Mars has been a fascinating topic of discussion for a long time now. Every aspect of the Red Planet is mysterious when you think about the history of it. It is extremely similar to the Earth in a lot of ways. It experiences seasons just like the Earth due to its tilt. It also has many mountain ranges, giving evidence for some plate tectonics, but not a lot of evidence. Due to Mars’ very thin atmosphere there is very little air pressure on its surface, making it impossible for anything to exist in liquid form, only solids, vapors, and gases.
But the question is, was it always like this? Recent missions have sent back pictures of rocks deposited in an area that looks as if it once carried flowing water. Sending an actual astronaut to Mars would help scientists answer some questions about its ancient history. Ever since we put a man on the moon back in the 1960s, the possibilities of Mars have been prevalent in modern day culture.
Technology has been improving at such a fast paced rate that the question is not would we be able to do it, but when could we do it, and could we do it safely?
When thinking about a possible mission to Mars with a human passenger, one must conclude that there are a number of factors and obstacles that must be answered and overcome. The first topic of discussion would have to be to figure out if we had the resources and enough qualified personnel to do the job.
A recent look in the news lately shows that if we can get the right heads together, than we can put a man on Mars in a relatively short period of time, like 10-15 years. A recent article on Business Insider said that NASA could do it if they really wanted too.
One of the lead mechanical engineers is quoted as saying, “Putting men on Mars is not unachievable. It is just really hard and expensive. So if the world were to find itself with enough resources and the motivation, we could do it. Although it might seem crazy to have a man go to Mars, or even a possible base on Mars, it really is not. The technology that is being developed now is moving beyond fossil fuels. One company, known as TESLA, is a great example of our civilization moving into the next era of technology. Here is a direct quote from their company website: “Tesla makes he best electric cars and electric powertrains in the world. Tesla technology offers the most efficient path to a sustainable energy future. No hybrids. No hydrogen. No hype. ” With these kinds of ideas set in place for the future, the push to get to Mars is as possible and exciting as ever. So know that we know that it is possible to get to Mars with an astronaut on board, what has stopped us so far? The most obvious reason is the lack of funding for such an expensive product. The government’s intentions as of the last couple of decades have been hardly supportive. One project met such a fate. Read what to do f you find a path with no obstacles
According to a blog with direct links to NASA sites as its sources, it states that: “NASA developed a strategy in 1989, which involved sending an enormous spacecraft to Mars, with cost estimates of more than $500 billion. Nicknamed the Battlestar Galactica plan, Congress decided to cancel it when they saw the costs. ” One could only imagine what the results of that project might have brought. Nonetheless, the cost estimate for this specific project would probably resemble any other project proposed that had the same goals in mind. The next step for a big Mars project is figuring out a way to cut the cost down for the trip.
I actually came across a pretty interesting idea that I had never heard before when browsing the space section of the PBS website. It involves sending an astronaut on a one way trip, but not in the grotesque way of suicide. The plan would be to leave the astronaut there with supplies to set up a base and more people and supplies would come in later trips to start building a colony. “Above all, it’s not nearly as pricey as two-way. “I would say three or four times as expensive to provide return capability,” Aldrin says. Chris Kraft, the legendary NASA flight director, has estimated 10 times more costly, Aldrin told me” (www. bs. org). This is an interesting idea but probably not the best for the first astronaut to go to Mars. Another good solution I found that could possibly raise the money is a new project called Mars One.
Apart from raising corporate sponsors for their mission to put the first four people on the Red Planet, they have come up with another clever idea on top of that. According to Space. com, “Mars One plans to fund most of its ambitious activities via a global reality-TV media event, which will follow the mission from the selection of astronauts through their first years on the Red Planet. By providing an effective way to make money, they have also involved the rest of the world by giving them an opportunity to watch history. With all these new recent developments, I almost want to be able to conclude that we will be going to Mars anytime, which could be possible. However, there are other factors as well. Although Mars is a relatively close planet in our solar system, it is still extremely far away from Earth. Going to the Moon took only a few days, Mars would take months of flying through deep space. According to the NASA website, a trip there would have our astronaut flying through 300 million miles of deep space.
