The contrast between astronaut and automated space missions will grow ever stronger as we improve our miniaturization, virtual-reality and artificial-intelligence capabilities. People venturing into space are fragile: They require a continuous supply of oxygen, water, food and shelter. All the Reasons Why Humans Shouldn’t Colonize Mars, According to Experts. Today a trained geologist on the moon can perform as well as a robotic explorer, but the future of geologic investigation of other worlds lies with highly improved versions of our Mars rovers. image caption Bill Anders today. They must endure long intervals of weightlessness. Visionaries propose a future society that runs on helium-3 nuclei from the moon, which contains enough of these nuclei to provide many centuries of the world’s current power consumption. To scientists, the gravest threat from the “recovery” of other worlds’ resources resides in the possibility that human activities can forever cloud our knowledge of the origin and distribution of life in the solar system. We should be helping and put money into people in need who actually LIVE on this planet. Those who oppose reworking an entire planet begin with a hard look at what humans have done to “terraform” Earth. Four more missions, one per year, would follow through 2032. Under that ideology, humans would never leave the Earth, and we would still be sitting here at the bottom of the gravity well when the “killer asteroid” finally hits us. NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s goals outlined in the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and in the U.S. National Space Policy, also issued in 2010. [T]he first argument against human travel to Mars: contamination. As children of the 1950s, we were thrilled and inspired by the satellites that began to circle Earth in 1957, the first astronauts—who followed similar paths in the 1960s and made the first spacewalk in 1965—and what turned out to be the culmination of human spaceflight: NASA’s six astronaut explorations of the lunar surface from 1969 through 1972. What future lies ahead for humans in space? Private expeditions. It also includes a series of missions to land on the moon. © 2021 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc. Support our award-winning coverage of advances in science & technology. Limited to low-Earth orbits, astronauts have basically performed extensive experiments on the hazards and requirements of living in space-bound habitats. These could be accelerated by lasers to 20 percent of the speed of light and reach the closest stars within a couple of decades. Moving ahead without completing those technologies first, the report stated, will “dramatically increase technology and schedule risks for the DST and could force the DST design to be revised if any one of these technology testing programs reveals problems.”, Moreover, initial “Phase A” students of the overall DST would need to start in fiscal year 2020, which is also unlikely because trade studies on the DST design have yet to begin. The Trump administration proposes to create a lunar base as a key step in sending astronauts to Mars. And a poor use of a great deal of money. China, which landed the first spacecraft on the lunar far side in 2019, has plans to place astronauts to the moon. Today, as America plans to lead efforts to send humans to Mars in the early 2030s, it is important to clearly articulate the rationale for undertaking such ambitious missions. Do any existing international agreements deal with these issues? On Earth, helium-3 nuclei furnish only about one one-millionth of already scarce helium nuclei, but their relative abundance in lunar soil rises 100 times higher. Robot probes can achieve so much why bother. Automated spacecraft cost far less; they’re getting more capable every year; and if they fail, nobody dies. When the the first Apollo mission landed on the moon they only had 30 seconds of fuel left, 30 SECONDS! By the time Obama was sworn in, the Constellation Program was behind schedule and over budget. Once we are confident that can be successfully achieved on a regular basis, the next step should be to send people there, to assess and explore, and bring them back safely. On a moral basis, do we, as humans, U.S. citizens, or private individuals or corporations, possess the right to alter or even destroy the landscape of other celestial objects? None of these “ifs” tells us much about what we should do within the next few years. Professor Stephen Hawking is eager to see us search for a new planet to... Martian Money. Of that total, $33.7 billion has been spent to date on SLS and Orion development and associated ground systems. For these reasons and more, sending humans for long-duration missions to Mars would be unwise. Martin Rees is an astrophysicist who has been the U.K.'s Astronomer Royal since 1995. The cold war argument that the Russians could “seize the high ground” by establishing a lunar base never made sense, because any nation seeking to use space to launch weapons would attempt to