Why we shouldn't wait to go to Mars
Robert Zubrin, chief of The Mars Society, says the Red Planet has everything needed to support life and technological civilization.
April 23rd, 2012
11:32 AM ET

Why we shouldn't wait to go to Mars

Editor's note: Robert Zubrin, an astronautical engineer, is president of The Mars Society and author of “The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must,” recently updated and republished by Simon & Schuster.

In the opinion piece “Mars can wait. Oceans can’t,” published recently on CNN.com, Amitai Etzioni says that we should defer Mars exploration because the seas have a higher priority. While I have the highest regard for ocean exploration, the fact of the matter is that there are numerous agencies – including the U.S. Navy, the navies of other countries, academic institutions, research organizations, corporations and James Cameron personally – that are more than adequately financed and equipped to carry it out.

The idea that we need to suspend space exploration in order to provide the necessary resources to probe the oceans is categorically absurd. So let’s call it like it is: The argument that we should explore the oceans instead of space is not a call to search the seas, but simply a disingenuous way to give up our effort to reach the Red Planet.

But why should we try? There are three reasons.

Reason # 1: For the knowledge. We now know that Mars once possessed oceans in which life could have developed from chemistry. But did it? If we could discover fossils on the Martian surface, or extant life surviving in subsurface water today, it would show that the origin of life is not unique to the Earth, and thus by implication reveal a universe that is filled with life and probably intelligence as well. From the point of view of humanity learning its true place in the universe, this would be the most important scientific enlightenment since Copernicus.

Robotic probes can help out in such a search – and should be aggressively pursued – but by themselves are completely insufficient. Fossil hunting requires the ability to travel long distances through unimproved terrain, to climb steep slopes, to do heavy work and delicate work, and to exercise very subtle forms of perception and on-the-spot intuition. Astrobiological investigations require the ability to drill, sample, culture and study life drawn from Martian groundwater. All of these skills are far beyond the abilities of robotic rovers. Field paleontology and astrobiology require human explorers, real live scientists on the scene.

Reason # 2: For the challenge. Nations, like people, thrive on challenge and decay without it. The space program itself needs challenge. Consider: Between 1961 and 1973, under the impetus of the moon race, NASA produced a rate of technological innovation several orders of magnitude greater than that it has shown since, for an average budget in real dollars only about 10% more than today ($20 billion per year in 2012 dollars then, compared with $18 billion now). Why? Because it had a goal that made its reach exceed its grasp. It is not necessary to develop anything new if you are not doing anything new. The Apollo program also strongly stimulated the economy as a whole to rates of economic growth that have not been seen since.  Far from being a waste of money, forcing NASA to take on the challenge of Mars is the key to giving the nation a real technological return – and much needed economic stimulus – from its space dollar.

A humans-to-Mars program would also be an adventure challenge to every child in the country: “Learn your science, and you can become part of pioneering a new world.” In its day, the Apollo program caused a doubling of the number of American science and engineering graduates. That intellectual capital continues to benefit the nation. There will be more than 100 million kids in our nation's schools over the next 10 years. If a Mars program were to inspire just an extra 1% of them to scientific educations, the net result would be 1 million more scientists, engineers, inventors, medical researchers and doctors, making innovations that create new industries, finding new medical cures, strengthening national defense and increasing national income for decades to an extent that utterly dwarfs the expenditures of the Mars program.

Reason # 3: For the future: Mars is not just a scientific curiosity, it is a world with a surface area equal to all the continents of Earth combined, possessing all the elements that are needed to support not only life, but technological civilization. As hostile as it may seem, the only thing standing between Mars and habitability is the need to develop a certain amount of Red Planet know-how. This can and will be done by those who go there first to explore.

Mars is the New World.  Someday, millions of people will live there. What language will they speak? What values and traditions will they cherish, to spread from there as humanity continues to move out into the solar system and beyond? When they look back on our time, will any of our other actions compare in value to what we do today to bring their society into being?

