estimated putting

astronauts a greater risk of cancer and

other diseases NASA is exploring

alternative techniques and technologies

such as plasma deflector shields to

protect astronauts and spacecraft but

they're not there yet they also need to

solve another critical engineering

problem landing safely on the red planet

Mars you have to go through the

atmosphere and the atmosphere is not

your friend




once scientists and engineers have

figured out a way to send astronauts on

the six to nine month journey to Mars

without exposing them to dangerous

cosmic radiation or the effects of zero

gravity they will still need to find a

way for them to land safely on its


landing on Mars is tricky first of all

use an era shield to slow yourself down

from orbital speeds to subsonic speeds

and then you pop a parachute and that

brings you down to a slow velocity and

then you have to then do the final

landing with rockets the relatively

strong gravity and presence of

aerodynamic effects make it difficult to

land heavy crude spacecraft with

thrusters only as was done during the

Apollo moon landings the atmosphere of

Mars is also too thin to be of much help

on Mars you have to go through the

atmosphere and the atmosphere is not

your friend and so when you're coming in

at high velocity you have to shed a lot

of that energy to slow down you have a

narrow shield landing piloted missions

on Mars will require braking and landing

systems that are different from anything

used to land crewed spacecraft on the

moon or robotic missions on Mars

the biggest payload we've landed on Mars

has been about one metric ton and for

human missions we need to have at least

10 metric tons landed and preferably 20

or 30 so we're gonna have to scale up

NASA's project journey to Mars will

investigate the entry descent and

landing techniques needed to reach the

Martian surface safely a priority to

help guarantee the success of the first

manned mission scheduled for the 2030s


once a safe landing is achieved the new

inhabitants of Mars must find the best

place to live nASA has started to study

where the best location for a first

colony might be places with high

scientific value but also have the

natural resources that human explorers

would need like water and oxygen liquid

water might be obtained from three

sources ground ice beneath the surface

the atmosphere itself and hydrated

minerals oxygen can be generated from

the carbon dioxide that makes up most of

Mars's atmosphere there's a lot of

disagreement about where the Mars space

should be the poles have an advantage

because there's water ice there but the

problem with the pole is it's dark for

half a Martian year which is say almost

a full Earth year so that leaves you

either with the equator regions or the

mid latitudes they both have something

to argue the equator is the warmest

varies the least with season but if you

go to mid latitudes you can get places

that always have at least some sunlight

all year long but which have some water

ice - not big fields of it like the pole

but nevertheless deposits of water ice

that are readily accessible my favorite

site we call it knocked East landing and

it's in the western end of Valles

Marineris which is this giant canyon

that cuts the surface of mars i love

this location because it's at the bottom

of the canyons but at the same time it's

in an area that's very wide and very

open so that you can see the earth

easily in the sky and maintain

communication but two other

possibilities for an initial home base

on Mars are actually not even on the


instead scientists are considering the

small moons phobos and deimos the

Martian moons are the sweet spot when it

comes to a potential settlement site we

should use Phobos and Deimos and as

targets we should send first early crews

just to to make sure we can travel to

Mars and come back safely you know not

to get too complicated that will be

already a fantastic adventure both of

them are much smaller than our Moon 14

miles in diameter for Phobos and just

seven miles in diameter for demos

compared to our Moon at around 2100

miles the fact that they are much

smaller means their gravity walls are

almost non-existent

so landing and takeoff would be much

easier than on the surface of Mars the

Martian moons are locked like our moon

they always keep the same face facing

Marv's so if you wanted a place to

explore Mars robotic ly the best place

to do that from is from the Mars facing

side of demos demos is 20 times closer

to Mars than our moon is to the earth so

the round-trip flight time to to control

things teller robotically is just a

little more than 100 milliseconds these

two little moon is so very close to the

planet might be used as a pit stop for

the exploration and future colonization

of Mars I think that they are very

exciting places as a first step for

humans to explore Mars the very first

missions to Mars I think should not try

to land on Mars

wherever the initial home base is

located astronauts are likely to stay

for a while

scientists will need to answer the next

critical question what type of habitat

will keep them safe

once scientists determine where the

first settlement on Mars should be they

will need to decide what type of habitat

to build to keep residents safe

after all the first astronauts who walk

on Mars might stay for several months

with its extreme surface temperatures

and radiation in the atmosphere they'll

need an effective shield against the

hostile environment of Mars NASA's

journey to Mars program has started

exploring different solutions one of the

most innovative concepts is the Mars ice

dome designed for NASA by the company's

space exploration architecture and

clouds architecture office it would be

built using the most advanced 3d

printing techniques the dome is a large

inflatable structure surrounded by a

shell of ice ice is an effective

shielding material for galactic cosmic

rays in many areas of Mars have it in

abundance just below the surface the ice

dome structure is also lightweight so it

