Hexavalent chromium, oxidizing perchlorates, and cosmic radiation all contribute to a hostile environment that could make the planet Mars uninhabitable… but in the 21st century, "uninhabitable" ain’t what it used to be.
In his paper, "Advanced to Revolutionary Technology Options for Humans on Mars," NASA Chief Scientist Dennis Bushnell tackles the challenge of overcoming obstacles to Martian colonization through a combination of information technology, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering solutions to colonize the planet first with machines and later by mankind.
Sound far-fetched? The first part’s already in place: networked machine intelligence is finding practical use on Mars since the deployment of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which not only performs detailed analysis of the Martian terrain using cameras, spectrometers, and radar, but also functions as the communications relay for a network of probes planned for future missions.
As for us, Bushnell advocates a combination of genetic engineering to harden future colonists against radiation and bone-density loss from Mars’ lower gravity in addition to using nanotechnology to repair the radiation-damage from incoming cosmic rays. The result? Better humans living longer lives on a mission to another world that’s already started.