Disregarding the distance from Earth, would Mars be more habitable than the Moon?

Or better put, disregarding the distance from Earth, which of Mars or the Moon would be easier (in cost and/or effort) to make temporarily habitable?

Would the Martian (from the book/ Movie) have fared better on the Moon?


closed as primarily opinion-based by kim holder, Brian Tompsett - 汤莱恩, Gwen, Organic Marble, GdD Nov 13 '15 at 8:37

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    $\begingroup$ The thing for me is i really don't think you can disregard the distance from Earth. The kind of hab that could be sent ahead and prepared for the crew's arrival is completely different due to the Moon's proximity to Earth. Construction via tele-operated robots is possible there. The place where the hab would go is also a big question. We have already located entrances to lava tubes, if a hab was built in one that also completely changes the equation. That puts enough unknowns into the question that i don't think it is answerable. $\endgroup$ – kim holder Nov 12 '15 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ I'm editing my answer to point to this comment too. $\endgroup$ – Brian Lynch Nov 12 '15 at 21:34
  • $\begingroup$ The Martian (Mark Watney) would have fared much better on the moon, as the catastrophe described in the book would not have happened there. Brian's "comparing apples to dishwashers" really hits the point. $\endgroup$ – Klaws Mar 28 '18 at 8:51

I think the simplest answer is this: the Moon is a much harsher environment compared to Mars and has fewer usable resources. The only thing that makes the Moon more attractive for colonization/exploration (apart from being so much closer), is its smaller gravity well. That makes it much easier to descend to the surface as well as ascend to orbit. Without an atmosphere, you cannot take advantage of aerobraking or parachute assisted descent -- but I still believe the Moon's lower gravity still makes it easier for descent and ascent.

I would argue that Mark Watney would not have fared nearly as well on the Moon! He depended on Mars' atmosphere for survival and thermal problems nearly killed him (those conditions are even worse on the Moon). Not sure if lunar regolith could be used as soil for his potatoes, but maybe.

However, it would be a very different story since a rescue mission would be much easier and the tools and supplies he would have available would be completely different. Also, this is all assuming you are taking the Ares III mission and supplanting it on the Moon, which is like asking how an Amazon exploration party would fare if suddenly moved to the Sahara. See kim holder's comment above -- it just isn't comparing apples to apples... not even apples to oranges... more like apples to dishwashers.


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