2020 has been a terrible year and there’s no one who is going to argue that. However, there has been more good news about the space program that we did not expect. The moment when we got to watch astronauts ascend to the ISS was a great one. This was the first time that we were able to watch them ascend from American soil in a rocket that was made in America for quite some time.
Elon Musk was sending people aloft as well and when he was not doing that? He’s been launching hundreds of satellites into space (for both himself and his customers). The private sector and NASA both have larger goals that they are looking to accomplish, though. While there are already preliminary plans to send people back to the moon, Musk is currently eyeing Mars.
Are we going to be able to do both? Should we even be worried about such pursuits at the moment? David W. Brown of the Wall Street Journal believes that the goal of reaching the moon is actually outdated. He views this as a goal that has been strived for by the pioneers of old. Brown is of the belief that Mars needs to be the new goal.
This sounds noble enough but there are a wide range of presidents who have had differing opinions on the matter. George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush both believed that Mars was a viable target. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were not fans, saying that they needed to accomplish goals that are a bit closer to home. Donald Trump has been trying to get back to the moon.
NASA officials claim that Mars travel is still possible and that they are going to continue to work towards this objective. In Brown’s mind, there is only room in the budget for one of these missions. He expanded on that idea in a recent piece. “The moon’s great advantage, of course, is that it’s easier to reach and we’ve done it before. But for all the difficulties of landing on Mars and establishing a human presence there, it is clearly the superior prospect for sustainable exploration. Mars is a bona fide planet with air, ice, wind, weather and usable resources. It also has real similarities to Earth. A Mars day is just over 24 hours long,” he began.
“The planet, on average, is just 30 degrees colder than Antarctica. Its gravity is one-third that of Earth (versus the moon, which is about one-sixth). It has moons and its own complex geology, from the highest mountain in the solar system to a canyon network that makes the Grand Canyon seem a mere local attraction by comparison. It could be a home for people in a way that the moon never will,” Brown continued.
“The American space program has always aimed at putting people on Mars. Before the word astronaut had been coined or an agency named NASA existed, there was “Das Marsprojekt,” a work of speculative fiction written in 1948 by Wernher von Braun, who developed rocket technology for Nazi Germany before escaping to the arms of the American military. He built the rocket that would put Explorer 1, the first American satellite, in space and became the leading engineer and best-known promoter of the early U.S. space program,” Brown concludes.
Manned missions are not the best choice, in our humble opinion. Sure, we have no shortage of willing heroes who are ready to embark into space. These missions come with a much higher chance of tragedy. We would rather see missions that are conducted by remote control robots instead. This seems a heck of a lot safer.
Mars is not a planet that anyone can inhabit without the proper technology to keep them healthy and safe. Even Elon Musk admits that there is very little chance of returning to Earth alive for those who head to Mars. No one is saying that it can’t be done. We simply need to be as smart as possible about conducting these missions.