The Next Frontier: Mars

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In 2020, NASA plans on sending another voyage to Mars. This is an artists rendering of the Rover. Photo courtesy of NASA and Creative Commons.

The fascination of traveling has been embraced by the past generations of the human race. From the early nomads to famous explores such as Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, and Magellan, all seeking the thrill of discovery and achievement. Turning to the modern era, explorers have traveled to space. They traveled outside Earth’s gravitational force, then finally to the moon. But what is next? Most people believe the next destination is Mars. Mars has captivated many scientist since its discovery. The Mariner 9 space probe became the first artificial satellite around Mars in 1971, then the Viking Project landed two spacecraft on the surface of Mars after launching in 1976. These missions sent back stunning pictures. The Red Planet’s rocky terrain and winding canals proved to be similar to Earth’s geography. Because Mars is so similar to Earth’s geography, many people wonder if Mars could have harbored life at one point in its lifetime.

Many kids at Carroll have expressed interest in the possibility of traveling to Mars. Graduate Eva Toscos, who is pursuing a career as an astronaut, says that she would like to travel to Mars.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the unknown of space, and so I just really like thinking about how it would be cool to discover something new and be one of the first people to be there,” Eva said.

While Eva has the interest in traveling to Mars and being one of the first humans on the planet, other feel that the risk of being one of the first to touch the surface is too risky.

“I think it would be really interesting to go to Mars, but I wouldn’t want to be one of the first ones because I feel like I would probably die,” says graduate Rebecca Rollings, “but I feel like if they, like, actually developed a colony I would totally do it”

Then there are some at Carroll who wish to pass on those duties to someone else, such as graduate Ritvik Bonam.

“I am not interested in going to Mars, but I am interested in having other people travel there. I just don’t want to go because it’s a one way trip and that’s not something I would want to do, but I definitely want people to go to push the frontier in terms of science” Bonam said.

With all this interest to go to Mars, how are we going to get there? There has been speculation that a private company such as Space X or Virgin Galactic will make it to Mars before a governmental space agency does. This has to do with the fact that the private companies have the goal in mind and have the incentive to be the first to Mars. Since the end of the Cold War and Space Race, NASA hasn’t had a competitor. NASA no longer has to beat out the USSR to the moon. And with changes in congress and funding for the program every few years, there is no real goal or steady budget. This makes it tough for NASA to accomplish any major feats such as the moon landing due to changing agendas. Bonam believes that NASA should be first to Mars, but it depends on a few factors.

“It depends on how much money is being poured in because as of right now the NASA budget isn’t really as high as it once was. But if you do increase NASA’s budget then they would obviously get there before Space X and Virgin Galactic, because as of now Space X and Virgin Galactic haven’t even put a person in space. And let alone some of their rockets have failed because they simply don’t have the technology or the military support that NASA has. So I seriously doubt that Space X gets there before NASA,” Bonam said.

Contrary to what Bonam thinks, Toscos believes that the best way to get to Mars is through private organizations, with Space X being the most likely. She believes that Space X’s CEO, Elon Musk, will provide the leadership needed to get there. Space X will also benefit from private investors that will give them more freedom to put more money in their research. Eva says that these are the reasons that NASA will struggle.

“I think it would be cool for NASA to be first to Mars, but I think with the government involvement and other problems that we have in the U.S it will be tough, so I think it’s going towards the private companies,” Eva said.

Rebecca Rollings agrees with that Toscos. She believes that the turnover in administration will hinder NASA’s ability to get to Mars first, and with Space X having the same people in charge they have the advantage.

“I think if anyone is going to get there it will be Space X. I mean they have already making a lot more technological advancements than NASA or other nation led agencies. Especially since we keep changing the administration, they changing how much they want to give NASA, so it’s kind of hard for them to keep their plans in place. But with Space X being privately owned, they can do a lot more.” Rollings said.

Many wonder what the goal of traveling to Mars consists of. Is it going to be a series of recon missions? Or is the possibility there of creating a civilization there? Or possibly even harvesting it? With the world’s population approaching the carrying capacity many wonder how much longer Earth can sustain. This has people believing that a civilization on Mars will help extend the lifetime of the human race.

“I think we need a civilization on Mars because Stephen Hawking once said that if we are a one planet species, and we are sanctioned by the boundaries of Earth, our only way of propagating the human race will be to colonize other worlds,” Ritvik said.

Toscos is in agreement with most of Ritvik’s statement. She says that the civilization on Mars is not a necessity, but it would extend the life of the human race by harvesting Mars’ resources.

“It won’t be the end all be all if we don’t colonize Mars, but I think that as an increasingly intellectual group on Earth, we should be able to advance ourselves to be able to utilize the resources on Mars that can help us. Doing this will help us preserve the Earth and stop taking everything from it so we can still have a healthy home,” Eva said.

Scott Chapman believes it possible that one day there could be a civilization on Mars, but he says that there are just too many barriers to colonize Mars right now. He expresses that no one has even travelled to Mars yet. He says that scientist need to test the soil to make sure it can become viable to grow food with. Then to grow the food huge structures will have to be made in order to create a greenhouse that liken to Earth’s atmosphere. But he does say that a concerted effort will give the human race the ability to make have a colony there.

“Now if there was a concerted effort to by most of the countries in the world, and we bring the best minds together, then it is possible that we can have a colony on Mars. But it won’t be any time soon” Chapman said.

The thought of traveling to Mars is fun. Traveling to a whole new world that, though baron now, could one day sustain the human race would be the biggest human feat of all time. With advances in technology these dreams could one day come true. Until then Earth, our mother planet, will remain the singular home of our species.