could be easily transported and deployed

with robotics and filled with water

before the crew arrives


the translucency of the ice washes the

habitat with daylight connecting

inhabitants to natural daytime cycles

and providing a view

other solutions involve burying the

habitats before the crews arrived which

would require heavy robotic equipment

that would need to be transported from

earth significantly increasing the costs

the Mars ice dome offers a more

practical and sustainable solution but

we're going to need more than just a

safe habitat the colonization of Mars

will also require a variety of life

support systems to produce a steady

supply of food water breathable oxygen

and energy there are two ways to make

the life support for Martian habitat

you can either do biological or a

physical chemical the physical chemical

system is frankly simpler to implement

and more reliable and it's probably what

we'll do first what that does is it

takes the water the used water and it

purifies it and recycles it so you can

recycle your water that's the most

important thing for medium and long

duration missions the life support

system should incorporate biological

components and be designs that the

components are recycled or regenerated

and don't need to be resupplied which is

using plants and that's how the earth

doesn't the way the Earth's life support

system is is that we breathe out water

and carbon dioxide and plants turn that

into food and oxygen

and ultimately that's what you're gonna

want are the Martian settlement we're

gonna want to set up green houses and we

will take the carbon dioxide that we

breathe out some of the water that we

produce and we will use it to grow

plants and they'll turn it back into

oxygen and into food for the colonists

to eat

those greenhouses will need a reliable

source of energy to keep them

functioning constantly the energy source

for growing plants on Mars is going to

be Martian sunlight the solar flux on

Mars and the equators about the same as

that on Norway on earth

if you go to Norway there are forests as

plants grow there and it's enough it's

enough light to grow plants now of

course the human colony needs more

energy than that just as we need more

energy than just outdoor lighting in the

daytime which we use to grow our crops

here and you have basically two choices

of the first which is solar energy or

nuclear energy but solar energy on Mars

is not totally reliable a sandstorm

could reduce solar energy for months

which could be fatal for the colony

for the start of a permanent settlement

there we probably need a small nuclear

reactor scientists will also need to

find a reliable way to communicate with

earth which is difficult due to the huge

distance between the planets

NASA and ESA have included

communications relay equipment in

several of the Mars orbiters so Mars

already has communications satellites

but these will eventually wear out so

additional orbiters will need to be

launched before any colonization

expeditions leave depending on where

Mars and Earth are during their

rotations around the Sun the distance

between them ferries this affects the

communication delay due to the speed of

light the delay makes real-time

communication such as phone

conversations or Internet chat highly

impractical to Mars it can be as short

as around four minutes or as long well

as long as twenty minutes once in a

while if Mars goes behind the Sun you

can't talk to Mars at all a future

network of communication satellites

could solve the blackout issue now the

race is on to meet each of these

challenges that pave the way to the

ultimate goal of a space colony on Mars



becoming an interplanetary species will

require unprecedented technological and

scientific effort sending a manned

mission to a planet as distant as Mars

will also mean facing countless risks

before the first human walks on Mars a

group of robotic exploration Rovers such

as spirit opportunity and curiosity

could pave the way and help locate

resources such as groundwater our ice

which would be key to growing the colony

they could also transport the necessary

equipment habitats and supplies that

will be needed long before humans

arrived to use them what I think we

should be doing all together or Humanity

is to build an international research

station at the surface so Lauren a bit

like the International Space Station but

on the ground on Mars several nations

and organizations are developing

long-term plans to send manned missions

to Mars in 2014 NASA kicked off the Mars

mission program by launching the Orion

multi-purpose crew vehicle into deep

space it is the first manned spacecraft

since the Apollo program intended to

head far beyond the low-earth orbit it

is designed with two modules the launch

and splashdown crew delivery vehicle and

the deep space habitat module where the

crew will live during the 16 month long

journey from Earth to Mars and back is a

good design now it was designed to be

bigger than Apollo so the crew could be

a little larger it's designed to have a

multi-purpose destination the first

manned Mars mission is currently

scheduled for the 2030s when the

astronauts will be able to orbit Mars

for the first time ever

in 2015 NASA announced the launch of its

ambitious journey to Mars program that

will culminate in a permanent settlement

there the first phase the earth reliant

exploration should last until the 2020s

it's focused on research aboard the

International Space Station to study the

effects of the lack of gravity on the

human body during long-duration space


the second phase proving ground will

test the capabilities needed by future

Mars explorers to live on Mars through

several missions operating near the moon

this phase will last until 2030 in the

first of these missions the Orion

spacecraft will travel without

astronauts thousands of miles beyond the

moon for three weeks the next step will

be a similar mission but with astronauts

on board the Orion this crew will reach

a milestone never achieved in the

