Should we go to Mars or not?

Recently, I expressed an opinion on this site in favor of a manned mission to Mars. I was met with many comments — both positive and negative — discussing this position. So I’d like to, first off, find out what your opinions on it are:

I realize that there are many other deciding factors on whether you think the answer should be yes or no, but I’d like you to pick the closest one.

For me, a combination of the first and third reasons are why I am compelled to say yes. This is important, because I freely admit that I believe the scientific merits of a manned mission to Mars are very slight. There is, at this point, nothing that humans can do over there that robots, telescopes, orbiters, etc., couldn’t do at a tiny fraction of the cost and risk.

But — and as a scientist, this is a tough admission — we have more to consider than just science. NASA was not originally a scientific organization, although it accomplished (and continues to accomplish) some great science. It was originally a military organization, and my point is that I believe the purposes of NASA projects do and should go beyond the purely scientific.

To that end, think about the Apollo program. The Soviets had landed a probe on the Moon nearly a decade before. Was it really important to have humans on it? For science, not really. But for humanity, what a step! With Neil Armstrong’s first step, we became — as far as we know — the first species in the entire Universe to travel to a world other than our own.

For the first time, dreams of space tourism and space colonization seemed a reality. 40 years later, the best thing we’ve got is the ISS, a somewhat habitable buoy in orbit. Why are we not encouraging space tourism? Why are we not ferrying civilians up to the ISS for parties? Sure, it might cost 50 billion dollars to go to Mars the first time, and maybe all the astronauts who go will die there, but there are nearly seven billion of us who’d love to someday be able to go. Great achievements require great courage, and a great reward never comes without great risk. Although I wasn’t yet alive for it, I don’t know anyone who watched the Moon landing who wasn’t living vicariously through Neil and Buzz. And most of the people I know who saw it had dreams of someone just like them being able to do it too. Although science fiction excites people’s imaginations, it pales in comparison to when the real thing catches up.

I’m not talking about warp speed or teleportation or any type of fiction; I’m talking about visiting or even living on another planet! If it were possible, wouldn’t you want a seat on that flight? (Even if only one out of a thousand people say yes, that’s millions of people who’ll go!) This is one of the greatest dreams of humanity, and we have the technology, resources, and abilities to make it happen if we choose to invest in it. If we committed to it, we could launch for it in 10 years. This has been true since the 1990s, but we’d have to commit to it. Not a return to the Moon, not requiring the invention of new technologies, just using what we’ve got right now to go to Mars. It’ll be risky, people will probably die, and the journey will likely be one-way. But the adventure is worth the risk, and the reward is worth the investment.

And although it’s a secondary reason for me, it may someday be profitable, not just through tourism but industrially, to go to Mars. Why are we not trying to identify and market Mars’ unique, untapped resources? Because yes, there are resources there. Like what? Helium, for one. Know how we get helium on Earth? We find an underground deposit of radioactive material that decays via alpha decay, producing helium. It takes millions and billions of years for these deposits to build up. We’ve already mined nearly all of it on Earth, so when we’re out, we’re out. Except that there are surely radioactive deposits on Mars, and thus the same helium mines, completely untapped. We also have reasons to believe Mars is a rich source of deuterium, a rare and expensive isotope on Earth. Who knows what else might be useful there?

So, that’s what I think. There’s really no science about it; this is a chance for humanity to make one of our dreams come true. How many opportunities do we get in our lifetimes to really make one of our dreams come true? So whenever the chance arises, you know what I’ll be pushing for. And I hope that you’ll push with me.

Comments

  1. #1 Brando
    July 24, 2009

    Indeed. I think of a journey to Mars along the lines of Columbus heading West, Lewis & Clark exploring the unexplored and Richard Burton venturing into the darkness of central Africa. It requires risk and there are no guarantees we will benefit from it other than help our species move forward.

  2. #2 dave
    July 24, 2009

    I agree completely Ethan. Not sure I’d be willing to take a one way trip to Mars, but I’m sure there are many who would. Let them!!!

