When Earth and Mars were formed 4 billion years ago, they had so many similarities. They both had lakes, rivers, craters and volcanoes. But somewhere along the way, something changed in one of the planets.
In the warm burbling water of Earth, amino acids, through chemistry became complex molecules and in a mysterious process these became single cells which replicated themselves to form oxygen-exhaling organisms knows as algae. Through other complex processes, that no one still understands, human beings were formed.
Things did not go so well for Mars as it dried up. Being half the size of Earth, it cooled off faster and its iron-nickel core solidified. This, supposedly, led to the shutting down of its magnetic field and it lost its protective shield—the kind that still protects Earth from cosmic and solar rays. The Martian atmosphere was destroyed before its algae, if it had any, was able to make the air warm and thick. Before any creatures thrived on the red planet, it turned to rust and remains barren to this day.
That makes Mars the best planet.
Ashwin Vasavada, shares this view. Most scientists, if asked, say that people go to Mars because it is close. A journey to Mars takes about half a year. NASA will give you that same answer. But Ashwin has a different answer. He says it is because Mars is like early Earth. It is familiar.
It was familiar even before robots were sent there. It is the only planet visible with eyes alone. Mars is the center of several myths. For instance, Babylonians named it after the god of destruction, Nergal. The Romans called it Mars, the god of war and the Chinese named it Ying-huo, the shimmering planet.
Mars has always been unique. One reason for this is because it is visible as an obvious red, unblinking dot. Another thing, it seems to move backward. It appears to move from west to east.
As technology advanced, Mars became a prime target and its similarities to Earth were discovered. Mars and Earth are very different from the rest of the planets. A day in Mars (known as a sol) is 40 minutes longer than a day in Earth.
The more people observed Mars, the more it became easier to imagine it being just like Earth, probably crawling with life. In 1892, Camille Falammarion, a French astronomer, wrote and said that, “the present inhabitation of Mars by a race superior to ours is very probable.”
The current technology has proven that there are no Martians but Mars used to be habitable at some point in the past. This discovery may be a big disappointment to most people but for some scientists, it raises an important question: Why here? Why us?
Elon Musk has disclosed his plans to place the first human settlers on the red planet. If this succeeds, the first form of life on Mars could be humans from Earth. The experience of living on Mars will most likely be a horrible one, considering the atmosphere. The settlers will have to live in spacesuits; otherwise they will freeze and boil to death, simultaneously.