history of mankind they will travel

further from Earth than any humans have

ever traveled before yo Ryan is bigger

that that put some challenges into it

but we'll be able to carry a little

larger crew and it has this multi

destination mission design for it but

again to land anywhere stoever is going

to require another component

in the 2020s nasa also plans to send

astronauts on a year-long mission to

test and verify survival in deep space a

final step before our arrival on mars

the final stage earth independent has

the ultimate goal of sending humans into

low Mars orbit in the early 2030s to

reach this goal they will need to test

the entry descent and landing techniques

on the Martian surface and analyze how

to use resources their science missions

are now very advanced as there are plans

for a new Exploration Rover for 2020 and

a round-trip robotic demonstration

mission that will bring samples of

Martian soil to the earth in the late

2020s in addition to NASA other space

agencies have plans for the future

exploration of Mars ES A's Aurora

program has a long term goal for the

robotic and human exploration of Mars

with the hope of finding traces of life

it already sent robotic probes like

ExoMars and plans to send the next probe

in 2020

India Japan China and Russia are also

planning to launch robotic missions to

explore Mars in the coming years and

China and Russia intend to send humans

to Mars between 2040 and 2060 but beyond

governmental space agencies other

organizations and private companies are

working to make the colonization of Mars

a reality one such group is the Mars

Society dedicated to human exploration

and settlement of Mars it has the

support of Mars analog research stations

in Canada and the United States its

president Robert Zubrin is an

aeronautics engineer and a strong

proponent of Mars colonization he is

sure that recent technology is advanced

enough to realize the dream I think we

could see Mars colonization in our time

we could see it much sooner than most

people think

from a technical point of view we are

much closer today to being able to send

humans to Mars than they were to being

able to send men to the moon in the

1960s and we were there eight years

after Kennedy's speech okay if we had a

president who made a similar bold and

brave commitment as Kennedy and stuck

with it we could be on Mars by the end

of his or her second term but the

biggest turtle of all might be the

enormous cost of making the trip

that's where private companies like

SpaceX are leading the way




in the private sector some of the most

advanced research and planning for a

self-sustaining human colony on Mars is

being done at SpaceX the Space

Exploration Technologies Corporation or

SpaceX is an American aerospace company

founded in 2002 by Elon Musk Tesla

Motors CEO and former PayPal

entrepreneur its long-term goal is to

develop technologies that will enable

the dream of human settlements on the

red planet to become a reality their

ultimate aim is to create a

self-sustaining community not just an

outpost that could grow into his city

but to get there Elon Musk has said that

it's essential to radically reduce the

costs of the trip using the Apollo

program as a reference the estimated

cost for Mars travel is about 10 billion

dollars per person a sum that would make

a self-sustaining colony impossible

bringing that price down is one of the

goals of the SpaceX project

SpaceX is a very impressive company was

founded by an entrepreneur named Elon

Musk who really wanted to break the

barriers and break them all of the

things that were stopping us from

getting to Mars and this includes above

high cost space launch but also frankly

the timidity of bureaucracy that's

unwilling to accept the kind of risks

that involve to just go for it

according to Elon Musk making Mars trips

possible on a large enough scale to

create a self-sustaining city requires

several key factors including the

ability to refuel in orbit and to

produce the right propellant on Mars

but perhaps the most difficult challenge

finding a way to fully reuse rockets

that's very important you know up till

now we've been throwing these Rockets

away after one flight imagine how

expensive an airplane flight would be if

you threw it away after each flight

Boeing 747 seats 400 people cost 400

million dollars if they had to throw it

away after each flight at airplane

ticket would be a million dollars of

flight spacex continues to make strides

in each of these areas and is getting

closer to reducing costs enough to make

the Mars trips feasible a SpaceX started

by proving that they could develop space

hardware at one-tenth the cost and

one-third the time of the mainstream

aerospace contractors the SpaceX plan is

to create a Mars colony with a sustained

population of 1 million people which

would mean 10,000 trips there with 100

people per trip in a timeframe of about

40 to 100 years

their spaceship is designed with a crew

cabin on top and a cargo compartment

underneath with capacity for 450 metric

tons of cargo per trip the duration of

the trip would start at about 80 days

with the goal of reducing trip time to

30 days in the future if all the plans

are carried out we would be witness to

the arrival of the first crewed flight

to Mars in about ten years


until that incredible milestone is

reached the goal is to send cargo in

each new unmanned trip to Mars to help

prepare for humans musk might be able to

do it he's gonna have to be lucky okay

he's very brave he's very determined but

this is a game where you have to do

everything right and roll 7-eleven are



thanks to incredible technological

advances the settlement of a Mars colony

is no longer in the realm of science

fiction but an attainable reality


in the coming decades we might be

landing working and living on Mars

this could be just the beginning of the

interplanetary expansion of the human

race in the solar system

maybe in a not so distant future our

home will be in a very distant place in

one of those remote space colonies