The first Martian colonists may want to think twice about reproducing. Though it may not seem like the most pressing problem facing the future astronauts of the Mars One expedition aiming to launch in 10 years, whether or not to have children could be a major biological and ethical conundrum.
Today (April 22), the nonprofit Mars One organization announced its plan to begin selecting astronauts for one-way missions to Mars. These spacefarers would establish the first Martian colony, with subsequent crews arriving every two years. Eventually, those Mars settlers may want to have families — but can they? Doctors say they don't know whether humans would be able to become pregnant and give birth in the lesser gravity on Mars (it's got 38 percent of the gravity on Earth), not to mention how babies would fare under the excess radiation outside of Earth's protective atmosphere.
"We definitely will start out at first with animals and see how the pregnancy works with animals," said Norbert Kraft, Mars One's chief medical officer. "We will go from there after these results and think about human pregnancy." But a truly self-sustaining colony as Mars One envisions can't rely on new recruits from Earth. Eventually, humans will likely have to experiment with pregnancy on Mars. And if that's not hard enough, just wait 'til they try raising teenagers on Mars.