Parts of Mars Inhabitible?

The recent thread on the possibility of lounging around on the surface of Jupiter got me to thinking…

I read somewhere that if you happen to be on the Martian equator on a (Martian) summer day, the temperature might reach a balmy 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, could a person walk around on the surface of Mars with only an oxygen mask and a light spring jacket? What would the exposure to an atmospher 1% as thick as the earth’s, and composed almost entirely of CO2, do to the skin?

*Originally posted by rastahomie *
**I read somewhere that if you happen to be on the Martian equator on a (Martian) summer day, the temperature might reach a balmy 55 degrees Fahrenheit.


I don’t have a cite at the moment, but I’m pretty sure that was negative 55 degrees Fahrenheit. As far as I know, that’s about as warm as it gets.


IIRC, Mars Pathfinder did find some warm (well, Autumn in New England type) temperatures on occasion. One problem was that the warm part was directly at ground level and 6 ft up (yes, six feet), it was 20 degrees colder. We’re still learning about the weather on Mars, but it seems like there is a lot of variation due to the thin atmosphere and winds. In the colder regions, it’s cold enough to freeze out carbon dioxide.

Of all the other places in the solar system, Mars’ surface is the closest to being habitable. An oxygen mask and a light protective suit may suffice. But it’s still fairly hostile to our kind of life…cold, no readily available water, dusty, very thin atmosphere, no protective ozone layer (i.e., lots of UV rays), a soil that breaks down organic molecules, etc.

I’m not entirely sure what direct exposure to the Martian atmosphere would be like, but I’ve read that it would not be like that Swartzenegger movie. Maybe I can find a web link on this…

Well, Phobos, you’re the appropriate person to check this out, given your proximity to the subject . . .

All you wanted to know about the Martian atmosphere but were afraid to ask.

NASA Ames Mars Atmosphere Modeling Group Homepages

Or, for a more terrestrial version… Martian weather.

At 55 degrees, there is a very good chance you would die of hypothermia walking around in ordinary clothes.

I’m not sure the low air density would hurt you. It WOULD, however, cause your body to lose heat extremely quickly, much faster than it normally does, since moisture would evaporate from your skin way faster than you’re designed to handle.

Fine, then. I retract my earlier statement. I forget where I read it, but I would be more inclined to trust NASA :rolleyes:

The air pressure on Mars is way too low for a person to live in without a pressure suit (or one of those skin-tight permeable suits that we will probably move to eventually).

BTW, in the post about a habitable region of Jupiter, I was not talking about being on the surface - we are talking about thousands of degrees and millions of atmospheres. My scenario was some kind of platform suspended at the layer of Jupiter’s atmosphere (perhaps from a balloon) which was warm enough for humans to live in, thousands of miles above the actual surface.

I believe Jupiter is the only planet where there is a region a person could survive indefinitely exposed to the atmosphere, if you brought a source of oxygen to breathe. The gas giants further out are too cold, by the time you get deep enough that it was warm enough the pressure would be too high. Mars atmosphere is too thin even at it’s thickest. Hmm, MAYBE the upper atmosphere of Venus at nighttime, but if it was too low into the atmosphere you would have to worry about the sulphuric acid clouds.

55 degrees is a little low. The record high (measured at noon on a summer day near Mars’s equator) is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Certainly very comfortable, but it didn’t stay that warm for very long and doesn’t get that warm very often.

But the cold is less of a problem than the thin atmosphere. Without protection, all the capillaries in your skin and eyeballs would burst. Your eyes wouldn’t bug out a la Schwarzenegger, but they’d still be ruined. Your blood would boil; your lungs would collapse. You’d probably develop DCI, depending on what kind of environment you stepped out of onto the Martian surface.

With aggressive terraforming efforts, we could give Mars a warm, ~2 bar CO[super]2[/super] atmosphere pretty quickly: in less than a century. Then, you’d still need a jacket and an oxygen mask, but otherwise could exist outdoors.

Until then, the first few Martian generations will probably roof over craters and canyons and set up climate-control systems inside.

So Martian cities will look like Horton Plaza.