Today, we have the opportunity to be the founders, the parents and shapers of a new and dynamic branch of the human family, and by so doing, put our stamp upon the future. It is a privilege not to be disdained lightly.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Robert Zubrin.

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  1. Lightworker 2020

    Mars has, is and always will be inhabited. But not 3rd dimensionally. Higher dimensions and light beings use most of our Solar system Planets as well as many others in the Universe.
    Gaia is raising it's own vibration with the help of enlightened humans and that is what will soon be the biggest thing to happen in the Universe – Ascension of Humans from 3rd dimension into 4th/5th dimension with the ability to travel anywhere instantly. Wait and see in the next few generations.
    No need to send 3rd dimernsional explorations. The loss of "controlling" EMF forces on our 3rd dimensional cells and DNA once outside the Earth's atmosphere has not been researched and will end human 3rd dimensional exploration very sadly.
    Read lots and open your eyes and ears to what is happening to us!!!!

    April 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  2. bob t

    Can we afford human space exploration?

    I think we can barely afford not to do more of it!

    Over time the creativity and synergy of doing complex technical projects finds its way back to the mundane consumer market, and some estimate Apollo paid back as much as 20:1 by this metric. It's like asking how to make a better oven. You might just go to the leading oven makers and ask them to push things a bit here and there, but that incremental thinking won't get you the game changing microwave oven.

    For that kind of result you need to recognize and encourage the great synergies that exist between green technologies and space exploration technologies — energy, climate modification, remote medicine, exobiology. Mars is the best risk/reward trade out there right now.

    Such insight is rarely found in the political class.

    April 24, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  3. bob t

    Apollo paid back at 20:1 when you trace the value of all the technology developed following the ideas that solved problems for the Moon landing.

    Mars will do the same. Mars: Safe, Simple, and Soon at the USASEF ... check it out.

    April 24, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  4. Rational Libertarian

    Dr Hibbert- "Was the alien carbon based or silicon based?"

    Homer- "Er, the second one; xylophone based"

    April 24, 2012 at 5:18 am |
  5. art

    Hopefully, they can soon send stupid men there – mainly those that create war and turmoil on this planet.

    April 24, 2012 at 2:33 am |
  6. Colin

    To the US nay sayers, if Columbus had stayed at home to fix the problems of Europe, he would still be at it and you lot would not be "leaders" of the free world!

    April 24, 2012 at 2:20 am |
  7. Dy

    Nice move to pollute another planet

    April 24, 2012 at 2:13 am |
  8. costadosol

    space is the final world economic/technological boost forward we have left the sooner we realize this the better.
    Where would we be without Columbus,Da Gama and Lewis and Clark?(the Spanish and Portuguese are still
    eating from their hands,) Expansion is one of our natural features as “intelligent” beings. Point is to do it intelligently and expanding in Space will force us become more intelligent, otherwise face collapse. Can’t sit here “flogging a dead horse”! anyone interested read my doc in http://www.deoutramaneira.com (articla on Space or Suicide)

    April 24, 2012 at 1:42 am |
  9. Paulo Borges

    Most astronauts will be killed by solar radiation we have no technology to shield from, we need better technology to try that out.

    April 23, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  10. Neutronstar

    I'm all for colonizing Mars, but I hope future residents of that planet don't screw it up by establishing governments that control territories – no borders on Mars – make the whole planet one country under a democracy. Also, make sure those Martians sign a non-aggression pact with the Earth – we don't want a "War of the Worlds".

    April 23, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  11. the resource wars have started

    If you really want to fix the problems of the world; it is not that hard. We go to space. We put colonies on the moon and other places. We collect He3 (clean energy) that has been collecting on the surface of the moon for billions of years. Remember, the more people in the world; the more problems in the world. When we are not living on top of each other and resources are not stretched thin. People are a lot nicer. And do not forget the resource wars have started.

