Mars isn’t that important
February 16, 2016 1:11pm CST
It seems that for the last few years, if you go anywhere on the internet remotely related to space, you’ll be bombarded with posts about Mars being the “future” or “destiny” of humanity. Well, I’m here to say that it’s not. In fact, Mars really isn’t that important. Before I get too far into this, let me just state that I do support humans – eventually – going to Mars because of the unique science that can be done there. But I see Mars as more of a dead-end side street then the destiny of humanity. It seems many of the people desperate to get us to Mars want to terraform it and make it into a second Earth. Their reason is that if something happened to Earth – asteroid impact, war, plague, whatever – humanity wouldn’t go extinct if it had a second home. On the surface, that’s a great idea, but there are a ton of issues with it. The first issue is, what if there are native Martians? What right do we have to bulldoze over the last habitat of some Martian microbes just to build a casino? Is the need to make Mars look like New Jersey more important than the study of alien life? But even if Mars is completely lifeless, do we need to change it? Terraforming Mars is something that would take decades, even a century or more. But what will people be like a century from now? Humans, right now, can’t breathe the Martian atmosphere, but a century from now medical science will advance to the point people could have 3D printed, biomechanical lungs implanted to let them breathe the atmosphere, all without having to spend untold billions trying to change the entire planet. And if you so desperately want to live on an Earth-like world, there is one: it’s called Earth. But we can’t wait a century, you say. We have to get humanity’s eggs out of one basket. Well, we could colonize the moon and the asteroids. Actually, I believe humanity’s true future and destiny lies in the Asteroid Belt. There are more metals – from iron to gold to yttrium – in the Asteroid Belt than have been mined on Earth in the history of humanity. It’s all just waiting out there. While some of those metals will be mined to make fancy trinkets for people on Earth, the rest could be made into the giant, rotating space stations you see so often in science fiction. Mars is just one basket. But we could build hundreds of such stations. We could even put engines on them and fly them to other star systems. Basically, going to Mars is a nice thought, but it is such a limited view of what the future of humanity is. The real future of humanity lies in spreading across the galaxy, not just going to the next planet. Those so focused on Mars are just thinking too small.