A Guide To Daily Life On Mars

27:10 minutes

ground level shot of rough, red surface of Mars
The rough, red surface of Mars. Credit: NASA

SpaceX’s Elon Musk made a surprise cameo at the South by Southwest conference and festival in Austin on Sunday. He talked about his interplanetary ambitions, and announced that a massive rocket capable of travel between planets in our solar system might be ready for testing as early as next year. Even if that timeline doesn’t hold, it got us thinking: What would daily life be like on the Red Planet?

We called a couple experts to find out: Stanley Love, a NASA astronaut, and Ariel Ekblaw of the MIT Media Lab’s Space Exploration Initiative. Both said good meals would be hugely important in order to keep morale up, and Ekblaw noted that even the small details of packaging, like the way a chip bag crinkles, can add joy to mealtime. As for the daily pick-me-up, Love said the slogan for coffeeshops in space might be “Yesterday’s coffee into tomorrow’s coffee,” a nod to the fact that all liquids, even urine, must be recycled.

[We thought we knew dinosaurs so well, but this paleoartist has new visions of ancient creatures.]

And if you’ve seen The Martian, you know that getting from point A to point B can be both slow and dangerous, with limited battery power and lots of sharp rocks littering the surface. Georgia Tech’s John-Paul Clarke has a different vision for how Martian astronauts might get around: vacuum airshipsa blimp-like structure that would hypothetically float in Mars’ carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere if all the air molecules were sucked out from the blimp.

Love, Ekblaw, and Clarke join guest host Flora Lichtman to imagine life on the Red Planet, and build this future world.

Support great science journalism!

Segment Guests

Stan Love

Stan Love is a NASA astronaut, and a planetary scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Ariel Ekblaw

Ariel Ekblaw is founder and lead of the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

John-Paul Clarke

John-Paul Clarke is a professor of Aerospace and Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia.

Segment Transcript

FLORA LICHTMAN: This is Science Friday and I’m Flora Lichtman. Elon Musk made a surprise cameo at South by Southwest on Sunday talking with screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, and one of the things they talked about was Elon’s interplanetary ambitions. We got an update and a progress report on his big rocket, nicknamed BFR.

ELON MUSK: We are building the first Mars or interplanetary ship right now, and I think we’ll probably be able to do short flights– short, sort of up and down flights probably sometime in the first half of next year.

FLORA LICHTMAN: The first half of next year, Musk says we will be testing a rocket capable of flying to Mars. This got us thinking, what would a Martian town be like? Let’s think about all that day to day stuff that we take for granted here on Earth– fresh water coming out of the tap, abundant sunshine for growing food, that special flick of the wrist that you have perfected for flipping pancakes. How would all that change in a world with limited water and sunlight, and much lower gravity? We called a couple experts to find out. Let me introduce them. Stan Love is a NASA astronaut and planetary scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He’s been up in the shuttle and on spacewalks, too. Welcome to Science Friday, Stan.

STAN LOVE: Thanks very much. My pleasure to be here.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Ariel Ekblaw is founder and lead of the MIT Media Space Exploration Initiative in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She joins us via Skype. Welcome to Sci Fri.

ARIEL EKBLAW: Great to be on. Thanks for having me, Flora.

FLORA LICHTMAN: OK, and if you have a question about life on the red planet, please give us a call. Our number is 844-724-8255. That’s 844-SCI-TALK or tweet us @ Sci Fri. Stan, Elon Musk made a corny dad joke about opening a Mars bar during the South by Southwest panel, but in all seriousness, what would it be like to have a cocktail in low gravity?

STAN LOVE: Well, refreshing, I’m sure. Especially since our current reduced gravity crew members don’t get to taste any alcohol while they’re on a mission.

FLORA LICHTMAN: People never drink on the ISS?

STAN LOVE: That’s what I was told and I didn’t see any alcohol when I was there, and US policy is we don’t have alcohol on station. Other partner nations may have their own rules.

FLORA LICHTMAN: I’m thinking of those tiny airplane bottles. You could just sneak it into a space suit.

STAN LOVE: I think they might be tiny little airplane bags, in this case.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Ariel, you were at a group at MIT– the Space Exploration Initiatives, which isn’t so much about building the rockets, but thinking about the tech we’ll need when we get to Mars and how to create positive space culture. So what kind of innovations– what do we need to be thinking about to have a high quality of life on Mars?

