Earth Day on Mars*

Earth Day is a melding of my two favourite things: environmental sustainability, and space science. Our crew was asked to take part in the Earth Day celebrations happening in D.C. this year, and we are excited to be a part of it. On the surface, Mars exploration research doesn’t have a lot to do with planet Earth, but when you think about it more, life on Mars will be the ultimate challenge in sustainable living.

In our video, the crew shares how living in the HI-SEAS Mars simulation Dome has changed how we view energy, and water use, and how life on Mars can help life on Earth.

We also created an energy audit spreadsheet which you can download here: Earth Day Energy Audit Template to help you do your own energy audit on your own home, so you can cut down on your energy use.

And so with Earth Day coming up on April 22nd, and the festivities starting this weekend, I leave you with some words from Carl Sagan that sum up the beauty and fragility and amazingness of this planet that we call home:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

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4 Responses to Earth Day on Mars*

  1. Andrew says:

    I am in AP Biology Class and am watching this for Earth Day. I am very impressed with your efforts. It would be a good idea not only to live in just one self sustaining pod but in many different pods to simulate a society, which would be better, since we as humans would want to expand and colonize Mars. The fact that you conserve your water so much is admirable, as I know from my experiences I waste a fair amount of water, and most likely shouldn’t. Keep up the excellent work.


  2. Angel Hannah says:

    I’m a student in an AP biology class and I think that what you are doing is very impressive. This is a step in advancing the human race and how they use the energy they are given. The world is using a lot of energy, water and gas. What you guys are doing is proving to the world that they don’t need to have all of this stuff and they can have the bare minimum and still have a good life.


  3. Katie Stowell says:

    I am a student in an AP Biology course and I am researching your exhilarating experiments to celebrate Earth Day. I watched your video, and the research you are conducting is truly fascinating. I was unaware of the level of energy expenditure of humankind. I will attempt to spread your ideas to my own hometown in hopes of reducing the pollution of Earth one city at a time. I am also thrilled about the ideas regarding Mars! What are your thoughts on conducting hydroponics on Mars to potentially eliminate the Earth’s food shortage issue?

    You are doing really amazing work!


    • marthalenio says:

      Hi Katie,

      I’m not sure that conducting hydroponics on Mars to feed people on Earth would really be feasible, given the cost and difficulty. But I think the techniques that will be used to do farming on Mars could certainly be applied on Earth to help us. On Mars we’ll be limited in terms of water, sunlight, air, and space. If we can find a good way to over-come all those difficulties on Mars, that would be a huge benefit on Earth.

      One of the things that people are looking at both for Earth and Mars is “vertical gardening”. It’s actually what I implemented here in the Dome due to lack of space, before I even found out there were major agricultural efforts going on in this area. Imagine something like a bookshelf in your home, with LED lights on the bottom of each shelf, and plants growing on each level. I have a 5 level garden here in the Dome, with a variety of different LED lights on each level. Some are quite weak and I use those to sprout the seedlings, and then others are much stronger and I use them for tomatoes. This sort of gardening allows people to grow gardens in apartment buildings, in the far north, in desert areas, in all sorts of small spaces and difficult climates. And it works with hydroponics, or traditional soil methods as well.

      There’s still a lot of space on Earth that isn’t being used to it’s full potential, even in cities, so I think the lessons we learn from trying to become sustainable on Mars will greatly help life on Earth.


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