do so close to Earth, not from a quarter-million miles away. All the Reasons Why Humans Shouldn’t Colonize Mars, According to Experts Just Visiting. Should we try? We can imagine future space missions that use the more abundant minerals for the construction of mining colonies but that draw the bulk of their profits from the return of the most valuable metals to Earth. “We can move up the Mars landing by moving up the moon landing,” he said. If we can’t solve humanity’s problem on our home planet, we seem highly unlikely to be able to do so by establishing ourselves in space. If human civilization successfully overcomes its current problems and achieves long-term stability, we shall certainly send people to the other worlds in our solar system. GCRs are energetic particles that … Four major motivations deserve special attention as answers to this question. Though robotic spacecraft can do a lot, they lack the critical firsthand experience that can only be captured by humans. “According to the report, it’s clear that getting to the surface of Mars in the 2030s is impossible under this Administration’s current approach to exploration,” she wrote in those remarks. Space is a very hazardous place for humans. The notion that we can start colonizing Mars … This discussion has assumed the existence of a forum to debate the pros and cons of humans in space and reach a (more or less) logical conclusion. But to many scientists, and to some among the public, such potent reactions fail to justify the costs and dangers of these missions. It wants to learn the skills and develop the technology to enable a future human landing on Mars. NASA contracted with the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) to prepare the report, which Congress directed NASA to perform in the 2017 NASA authorization act. The moon is a big piece of that.”. “Well, because we’re keeping our eyes on the horizon. The report has received a relative muted reaction on Capitol Hill, in part because it has been overtaken by events, namely plans to accelerate the first human landing to 2024 that will affect other elements over the overall exploration plan. What, then, should be done? What of the superrich who operate free from such constraints? Last year, the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing found a host of private and governmental projects that aim to send astronauts far beyond the near-Earth orbits that have limited human space exploration since 1972. Aside from the immense difficulties of creating sustainable, million-person colonies (required for sufficient long-term genetic variation), any lunar or planetary colonists will bring the same human attributes that have caused problems on Earth. Although less cited in the wider world, a great incentive for reaching nearby solar system objects springs from an old-fashioned, solid desire: the quest for raw materials for profit. Designs now exist for spacecraft that include photography and radio communication equipment, but which weigh only one-thirtieth of an ounce. Elon Musk wants to go to Mars. He also argued that going to the moon in 2024 would allow an earlier human mission to Mars. Advocates of exploiting other worlds often point to a glorious future on Mars after engineers have “terraformed” the planet to produce more Earth-like conditions. STPI also estimated the cost of carrying out this first Mars mission in 2037. Almost everyone naturally responds to heroic accomplishments, and many of us would regard a human landing on Mars as a paramount achievement of our species. Furthermore, the current geopolitical climate suggests the treaty’s terms might not fully govern the actions of any state or private party. We should note that several other motivations lie behind the push for astronaut expeditions to our celestial neighbors. There remains the pride that a nation may feel from sending the first humans to other worlds, as when President Donald Trump exalts a future “when American astronauts will plant our beautiful Stars and Stripes on the surface of Mars,” adding the pride of ownership to the thrill of human achievement. By contrast, the report estimated the cost of the Gateway at less than $6 billion for its various modules, in part because some of the modules would be contributed by international partners at effectively no cost to NASA. That work, the STPI report concluded, will take too long to complete in time to support a 2033 mission. For e. G Africa, Some Asian countries and many other countries. ... Mars Over the Moon. And their loss, when it occurs, casts a pall over our would-be joy of identifying with their exploration. Russia, which doesn’t seem to have much of an ongoing astronaut program, still provides the rockets and launch facilities that provide astronauts with access to the International Space Station. One of the asserted justifications for sending humans back to the moon focuses on their potential for harvesting helium-3, a rare isotope of helium. He says Nasa shouldn't be aiming to send manned missions to Mars Beyond any scientific