Mission to Mars

Subject: Science
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 6
Word count: 1736
Topics: Astronomy, Space Exploration
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Introduction

Mars has been on the minds of many explorers and non-specialists for a very long time. It has even featured greatly in pop culture through films and is perhaps the only other planet aside from earth with a name for its inhabitants (Martians). Over the years, space agencies across the globe have been sending rovers and satellites to unearth the mysteries of mars. The wonder and curiosity that accompanies the planet, as well as its Earth-like features, have prompted some to argue that it is time for people to make the trip to Mars. It would take the U.S alone billions of dollars and decades to send the first humans to Mars. This giant step for all humanity shouldn’t just be the Americans; this mission could come to a lot sooner if the world worked together.

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Benefits of Going to Mars

To Determine the Status of Extraterrestrial Life and Accelerate Research

A trip to Mars gives people the chance to determine if there is or was life on Mars and to conduct additional research. As of now, many of the trips to Mars have been through robotic rovers. These robots have so far been unable to show the presence of organic life on the planet. A manned mission may be able to do just that. Orwig (2015) states that human beings can be able to accelerate the rate of discoveries on Mars significantly.  As Walter (2017) writes, there is some compelling evidence of life on mars such as the presence of methane. Also, people can dig deeper than rovers, and some theories support the assumption of life on earth being from Mars (Orwig, 2015). Similar sentiments are expressed in the article by Crawford and Cockell (2005) who hold the opinion that robots do not have the versatility, agility, speed, and intelligence to explore Mars. They cite the example of the Spirit rover that moved 3.9 kilometers in close to a whole year on Mars, yet the Apollo astronauts covered 36 kilometers in under 22 hours. The terrain of Mars is steep and rugged in most places which makes it hard for rovers to move around. While it will cost more to get people to Mars, the accelerated speed of discovery can justify the cost (Crawford and Cockell, 2005). For instance, if it costs $100 billion to get people to Mars and $1 billion for a rover, and people can show that they can make discoveries at a rate that is 100 times that of robots, then costs can be justified. Human beings can engage with each other, share ideas, and learn which makes them more adept at Mars missions (Crawford and Cockell, 2005). Moreover, there are many asteroids between earth and mars which may contain valuable minerals or be of scientific value that can be explored during a trip to Mars (West, 2014). Also, the surface of Mars is currently known to be devoid of organic matter because of a thin atmosphere and no ozone layer. By observing and studying mars, scientists can develop accurate models of what can happen on earth if the atmosphere is damaged. On top of that, the dust storms on Mars can be crucial in generating climate models to show what can happen on earth, if significant amounts of dust are introduced to the atmosphere because of nuclear explosions, asteroid impacts, and desertification (Ocampo, Friedman, & Logsdon, 1998). All the data that will be obtained on mars can be collectively used to improve the overall knowledge of people on the status of mars. Thus, by going to mars, more research work can be done, and more discoveries can be made.

At the same time, serious efforts to explore Mars can create a new space race. Currently, nations like the US, Japan, India, China, and Russia have Mars oriented programs (Walter, 2017). While these nations work together, they may be driven to try to outdo each other, similar to the 20th-century space race between the US and the USSR. At the same time, private entities like SpaceX have also expressed interest in landing people on the moon (Walter, 2017). As such, interest in Mars can spur a race between commercial and government agencies which will lead to significant technological leaps and probably a shorter timeframe for an actual trip to Mars.

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Creation of New and Better Technologies for Everyday use

As companies and government agencies continue to invest heavily in research for technology to drive people to Mars, many technologies will be advanced, and new ones will be discovered. Overcoming the difficulties that come with operating in space has led to numerous scientific and technological advancements that have been used to better life on earth with regards to safety, energy, transport, and medicine (International Space Exploration Coordination Group, 2013). A look back at previous space missions can show just how many technologies have risen from space programs. These technologies can then be implemented in typical day to day life. For instance, NASA research on space robots as well as extravehicular activities has led to the advancement of artificial limbs to create functionally dynamic parts. At the same time, temper foam used in rockets has been used in prosthetics to give them a feel that is similar to that of a real human. Pill transmitters were also first used by NASA to check the health status of astronauts. The same technology can be used to monitor the health of fetuses (Sherman, 2016).

Another notable technological advancement that came from space travel is that of light-emitting diodes. While NASA did not develop them, these lighting devices were first used in growing plants by NASA. The same technology is not adopted in many hydroponic farming systems and greenhouses to ensure year-round production (Scherman, 2016). Other advancements that happened because of space exploration) include intelligent optical systems (to detect chemicals), anti-icing systems for aircraft, improved radial tires, infrared ear thermometers, fire-resistant shielding for construction, and fire-resistant clothing for firefighters (“NASA Technologies Benefit Our Lives, “ n.d). What one notes from the technological advancements that have been done courtesy of previous missions is that the challenging nature of the Mars mission will demand even stronger, more robust, newer, and more durable technologies. All these benefits will in the short and long run trickle down into consumer goods and better everyone’s lives.

Create a Focus on Sciences

A mission to mass would create a focus on sciences, education, and exploration. A mission to Mars provides the best opportunity to satisfy some of the most significant questions known to man, about life beyond their planet (Ocampo et al., 1998). One has to go back to Armstrong’s moon landing to remember a time when all people were fixated on the idea of space travel and science. A trip to Mars would have a more significant effect and would inspire many to embrace science.

Risks and Costs Associated with a Mars Mission

While this paper has examined the various arguments that are put forth for the exploration of Mars, it recognizes that there are significant risks involved in the process. First, it is tough to land on Mars. There have been about 44 missions dedicated to mars. However, only 18 have been considered a success, with the rest either wholly or partially failing (Maynard-Casely, 2016). The challenges that come with landing a probe on mars are very many. One, a rocket has to survive the takeoff then the journey to Mars. If a rocket reaches mars unscathed, it has to deal with a thin atmosphere, which while thin, still requires adequate shielding. Then, there is the unpredictable Martian weather (Maynard-Casely, 2016). The planet experiences planet-wide dust storms which could hamper landings. Furthermore, the planet’s thin atmosphere makes slowing down very challenging even after parachutes are deployed. Rovers like Opportunity and Spirit made use of inflatable balloons to cushion their landing, while the Curiosity rover had to fire mini-rockets to slow its descent (Maynard-Casely, 2016). These types of technologies have a margin of error which may cause them to fail. Also, they rely on multiple systems that have to survive the journey from earth to mars and still function optimally. The low success rate of about 41 percent makes manned missions risky, and the chance of fatalities is present.

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Second, a mission to mass is very costly. Wile (2017) interviews Pascal Lee (Mars Institute’s Director) and is informed that a manned mission to mass is likely to cost about $400 billion at least if handled by the government. Mars One (2018) estimates that a manned project to Mars would cost them about $6 billion for four individuals. The figure is not inclusive of other cost variables like advanced satellite deployment, rover missions, training, hardware, and rover deployment which may take the cost to around $12 billion (Mars One, 2018). Notably, their quotations do not factor in research and development, which may drive prices much higher. These sums of money are significant and considering that there are other more demanding problems on earth, countries may be less inclined to spend on a mission to Mars.

Lastly, astronauts are likely to be exposed to significant levels of solar particle events and galactic cosmic radiation during their trip to Mars. These types of radiation are dangerous for human health because they destroy cells and tissues (Cucinotta et al., 2010). The radiation problem is compounded by the fact that there are limitations to just how much radiation one should be exposed to in their lifetime before it becomes problematic (Shuchman, 2014). These limitations mean that few astronauts can be considered for the Mars mission. Many experienced astronauts will be close to their limit. Notably, a round trip to Mars will expose them to more than the recommended lifetime radiation limit (Shuchman, 2014). Therefore, the health risks of going to mars and back are very high and may lead to health complications.

Summary and Conclusion

As technological advancements are being made, interplanetary travel will become safer as better radiation shielding is developed and landing is perfected. Also, comparing the costs of militaries across the globe with the amount required for space exploration shows that a joint mission will not be financially challenging. Mars has the potential to foster interplanetary travel, technological advancements, and research. There are many risks come with any endeavor, but they have never stopped human beings from venturing into the unknown. The benefits of going to mars outweigh the costs.

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  1. Crawford, I. & Cockell, C. (2005). The scientific case for human space exploration. Astronomy & Geophysics, 46(1).  https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1468-4004.2003.46117.x
  2. Cucinotta, F., Hu, S., Schwardon, N., Kozarev, K., Townsend, L., Kim, M. (2010). Space radiation risk limits and Earth‐Moon‐Mars environmental models. Space Weather, 8(12). https://doi.org/10.1029/2010SW000572
  3. International Space Exploration Coordination Group. (2013). Benefits stemming from space exploration. NASA. Retrieved https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/Benefits-Stemming-from-Space-Exploration-2013-TAGGED.pdf
  4. Mars One. (2018). What is Mars One’s mission budget? Retrieved https://www.mars-one.com/faq/finance-and-feasibility/what-is-mars-ones-mission-budget
  5. Maynard-Casely, H. (2016). There’s no ‘Mars curse’ – it’s just very hard to land there. The Conversation. Retrieved https://theconversation.com/theres-no-mars-curse-its-just-very-hard-to-land-there-67463
  6. NASA Technologies Benefit Our Lives. (n.d). NASA. Retrieved https://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2008/tech_benefits.html
  7. Ocampo, A., Friedman, L., & Logsdon, J. (1998). Why space science and exploration benefit everyone. Space Policy, 14.
  8. Orwig, J. (2015). 5 undeniable reasons humans need to colonize Mars — even though it’s going to cost billions. Business Insider. Retrieved http://www.businessinsider.com/5-undeniable-reasons-why-humans-should-go-to-mars-2015-4?IR=T
  9. Scherman, J. (2016). 10 ways space exploration has helped launch modern technology. Rasmussen College. Retrieved https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/technology/blog/space-exploration-launched-modern-technology/
  10. Shuchman, M. (2014). Striving for Mars: What are acceptable risks? CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal, 186(1), E7–E8. http://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.109-4636
  11. Walter, M. (2017). The new space race: why we need a human mission to Mars. The Conversation. Retrieved http://theconversation.com/the-new-space-race-why-we-need-a-human-mission-to-mars-73757
  12. West, D. (2014). How space exploration propels scientific discovery, tourism, mining, and the economy. Brookings. Retrieved https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2014/05/13/how-space-exploration-propels-scientific-discovery-tourism-mining-and-the-economy/
  13. Wile, R. (2017). Here’s how much it would cost to travel to mars. Retrieved http://time.com/money/4765718/travel-mars-price-cost-tourism/
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