High altitude populations in Tibet, the Andes, and Ethiopia have genetic adaptations that allow them to better handle low oxygen levels. They are also used to colder and drier climates. And lastly they receive more UV radiation and cosmic rays than people at lower altitudes and may have genetic advantages there too. (Though I cannot find anything on adaptations to the higher radiation.)

Given all of these inherent advantages in regards to the likely similar environments on the trips to, from, and on Mars. Does it make more sense to try and draw from these populations? (140 million perople.)

  • $\begingroup$ More specifically, "draw from the female parts of these populations". $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ @EverydayAstronaut Why females parts of the population? The adaptations have genetically been passed to both sexes. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ During STS-109, we spent over 4 days @ a cabin pressure altitude of 10,000 feet. This was due to the EVA-intensive nature of the mission (said lower pressure reduced the amount of pre-breathing needed by the EVA folks before commencing a spacewalk). Don't remember too many problems with this, except for the fact that the Orbiter did not have an automatic mode for maintaining 10.2 - we had to manage our atmospheric parameters manually. Sometime it got a bit uncomfortable when CO2 was at its max levels - adding more O2 at those times sure felt good... $\endgroup$
    – Digger
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 18:54
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Because of multiple reasons, the female part of these populations is even better genetically suited for such missions than the male part. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 19:13

1 Answer 1


Maybe. Let's address this from two angles:

  • Could an adapted person live without pressurization on Mars
  • Would a person adapted to high level be able to need significantly less pressurization.

Base data and tools

Could an adapted person live without pressurization on Mars?

No. The pressure at Mars sea level is 1.2% of the lowest pressure at which people on Earth have ever lived. Being adapted to Earth high altitude isn't going to help on Mars. Without pressurization, our high-altitude adapted person will die the same quick death on Mars as our sea-level adapted person.

Could an adapted person need less pressurization on Mars?

Yes, quite a bit less.

To pressurize a Mars habitat to Earth sea level needs a structure that can withstand a pressure difference of 100.7 kPa (101.3 kPa - 600 Pa).

To pressurize a Mars habitat to Earth's highest habitable altitude, 5100M, needs a structure that can withstand a pressure difference of 48.3 kPa (48.9 kPa - 600 Pa).

The structure that our adapted person needs must contain only half the differential pressure of the structure needed by someone who requires Earth sea-level pressurization. This could conceivably result in a lighter weight structure that is easier to build or transport.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No healthy astronaut requires Earth sea-level pressurization. Living in a height of about 1000 to 1500 m (89 to 88 kPa) is possible without adaptation. But some reserves are necessary for an emergency pressure drop and leak search. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 11:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe True. Still, all of these levels are lower for persons genetically adapted to high altitudes. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 11:51

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