Mars is the next “giant leap” for mankind. It is one of the those celestial bodies in the Solar System which is favorable for human settlement. It has a gravity that is 0.37 times that of the Earth, it has an atmosphere and Surface temperatures that range from -80 to -5 degree Celsius. The conditions on the planet aren’t exactly perfect but we can build a settlement there.
Space Agencies, both private and government are working towards this goal. Billions of dollars are going into the research and development of technologies that can make this dream possible. But, one question remains- Why are we spending billions to go to Mars when we have so many problems on Earth? People must realize that questioning space exploration is useless. Space exploration has played a major role in shaping modern society. We have everything to gain and almost nothing to lose from investments in Space Exploration.
What do we have to gain?
1. Long-term Survival:
Living on two planets instead of one significantly decreases our chances of extinction. If some extinction-level event occurs on Earth, our settlements on Mars will ensure the survival of our species. If humans are able to expand out to multiple planets, the probability of extinction will go down to almost 0.
2. Base for Extraction of Resources from Asteroids:
The human population is growing every day and sooner or later, humans will be forced to explore and exploit resources in the solar system. The resources on Earth are limited and will eventually exhaust. Even if we exploit resources on Earth as efficiently as possible, we cannot sustain a population greater than 10 billion. Mars can serve as a base for exploration and extraction of relatively unlimited resources present in the Asteroid Belt.
3. By-product technologies:
Investment in the development of science and technology directly or indirectly impacts our society. For example, during the Cold War, the US government invested heavily in NASA. The investment has given us great returns. The best examples include the Internet and the Personal Computer that is so dear to us. Yes, thank NASA for the internet and the development of the personal computer! Other by-product technologies include LEDs, prosthetic implants, Solar Energy, firefighter gear, water purification, anti-icing for your car, better computer software etc. Imagine how much we would push technological development if high amounts of money is invested in speeding up the progress of space exploration.
What do we have to lose?
Absolutely nothing! Currently, the investment made into Space exploration is like a drop in an ocean. The annual budget of NASA is around 20 billion US dollars. Compare that to the United States’ GDP of 20 trillion US dollars. There is plenty of money left to solve other problems on earth. Anyway, solving problems on Earth is more of a matter of politics rather than money.