ARIEL EKBLAW: Well, that’s a great question, and that is something that the Space Exploration Initiative is thinking about at MIT Media Lab. We’re looking at the technologies and the tools of engagement that will not just help humans survive once they get there, but also delight them, keep them engaged. Some of this is thinking about space food and, yes, even space cocktails, like you mentioned with Stan. And then some of it is technical, rigorous literature reviews about what are the current state of the art technologies for, say, water reclamation, agriculture, future of architecture. What would we actually be living in when we are on the surface? That then informs some of the prototypes that we’re actually building here in the lab on a day to day basis.

One of the main goals of the initiative is not just to be designers, but we’re designers, builders, and deployers, and actually trying to think about creating these technologies that previously had just been sci-fi. But now, if Elon is correct, and in just a number of a few years we might be there, that we’ll need to have those technologies ready to actually use on the surface.

FLORA LICHTMAN: I think we should get right to the very important issue of food. Stan, what would we eat on Mars?

STAN LOVE: Whatever we can get. At first, it’s probably going to be stuff that we ship from Earth. We have no possibility of producing food on Mars right now. The closest analog we have to that would be the very small, brightly lit greenhouse room they have at the South Pole station in Antarctica for the long winter. There’s no flights in and out, and all the food that the folks eat has to be either frozen, thermally stabilized, or occasionally, you get a little bit of lettuce or a tomato out of that greenhouse, and it’s the highlight of your day.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Thermally stabilized does not sound delicious.

STAN LOVE: It is not delicious, and it’s a very important– I’m glad you’re asking the question. It’s something we should all be thinking about. If you read the journals of the Arctic explorers from around 1900, it is all about the food. On Mars, you can’t go outside without putting on a 300 pound spacesuit. The scenery is rarely going to change. The people are rarely going to change. You have to live in a sealed habitat. It can only be limited in size, and when your surroundings are that monotonous, food becomes immensely important.

FLORA LICHTMAN: So what could we expect? I have this picture from The Martian of vast fields being grown inside. Do I need to erase that image?

STAN LOVE: It would be great if we could do it, but if you look at what we get with an acre of farmland on Earth without thinking about it, every square yard of that field receives about a kilowatt of light energy from the sun all day. That’s a lot of grow lights, and it takes many acres to feed a colony. So we’d need the volume to put all those plants in. We’d need all the light to make the plants grow, and then of course, every watt of artificial light, once it’s been projected out, becomes a watt of artificial heat that you have to get rid of. And in space, getting rid of waste heat is really hard. If you imagine going to your bathroom–


STAN LOVE: Well, go in your bathroom, turn on eight hairdryers, and leave them there for an hour or so. And then go back in your bathroom. That’s what it’s going to be like being in a room with grow lights on Mars. And on Earth, you can open a window and the heat goes outside, or turn on your air conditioner and pump that heat outside. In space, with Mars’ thin atmosphere, it’s cold, but it’s thin. It’s hard to put heat into that. It’s going to be a challenge.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Oh, interesting. Ariel, are you thinking about this? Food in space?

ARIEL EKBLAW: We are, indeed, and Stan brings up a really great point about the light requirements and thinking about the power budget for how much power and electricity do you really have available? And how much natural light or full spectrum artificial light could you bring to bear on an agricultural project, likely indoors? Because of course, we know that the perchlorates in Martian soil are going to make it very difficult to do any agriculture outdoors, in addition to the limited atmosphere.

Two specific technologies that we’re looking at right now around space food– one is radiotrophic fungi. So fungi that really can survive well in the presence of some radiation. And also, because they’re low light, the ability to potentially grow some of these fungi as a dual purpose crop. There’s really innovative research coming out of Redhouse Studios from Chris Maurer’s group. They’re a group that just came to the Media Lab over the weekend for our Beyond the Cradle conference, which brought together about 60 leading thinkers, visionaries, and builders for the future of space exploration.

The idea is to grow fungal mycelium, which are the roots of fungi, use those as binding material with some other organic matter. This can be a primitive for, say, something like a building brick for a colony for architecture. And then use the flowering part of the mushroom– the part that we would actually eat, to be an early example of grown on Mars space food. So that’s thought number one, is really relying heavily on mushrooms.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Does that mean your stir fry would be growing out of your walls?

