NASA

This free online course will teach you how to survive on Mars

Becoming Matt Damon.

JOSH HRALA
1 SEP 2016
 

Scientists around the world are determined to make Mars our next big frontier, but if there's even a chance we can colonise the Red Planet, we're going to have to figure out how to live there for an extended period of time.

And when I say "we", that means you too, because an Australian university is about to launch a free online course that will teach even those with no scientific background how to survive on the surface of Mars.

 

Offered by Monash University, the course is called "How to Survive on Mars: The Science Behind Human Exploration of Mars", and will take four weeks to complete, with 3-hour weekly classes to be taken online.

"Mars has captivated the human imagination since the very earliest civilisations. It is the most explored planet in the Solar System, and that is unlikely to change," the course description reads. "Getting to Mars is relatively easy, surviving on Mars will be the real challenge."

The course was developed by astrophysicist Jasmina Lazendic-Galloway and chemist Tina Overton, who were inspired by Andy Weir’s novel, The Martian.

"We liked that the scientists were treated as problem-solvers. Not like other space films with egos and aliens everywhere," Lazendic-Galloway told Ariel Bogle at Mashable. "This story actually showed what science is about - not just boring facts and formulas, but real problem-solving skills."

So, if you were to sign up, what would you learn?

Well, most of the class will be based around teaching basic scientific methods used to overcome everyday problems in a hostile environment like Mars, such as learning how to create water or oxygen - two things you will definitely need in Mars - in a lab setting.

 

The class descriptions are yet to be released, and it's not clear at this stage how students will be tested on their knowledge, but the researchers do say that the most important aspect of surviving on Mars will be a familiarity with aspects of all scientific disciplines.

"Science is interdisciplinary, not just chemistry, not just astronomy, and not just physics. And on Mars, you will have to know a bit of everything," Lazendic-Galloway told Mashable. "The reason we wanted to keep it to survival is we know the first colonies will really be fighting for their survival."

While the class might seem sort of premature given that we haven't even gotten close to landing humans on Mars yet, being prepared for what we could face there is vital if we intend to live there in the future.

In preparation for eventual human exploration on the Red Planet, SpaceX plans to send a spacecraft to Mars by 2018. Whether or not that due date will bear out is yet to be seen, but things are looking promising.

"People think that we can't do these things. That we can't go back to the Moon anymore - it's too hard and expensive. It can be done, it will be done," says Lazendic-Galloway.

So far, over 1,500 people have signed up for the class, which is set to start in late October. 

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