Mars: The NextDestinationFormany years, people have looked to Mars with awe and curiosity. It has been thetopic of science-fiction novels and shows for decades. Being the planet afterEarth in the solar system with nearly livable environments, it is easy to seewhy people have taken interest.
As of now, the barren, red planet remainsuntouched by humans. However, in the coming years, this may change. Thoughdifficult, advancements in space travel from NASA and SpaceX have made a mannedmission far from impossible.Thefirst of many hurdles for sending people to Mars is the distance. On average,Mars is about 225 million km away from Earth (Redd, “How Long Does It Take toGet to Mars?”).
Even at their closest distance from each other, they are stillsignificantly far away. Redd states that “The closest recorded approach of thetwo planets occurred in 2003, when they were only 34.8 million miles (56million km) apart.” With such a massive distance between Earth and Mars, advancementsmust be made with fuel efficiency. Commands and communication would be greatlydelayed as well, meaning astronauts must be prepared for any unforeseenproblems.TheMartian atmosphere is a massive issue for landing humans.
Earth’s atmosphere is”over 100 times denser than Mars’ atmosphere” (Nasa, “All About Mars”). Thelarge payload of humans and equipment could not be slowed down by parachute. Thereis also no breathable air on mars either. Nasa goes on to say that the air ismade up of 96% carbon dioxide and 0% oxygen. Due to the thin atmosphere, Mars issubject to high amounts of radiation. Any human on the planet would have toconstantly be protected from the sun’s radioactive flares.
ElonMusk, founder of SpaceX, claimed that he has solved the issue of reaching thedestination. In his presentation, Musk reveals that the key is to use reusableand refuellable rockets. He explains that the rocket first goes into Earth’sorbit, where another ship will refuel it before heading to Mars.
Musk furtherexplains that the newly designed “BFR” rocket is “expected to have a payloadcapability of 150 tons” (SpaceX, 2017). Such a payload size would be used tocreate the infrastructure on the planet and, of course, bring people. Muskambitiously claims that the preparations for Human colonization will begin in2022. The process will include landing 2 cargo ships on Mars, confirm waterresources, and place support infrastructure for humans. Then 2 years later, heclaims that SpaceX will bring the first people to the red planet and beginproducing propellant plants and living bases.Nasahas different plans of getting people to Mars. Although they have not provideda descriptive overview of the trip, they do have a basic outline.
The planbegins in the 2020’s, where Nasa will “send astronauts on a yearlong missioninto this deep space proving ground” (Nasa, 2016). After proving that humansare capable of deep space, Nasa mentions in the article that they will sendunmanned, test trips to the planet. In the article mentioned previously, Nasadeclares that they will send people by the 2030’s. They do not provideinformation relating to how these missions will take place, but just makeclaims about colonizing the planet.Regardlessof the path used to reaching the planet, the following events must remain thesame.
To survive on a foreign planet,The biggest difficulty of going to a differentplanet is undoubtedly the cost to do so. Such a mission to Mars would cost atremendous amount of money. Take the Apollo missions for example. Thegovernment spent “$24 billion in 1960’s dollars…4 percent of U.S. GDP to doApollo” (Wile, 2017).
Due to the scale and nature of going 225 million km(approximately 140 million miles), it would cost much more than the Apollomissions. Wile estimates in his article that it would cost around $1 trilliondollars to send individuals on such a trip. That is more than 5% of the U.
S.GDP. Such a massive project would need overwhelming support from the governmentand people of the United States.As Kennedy once said, “We choose to go to themoon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, butbecause they are hard.” The same can be said about Mars, and the opportunitiesit bears.