ARIEL EKBLAW: There you go. Yes, you’re just looking for that tasty mushroom to add to your stir fry, and you go plug it off the bricks that are enclosing you on the Martian habitat. Yes. We could envision such a future. I think, realistically, we’d be a little bit worried about containment. And so you’re most likely going to see those fungi grown in something like a food computer, which actually brings me to the second example, which is fantastic work being done at the MIT Media Lab from the Open Agriculture Initiative, with whom we’re collaborating for our space food research theme. Looking at how can you have very energy efficient, small, contained, controlled environments– little food computers where you could be able to start growing and thinking about not sustainable agriculture for an entire colony, but at least the start of agriculture for a few Martian astronauts.

FLORA LICHTMAN: We have a tweet from Flap. There’s water on Mars, but is it safe to drink? Stan?

STAN LOVE: I’d want to filter and purify that first. We know you mentioned the perchlorates in the soil. Water on Mars is all frozen or in the vapor form. Liquid water can only exist in certain low lying areas on certain very warm days. So we’re going to probably mine it out of the soil in the form of ice. You would have to melt it, make sure you get all the grit out of it, and then, yeah. With the chemistry going on in the Martian soil, you’d want to make sure you ran that through some filtration before you chugged it down.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Let’s go to the phones. Let’s go to Andrew in Houston, Texas. Hey, Andrew.


FLORA LICHTMAN: Tell me your question.

ANDREW: I’m curious what would happen to our bone density in a lower gravity environment, and what kind of exercise we might want to do to take care of ourselves on Mars.


STAN LOVE: Oh, excellent question. So first of all, we have astronauts in a 0 gravity environment on the space station all the time now, and had them up there continuously, since the year 2000. And without exercising 2 and 1/2 hours a day and an hour or an hour and a half of that each day on a resistive exercise machine that mimics weightlifting– of course, you can lift a lot of weight in 0 G, and it doesn’t really help your body much. The machine we have– you’re fighting against compressed air in a cylinder, so it’s the equivalent of weightlifting, and those folks are coming back with pretty good bone density.

Of course we know that just daily life on Earth keeps your bone density healthy. We have no idea whether Mars’ gravity is enough to keep your bone density healthy, because we don’t have any data between 0 and 1 G. So that’s one of the things we’re going to learn when we go to Mars, is whether you have to exercise that much extra to keep your bones healthy, or whether the gravity there is enough to keep your bones healthy.

FLORA LICHTMAN: What’s the gravity like on Mars?

STAN LOVE: It’s 3/8 of Earth’s gravity. So you’d weigh a little less than half of what you do on Earth. You’d bounce with every step. Your gait would be quite different than it is on Earth. You would take your steps more slowly and you’d want to build high ceilings, or people are going to bump their heads.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Ariel, have you thought about– there seems like there’s some sports potential– new sports potential on Mars. Have you thought about this? Sports or games.

ARIEL EKBLAW: Oh, I love this idea of sports. I will admit that we have been thinking about 0 G games, and some of them, and how they might be applicable to a reduced gravity environment, like Mars. There was actually another workshop just held at Beyond the Cradle over the weekend by one of our masterminds at the lab and the instructor of the sci-fi class– sci-fi fab class. The idea is to look at how astronauts can engage in really meaningful leisure time.

So we know that mental health and equanimity is key, and being able to do just fun, energetic things is a great way to be able to keep astronauts healthy and engaged when they’re either in orbit or potentially one of the first lone astronaut explorers on Mars. A lot of the unique things that we might think about for 0 gravity– flying Tetris blocks, like what Chris Hadfield has done– Canadian astronaut with Velcro on Scrabble pieces to be able to bring up his favorite pastime, are things that we could consider on Mars, if you’re thinking not so much of a floating 0 gravity chamber, but more of just the distances that you can bound, like Stan said. The ability to do maybe a little bit more acrobatic activity.

FLORA LICHTMAN: If you want to get in on this conversation, ask a question about life on Mars, our phone number is 844-724-8255. 844-SCI-TALK. What about Mars apparel? It seems like it would have to be bulky.

STAN LOVE: If you’re going outside, absolutely. If you saw the movie, The Martian, our hero was going out in a fairly light weight suit, and that may be a little bit optimistic, at least with current technology. Mars’ atmosphere, as far as your body is concerned, is a vacuum. You are just as dead on Mars if you take your helmet off as you would be if you did it on the moon or out in deep space. It is not close to enough to support life or even get one breath in before you lose consciousness.