The space environment isn’t necessarily smooth sailing either. “Hazards range from what engineers call “single event upsets,” as when a stray particle of energy passes through a chip in the spacecraft’s computer causing a glitch and possibly corrupting data, to massive solar flares, such as the ones that occurred this fall, that can damage or even destroy spacecraft electronics” (www. nasa. gov). In light of these facts, any mission to Mars would be a nerve-racking year. Constant worries about solar storms and random equipment malfunction would be enough to make people pull their hair out.
The craziest part about the trip, even if the mission was a complete success all the way up to entering Mars’ atmosphere, the landing of the craft would be the hardest part. “If getting to Mars is hard, landing there is even harder. “One colleague describes the entry, descent and landing as ‘six minutes of terror,'” says Naderi” (www. nasa. gov). If the mission failed at that point it would be such a disappointment it might never be attempted again for a really long time. Billions of dollars, time, and effort will have been wasted. The obstacles do not stop their, either.
Since a mission like this has never been attempted before, no space craft has ever been constructed to meet the specifications that would achieve the goals outlined in a project to put a man on Mars. “Even before the trip to Mars can begin, a craft must be built that not only can make the arduous trip but can complete its science mission once it arrives. Nothing less than exceptional technology and planning is required” (www. nasa. gov). The engineers will have one of the most studious tasks to be completed on a very strict time scale. There hardest part that hey will face is landing their spacecraft on Mars. According to a website founded by the National Academy of Engineering, a spacecraft on its approach to Mars will use a high-drag heat shield and a parachute to get rid of 98 to 99% of its kinetic energy, but the problem is that the Martian atmosphere is not substantial enough to make a safe landing. Additional landing equipment will be needed to counter this setback.
Previous methods are: “On previous successful missions, the landing system consisted of two major elements, a propulsion subsystem to remove an additional 0. 02 percent (~50 to 100 meters per second [m/s]) of the original kinetic energy and a dedicated touchdown system. The first-generation Mars landers used legs to accomplish touchdown. The second generation of touchdown systems used air bags to mitigate the last few meters per second of residual velocity” (www. engineeringchallenges. org). NASA is even working on a third-generation one to reduce cost and improve performance. Although the tasks will be tough, I think our brilliant and innovative engineers will be up for the tasks that will be asked of them.
However, the risks of putting an astronaut on Mars are undeniable, as I have hinted throughout this paper. The biggest obviously being the chance of the astronaut perishing. This could happen easily, in many different ways. For example, a solar storm could come and shut down all the equipment, the landing might fail, the calculations might be off, etc. To counter this though, there are many willing volunteers to attempt the mission, as well as people willing to give all their time to work on such a project due to its historical significance.
And although money is a significant issue as the costs will be gargantuan, this obstacle too can also be overcome with enough support from the right people giving the go ahead along with other clever fund-raising activities. In conclusion, having a space project that would put a man on Mars, although it would have its obstacles face, would just be an incredible feat for the name of science and strong evidence of the high potential that we can be as a civilization. The problem is that there is just not enough support.
The right events or circumstances need to happen for people to realize the significance of it. In the movie Contact, when a radio signal was confirmed as being a reply from an intelligent extraterrestrial civilization, the whole world just went berserk. This was because everyone realized that we really were not alone, and there were others out in the Universe, who perhaps, were even more intelligent than us. My point of bringing this up is that something similar needs to happen in the real world to further engage people’s curiosity of exploration beyond are world.
One possible scenario would be the government publicly admitting the Roswell crash in 1947 was really extraterrestrial, making people wonder where these alien beings came from and if other UFO events were real. A trip to Mars and further investments in the space program would almost go hand-in-hand with such an announcement. Overall, the benefits of a Mars trip are apparent. It would be a huge step in realizing our inter-planetary capabilities. It would also be a big step in possibly getting a human being to be able to live on another planet besides Earth.
Also, we could finally do some real tests to see if there really was ancient life on Mars, or the very small chance that there still is life there. If Mars proves to have prior inhabitants, it will be virtually undeniable that life exists elsewhere in the Universe, and that we are not as significant as we once thought. Putting a human being on Mars would go down as one of the most monumental events in human history, which is why we need to make it happen. As Carl Sagan once said, “I don’t know where I am going, but I know that I am on my way. ” We are on our way too, Carl.