  3. #3 Quiet Desperation
    July 24, 2009

    I just like the shell game approach. You develop space in a series of shells. LEO/MEO/GEO for industry, solar power, satcom, etc. Place the assembly platforms for further missions there. Then you go for the Lagrange points. Then start the moon base. Mars can come later. A series of logical, well defined steps where you firmly establish one layer before colonizing the next. And I know many folks here don’t like it, but I’d factor in profit motives wherever I could. Make many of the industrial endeavors self sufficient and that’s how you pay for the science work and R&D.

    That was sort of Von Braun’s suggested approach, wasn’t it? If we had started that in the 1950s, and not gotten sidetracked by the ridiculous race to the Moon with the Soviets, Martin Landau might have actually been able to visit the moon by September 14, 1999. ;-)

  4. #4 Ron
    July 24, 2009

    I agree wholeheartedly – and then some. Robots are fun toys, but I do marine benthic ecology when I play being a scientist. Robots can help a lot in this type of endeavor, so I can really see and feel the analogies to space science.

    In a lot of ways space science is similar to, but a whole lot easier than deep-sea marine science. At the heart of it, we are only dealing with a 1 atm pressure difference in space. A few men have made it to the moon, walked there, pushed their fingers through the regolith, and returned. No human has done a comparable mission to the deep ocean, it is simply too difficult technically.

    I realize and feel in my “scientific bones” the need to be THERE where ever THERE is; to be able to understand it correctly – and far more importantly: TO BE ABLE TO ASK THE CORRECT QUESTIONS, is often dependant upon being at the right place. In other words, to form the proper hypotheses, we need to have the proper context, and humans being visual animals, that means whenever possible we must see what we are working with, up close and personal.

  5. #5 ChrisZ
    July 24, 2009

    I said no because of the cost, but that’s a short term answer rather than a long term one. I would like to eventually try to send people to Mars, but I don’t think that’s what we should be doing in the near future. I think effort and money would be much better spent developing a Moon base in the near future, and a real effort to go to Mars could be undertaken once we have a permanent presence on the Moon.

    So yes go to Mars, but not right now is my answer.

  6. #6 Wendy
    July 24, 2009

    I agree that we should go to Mars, if only for the downright awesomeness of it all… But I think “untapped resources” is a terrible reason to explore! When will our greed end?? Look what we’ve done to this planet already. We shouldn’t exhaust another one. …That would suck. “We’ve already mined nearly all of it on Earth, so when we’re out, we’re out.” The same would be true on Mars.

    It would be nice if we would respect the land for once, instead of raping and pillaging it for our own benefit. It would also be nice if we held off on Mars until we’ve learned our lesson here on Earth.

  7. #7 a lurker
    July 24, 2009

    I am somewhat with ChrisZ. Eventually it should be done, but I don’t think the technology has matured enough yet for a reasonable attempt as of yet. The only manned mission to Mars that I think would be worth it would be a landing (i.e. not a flyby) that stays long enough to do some serious exploring (no Apollo-like three-day stays) with the tech being good enough that the astronauts can spend a good chunk of the time doing science instead of spending all their time merely trying to stay alive. And oh yes, we need to do it in such a way that does not break the bank or result in wholesale elimination of other science projects.

    I dare say that for the time being, the Moon is still a much more practical target for manned missions. And even that is not exactly easy or cheap to do. But if it can be demonstrated that we can handle visits to the Moon that last at least a year then it might be time to consider going to Mars.

    In any event, either long-term visitation of the Moon or a Mars landing will take long-term commitments to the degree that the U.S. Congress has never shown the willingness to do. The only reason we landed on the Moon at all was the conflict with the Soviet Union. Any manned effort outside of Earth orbit will need substantial budget commitments for at least ten-years. Begging for project funding every year simply will not work. Regardless of the merits, I don’t see that kind of commitment at all. Obama does not appear to have it. And George W. Bush proposed way too little money to be spend long after he was out of office (i.e. no goods whatsoever).

  8. #8 vaibhav
    July 24, 2009

    Isnt it far more impressive for the humankind to sit at earth and send robots to explore new worlds than to actually go there.

  9. #9 NewEnglandBob
    July 24, 2009

    I am so confused. I want to vote all three of the ‘yes’ selections and the first ‘no’ selection.

    I agree with your analysis, Ethan, all of the positive and all of the negative reasons for having/not having humans go.

    It is a good thing that I do not have to make the decision.