So it’s going to look like a full blown spacesuit– the big, white suit that our station astronauts use to conduct spacewalks, except it’s going to need a lot more mobility in the hips. To do a spacewalk, you basically never use your legs. Walking around on a planet, especially with 3/8 G, which, if your suit weighs 350 pounds, is still a pretty heavy suit, you’re going to need hip mobility and the ability to bend your knees and bend your ankles, which our current space suit doesn’t have, but our Apollo moon suits had, to a limited extent. So it’s going to be a big, heavy, bulky space suit, until we can do something about Mars’ atmosphere to make it better.

FLORA LICHTMAN: I’m Flora Lichtman and this is Science Friday from PRI, Public Radio International. In the book, Dune, the desert dwellers on that dry, sandy planet, Arrakis, wear so-called still suits. They capture sweat and breath and everything, and turn it back into drinking water. Is that going to be something we need to develop?

STAN LOVE: I don’t think so. First of all, most of your time, you’re going to be in a habitat. Water will be precious. You’ll either have to mine it out of the soil– hopefully not bring it from Earth, because that’s going to be even harder. And so we’ll want to recapture all the water that we can. But the water that you sweat when you exercise– on Arrakis, it goes out in the atmosphere and it’s very hard to claw it back. In a sealed habitat, it’s going to end up in your humidity removal system, which you have to have. Otherwise, it’s going to be unbearably muggy in the place all the time. So we can reclaim it that way. The water that you exhale with each breath– you would want to capture that on a desert planet, but on Mars, again, it’s going into the cabin atmosphere, and we’ll pick it up in the dehumidifier.

FLORA LICHTMAN: We have a tweet from Damian. How hard would it be to sunbathe on Mars, and could you? Ariel?

ARIEL EKBLAW: Very interesting question from Damian about the potential impact of the sun’s rays. So we know that at that distance, Mars is much further out than the Earth. The sun’s rays will be weaker than what we would typically experience on Earth, and yet, I would still not recommend it. I think it’s an issue of a radiation dosage, and when you’re on the surface of Mars, you’re dealing with Mars’ significant lack of an atmosphere that’s comparable to what Earthlings are used to experience. So no, I would not recommend a sunbathing experience on Mars in the near future.

To riff on Stan’s comment about the sweat in the suits, we do have a couple of researchers here looking at innovative textiles that can capture sweat along the lines and seams of an internal suit. So this is less for, say, those bulky EVA suits– the external vehicular activity suits, and more for something you might wear on the inside. Yes, Stan is absolutely right that the humidity in a capture system, say, in something like a hab module on a Martian colony would be able to capture most of the moisture, not just that you’re losing from your body, but that you’re also perspiring through your breath and your respiration.

But we’re interested, still, in having a unique new textile fabric for these suits for hygiene, actually. When you think about hygiene on a Martian colony, it’s something that’s not going to come as easily as it would even in the International Space Station, just due to resource constraints. And so being able to correctly and efficiently wick sweat and the minerals that are also exuded in sweat away from your body might be a really helpful thing for hygiene.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Are you talking about self-showering clothes?

ARIEL EKBLAW: That is a great tag line. I shall suggest that in the future. Something along those lines, yes. And I think a source of really fantastic inspiration for us for that project is the bio suit coming out of Dava Newman’s Manned Vehicle Laboratory at MIT aero astro. And looking at a close form bodysuit– it’s form fitting. It looks, also, very fashionable. Very space forward thinking, and has these fantastic seam lines that are iso-pressure lines. So if you can combine the flexibility that comes with a suit dynamically designed for you to be moving freely with something like a self-cleaning, self-showering functionality, that’s something that we’re really excited about and are looking into.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Stay with us, everybody. We’re going to be talking lots more about life on Mars. And after the break, we’ll also talk about an old idea that’s being reinvented for travel across the red planet– the airship. There’s one big difference, though, from the ones here on Earth. Stay with us.

This is Science Friday and I’m Flora Lichtman sitting in for Ira Flatow. We’re talking about what life might be like in space or on the surface of Mars with my guests. Stan Love is a NASA astronaut and planetary scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Ariel Ekblaw is founder and lead of the MIT Space Exploration Initiative. And if you’ve seen The Martian, you know that getting from point A to point B can be quite an ordeal on Mars. It is slow, dangerous, you have to ration your battery power and avoid all of those sharp rocks that seem to just want to puncture your wheels. So I’d like to bring on another guest now to talk about transportation. He’s done some thinking about other ways we might get around the red planet. John-Paul Clarke is a professor of aerospace and industrial and systems engineering at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Welcome to Science Friday.