returns, these efforts elevated the human spirit, reaching a peak on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong set humanity’s first footprints on the moon. Instead of going to mars, We should help people in need on Earth. An astronaut expedition to repair one of these great observatories at L2 would involve at least as much complexity as a landing on the moon—and possibly a greater expense than the creation and launch of a new and improved observational platform. A mission to Mars launching in 2033, the report concluded, would need to have critical technologies tested by 2022, which is unlikely. The Hoover Dam cost $700 million in today’s money, meaning that sending people to Mars might cost as much as building about 800 new Hoover Dams. Donald Goldsmith is an astronomer and science writer in Berkeley, California. That total includes $29.2 billion for the DST, a figure that the report acknowledges is a very rough estimate given the few details about the design that could be used to project its development cost. During the 1960s, we became astronomers with a deep passion to explore the cosmos. An artist's concept of what a Mission to Mars might look like. And even if these concerns are addressed, there are still a few compelling reasons why it's not a good idea to go to Mars anyways (read: "Three good reasons to NOT send humans to Mars"). A mission to Mars and, potentially, back to Earth would likely be a suicide mission even if the travelers made it back to Earth in one piece. He also alluded to the STPI report in his testimony. Rees is author of nine books, including On the Future: Prospects for Humanity (Princeton University Press, 2018). Raw materials. The STPI report also warns that attempting to reduce schedules by not using NASA’s existing standard practices for program development “would lead to very high technology, schedule, and cost overrun risk.”. When the the first Apollo mission landed on the moon they only had 30 seconds of fuel left, 30 SECONDS! To some, the answer is obvious: Of course we do. Debating the wisdom of sending humans into space inevitably returns to the immense boost that humanity will receive from tracking astronauts as they explore other worlds. And the resources of these worlds belong to those who can first exploit them. The race to the Moon was all about politics not science. Approximately 3 percent of astronauts who have begun a journey into space have not survived.” Although our increased understanding of how to launch and return spacecraft safely may reduce this percentage, “space tourism”—a phrase that suggests that ordinary people can enjoy the thrill of travel around the Earth or even farther—conceals the actual risks. What benefits will flow from these efforts to send humans much farther into space? For colonies on Mars—even “harmless” ones whose purpose is purely exploration—the problem increases steeply: Most experts agree that life probably existed on Mars when water ran freely over its surface and may that it may yet survive in underground pools. In addition, we may reasonably expect that popular culture will expand our identification with our marvelous spacefaring machines. Ok we're onto the second reason why we should not go to Mars. The InSight mission hopes to improve the odds. In the second instalment of his two-part feature on human missions to Mars, Dr Alexander Kumar asks whether we should send people to the Red Planet given our poor record managing this one. By exporting our Earthly competition into space, we increase the likelihood of conflict in both venues. NASA and other space agencies around the world are already making big plans for sending humans to the Red Planet, but we're not … Shortly before his death in 2018, Stephen Hawking stated that “spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. One may easily see that space lawyers, who have a growing future ahead of them, can dispute the term “national appropriation,” which hardly seems to rule out operations by private parties that do not add directly to a nation’s wealth. In fact, the missions to repair the Hubble telescope cost significantly more than replacing it with a newer and better version. It is important to explore Mars, and humans play a valuable role in that research. In 2015 the U.S. Congress passed legislation, informally known as the SPACE Act, that denies any assertion of authority over cosmic objects but promotes the right of U. S. citizens (which naturally includes corporations) to engage in the “commercial recovery of space resources free from harmful interference ... subject to authorization and continuing supervision by the Federal Government.” The marvelous word “recovery,” common in mineral-extraction circles, tends to hide the obvious impacts of such activities. Mars offers two things we don't have on Earth: Insurance & Room. Large-scale extraction efforts, however, could never proceed without this contamination. Unlike those of helium-4, the far more common stable isotope of the element, helium-3 nuclei will fuse readily once they reach a sufficiently