  10. #10 tresmal
    July 24, 2009

    I voted no use robots instead. Only because it was closest. My main concern is that I am not convinced that sending ambulatory germ bags to a place that could conceivably have life is such a good idea.

    I have three concerns here: 1. Scientific. If we find life how will we know it’s native and not something we brought with us? Unless said life was wildly different from Earth’s, terrestrial contamination would not only be a possible explanation it would be the most parsimonious one. 2. Ethical. How many island ecosystems on Earth have been destroyed by the introduction (accidental or otherwise) of rats, cats and other animals. We don’t want to commit the prokaryotic equivalent on Mars. 3. Ecological. While I don’t lose a lot of sleep worrying about space plagues, there is a small but nontrivial chance of an introduced Mars bug playing havoc with terrestrial ecosystems.

    Oddly enough, I would be more supportive of manned* missions to Mars if it was likely not to have life even though one of the most exciting reasons for doing so was lost.

    *”manned”? Can’t we come up with a term that acknowledges that the first “man” on Mars might be named Betty?

  11. #11 Derek
    July 24, 2009

    I voted no in the previous thread for basically the reasons Ethan points out — negligible scientific merit and exorbitant cost. I think in a few hundred years we may be ready to go. Maybe then it will be potentially economically viable to mine Mars or terraform it, though I’m skeptical even of that.

    When I think of the hundreds of billions — if not trillions — of dollars that would be spent over the lifetime of a Mars exploration/exploitation program (we surely don’t want to go just once, right?), I immediately ask myself how many Hubble or Spitzer space telescopes we could have instead? How many robot missions to Europa or Titan? How many WMAP experiments, or Rosetta landers?

    It’s not just that going to Mars wouldn’t yield much interesting new science, it would displace and eliminate so many alternative experiments that have the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the universe and our place in it.

    Going to Mars is the ultimate triumph of ego over intelligence.

    I want to die knowing a great deal more about how the universe came into being, what its history and fate is, and why the laws of physics are what they are. That a few people landed on Mars — or died in the attempt — is a lousy return on investment.

  12. #12 Derek
    July 24, 2009

    I voted no in the previous thread for basically the reasons Ethan points out — negligible scientific merit and exorbitant cost. I think in a few hundred years we may be ready to go. Maybe then it will be potentially economically viable to mine Mars or terraform it, though I’m skeptical even of that.

    When I think of the hundreds of billions — if not trillions — of dollars that would be spent over the lifetime of a Mars exploration/exploitation program (we surely don’t want to go just once, right?), I immediately ask myself how many Hubble or Spitzer space telescopes we could have instead? How many robot missions to Europa or Titan? How many WMAP experiments, or Rosetta landers?

    It’s not just that going to Mars wouldn’t yield much interesting new science, it would displace and eliminate so many alternative experiments that have the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the universe and our place in it.

    Going to Mars is the ultimate triumph of ego over intelligence.

    I want to die knowing a great deal more about how the universe came into being, what its history and fate is, and why the laws of physics are what they are. That a few people landed on Mars — or died in the attempt, as is likely — is a lousy return on investment.

  13. #13 Derek
    July 24, 2009

    The site is acting up. #11 is my comment. Feel free to delete duplicates.

  14. #14 sbh
    July 24, 2009

    I voted for the first option, although it’s a close call from where I sit, since I basically agree with all the options except the one about it being too risky to the participants. (As far as I’m concerned that would only be relevant if we were drafting people to go on the hypothetical Mars mission; I am quite convinced there would be no shortage of volunteers even with the considerable risks involved.) The one about the money being better spent elsewhere also has little merit; for any project whatsoever it is possible to find some “better” use for the money. Were science the only issue I would vote for continued use of robots for the immediate future, though in the long run it seems to me essential to have human beings close enough to at least exert more immediate real-time control over their mechanical representatives, if not to be actually present themselves. But–and here I basically agree with Ethan’s point–while it’s gratifying to send a tool out to examine the universe, in the end there is no substitute for the actual presence of humankind in the universe. I mean, I could send a video camera off to visit Paris, but it’s hardly the same thing as visiting myself.

  15. #15 t-sup
    July 24, 2009

    Terraform Mars, Derek? You’ve read (or perhaps more likely, watched) too much science fiction.

