Wednesday, October 05, 2016
The CEO of Boeing and the CEO of SpaceX have both claimed they will be the first to Mars. Such chest beating makes for good publicity but it ignores the reality of the situation. For humans to reach Mars and return safely requires much more than powerful rockets. The psychological and physical challenges are enormous. For example, how do you provide air, food and water for astronauts for a full year? How do you protect them from solar radiation? How do you select individuals who will live in claustrophobic isolation for a year? How do you repair machinery should something break? No one will win an award for getting an individual to Mars unless that individual returns safely to earth. Hype around a Mars mission has been growing in recent months, and NASA is part of it, but the budgets are not there. The reality is that a Mars mission is decades away, if ever. There is no particularly good reason for man to travel to Mars. Robotic missions have told us much of what we want to know about the barren and icy planet. There is a limit to going places because they are there. Outside of earth, there is no good place to live in the solar system.