The Prospect of Manned Missions on Mars

By: Arthur W.

Sending manned missions to Mars has been the goal of global space exploration for decades, and as science and technology progress we are getting closer and closer to getting it done. Mars is an ideal destination for human exploration and scientific discovery, as its conditions are similar to those here on Earth and promising for past and future life. However, although sending people to Mars seems to be closer to reality than ever, we are still far from it, as there are major challenges we have yet to overcome.

Firstly, we currently do not have the scientific and technological advancements to send people to Mars. Challenges like designing a spacecraft capable of entry and exit into or out of Mars’ atmosphere, managing the weight of everything travelling to and from Mars in combination with fuel management, and actually settling down and surviving once landed (with all the required knowledge and technology) are incredibly difficult to overcome, and at the moment, beyond us. On top of that, scientists and engineers must anticipate all that could possibly go wrong, and figure out how to deal with such problems should they come up. It’s going to take some time before we figure all this out, but we are only getting smarter and learning more, so one day we will.

Alongside scientific and technological progress, costs and funding are another major obstacle. Manned programs have been estimated to cost up to 500 billion US dollars. Where is all this money going to come from, and what are we denying society by investing in this mission?

There are also various social impediments, such as health risks from long-term exposure to radiation on Mars and prolonged weightlessness (resulting in the deterioration of muscles, bones, balance and eyesight). Isolation and disconnection from Earth, living in small spaces for long periods of time with multiple people, and issues with ‘getting along’ are also very important things to consider. The chosen crew really does need to have ‘the right stuff’.

All in all, various factors still stand in the way of sending manned missions to Mars, which is why they are predicted by NASA to take place no sooner than in the mid 2030’s. In my opinion, 20 years is  barely anytime at all considering what needs to be done, and seems a little unfeasible. Nevertheless, whether it be in 20 or 40 years from now, we will almost certainly live long enough to see it happen, and that alone is truly fascinating.

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