  16. #16 Fly Defenestrated
    July 24, 2009

    I voted yes for the future of humanity and almost quoted Tsiolkovsky until I realized how hackneyed that would be.

    Concerning the cost, Mars Direct comes in at under 100 Billion dollars. That’s less than 1/8th of what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act costs. The Mars Direct price tag includes multiple trips, the placement of in situ resource harvesting equipment and reusable hab units. And that doesn’t factor in a possible breakthrough in new propulsion methods, like scramjet technology, which would certainly aid in lowering the cost to lift payloads in the earth’s atmosphere.

    Speaking of breakthroughs, Popular Science just noted a recently completed study on using a centrifuge to help prevent muscle atrophy on long space voyages.

    As for scouring Mars like we have earth, hopefully our newfound environmental conscience in the face of climate change won’t be temporary. Robert Zubrin aruged that instead of respectfully avoiding Mars due to our tendency to wreck things, we have a responsibility as the highest known evolved species to colonize it. Will we not have squandered billions of years of evolution and our fortuitous place in the universe if we do not spread life to presumably dormant planets?

  17. #17 Sam Seaborn
    July 25, 2009

    “Because it’s next.”

    “Because we came out of the cave, and we looked over the hill and we saw fire; and we crossed the ocean and we pioneered the west, and we took to the sky. The history of man is on a timeline of exploration and this is what’s next.”

  18. #18 Andrew
    July 25, 2009

    I think, right now, if the issue is resource-mining or simply putting humans into space sustainably without resupply from Earth, we should probably go to the Moon first.

    1) There appears to be water ice at the poles in permanently shadowed areas. That, at least, means that any technology we might have to establish a self-sustaining base on Mars ought to work equally well on the Moon, making a Moon base an excellent first step.

    2) The Moon has proven reserves of Helium-3, and while olivine isn’t exactly a great way to generate electricity, it does so while sequestering waste CO2, which might be relevant to a Moon colony, although it’s more likely a plant-based solution would be better. Either way, we already know that there’s something we want on the Moon that isn’t on Earth in such ready amounts. I have no idea if the same can be said of Mars, yet.

    3) Moon rocks can provide sufficient nutrients to grow plants, although the plants aren’t exactly the healthiest. Nevertheless, it’s easier to envision bringing fertilizer to supplement a native soil than to bring all the soil you need in the first place. I don’t think we yet know if the Mars surface rocks are capable of growing things, or if they contain lethal levels of, say, Iron.

    4) Since terraforming on either body is out of the question, we’re looking at entirely self-contained colonies in perpetuity. Sending sufficient material to build such a colony is significantly cheaper for the Moon, but more importantly, the difference between the materials in question are minimal; as far I can can tell, you’d be sending the same colony construction kit, with the only difference being the distance involved. This means that the Moon is an excellent test bed for all sorts of extraterrestrial colonization technologies.

    5) The distance to Mars is enormous and having such a large gravity well as Earth is a real problem, particularly in terms of cost and construction of a vehicle. A self-sustaining Moon colony that produces more fuel than it needs would be a tremendous asset to space exploration, and it would be easier and faster to establish. Why spend decades establishing a base on Mars, when you can spend a single decade doing the same on the Moon and use that base to establish one on Mars? You get two bases in the same amount of time as one. Of course, there’s a question as to whether such a small amount of water reserve on the Moon would really be capable of producing sufficient fuel and propellent actually sustain a series of spaceflights without exhausting it in short order, but that would be an easier question to answer on the Moon than on Mars.

    6) Concerning the difference between an LEO and a Lagrange point space station, I don’t really know if the cost of maintaining such a series of “shells” as that (since they absolutely couldn’t be self-sustaining) would be less, at any point, than the savings you’d get from not having to pack all your fuel, propellent, and supplies on the launch pad. I think the best system I can think of is permanent bases on planetary bodies that supply orbital refueling “booster” stations for long-distance spaceflights. Deep-space establishments seem to be a superfluous; anything that deep in space is more likely to need supplies than be able to provide supplies, and if a ship docking with said station would only be offloading supplies, why have it at all? It would be cheaper and faster to just have the ship go direct.

