Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Living on other planets
Name: Barry A Bieda
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A 

Is there any possibilities for people to travel or live in other planets?

Travel to other planets in our own solar system is routine but long and pricey ($millions per months-long trip) for robots. It could be routine for a small number of humans too but would cost right now a lot, maybe 5-10% of what the world spends on weaponry and loads more than it spends on infectious disease prevention. Travel to planets outside the solar system is limited by the very large distances involved (which light typically takes decades to centuries to cross) and the lack of a roadmap. With Apollo rocket technology it would take 40,000 years or so to reach the nearest star, and we don't know if it has planets anyway. It's difficult to imagine advances in propulsion technology sufficient to reach speeds near light, or extensions in human longevity (not to mention patience) or "hibernation" abilities to centuries, so interstellar travel within one lifetime is hard to imagine (which does not, of course, mean it can't be done anyway). Opinions vary, but I'd say the major hurdle to large-distance space travel by human beings is achieving a consensus among people and nations that it's something worth spending lots of money and time on. Twenty-five years ago that consensus was partially achieved, for a variety of reasons, whereas today it seems essentially absent.

Living by large numbers of people on other planets in our solar system comfortably would be at present impossible, as none has enough breathable air, comfortable gravity, and a temperature tolerable in ordinary clothes. Nevertheless one can easily imagine small numbers of people living in carefully enclosed spaces (domes, sealed buildings, underground tunnels) on Mars, the Moon, or the largest asteroids and moons of the system. The technology is no more demanding than living under the sea or in orbit and only somewhat more demanding than living in Antarctica. The principle problems would seem to be figuring out (1) how to control a small ecology successfully, (2) how to acquire most materials you need from local resources, and (3) how to build and maintain such communities at a price people on Earth are willing to pay. (Alternatively you can phrase this last as "finding jobs on Mars that are so valuable to us on Earth --- i.e. have such a high wage --- that people can afford and are willing to move to Mars to live.")

If Earth-like planets with native lower life exist in other systems, one could live there perhaps by just bringing along an axe and a mule. But it seems likely that if you could eat the life on the other planet it could eat you, especially the microbial life, and so one might have to expect a high initial death rate from coming in contact with brand-new diseases.

Christopher Grayce

Click here to return to the Biology Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory