Today marks 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin became the first people to set foot on the Moon. To mark the historic moment, I’m writing a series dedicated to Apollo 11, with this part arguing why man should now take its next ‘giant leap’ and head to Mars.
50 years after man set foot on the Moon for the first time, mankind has not made the next big step in our exploration of the stars. Of course, we have managed to achieve great things, including sending probes to the outer reaches of our solar system and exploring planets, moons and even asteroids millions of miles away from the rock we call home.
However, one huge goal has been left untouched – sending people to the surface of Mars.
Obviously, there are reasons for that. Not only are there challenges in terms of the amount of time a mission would take to the Red Planet, but also issues with suitability once they land, and of course the cost. The price tag in particular might lead some to question why should go, or invest in any exploration of space, when we have our own problems down on Earth.
Well, it is possible for us to do both. The budget for space exploration is a drop in the ocean for the budgets of countries with space programs, and the answers for solving the world’s problems can be solved through further exploration. Instead of further depleting the Earth’s natural resources, we could keep our planet as pristine as possible, while using resources from asteroids and other bodies in the solar system. Not only that, with the threat of being past the point of no return in the climate crisis or the possibility of a asteroid that could endanger life on Earth, we need to have another place where life can survive should that day come.
So, why Mars? The answer is the same as the reason President Kennedy gave when asking why man should go to the Moon – we should do it because it is hard, “because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills”.
With Mars, we can get a greater understanding of how our solar system evolved, understand how life emerged and perhaps even find life on the planet itself. If we found cells of life on Mars, that would dramatically change the way we think about our own place in the universe.
Finally, this second giant leap for mankind would help jump-start developments in a wide range of areas, such as energy, food production and importantly medical technology.
Going to Mars won’t be easy and it certainly won’t be cheap, but should we do it – absolutely.