    7) Last, but not least,

  19. #19 Andrew
    July 25, 2009

    I appear to have been cut off. At any rate, for number 7), I was going to point out that communication is much surer, faster and far more constant between the Earth and the Moon vs. the Earth and Mars. That has certain sentimental benefits and “marketing” ones, as well; being able to maintain communication with one’s first extraterrestrial colony would make the endeavor a little more exciting, I think.

  20. #20 CanInternet
    July 25, 2009

    My heart says “YES! GO TO MARS!”
    The wallet says “spend your money wisely”
    However most descissions are made through emotional guidance, so I suppose we go there one day.

  21. #21 CanInternet
    July 25, 2009

    One thing though.
    That one way part.
    Do we take enough food etc with us to at least die at a normal old age. Or are we supoosed to die after a while because we run out of food and water?

  22. #22 CanInternet
    July 25, 2009

    And btw. I forgot to post this picture a few days back, so here it is.

    That´s the “Domtoren” in the city of Utrecht (The Netherlands) during the 25th celebration of the moonlanding.
    The tower was in scaffolding at the time and happens to be the exact height of an Saturn V rocket.
    So the dutch tv personality Chriet Titulaer, who did the tv coverage came with the idea of putting a very very poster of the Saturn on the scaffolding.

    And that looked like this:

    http://www.allesretro.nu/wp-content/uploads/chriet02.jpg

  23. #23 shlog blogger
    July 25, 2009

    hmmm.. here are my thoughts

    1) We are also the 1st species in the universe to invent roll-on deodorant. big deal.
    2) imagine living on another planet? imagine living in a submarine and think how much fun that’d be.
    3) If we DO have to send humans (which clearly we don’t) we should send SMALL people (low mass= cheaper) on a one-way (half price) mission: i.e. A ‘SUICIDE MIDGET MISSION TO MARS’.
    4) webcams?

  24. #24 MadScientist
    July 25, 2009

    I didn’t vote because there wasn’t a “sure, it’ll be fun” option. There are huge technological hurdles for long-term life support (oxygen generation, water production and recycling, etc). I suspect the life support work would be of the greatest value to humans; we might have to live in enclosures similar to those in Ben Elton’s “This Other Eden”.

    However, as I responded to Phil Plait’s wish for a moon base: if we can’t even get the ISS up and running and doing something useful, how can you expect to build a moon base in an equally short time?

  25. #25 Caledonian
    July 25, 2009

    I’m sure there are valuable resources on Mars. But there are also valuable resources on the Moon, which can be reached much more quickly and cheaply, and it would be far more cost-effective to harvest them with robots.

    The Moon is even close enough for us to use telepresence.

    Humans have no future in space.

  26. #26 Andrew
    July 25, 2009

    Humans have no future in space.

    I don’t know if this is true; I don’t think we have a future as a single species in space, but I don’t think the technological or material requirements to have extraterrestrial colonies are completely insurmountable. Even today, the primary obstacle appears to be economic. People aren’t willing or able to spend the money required to get such a process started.

    Propulsion seems to be adequate. If we use nuclear engines, we could possibly design a ship that could reach 1% to 2% lightspeed, which is plenty fast enough if you’re looking for non-generational intra-system travel. There’s a problem that fuel and propellant is of such a large part of a spaceship’s mass budget that the idea of a ship that can maneuver arbitrarily through space is kind of a pipe dream, but is it really an impossible problem that all spaceflights have to be budgeted for fuel in advance?

    Material science has provided us with enough compounds and alloys and ceramics to build a ship of an arbitrary shape and size, within reason. There’s a problem getting it into space in the first place, but assembly in space has proven to be possible if not easy.

    Now, we aren’t yet able to design a closed self-sustaining biosphere, but I’m confident that a tightly engineered system that isn’t intended to replicate a natural ecosystem (i.e., no megafauna aside from the human inhabitants) can be devised eventually.

    Once we get that, though, the two colonies would be pretty much reproductively isolated, and communication would be infrequent at best and impossible at worst, but it would be human children living their lives on a planetary body that’s not Earth, and that would be enough of a future “in space” for me.

  27. #27 Brandon
    July 25, 2009

    Humans have no future in space.

    Humanity has three possible futures: space, eugenics, or starvation.

    I cannot make a blanket qualitative decision on the merits of a Mars mission. I would have to see the total costs and whether they could be better spent on earthly matters.

