Why We Reach for Planet Mars in Times of Crisis
When I was a child, Mars was the planet of my dreams. I imagined what it would be like to live on its barren surface, traveling from one place to another in a rover with wheels instead of legs. The idea of human life on Mars seemed like something that would happen centuries after I died—if it happened at all. Then, starting around 2004, there was renewed interest in sending humans to Mars and setting up a permanent colony there; this enthusiasm has been dubbed "Red Planet fever." So why do we keep reaching for Mars?
Setbacks have spurred humans to explore Mars.
Why are we reaching for Mars?
As it turns out, setbacks have spurred humans to explore Mars. In the early 1900s, when Earth was going through a major polio epidemic and people were dying in droves from tuberculosis and typhoid fever, some thinkers argued that the planet should be abandoned in favor of moving on to other planets. But instead of leaving Earth behind entirely, these scientists decided to stay here and try their best to figure out how we could keep ourselves safe from these illnesses. They started experimenting with vaccines and treatments—and they eventually developed them! So while exploring space may not have been their original intention when they began working on cures for disease back home on our planet, it turned out that those same efforts led us right back here again anyway.
The idea of a Martian colony has been around for centuries.
The idea of a Martian colony has been around for centuries. Mars has been a popular destination for science fiction writers, as well as scientists who were looking beyond the Earth's boundaries to find other places where humans could live. In the early 20th century, Mars was seen as a possible refuge for humans fleeing a dying Earth—and this vision persists today in movies like The Martian (2015) and television shows like The Expanse (2015-present).
'Red Planet fever' has struck multiple times in the past.
Earthlings have been dreaming of life on Mars for a long time. In fact, the idea of sending humans to the Red Planet has always been one of the most popular space flight fantasies. But why?
Why is Mars so appealing? For starters, it's the most Earth-like planet in our solar system. Its surface area is about 100 times that of Earth's and its gravity is only 38% that of Earth's—almost exactly what you'd expect from a planet with 75% as much mass (and so forth). Moreover, its atmosphere is similar to ours: mostly composed of carbon dioxide gas but also containing small amounts of nitrogen and oxygen (about 0.7%) along with traces of other gases like argon (0.1%), neon (~0), methane (~0), hydrogen (~0), helium (~0), krypton (~1) and xenon (2%). That last number may sound small—but remember that these figures represent an average across all Martian surface areas; there are some places where those percentages will be higher while others will be lower."
Humans may be on Mars even sooner than we think.
The first manned mission to Mars could be as soon as 2040. The first manned mission to Mars could be as soon as 2060. The first manned mission to Mars could be as soon as 2070. The first manned mission to Mars could be as soon as 2080.
A manned mission to Mars will be an immense undertaking.
A manned mission to Mars will be an immense undertaking. It will require a lot of money, time, and resources as well as planning and coordination. It will also require training and preparation for the astronauts who go on such a mission. And lastly, it will require patience and perseverance on behalf of everyone involved in NASA’s efforts to reach the Red Planet.
A manned mission to Mars is not something that can happen overnight—it's going to take years (or decades) before we actually get there. This means that if you're interested in helping out with this project but aren't sure where to start right now--don't worry! You won't be alone; there are plenty of other people who feel likewise :)
The idea of a permanent human presence on Mars is becoming more and more realistic
The idea of a permanent human presence on Mars is becoming more and more realistic. The first manned mission to the red planet will likely be in 2040, but it may not be the last.
The technology for sustaining life on Mars is already being tested in labs across Europe and America. And while we don’t know what challenges await us there, we do know that our species has overcome great adversity before; if there were no challenges at all, would we still need a National Park Service?
The idea of a permanent human presence on Mars is becoming more and more realistic. Humanity has been thinking about establishing a colony on Mars since the dawn of time, but it’s only recently that we’ve had the technology to actually do it. We’re already sending probes to study the planet from afar, we have plans for manned missions in the coming decades, and some experts think it could happen even sooner than that!