high temperature. Okay all of those can be addressed, protection from cosmic radiation, centrifuge sleeping quarters and indeed the whole habitat could be set spinning to increase the gravity felt inside, and UV radiation easy enough to protect against. If we discover much faster means of propulsion or find a way to prolong human life or invent a means of inducing limitless suspension of life during a multicentury journey, we can send humans to the nearest stars and their planetary systems. By the time Obama was sworn in, the Constellation Program was behind schedule and over budget. This concept leads to the mind-bending, though hardly impossible, notion that eventually we can send human consciousness, downloaded from individuals or created by artificial intelligence, to nanoexplorers that will range through the vastness of space in the name of humanity. They also state that celestial bodies are to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and are “not subject to national appropriation” by any means and that all parties will follow international law in their activities relating to the exploration and use of outer space. STPI, at NASA’s direction, used the strategy the agency had laid out in its “Exploration Campaign” report, which projects the continued use of the Space Launch System and Orion and development of the lunar Gateway in the 2020s. The fundamental issue of sending humans into the cosmos asks not how easily astronauts can repair instruments in deep space, how quickly they can land on the moon and construct a base there, or why they should travel to Mars and attempt to create a habitat there. That Mars mission is part of an overall human spaceflight program with total costs through 2037 of $217.4 billion. Even the moon or asteroids, hostile to life though they now are, may contain traces of past biological activity. It seems that we’re more likely to establish a base on the moon before Mars. Possibly, they may meet and interact with similar probes from an array of other civilizations. The Moon is as far as humans have explored in space but we’ve sent probes to explore the other planets in our Solar system, including Mars. “I’m okay with that because I think it accelerates the effort to get to Mars,” he said of the 2024 goal of a human return to the moon, “which I think is the underlying driving force here.”, SpaceX wins contracts for lunar lander, environmental satellite launches, Next-generation Dragon cargo spacecraft returns from space station, Aerojet Rocketdyne completes assembly of its first AR1 rocket engine, OneWeb slashes size of future satellite constellation. India, which crashed a lander on the moon in 2019, dreams of doing likewise. If we create human colonies in space, their inhabitants might undergo evolutionary changes that make them more fit for space travel. Those comments, though, assuaged Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), a member of the committee and an outspoken advocate for a 2033 Mars mission who regularly displays a “Mars 2033” bumper sticker at hearings such as this one. The moon is a proving ground. Human survival. The exploitation of raw materials in space offers a wide range of construction, destruction and confrontation among private parties and corporations. “In order to do that, we have to accelerate other parts of the program. Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.), chairwoman of the House space subcommittee, did mention in it in prepared remarks for an April 2 hearing by the full House Science Committee on the NASA budget request. Human survival. A report concluded that NASA has no chance of sending humans to Mars by 2033, with the earliest such a mission could be flown being the late 2030s. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth.” More recently, Bezos has said that humans need space travel because “we are in the process of destroying this planet.” Among other outcomes, he envisions giant space colonies that would each allow millions of people to live in space. You would agree that the center of Antarctica in winter is cold, not the best of places to set up … WE DON'T NEED TO PLANT FLAGS ON MARS If humans do eventually land on Mars, they would not arrive alone. 6 hours ago — Hal Hershfield and Ilana Brody | Opinion, January 17, 2021 — Daniel Rubinoff | Opinion, January 16, 2021 — Serena Alagappan | Opinion, January 16, 2021 — Nidhi Subbaraman, Alexandra Witze and Nature magazine, January 15, 2021 — Robin Lloyd | Opinion, Scientific American Space & Physics is a roundup of the most important stories about the universe and beyond. We could learn a lot from any mission to send people to Mars, such as whether there's life elsewhere in the universe or even the technology for new household appliances. That reason is That we almost did not achieve the Moon manned missions. It would increase dramatically the risk of forward contamination of the Mars surface with our earthly microbes, which would ruin our unique chance to study a pristine Mars. A metal-rich asteroid that is only the size of a house