In recent years, we’ve seen much news and hype about space-related programmes that feature Mars. Mars is nothing new in science and media. In fact, early stories written about Mars date back hundreds of years. There is a fascination with Mars that stems from our drive as a species to know more, explore and discover new places, and project ourselves into new situations to satisfy a deep, abiding curiosity.
Mars is our closest neighbour, and also the only other planet in our solar system that has the potential to support life. We know a great deal about Mars, just from observing it, but now, we want to know more. Our exploration of Mars has taken on a more purposeful tone in light of our own planet’s growing climate crisis. There are those that believe Mars is the answer to the human race’s continuity. Elon Musk has said if humanity has any chance of survival, we must become an interplanetary species.
Whether you believe this kind of fantastical statement or not, it has caught the attention of the space industry, and they all have their sights set on the moon and Mars. There are development programmes studying all manner of requirements and limitations for the long-term existence of humans on other worlds. Habitats, food production, health concerns, and our ability to create life in these inhospitable domains are the subject of hundreds of experiments and investigations underway across the globe.
Whether we agree with the premise of humans on Mars or not, we will see attempts made within the next thirty to fifty years to put people on the surface of the Red Planet. As an accomplishment, itself, this should be celebrated. Rightly so, as it will be a true triumph of human science and technology to do so. Whatever happens at that point, will be recorded in history and remembered for the significance it bears on our species and its ability to move beyond the limits of our own creation.
Mars is a symbolic target for significant achievement in science and technology. It is the goal posts for many of the current projects that are being undertaken in the space industries, both private and government-operated. We are in a new era of space innovation, but we’ve covered this ground before about fifty years ago when men were first sent to the moon. What will be different this time around, you may ask? The major difference is the people driving the innovation and the private enterprises that have access to enormous wealth and resources. The goal posts don’t seem so far away to people like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson. Their tireless efforts to drive the space-race of the twenty-first century are what will help us get there. But without them, we won’t. Mars will remain distant, illusive and unexplored by anything more than a handful of small robotic nomads.
Our dreams of, someday, moving beyond our own skies and reaching to the vast darkness of space relies on these men maintaining their interest and investment in the space programmes of their organisations. If Space-X, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic do not pay dividends in the coming years, we may well see those plans to go to Mars become nothing more than the buzz topic of early part of this century. The goal posts will be packed up and the dream will fade. None of the global, government-run space agencies, have the ability, or funds, to justify long-range space exploration. The best we can hope for from them is another few trips to the moon and, maybe a base. Taxpayers will not foot the bill for a lavish Mars programme when they are battling to make ends meet right here on Earth. Let’s hope the billionaires space club continue to keep the momentum of their efforts up long enough to make the dream come true.