Your kids might live on Mars. Here’s how they’ll survive | Stephen Petranek


Strap yourselves in, we’re going to Mars. Not just a few astronauts — thousands of people
are going to colonize Mars. And I am telling you
that they’re going to do this soon. Some of you will end up
working on projects on Mars, and I guarantee that some
of your children will end up living there. That probably sounds preposterous, so I’m going to share with you
how and when that will happen. But first I want to discuss
the obvious question: Why the heck should we do this? 12 years ago, I gave a TED talk on 10 ways
the world could end suddenly. We are incredibly vulnerable
to the whims of our own galaxy. A single, large asteroid
could take us out forever. To survive we have to reach
beyond the home planet. Think what a tragedy it would be if all that humans have accomplished
were suddenly obliterated. And there’s another reason we should go: exploration is in our DNA. Two million years ago
humans evolved in Africa and then slowly but surely
spread out across the entire planet by reaching into the wilderness
that was beyond their horizons. This stuff is inside us. And they prospered doing that. Some of the greatest advances
in civilization and technology came because we explored. Yes, we could do a lot of good with the money it will take
to establish a thriving colony on Mars. And yes we should all be taking
far better care of our own home planet. And yes, I worry we could screw up Mars
the way we’ve screwed up Earth. But think for a moment, what we had when John F. Kennedy
told us we would put a human on the moon. He excited an entire generation to dream. Think how inspired we will be
to see a landing on Mars. Perhaps then we will look back at Earth and see that that is
one people instead of many and perhaps then
we will look back at Earth, as we struggle to survive on Mars, and realize how precious
the home planet is. So let me tell you about the extraordinary
adventure we’re about to undertake. But first, a few fascinating facts
about where we’re going. This picture actually represents
the true size of Mars compared to Earth. Mars is not our sister planet. It’s far less than half
the size of the Earth, and yet despite the fact
that it’s smaller, the surface area of Mars
that you can stand on is equivalent to the surface area
of the Earth that you can stand on, because the Earth
is mostly covered by water. The atmosphere on Mars is really thin — 100 times thinner than on Earth — and it’s not breathable,
it’s 96 percent carbon dioxide. It’s really cold there. The average temperature
is minus 81 degrees, although there is
quite a range of temperature. A day on Mars is about as long
as a day on Earth, plus about 39 minutes. Seasons and years on Mars
are twice as long as they are on Earth. And for anybody who wants to strap
on some wings and go flying one day, Mars has a lot less gravity than on Earth, and it’s the kind of place where you can jump over your car
instead of walk around it. Now, as you can see,
Mars isn’t exactly Earth-like, but it’s by far the most livable
other place in our entire solar system. Here’s the problem. Mars is a long way away, a thousand times farther away
from us than our own moon. The Moon is 250,000 miles away and it took Apollo astronauts
three days to get there. Mars is 250 million miles away and it will take us
eight months to get there — 240 days. And that’s only if we launch
on a very specific day, at a very specific time, once every two years, when Mars and the Earth
are aligned just so, so the distance that the rocket
would have to travel will be the shortest. 240 days is a long time to spend
trapped with your colleagues in a tin can. And meanwhile, our track record
of getting to Mars is lousy. We and the Russians,
the Europeans, the Japanese, the Chinese and the Indians, have actually sent 44 rockets there, and the vast majority of them
have either missed or crashed. Only about a third of the missions
to Mars have been successful. And we don’t at the moment have
a rocket big enough to get there anyway. We once had that rocket, the Saturn V. A couple of Saturn Vs
would have gotten us there. It was the most magnificent
machine ever built by humans, and it was the rocket
that took us to the Moon. But the last Saturn V was used in 1973
to launch the Skylab space station, and we decided to do
something called the shuttle instead of continuing on to Mars
after we landed on the Moon. The biggest rocket we have now is only half big enough
to get us anything to Mars. So getting to Mars is not going to be easy and that brings up
a really interesting question … how soon will the first humans
actually land here? Now, some pundits think
if we got there by 2050, that’d be a pretty good achievement. These days, NASA seems to be saying
that it can get humans to Mars by 2040. Maybe they can. I believe that they can get
human beings into Mars orbit by 2035. But frankly, I don’t think they’re going to bother
in 2035 to send a rocket to Mars, because we will already be there. We’re going to land on Mars in 2027. And the reason is this man is determined
to make that happen. His name is Elon Musk,
he’s the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX. Now, he actually told me
that we would land on Mars by 2025, but Elon Musk is more
optimistic than I am — and that’s going a ways — so I’m giving him
a couple of years of slack. Still … you’ve got to ask yourself, can this guy really do this
by 2025 or 2027? Well, let’s put a decade with Elon Musk
into a little perspective. Where was this 10 years ago? That’s the Tesla electric automobile. In 2005, a lot of people
in the automobile industry were saying, we would not have
a decent electric car for 50 years. And where was that? That is SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, lifting six tons of supplies
to the International Space Station. 10 years ago, SpaceX had not launched anything,
or fired a rocket to anywhere. So I think it’s a pretty good bet that the person who is revolutionizing
the automobile industry in less than 10 years and the person who created an entire
rocket company in less than 10 years will get us to Mars by 2027. Now, you need to know this: governments and robots
no longer control this game. Private companies are leaping into space and they will be happy
to take you to Mars. And that raises a really big question. Can we actually live there? Now, NASA may not be able
to get us there until 2040, or we may get there
a long time before NASA, but NASA has taken a huge responsibility
in figuring out how we can live on Mars. Let’s look at the problem this way. Here’s what you need to live on Earth: food, water, shelter and clothing. And here’s what you need to live on Mars: all of the above, plus oxygen. So let’s look at the most
important thing on this list first. Water is the basis
of all life as we know it, and it’s far too heavy for us to carry
water from the Earth to Mars to live, so we have to find water
if our life is going to succeed on Mars. And if you look at Mars,
it looks really dry, it looks like the entire
planet is a desert. But it turns out that it’s not. The soil alone on Mars