JOHN-PAUL CLARKE: Hi, happy to be here.

FLORA LICHTMAN: John-Paul, tell me about this Martian blimp idea.

JOHN-PAUL CLARKE: Well, a couple of us at Georgia Tech were thinking about whether a vacuum airship was viable. And basically, for those who don’t know, a vacuum airship is the same principle as a balloon or a dirigible, but instead of filling the inside with a lower density, lighter gas, you basically have an inside purely evacuated. So you’re using the same principle. You’re displacing a gas or atmosphere, but instead of filling it with a lighter gas, you fill it with nothing.

The big challenge, of course, is that that structure has to resist all the compression that would naturally want to occur. And so we’ve done a fair bunch of analysis, and we’ve found that with materials that we have now, and luckily for us, the atmosphere on Mars is just like perfect amongst all the planets in our solar system for actually deploying a vacuum airship.

FLORA LICHTMAN: So what is the structure that actually prevents this pressure from the Mars atmosphere from popping that balloon?

JOHN-PAUL CLARKE: Yeah, well, it turns out that it’s kind of like a sphere, but it’s really an octahedron, basically– eight sided figure. And what happens is that we actually build that truss, and then we have a very thin, basically membrane layer outside of that truss. So if you look at it, it kind of looks like a slightly deflated soccer ball or something like that, in terms of– it would be flat sides.

FLORA LICHTMAN: I’m thinking of like a geodesic dome.

JOHN-PAUL CLARKE: Yes, exactly. It’s sort of like that. And the key thing, though, is that those geodesic domes usually have all the structure on the outside. This one actually has a truss work inside. And the key thing for our truss work is that they’re made up of what we call consecutive beams, which are very light, and basically, you have the actual beams, themselves, in compression, and they have wires in tension. So they have some really cool properties, and one of them is that they don’t buckle, even though they’re very thin.

FLORA LICHTMAN: What would you use this for? What kind of transportation? Is it for long distances? Is it more of the Amtrack of Mars? Is it like the subway? What’s it for?

JOHN-PAUL CLARKE: You can use it for pretty much any of those purposes. We’ve actually sketched out concepts for doing surveillance and scientific research, for moving entire habitats, if you build a big enough one. That you have a habit– that you want to go explore another part of the planet. Or if you just basically want to get from point A to point B. The cool thing is just, basically, you can never achieve a perfect vacuum.

And so you just need to determine how close you can get to perfect vacuum to determine the altitude you want to cruise at. And then you have to have, obviously, some systems for providing horizontal propulsion. The best thing of all is that, unlike a balloon or a dirigible, where if you have a puncture, you basically have to refill it with gas, this time, if you have a puncture in the membrane, you just patch it and just re-evacuate it, and it’s good to go.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Let’s go to the phones. Let’s go to Matt in Pittsburgh. Hi, Matt.

MATT: Hi, how are you?

FLORA LICHTMAN: Great, what’s your question?

MATT: Yeah, I was just curious if there were any theories or anticipated impact to genetics. As a small population of human beings colonize Mars, what would subsequent generations look like? Would there be an effect to physicality? Has there been any thought around that?

FLORA LICHTMAN: I was wondering about that, too, if in low gravity, humans would get stretched out and they would get taller.

MATT: Exactly.


STAN LOVE: Oh, good question. My understanding is that predictive genetics has not been a successful field of study for our species. So nobody knows. I think the second order of thought would be if there were tigers that ate people who didn’t get stretched out, then people would get taller. But we’re probably not going to take tigers with us. So it’s tough to know how genetic drift would result in a change in the population without some sort of selective pressure to go with it.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Ariel, have you looked at this?

