Humans On Mars: A Skeptic's Perspective

It's encouraging to learn that the Mars Society is interested about creating law and order in townships on Mars. 

However, there are immediate difficulties in sending the first people to Mars for preliminary exploration, and the costs and dangers are very high. 

There are many issues to consider: 

(1) What are the primary objectives of the Mars mission? 

(2) How does robotic vs human exploration compare in terms of benefits and costs? 

(3) What are the dangers and difficulties associated with sending people to Mars? 

The dominant opinion in both scientific and futuristic circles, as we covered in earlier parts, is that the primary reason to investigate Mars is the hunt for life, which necessitates a search for liquid water (mostly past). 

Futurists and visionaries have imaginations that extend well beyond this early stage, to the point when human communities are created for their "social, inspirational, and resource worth." 

Even if we accept the implausible notion that the hunt for life on Mars is essential to exploration, the issue of comparative costs and potential outcomes based on robotic vs human exploration of Mars remains. 

The benefit-to-cost ratio for robotic exploration seems to be much higher. 

Furthermore, because the search for life is likely to fail, maybe the true benefit in investigating Mars is to learn more about why the three terrestrial planets, Venus, Earth, and Mars, came out to be so different, despite the fact that they were all equipped with comparable resources from the outset. Venus has a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere, while Mars has relatively little. 

  • There are ideas as to why this occurs, however it may be required to explore the planets to learn more about the geological history of how this happened. 
  • In comparison to robotic exploration, sending people to Mars seems to be a highly costly and hazardous endeavor. 
  • In terms of the wider, aspirational perspective stated in DRM-1, the push for a long-term human presence beyond Earth seems to be at least a few hundred years premature. 

Certainly, the existence of a few people on Mars will not alleviate any of the stresses that the Earth is experiencing owing to overcrowding, pollution, or resource depletion. 

Comparative planetology is an admirable aim, but it is unclear if human presence is required to achieve it. 

Without sending people to Mars, aren't there plenty of possibilities for international collaboration on Earth? 

By comparing bigger societal expenditures, the conclusion that the investment needed to transport people to Mars is "small" is reached. 

However, when compared to conventional space expenses, it is enormous. 

On the other hand, the claims that new technologies or new applications of existing technologies will benefit not only humans exploring Mars but will also improve people's lives on Earth may have some merit, and that the boldness and grandeur of Mars exploration "will motivate our youth, drive technical education goals, and excite the people and nations of the world" may have some merit. 

It ultimately comes down to the benefit/cost ratio, which seems to be poor in this case. 

Aside from the why and if it is worthwhile, the actual problem at hand is the technical, financial, and logistical obstacles that a human trip to Mars would face. 

Nonetheless, a human trip to Mars would be a tremendous technical feat and the pinnacle of more than 60 years of rocketry and space exploration.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan 

You may also want to read more about Space Missions and Systems here.

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