contains up to 60 percent water. And a number of orbiters that we still
have flying around Mars have shown us — and by the way,
that’s a real photograph — that lots of craters on Mars
have a sheet of water ice in them. It’s not a bad place to start a colony. Now, here’s a view of a little dig
the Phoenix Lander did in 2008, showing that just below
the surface of the soil is ice — that white stuff is ice. In the second picture, which is four days later
than the first picture, you can see that
some of it is evaporating. Orbiters also tell us that there are huge amounts
of underground water on Mars as well as glaciers. In fact, if only the water ice
at the poles on Mars melted, most of the planet
would be under 30 feet of water. So there’s plenty of water there, but most of it’s ice,
most of it’s underground, it takes a lot of energy to get it
and a lot of human labor. This is a device cooked up
at the University of Washington back in 1998. It’s basically a low-tech dehumidifier. And it turns out the Mars atmosphere
is often 100 percent humid. So this device can extract
all the water that humans will need simply from the atmosphere on Mars. Next we have to worry
about what we will breathe. Frankly, I was really shocked to find out that NASA
has this problem worked out. This is a scientist at MIT
named Michael Hecht. And he’s developed this machine, Moxie. I love this thing. It’s a reverse fuel cell, essentially, that sucks in the Martian atmosphere
and pumps out oxygen. And you have to remember that CO2 — carbon dioxide, which is
96 percent of Mars’ atmosphere — CO2 is basically 78 percent oxygen. Now, the next big rover
that NASA sends to Mars in 2020 is going to have one
of these devices aboard, and it will be able
to produce enough oxygen to keep one person alive indefinitely. But the secret to this — and that’s just for testing — the secret to this is that this thing
was designed from the get-go to be scalable by a factor of 100. Next, what will we eat? Well, we’ll use hydroponics to grow food, but we’re not going to be able to grow more than 15 to 20 percent
of our food there, at least not until water is running
on the surface of Mars and we actually have the probability
and the capability of planting crops. In the meantime, most of our food will arrive from Earth, and it will be dried. And then we need some shelter. At first we can use inflatable,
pressurized buildings as well as the landers themselves. But this really only works
during the daytime. There is too much solar radiation
and too much radiation from cosmic rays. So we really have to go underground. Now, it turns out that the soil on Mars, by and large,
is perfect for making bricks. And NASA has figured this one out, too. They’re going to throw
some polymer plastic into the bricks, shove them in a microwave oven, and then you will be able to build
buildings with really thick walls. Or we may choose to live underground
in caves or in lava tubes, of which there are plenty. And finally there’s clothing. On Earth we have miles
of atmosphere piled up on us, which creates 15 pounds of pressure
on our bodies at all times, and we’re constantly
pushing out against that. On Mars there’s hardly
any atmospheric pressure. So Dava Newman, a scientist at MIT, has created this sleek space suit. It will keep us together, block radiation and keep us warm. So let’s think about this for a minute. Food, shelter, clothing, water, oxygen … we can do this. We really can. But it’s still a little complicated
and a little difficult. So that leads to the next big — really big step — in living the good life on Mars. And that’s terraforming the planet: making it more like Earth, reengineering an entire planet. That sounds like a lot of hubris, but the truth is that the technology to do everything
I’m about to tell you already exists. First we’ve got to warm it up. Mars is incredibly cold
because it has a very thin atmosphere. The answer lies here, at the south pole
and at the north pole of Mars, both of which are covered with an incredible amount
of frozen carbon dioxide — dry ice. If we heat it up, it sublimes directly into the atmosphere and thickens the atmosphere
the same way it does on Earth. And as we know, CO2 is an incredibly
potent greenhouse gas. Now, my favorite way of doing this
is to erect a very, very large solar sail and focus it — it essentially serves as a mirror — and focus it on the south pole
of Mars at first. As the planet spins, it will heat up
all that dry ice, sublime it, and it will go into the atmosphere. It actually won’t take long for the temperature
on Mars to start rising, probably less than 20 years. Right now, on a perfect day at the equator, in the middle of summer on Mars, temperatures can
actually reach 70 degrees, but then they go down
to minus 100 at night. (Laughter) What we’re shooting for
is a runaway greenhouse effect: enough temperature rise
to see a lot of that ice on Mars — especially the ice in the ground — melt. Then we get some real magic. As the atmosphere gets thicker,
everything gets better. We get more protection from radiation, more atmosphere makes us warmer,
makes the planet warmer, so we get running water and that makes crops possible. Then more water vapor goes into the air,
forming yet another potent greenhouse gas. It will rain and it will snow on Mars. And a thicker atmosphere
will create enough pressure so that we can
throw away those space suits. We only need about five pounds
of pressure to survive. Eventually, Mars will be made
to feel a lot like British Columbia. We’ll still be left
with the complicated problem of making the atmosphere breathable, and frankly that could take
1,000 years to accomplish. But humans are amazingly smart
and incredibly adaptable. There is no telling what our future
technology will be able to accomplish and no telling what we can do
with our own bodies. In biology right now, we are on the very verge of being
able to control our own genetics, what the genes
in our own bodies are doing, and certainly, eventually, our own evolution. We could end up with a species
of human being on Earth that is slightly different
from the species of human beings on Mars. But what would you do there?
How would you live? It’s going to be
the same as it is on Earth. Somebody’s going to start a restaurant, somebody’s going to build an iron foundry. Someone will make
documentary movies of Mars and sell them on Earth. Some idiot will start a reality TV show. (Laughter) There will be software companies, there will be hotels, there will be bars. This much is certain: it will be the most disruptive
event in our lifetimes, and I think it will be the most inspiring. Ask any 10-year-old girl
if she wants to go to Mars. Children who are now in elementary school
are going to choose to live there. Remember when we landed
humans on the Moon? When that happened,
people looked at each other and said, “If we can do this, we can do anything.” What are they going to think
when we actually form a colony on Mars? Most importantly, it will make us a spacefaring species. And that means humans will survive
no matter what happens on Earth. We will never be the last of our kind. Thank you. (Applause)