ARIEL EKBLAW: I think I’ll echo Stan’s answer here in that we’re thinking about it, and yet the right answer is that the data is not in yet. It’s very tempting to speculate and say, maybe in the course of a generation, we wouldn’t necessarily expect to see major genetic shifts. Maybe a little bit of epigenetic shift, but could just the varying environment for a generation raised on Mars, say, lead them to be taller, just because over the course of their singular lifetime, the force of gravity is not pulling down on their muscles and bones while they’re in an early childhood development stage? And so then, it’s fun to speculate and think, well, does that mean if Martians took a tourist trip back to Earth, would they struggle under the weight of Earth’s gravity? These are all questions that we’re asking, but until we do actually have some data coming in from a few Martian colonists, it’ll be hard to know for sure. What I would point listeners to is Chris Mason’s work at Cornell. Chris was just here over the weekend, talking about the genetics behind the NASA twins study, and some of the DNA changes that we are seeing between Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly for their differing times in space.

FLORA LICHTMAN: How many humans do you need to actually create a self-sustaining population, like a healthy gene pool? Stan?

STAN LOVE: I’ve taken a look at that recently, and I have seen numbers anywhere from 500 to 100,000. So that’s a tough experiment to do, and I hope we don’t guess low. But certainly, in the thousands would be a safe guess. So we’re talking about a decent sized town.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Yeah, indeed. Let’s go to the phones. We have Kaidan in Hawthorne, Florida. Hi, welcome to Science Friday.

KAIDAN: Hi, this is Kaidan.

FLORA LICHTMAN: And maybe turn down your radio, if you don’t mind.

KAIDAN: OK, so would Wi-Fi and electronics work on Mars? Would they be affected? Would they be better? Would they be worse?

FLORA LICHTMAN: Great question.

ARIEL EKBLAW: That is a fantastic question. A lot of the infrastructure that we rely on for things like Wi-Fi and electronics and GPS here on Earth are actually due to satellites that we have in orbit. So a large infrastructure that we have orbiting the Earth at any one time. We’re just starting to plan for what that infrastructure might be like, and when I say we, not just the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative, but more broadly, the Jet Propulsion Lab at NASA, other groups like SpaceX trying to think about, what is that infrastructure around Mars in orbit that we would need to really support on surface operations?

Another class of support, in addition to, say, GPS satellites or internet producing, providing satellites, would be a staging base. And when Flora mentioned geodesic domes earlier in the context of John-Paul’s work, that reminds me of the TESSERAE project at the MIT Media Lab, a proposal for self-assembling space architecture that would essentially be flexible, reconfigurable modules for astronauts to live in in orbit around Mars as they’re preparing for missions to the surface and coming back. And maybe we can augment those type of TESSERAE, self-assembling structures with technology and capability to give you Wi-Fi access, which is a great question.

JOHN-PAUL CLARKE: Well, you can put some Wi-Fi transmitters below my airships, actually– put a bunch of them up. We can create a little network.

FLORA LICHTMAN: That sounds great. We’re solving the problems right here on the show.

STAN LOVE: And as far as the function of the basic electronics, those work pretty well on Mars. Every time we send a probe out into space, all of our communication satellites, the rovers on Mars– those are all chock full of electronics. They have to be designed to withstand a few extra radiation hits, which can flip bits in memories. But they work, in general, very reliably, and we wouldn’t have a trouble with basic electronics on Mars.

FLORA LICHTMAN: We have a tweet from Christine, which says, did you have to mention pancakes at the carb craving hour in the afternoon? Please tell me they would not be as fluffy on Mars. Or would they be fluffier? Discuss.

STAN LOVE: My vote is fluffier. The carbon dioxide gas in the pancake is going to expand. There’s going to be less gravity making the pancake flat. I think you’re going to end up with nice, fluffy pancakes.

FLORA LICHTMAN: I think that’s the perfect place to leave this conversation. I want to thank you all for joining me today. Stan Love is a NASA astronaut and planetary scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Ariel Ekblaw is founder and lead of the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and John-Paul Clarke is a professor of aerospace and industrial and systems engineering at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Copyright © 2018 Science Friday Initiative. All rights reserved. Science Friday transcripts are produced on a tight deadline by 3Play Media. Fidelity to the original aired/published audio or video file might vary, and text might be updated or amended in the future. For the authoritative record of Science Friday’s programming, please visit the original aired/published recording. For terms of use and more information, visit our policies pages at http://www.sciencefriday.com/about/policies/

Meet the Producer

About Christopher Intagliata

Christopher Intagliata was Science Friday’s senior producer. He once served as a prop in an optical illusion and speaks passable Ira Flatowese.

Explore More

How to Cook on Mars (Recipe Included)

Whipping up a yummy Martian snack isn't as hard as it might seem.

Read More