A human landing on Mars will be possible by 2030, NASA officials assert. But this trip remains a distant dream as national space agencies worldwide face budget cuts. In a 2010 speech at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, U.S. President Barack Obama said that exploration of the planet Mars was a greater priority than the Moon. He said astronauts could be sent to Mars by the mid-2030s and should be able to return to Earth.
Public Funding Collapse
Two years later, Obama announced a series of budget cuts that cancelled joint U.S. and European missions that would land robots on Mars in 2016 and 2018. The robots would have both explored the surface of Mars and drilled below it. The European Space Agency is now seeking Russian and Chinese cooperation for its Mars missions. Meanwhile, officials from the Russian space agency Roscosmos believe that manned missions to Mars will only be possible through joint international efforts.
Colonisation could Happen Now
American scientists Dirk Schultze-Makuch and Paul Davies believe that manned missions to the planet Mars are technically feasible right now. Mars is the most suitable planet for human colonisation from Earth. Flights to Mars should begin as one-way trips, they say. This would start the colonisation process and make economic sense.
They do not see such a trip as a suicide mission. It compares more to the European settlement of the North American continent, when the first colonists had no expectation of returning to Europe. The Martian colony would begin with the identification of a suitable shelter such as a cave with close access to sources of water, minerals and nutrients. The colonists would be able to study any signs of alien life on Mars and a whether is has a different evolutionary record to that on Earth.
Mars has ice caps on its poles. The water and ice could solve the need for water and oxygen. One problem is that there is no ozone layer in Mars atmosphere and humans would not be shielded from electromagnetic radiation as on Earth. But ice caves could provide a shelter from this radiation. Rocket flights from Earth would supply the colony with basic necessities.
The risk of failure and costs are the main stumbling blocks to exploration of Mars and other planets. Russia has tried 19 times to land a spacecraft on Mars and failed each time. The European Space Agency had a spacecraft orbiting Mars but its lander crashed. NASA has succeeded in landing 14 spacecraft on Mars out of 20 attempts.
NASA’s Curiosity-1 rover is scheduled to land on the Gale Crater on Mars in August. Its mission is to discover whether this crater area could support microbial life. The one-ton rover will be landed on the Mars surface by a rocket-powered sky crane. However, the mission has cost $2.5 billion, which is $1 billion over budget.
Author and webmaster, Jack Rasmussen takes a keen interest in all things astronomy. He has been studying and teaching school children about the planets and decided to make a website dedicated to our solar system.