would contain a million pounds of metal, including 100 pounds of platinum, gold and other rare metals. Musk has so deeply embraced the belief that only humans in space can fulfill the human desire to explore other worlds that he has tweeted “nuke Mars!” to express his plan to use nuclear weapons in order to release carbon dioxide stored in the Martian soil and polar caps in order to create a greenhouse effect to warm the planet. That would be followed by the Deep Space Transport (DST), a crewed spacecraft that would travel from cislunar space to Mars and back. The costs and risks are huge. The current record for Mars missions is 18 successes, and 25 failures. That includes the Mars mission costs as well as operations in low Earth orbit and development of Mars surface systems needed for future missions. Popularized by Star Trek, the Prime Directive dictates that humanity, capable of … It aimed to send a crewed mission to the Moon in 2020 and land the first humans on Mars by the 2030s. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have spent large sums on future human space missions. Mankind seems destined to one day set foot on Mars. In particular, space radiation—especially galactic cosmic rays (GCRs)—is dangerous. Returning to the Moon is an important step in Mars mission planning. Why should we go to mars? NASA has worried about this problem ever since the first lunar probes and has taken pains, which the agency knows can never be entirely successful, to avoid the biological contamination of other worlds. Spacecraft have landed on Mercury, Venus and Mars, spent years in orbit around Jupiter and Saturn, and surveyed Uranus and Neptune. The report, while completed prior to the March 26 speech where Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return humans to the moon by 2024, does offer insights into how much a lunar return might cost and how it fits into long-term plans to send humans to Mars. What remains is the key question of whether this spiritual uplift so far surpasses any news that may be sent by spacecraft that humans in space must be worth the expense and the danger of contaminating other worlds, along with encouraging the exploitation of these worlds for economic gain. One need not be a one-worlder to recognize that national competition to explore nearby objects—and, even more so, to exploit space resources—fails to furnish a sustainable basis for rational exploration. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American. If these parties choose to act, who can stop them? He made a similar argument in that April 2 hearing. Sending humans into space adds glory to our lives. Should members of the public confront these arguments and attempt to influence governmental decisions? Uplifting the human spirit. Designing a Mars mission would be easier if we could use resources that are already available locally. Indeed, Musk has already created a thriving rocket business, which NASA uses to resupply the Space Station, 250 miles above Earth’s surface. “Moreover, the report acknowledges what many on this Committee have been surmising during past hearings — namely, that there is no actual Plan for a human Mars mission.”, While NASA has, since Pence’s speech, focused on how it will develop an architecture for a 2024 moon landing, it has not neglected Mars entirely. Conceptually similar robots will eventually be able to repair spacecraft at the L2 point, while others could construct complex structures in space, including an array of radio telescopes on the radio-quiet far side of the moon. “As such,” the report concludes, “a mission to Mars orbit in 2033 is infeasible from a technology development and schedule perspective.” The next launch window, in 2035, was also deemed infeasible because of technology development work, pushing the earliest possible date for flying the mission to the following launch window in 2037. Cold. Raw materials and the transformation of planetary surfaces. Going to Mars is hard and it is even harder for humans because we would need to pack everything to survive the trip to our neighbouring planet and back. Many view the safety risks of putting humans on Mars as tolerable, so long as the astronauts give informed consent to be exposed to such risks. All the reasons advanced to vindicate the act of Humans traveling to Mars are either wrong or … It's always a concern when sending surface probes to pristine worlds such as Mars that... 2. Because this fusion releases large amounts of energy but no radioactive by-products, helium-3 nuclei could provide an almost ideal nuclear fuel. If we find Earth-like organisms on Mars, our ability to discriminate will be lost if we cannot tell whether this transfer occurred in recent years or eons before. Whether the exploits proposed by Musk and Bezos will inspire us to greater efforts on Earth—or cause us to imagine that we can forget about problems on our planet—remains an open question. Subscribers get more award-winning coverage of advances in science & technology. 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