    April 23, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  12. take it deep

    you might be able to teraform mars along the equator if you brought in enough water and soil, maybe just maybe someone could grow some quick seasonal plants on the red planet but it would make more sense to first develop some orbiting extra powerful magnifying glass to travel along the equator so the radiation from the sun would be "magnified" – right then one could have sustained life?

    April 23, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  13. take it deep

    they say as the sun cools mercury and venus may "teraform" into earth like planets, i guess as the cool they may become more rock like us with their plates and what not and that if asteroids crash once it's cooler with tons of water and maybe human induced green stuff ......then maybe humans may have another planet to travel to once ours becomes like mars(very cold there now, about 70 F in the summer on the equator in mars)

    April 23, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  14. pop

    people would ship drugs, weed over there.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  15. AlexK

    We need to go to Mars asap! That is where all the old Prothean technology is.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • bobjohnjames

      cerberus is already there

      April 23, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • ...

      The Reapers are coming, the Reapers are coming!

      April 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  16. kirock7

    All this conjecture makes the premise for "Knowing" the movie... seem a little more on. Watch it if you haven't.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  17. Total Recall

    As a famous person once said. "Get Your A$$ To Mars"

    April 23, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  18. Nate Mullikin

    To boldly go should be enough.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  19. Sam

    Population growth used to be like time^2, now it is like time ^(1/2). We are beyond inflection point, will reach Max soon
    It will start decreasing. So there is no need to find extra living space.
    Amount of fuel to reach further distance grows exponentially.
    If you want to fly 10 times as far, you need 100 times the fuel, as you need to spend more fuel to carry extra weight of additional fuel.
    What are the benefits of space exploration? Cell phone, computers, etc...
    All these could have been developed with a fraction of investment, without so much additional overhead.
    "Who is first in space? Who is first on the Moon?" – very expensive political garbage.

    If asteroid is hitting the Earth – I would rather die on the beautiful Earth with fresh air and sky above my head,
    rather than fly to the frozen desert planet and live in a sealed conainer with a crowd of terrified people,
    drinking evaporated urine (not my own) for the rest of my life.

    It is just me. If anyone wants to fly to Mars – go for it. Just do it on your own dime.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • ...

      The inflection point necessitates a natural decline in population due to lack of food or resources. The we live in today has a low toleration for seeing children starve, and we have developed medical tech to survive to a certain extent beyond the traditional natural lifespan; therefore the human species will keep expanding as long as there are people that keep producing a ton of children (a few mothers that we glamorize come to mind). Therefore, if we don't allow nature to naturally control the population, we have to expand for more room and resources. Or World War III, but of course no one's going to sign up for that one. Right?

      April 23, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • bobjohnjames

      Yes, the only benefits we have gotten from space are cell phones, computers etc. which could have been developed at a much lower cost.

      You wouldn't happen to have a tractor would you?

      April 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  20. bobjohnjames

    It's almost absurb to say that these programs do not benefit us. Everywhere you look there is technology derived from our space programs.

    Any system that utilizes satellites and the obscure technological requirements that go along with making them get to and work in space. GPS, weather, communications, entertainment....and the list goes on and on.

    Diagnosis and treatments of such minor and insignificant things as heart disease, cataracts, diabetes and cancer. Robotics that are used for laproscopic surgery. Portable cooling devices adn garments used for MS and spinal injuries.

    Safety improvements derived from the space program that benefit both civilian and military users.

    Breathing systems used for fire fighters.

    Construction materials in common use throughout the world.
    Specialized ceramics that support manufacturing processes and products.

    These are just a few. None of them identified ahead of time, but all a direct result of our space programs that you are so keen to abandon.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • ...

      If it doesn't have a 5 ft. sign that says "A Product of NASA Technology" on it in bold with flashing lights, most Americans are too clueless to realize it.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • bobjohnjames

      And to me programs such as these beg the question, what will we find if we embark on such a challenging and noble quest? The opportunities are endless.