97 thoughts on “Your kids might live on Mars. Here’s how they’ll survive | Stephen Petranek

  1. how will we colonize mars with the extreme temperature range ? and 96% carbon dioxide ? it would take decades if not centuries to even begin colonization

  2. No one will ever live on Mars. We can’t even sustain life on the moon. What a dope. Mars is and will forever be a dead planet. You butthead

  3. i’d rather die than transfer planets, i have a deathly fear of flying.. and spaceships are not that much more apprealing

  4. When he started talking about businesses being built on Mars Jesus we going to have another money system there that will fail just like our health system why can't we can't have a Utopia we don't need another government on Mars

  5. the amount of BS that comes out of this channel is beyond belief. why the heck would want to live on Mars?? when I can just live anywhere I want. if you live in the US it would take you a lifetime just to be able to see every state and every county. and if you don't like that? then you can move to Thailand on some nice private island. These fruitcakes will drive you nuts.
    Get a life and move on. and leave Mars alone

  6. point is we didnt get to the moon… We r still on lower earth orbit … But im pretty sure they will suck money for the mars mirage

  7. I've been terraforming planets in 15 mins since i was like 7 in Spore. this ain't anything new to us, intellectuals.

  8. We'll probably all be dead by 2050! The earth will have Venus's environment, by then. The tangent curve to that hellscape is well underway!