  28. #28 John hart
    July 25, 2009

    I vote for polar moonbase first then mars and beyond. I voted that way mainly because you need something permanent on the moon to attract tourism/industrial dollars. And more importantly to me, you could make nuclear rockets on the moon and the hippies couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it. Nuke rockets would open up not only mars but pretty much everywhere else in the solar system which could have us with hundreds of colonies by 2100.

  29. #29 SLC
    July 26, 2009

    Just so that the anti-manned space flight side can be heard, here’s a comment from physicist Bob Parks’ What’s New web site. He makes a lot of sense to me. But of course, according to Phil Plait, Prof. Park doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    3. MARS: ASTRONAUTS REMAIN STUCK IN 1969.
    This is the 21st century. Telerobots have been invented. Our two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, are merely robust extensions of our fragile human bodies. They don’t break for lunch or complain about the cold nights, and they live on sunshine. They do suffer the afflictions of age. Their teeth are worn down from scraping rocks, and one has an arthritic foot that he drags behind him. But their brains are still sharp since they are the brains of their PhD handlers. No need to bring them home when they are no longer able to explore, they will just be turned off. Bolden also said he wants to go to Mars. How incredibly old-fashioned! We are on Mars now. This is the 21st century. We have discovered robotics. More than that, we have telerobots. Spirit and Opportunity are merely robust extensions of our fragile human bodies. They don’t break for lunch, or complain about the cold nights, and they live on sunshine. We have been on Mars for more than five years, looking for evidence of water and life. A human on Mars would be locked in a spacesuit with only the sense of sight. Our rovers have better eyes than any human, and we don’t have to take their word it; everyone can see what they see. How wonderfully democratic! Moreover, they have the IQ of their PhD operators back on Earth.

  30. #30 jdhuey
    July 27, 2009

    I think we should go to Mars but, as you point out, not for the science. We should go for the betterment of our human spirit. When the Apollo Moon landings were taking place there was an incredible sense of national pride but not just a jingoistic pride that we beat out the Russians: it was the pride that we were representing all of humanity. There was this thing called the “Spirit of Apollo”. It was the sense that we could do whatever we set our minds to do. We could overcome whatever obstacles were in our way. That we could not just survive but that we could flourish. In a very real sense when the Apollo program died, that spirit also died. It certainly appeared to me that there was a pall over the entire zeitgeist – one that has not entirely lifted. There have been any number of flashes of that spirit: when the first space shuttle landed back on Earth, when the first pictures returned from Mars, when the first pictures of the outer planets returned; however, there has never been a return to that full fledge sense of a common human effort to explore. I think that the rewards for re-creating something like the ‘Spirit of Apollo’ would be worth every penny spent.

    One of the lessons that I think the ISS has taught us is that it is not just enough to send people into space just to do any old thing – there has to be a real point to the mission. The ISS has been a colossal waste of resouces, without any significant return in either science or a lifting of the human spirit.

  31. #31 biomes
    July 28, 2009

    i say concentrate on biomes not rocks…people would be more excited about supporting complex life research…put resources and time into everything we would need to make the next paradigm leap…first we developed tools, then machines, then transportation, then flight, then transport to the moon…the next big leap is to the biome…increase lifespan and resilience in space first…then travel far…who will be the bionaughts?

  32. #32 Raimund
    July 28, 2009

    For the opinion poll, you should also have had the option for ‘Yes, terraforming and creating a free space for genetic engineering is either essential or at least really really cool!’ Or at least that’s my opinion. After all, where else can I have a pet dragon where it won’t destroy ecosystems and eat people?

  33. #33 John Hunt
    July 28, 2009

    Would you conduct another survey asking people if we should go to the Moon first or to Mars first.

    My strategy would be to learn how to develop the Moon robotically first using telepresence (and an occasional manned mission to keep the interest up). We need to learn how to master telepresence robotic development as it will be:
    1) Less expensive,
    2) Less dangerous (hence less likely to stall progress and even threaten the overall mission),
    3) Useful capacity to prepare the Moon for expanded colonization and Mars for initial colonization.

    ——
    If we go the route of turning the VSE into sorties for the sake of science, we could set back space travel for another 40 years. Science has diminishing returns. After six Apollo missions, the seventh wasn’t so compelling from a science standpoint. But the ISS required dozens upon dozens of missions which we had to continue because, if we were to stop mid-stream we would have lost the investment of all of those previous flights.