      Maybe we never live on mars and that's fine with me. But what will we find that will benefit our families and our home which will always be earth until we are extinct anyway. We must never limit ourselves to what we see to be within our grasp, we must always grasp for the unexpected and unknown or we will never be more than what we are now.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  21. KConor

    I don't remember the name
    but there is a NASA guy who want to terraform Mars
    there is only one problem
    Mars doesn't have a magnetic field anymore
    that is why Mars is dead..!!!

    unless the Nasa guy can restart Mars core
    he can forget the terraforming theory

    April 23, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  22. lkpettus

    Agreed. Sign me up and let's go to Mars. The US needs to spend less on War and more investment in all of our futures. Technological advance needs to be pursued. The US needs a stretch goal and their will never be a better time than while we are still here to reach for it.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  23. mmhm

    That Mars sure sounds pretty nice. I sure would like to live there, where bickering forums are temporarily nonexistent.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  24. pleasedotell

    Human beings, always wanting to conquer someone and something. Assuming we get to Mars, it will take at least another 50-100years to build a research center. Then another 50-100 years to discover and research the resources. Then some more years. Sigh, to my descendants, I suggest you focus on Earth for the next 1000 years. I'm not saying we won't achieve something. Heck, humans can achieve whatever they put their mind to, the good & the bad. That said, seeing as there are crimes, exploitation, & wars here on Earth, let me know how the same crap goes on in Mars.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • ...

      Clearly, the greed mentality is so far ingrained in our collective conscience that we won't invest in anything without an immediate and tangible ROI. Saying nothing should ever be done because it takes a century means you'll never start. Time goes on. There will always be another 100 years you can procrastinate and kick the can down the road. Oh wait, our politicians already have that one covered, don't they.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  25. chip


    We all know that man belongs on Mars ,but we do not have the technology and funds to do it. Its a waste of resources right now. Mars and man will not happen in your lifetime, let alone mine. What we need to do is Viking II–bring back Mars *to us* with an unmanned program that is dedicated, thorough and not 'better cheaper failure'.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  26. ronindavid

    Of all the stupid idea that the U.S. has come up with, nothing beats sending astronauts to Mars. Unbelievably stupid. NASA should be ashamed of itself even thinking about it. Make better robots and send them there. They will answer whatever questions you have about the planet. And it will be a BILLION times cheaper and safer to human life. You know how long those rovers were supposed to last. I think like several weeks or a month or so. They lasted YEARS. This isn't Star Trek. Our world's space capabilities are pathetic when compared to how much space is out there. And a human being from the genetic level isn't designed to survive in it. Even the best robots we can make have an extremely rough time. NASA needs to concentrate on inventing new ways to travel through space at light speed or faster(even light speed is slow to humans in galaxy terms). And invent new ways to harvest power through natural means. Oil and coal isn't going to last and our environment can't handle it in the long run.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Ben R

      You're right that our capabilities aren't currently up to par, but what will make them better? certainly not bemoaning their current state. Only action brings change. If we keep waiting because we can't do it now, we'll never do it at all. We have to start somewhere and some time.

      I'd much rather see something happen than see people continue to believe we can't. What kind of legacy is that? "We didn't try because we would have failed." why not try?

      April 23, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  27. Joe Plumber

    We shouldn't even be thinking about this until we are completely off fossil fuels and everyone in this country has healthcare, enough food to eat and a proper education. In other words – never.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • ...