  9. Venus is a better option because it's closer to Earth, and near the stratosphere, the air is breathable to have a cloud city.

  10. Venus will be possible. Mars will never be… Guys an idiot…Gravity is the factor, the human body wasn't developed for the weak gravity. You land on Mars to live, You won't be living long.

  11. We first need to terraform our own planet, so our descendants can live to the day so they can terraform Mars. Right now we are basically in the most appropriate moment in time to test all that stuff on our own drastically changing climate here on Earth.

  12. TED should stop pushing this HUCKSTER with his speculative crap. This is an absurdity, with no science behind it. The 'ice sheet' photos are not of Mars, it is speculation. The planet has a cold core, therefore no magnetosphere to protect it from solar radiation. That is why there is no atmosphere, it's been stripped away by the solar wind/radiation. Mars has 1% of the atmospheric density of Earth, and that 1% is CO2 gas, so what's that crap about the atmosphere often being 100% humidity? This guy is a clown, entertaining those with art history and French literature degrees.

  13. K I am 16 and this is scary the stuff on the news about only 18 months to change things for the earth it’s really scaring me and I’m vegan and it’s all I think about like I am going to die in like a couple of years

  14. As i understand, mars has no magnetic field. How can it protect itself from enormous amount of energy of solar storm?

  15. Sputnik, Space Probes, Moon Landings, Space Shuttles, ISS, Mars Rovers are all Hoaxes.. Wake up. One Plane Earth, One Sun, One Moon, Many Stars, Some Wandering Stars, aka Planets.. Take care of Earth our only home. Flat Earth is not a Psyop it Destroys all Psyops including the $330 Billion a Year Space Budget as per Neil Disgraced Tyson.. Peace Brothers and Sisters

  16. No one is going to live on Mars, its a god forsaken place. Who wants to live in a bloody cumbersome suit and wait for their bones and muscles to atrophy.

  17. I give him credit for making the connection between facts and fantasy but a thumbs down for lack of reasoning. Kennedy suggested putting a man on the moon and was smart enough to not think of it as our next possible home. Terraforming Mars can be possible but like DeGrasse said, "Whatever reason that leads us to believe that Mars is the solution for the need to escape Earth, is still a much much easier thing to fix than to colonize Mars and make it habitable to sustain life". Meaning the Earth cannot face a danger greater than the risk of life on mars which as we know is hostile more so than the challenges we face in a place made for us. We have oxygen and water. That alone increases your chance to survive in a nuclear war than a peaceful day on Mars. An Asteroid would be easier to deflect than to turn Mars into the next Earth. Life has a chance to recover as the Earth has proven to heal itself even after an apocalyptic ordeal unlike Mars that is just dead for almost no reason at all. So the reasons for Mars out of fear of catastrophe on Earth isn't taking or appreciating the conditions and obsticles ahead for such endeavor. Earth would have to become identicle to our moon in order for Mars to appeal to us unless being unrealistic or blinded by anticipation and curiosity, that reward awaits mankind with this fantasy utopia if we undertake this task. Perhaps the rude awakening of misery one shall face in a dim red planet of blistering cold dust storms twisters with volcanos of ice and the constant bombardment of solar radiation, one will then realize how truly thankful they were to be aboard a vessel like that of mother Earth. We're not going to Mars.

    We're going to Titan instead and beyond. Destination: riding the ring of Uranus so hold on tight, bite down but dont clinch, I mean flinch or you might miss something to experience.

  18. for oxygen plant trees and flowers and how would you get electricity what would happen if we planted grass seeds on the planted

  19. One crucial thing that isn't mentioned – Mars has a very minuscule magnetic field, which is one reason why the atmosphere is so thin. The sun bakes it away. Even if we create a thicker atmosphere, it will bleed the atmosphere away.

  20. this will be a complete disaster
    People will eat themselves, simply on the way there for 7 months…
    After ONE disastrous landing everything will be cancel fir years.. or maybe forever.
    Also newer people joining the older "marsian" going crazy or wtv lol
    We are not TRULY on mars, living there before 2100.

  21. yea if there will be "slightly different human beings on Mars then we will have differentiation like we have now with black and white people and then as distructive human beings we are, we will start wars amongst earthers and Martians and we will mess up more space than we already do..