    We already have a good idea about how the solar system developed. Also, if we lose a crew, will it have been worth it to get some more rocks which will tell us less and less about what we already know about?

    The focus needs to be on development and colonization. I think that there is a legitimate and strong rationale for establishing a lunar base. Namely, we should be trying to achieve self-sustainability as an insurance against humanity going extinct due to it’s own self-replicating technology due about mid-century. Science, vacations, mining He-3, colonizing Mars, all of these can come later after we achieve a small self-sustaining colony.

  34. #34 Michael
    July 31, 2009

    Hmm, tough choice. On the one hand we could satisfy the egos of a few adventurers who would like to leaves some footsteps on an inhospitable rock that orbits the Sun and on the other hand we could buy, launch and operate 10 James Webb telescopes or 30 Hershels or 50 Plancks etc. and still have money left to send a few robots to do serious research on Mars.

  35. #35 Abyssal
    August 12, 2009

    Is there a reason everyone here has rejected terraforming out of hand?

  36. #36 Ian Anderson
    September 11, 2009

    OK. This doesn’t need to be expensive. Ask for global public donations. Run an exclusive 24/7 TV show live from the Mars explorer(s) various cameras (Pay per view). Syndicate it to global TV networks as well (for a fee). All revenues, including new science and discoveries, to be paid back to original donators. Make the Mars trip as economically viable as possible.
    We cannot rely on Governments and Presidents to supply taxpayers money for this, but it needs to be done.

  37. #37 Ian Anderson
    November 11, 2009

    Terraforming with current technology would take hundreds of years. The most cost effective way would be to introduce genetically modified algae or plants that could withstand the radiation and atmospheric conditions. These would then multiply (hopefully) and act as an oxygen pump into the atmosphere. However, Mars being about the third of the size of earth, leakage into space would be a major concern, because at a third of earths gravity molecules of oxygen would certainly drift off into space after time. If terraforming becomes a viable option it has to be done almost instantaneously – within the space of a few years. Water exists, probably in abundance, just below the surface. How about a series of mirrors, like giant magnifying glasses, in orbit, increasing the power of the suns rays to heat up the planets surface, thus releasing water, steam into the atmosphere. Creating a near instantaneous greenhouse effect and build the rest from there.

  38. #38 steven
    January 28, 2010

    Excuse me I’m a kid in grade 8 in Ottawa. I definetly would like the trip to Mars but their is one thing for sure we need a least a way to cope with the nearly inhospitable conditions on Mars like the very low temperature and the constant bombardement from ultravioletwaves and meteorites. Right? Cmon I need to do a speech on this and I was really wondering if you could tell me wether anyone has thought of using Mars’ resources? answer back as soon as you can
    My email is : stephenwoo88@yahoo.com please answer me It is due in 1 week!!!1

  39. #39 steven
    January 28, 2010

    by the way I just want to know wether if any of the people at nasa havemy idea?

  40. #40 alex
    March 7, 2010

    I think we should go for all the stated reasons – it will deliver a new age of scientific improvement as we push ourselves to develop solutions to tough challenges not just in terms of the technology but also the economy as well. I also believe that better understanding other planets and how to interact with them will provide us with a higher likely hood to survive, should a major catastrophe occurs in the future (e.g., meteor impact on earth).

    Economic reasons not to go are just unacceptable. While some may argue that we could use those resources for other things here on earth, focusing on poor country development, etc. This is not going to work out. First off, the core reason why there is poverty deals with two key things: a)our banking system and the natural human greed that the stockholders of these banks have, and b)our affinity to taking the easiest path to us – in this case, we are prone to leverage credit and debt instead of “sacrificing” our standard of living… and we do the same in communities, countries and the whole world. I’ll only add that we don’t even know where to put those resources here on earth… At least another space mission will open companies, create jobs, increase the average education level of people – especially in the US. But having no mission, we also face the challenge of continuing with an unworkable economy, with the challenge to create jobs and help other economies flourish… but with absolutely no plan at all, or even worse, with a plan that involves “rescuing” financial institutions with tax payer money!!

    Most importantly, I think that we need to go because we, as humans, need to constantly raise the bar, create tougher challenges and goals, and meet them. It is in our genes, it is who we are, is our destiny.