      Reality is humans will be humans. There will always be something else to spend money on. If we don't have dreamers and visionaries, humanity will never progress, and make the next "giant leap" forward. The great inventors and explorers throughout history had that foresight, and ignored the short-sighted critics.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  28. vince

    It's funny how lightly people say things like "oh yeah we're going to happen", though it might be fun to visit - with only 38% the gravity of Earth, people who were born there or lived there a long time, probably find it impossible physically to return to Earth - and the costs to Terraform or make mars liveable would be outrageous. What I don't understand is we got such a great return on our investment with the rovers - instead of worrying about the costs of manned spaceflight, why not use tried and proven robotic/rover technology and blanket the planet with rovers - we could do that and get so much usefull data back at a fraction of the cost of sending people. Just because we need to worry about budgets, doesn't mean we can't explore, we just may not be needing to send people until we figure out better and faster ways to get there.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • ...

      Not really, rovers are risky unless you have someone or something else there to pull them out of a ditch – literally. Remember Spirit?

      April 23, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  29. reason

    Sadly since the end of the Apollo missions people have lost interest in NASA and its projects, this could be one of the reasons why NASA keeps having to do budget cuts because it is not supported by the amount of people it used to be. A manned mission to mars would captivate the world and greatly increase NASA popularity and giving more knowledge of the universe around us.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  30. Reason

    So many people against this that its scary. How long before its the stone age again?

    April 23, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  31. Answerman28

    I’m a life long space enthusist but I have to say the author is just wrong here.
    Reason# 1 for the knowledge: The universe is teaming with life everywhere. It would take a very low I.Q or a complete religious egomaniac to even consider that we might be the only life. There is no good reasons to speed a trillion dollars to confirm that obvious fact.
    Reason#2 for the challenge: Have you read the headlines lately? There are wars all over the place, over a billion people starving, a resources crisis, global warming, over population, people that have nuclear bombs who still believe in sky faires… You want a challenge buddy, there ya go.
    Reason#3 for the future: The author is so comsumed with the lore of space flight he’s willing just push the unspeakable attrocities and starvation happening right now out of his mind.. for the love of his ideal. What about the people stuggling today? What about their future?
    And finally and probably most importantly he says the Coast guard and these other organizations have all the money they need for all the oceans problems so theres plenty trillions left to go to mars.. HUH? The whole world is in a financial crisis dude.. wheres the money going to come from? I know aeronautics is your life and passion but at the least you’re being very selfish and narrow minded. The american space program is not going to save the world. The cost of going to mars is going to put 99.99% of the money out the window.. the return investment is a suckers bet for sure. The money would be much better spent solving problems at home.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  32. californiarestinpeace

    There existed life on Mars billions of years ago. Advanced life in fact. Mars was once teeming with life and hosted vast oceans and diverse species, none of which we'd recognize from Earth. Life started in much the same way as it did on Earth but evolved on Mars in dramatically different fashion. There was life there equal in intelligence to humans and eventually they destroyed each other in a massive Armageddon-like conflict. There was no time for life to begin evolving again before Mars reached the end of its life as a habitable planet but the evidence (fossils and ancient cities) is still there, hidden deep beneath its surface. We don't need to dig them up to understand the implications for ourselves, do we?

    April 23, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  33. jimbo

    I am pretty sure in the article “Mars can wait. Oceans can’t." The author didn't say we should stop researching Mars he stated that sending humans to Mars is a huge cost and robotic missions can do pretty much everything a human can do. If people want to send a man/woman to Mars then start a fund and donate your own money then you can say you had a part in the mission. I for one support a space program but can't see the benefit of sending humans up any longer because a robot can do it cheaper. The ISS has cost billions and we can't even send people up 250 miles into space any longer. Scrap the humans send the robots.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • cja

      I agree. One more argument. If we start a mars program today and fund it aggressively we MIGHT get an Appllo style "plant the flag and leave" mission in 30 years. That is hardly "exploration" but in 30 years, by then robots will be MUCH more capable. What would a human do on Mars but sit in an underground control room and supervise robots.

      April 23, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
      • ...

        As they say, you have to start somewhere, or you'll never start. Our society prefers procrastination these days.