  22. I'm am one of the biggest exploration / science enthusiasts that exist.. However, devils advocate here.. Some forces removed the very elements this gentleman is suggesting we re-introduce to terraform mars.. What were those forces and how does he propose to halt the decay of what he builds? Many suggest terraforming Mars but I hear almost nothing about stabilizing the reformed planet.. Is it even going to be possible to stabilize.. I am hopeful but skeptical..

  23. The f*** this guy is talking about maybe we can even go to the f**** Moon and this guy's talking about strap yourself to go to Mars I mean for Christ's sake you can't even provide a real photo of the Earth itself and yeah you know you go to the atmosphere or whatever to try to prove that the Earth is round yet you go and use a fisheye lens camera I mean I don't get it you should try to use a camera that would make the Horizon flat instead so that way you can get a shoulder hey look I'm using a camera which will make the Horizon flat and yet still looks wrong but you guys do it backwards he use a camera that's going to make the Horizon look Circle which is kind of retarded thank you

  24. they cant survive on mars baecose mars not sustain life by active core and energy flow , anyone who go there will slowly die or not have children, thx , everything its energy and on energy its based – scientists! planet core need be active to sustain u poor bodies otherwise we will be not lone wolf earth have 60mln history and 12 wipes of humanity in many periods but humanity newer grow that fast like now and that also be corected by planet , thanks for reading xd

  25. If we have that technology to suck carbon dioxide and other gases from atmosphere why are we not using that here on earth to stop global warming? Or is it just another global conspiracy?
    Also the speaker forgot to speak about Energy.

  26. Trivago needs to find a solution on how Donald Trump wont cheat his way back in the White House again for the second time on 20/20 lol

  27. They say Mars used to be perhaps more Earth like than Earth, but Mars is too small to keep its internal heat, it lost's its magnetosphere and the atmosphere and everything else with it, so that is the biggest issue I think. We need to somehow heat of the core of Mars so it can reproduce its dynamo effect.

  28. Adult asking child me: Do you want to go to Mars.
    Child me: No

    Adult asking Big me: Do you want to go to Mars.
    Big me: uhmmm…… No

  29. You can’t leave there normally,
    Dementia is the first sick disease I m looking you suffer after you live there 5to 10 years.
    Secondly, solar radiation, can cause skin problems and lost of sound and lost of your vision maybe following.

  30. How about botanically modifying and creating tree species which can survive in mars and consume carbon dioxide and releases oxygen in return !!!!

  31. Mars? Get real you clowns haven’t even been on the moon. People are so brainwashed ….. don’t listen folks to these closet satanist with their agendas.

  32. What if we get there and everything we said here on earth will work but when we arrive there mars nothing works well I guess just pack my bags and go back just like that

  33. There is something better than going to mars : feeding african people who cannot find food .after that do what you want .

  34. It was probably doable 10 years ago and if we had to wait for government agencies, even 2050 is uncertain. Go Elon!

  35. No need. Even death will come there. Our final destination is hereafter and earth is not to live but to worship the One true God almighty. And we are happy here

  36. How will martian society organize? Will it be a direct democracy or something else? When will they declare their independence?

  37. Adventure, exploration, science, economic prospects, possible answer to the question of life on other planets, dreaming kids, new policies and a new pluralistic society model, survival of the species – what do you want more?

    And people still talking about spending the money somewhere else. Every week more money is transformed into cigarette smoke, than spent on human space exploration per year.

    Oh well, Christopher Columbus had to fight hard to get his three ships in 1492. Turns out it was a pretty good investment by the Spanish crown. What would the world look like, if instead of giving him the three ships, they had decided to "invest the money at home"?

  38. One day Mars will have its first terrorist attack, drug epidemic, serial killer, humans will ruin anything they get their hands on. Dont get your Hopes up. You can save the human race but you cant save the human mind and soul.

  39. At 15:20 ….🤔 Why does that lady look so unhappy!? She looks like she's disgusted by what he's saying 🤔🤔 This man is actually doing an amazing job of explaining all of this!! I've never heard all of this explained in such an easy to understand way!! Kudos to the speaker!!
    Such amazing technology we have!! We're constantly making new discoveries & constantly making more & more technological advances…we've come so far in such a short period of time!! 👾👽🌍

  40. i am 21 and studying Computer sciences. If the first mission to mars would be pronounced 90% as one way trip. i'm on it literally i'm that much enthusiastic to go there

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