  41. #41 Nicole
    October 20, 2010

    I absolutely agree with wendy. I think its horrible that we haven’t even landed on mars yet and the reason for much of the contemplation in going there is that were exhausting our own resources, yet theres no change in plan of action. Go to mars to elongate our own lives and way of living just as long to keep us happy and begin the whole process of destroying another planet. This would be an opportunity to do it right and learn from our mistakes and live our lives the way were supposed to. Unfortunately it will never happen, the only way the funding will be made available is for no purpose other than keeping the flow of money coming in. We may have genuine reasons for wanting to go but the people that have the authority to make it happen never will.

  42. #42 rankin taheer
    January 4, 2011

    Oh,yeh?terraform mars?to lnstill in the hearts and minds of people that the depletion of resources on earth is inevitable?and that occupying another planet is a must for the survival of human race?we have led the world in inventing new ways and new reasons why we should invade other countries and mass kill for the so called _good reasons that we wanna go to the moon,mars n titan to protect the human race from the possibility of extinction. Yes we could colonize(not space) but rather colonize human race,to replicate the old colonizing old empires whose primary reason was not to discover new worlds but rather to occupy ,kill and rob nations of their resources and wealth.and the ultimate outcome of which repeat and replicate history but in a more self deceiving way so called science and existance.l believe no sooner we develop and ferfect the nuclear outerspace rocketry to send humans to space to colonize and bring back the rarest and most precious materials to earth,a dozen other earthly countries will have the same technology and a dozen other reasons to speed up human nialtion to perfect the process of human extinction. First we need to learn how to coexist as nations and people and to think of ourselves as one race which we claim to want to save.

  43. #43 mercboy
    May 27, 2011

    in my eyes it isnt about economics or social factors , it the fact that we need to move there so that if earth goes *boom* we still survive ,but, the thing is we need to get mars up to independent operatiion for this to work , and we cant do that with current tecnoglgy (unless you want to pack millions of tons of soil and plants).Also another problum with this is that no countrie on earth is going to try and do it (at least in the near future)the cost is to high and the risk’s to great, but , we may in the far future.

  44. #44 mercboy
    May 27, 2011

    @ rankin taheer

    i dont mean to sound so negative but the world is the survival of the fittest , and , if you see a resource you going to take it , the only reason we care now about global warming is that its effecting us. And the fact is unless you want to go back to the stone age , things take resources to build , if we didnt mine resources that pc ur typing on would have never been built. in other word the human races isnt evil , we just do what we do to survie and make it easier for our self , the problem is that there is 6 billion of us.

  45. #45 Lelani Eldridge
    October 17, 2011

    I say yes that we are not going to move to mars but i think that we should if we want to live still because by moving to mars it can help us from being disturbed from the disturbance

  46. #46 Katy Perry :P
    February 23, 2012

    I want to be completely honest. I think that visiting Mars WOULD be a good idea, because we need a new place to live when our planet becomes too polluted and damaged. But, I’m worried about all the participants who are risking their lives; they might have an accident and not make it back to Earth. Who here agrees with (singer / song writer, Katy Perry!) me?

  47. #47 Messier Tidy Upper
    February 23, 2012

    ..this is a chance for humanity to make one of our dreams come true. How many opportunities do we get in our lifetimes to really make one of our dreams come true? So whenever the chance arises, you know what I’ll be pushing for. And I hope that you’ll push with me.

    YES! ^ This. Well said and spot on. I couldn’t agree more.

    Voted :

    Thank you for voting!
    Yes, putting humans in space is essential to the future of mankind. 49.61% (449 votes)

    Surprised it worked but looks like it has.

    Remaining figures from there are :

    Yes, the science we’ll learn from it could be amazing. 19.78% (179 votes)

    Yes, Mars’ resources must be tapped by Earth. 2.98% (27 votes)

    No, the money could better be spent elsewhere. 9.72% (88 votes)

    No, the scientific merits are too little; we should use robots instead. 12.27% (111 votes)

    No, it’s far too risky to the participants. 5.64% (51 votes)

    Total Votes: 905

    As of now, in case that’s of interest to folks here.

  48. #48 pablo
    May 7, 2012

    i like tacos