        April 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  34. alpgr49

    1) It will be insanely expensive.
    2) We should seek a higher purpose than to see how many planets we can trash. We aren't rock bands going from one hotel suit to another.
    3) The reason we aren't exploring the ocean is that ocean exploration is that you can't boondoggle a deep submersible. Space exploration boondoggles well: a project can be split among 30 states and maybe 100 congressional districts. Most of ocean exploration takes place right at the water's edge.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  35. cja

    Mars CAN wait. It will still be Mars in 100 years. There is little point in sending people. What do they do when they get there? Well what do they do that a machine can't do.

    Actually even if people do go to mars they will not be walking around outside in space suits, OK maybe they can for a few hours a year but mostly they will need to live under ground to stay away from the radiation. They would be able to control rovers from their caves but the painting above that shows people outside is wishful fiction. The first thing to launch to Mars is a bulldozer and a backhoe. You dig a ditch roll a big tin can in and back fill the ditch.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • ...

      In 100 years, we could also say it will still be there in another 100 years. That fault line will still be there in 100 years. Let's ignore it until we can't.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  36. Mello Yello

    We need to just do it. Pickle the International Space Station, it's not getting us anything anyway. And don't use the Mars program to justify camping out on the moon. Just go to Mars.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • cja

      You can't "just do it". How do you get back? Launching the Mars to Earth mission is the hard part. You are going to want some kind of backup plan for the Mars to Earth trip. and the ability to do tests and repairs on Mars and a spare parts depot and years worth of extra air and water and food incase they have to wait for a rescue. You would want ALL of that waiting on the surface before you launched the crew from Earth.

      My idea is to wait until we are ready to send a one way mission.

      April 23, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  37. sarahH

    Is there any reason why we can't do both? Aren't private companies looking into this stuff already?

    April 23, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Gabe


      April 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  38. Gabe

    We are one asteroid/super virus/flood basalt event away from winking out of the Universe forever. Our species needs to focus on escaping this tiny rock.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  39. Phil

    As always, I will support spending taxpayers' money on problems ALREADY IN PLACE HERE ON EARTH. If we humans have half a brain, then use it to find solutions to the atrocities, hunger and strife that exists here on Earth. Yes we can brga that humans have the INTELLECT to develop a means to get to Mars, ... I say, so what? Mars isn't going anywhere soon. Humankind may extinct itself before Mars goes away... Use God's-given moral character and take care of home first!!!

    April 23, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Gabe

      Huge sums of money are already spent doing those things. The amount it takes to continue space exploration won't make a dent in those pursuits, and have unimaginable unique positive externalities that more than pay for the effort and expense.

      April 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Phil

      and for crying out loud, yesterday was our 43rd Earth Day .... and the Earth is in a mess that will take centuries to fix if we ever get serious about fixing it... and some/many want to 'contaminate' other worlds with our disrespect for the environment? and is there any goal of cleaning up the 'space junk' thats in our orbit? Fellow humans – please get a clue!!!

      April 23, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  40. Guest

    There is a reason why I hate ecenomic and buisness majors, they can't see past a bank note they paste in front of thier face. They are all to ready to dump space exploration because ther is no personal short term ecenomic gains.

    Sure why not focus only on the economey of the world, after all that is what we did since 1990, look at where we are now, all too dependant on oil, at a prepetual state of world war, the economey for the average jane and joe on planet earth forced to scrape by for a living while those wealthy few are able to hold swiss bank accounts, retire in france and avoid extradition from any laws that they broke in other countries. The rich get richer, more and more of the middle clase slumps away into poverty, AND YOU ALL ARE JUST CONTENT ON STAYING ON THIS ROCK because you enjoy the idea of being the BIG FISH IN THE LITTLE POND.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  41. cja

    I'm in the "space business". I'll tell you straight. We are going to have to wait. and wait a LONG time. Right now the USA has now way to send a huan even 200 miles from Earth. I live in Los Angeles and "space" is closer than San Fansico but we can't get to there from here.

    Next problem: Radiation. If you send a guy to mars he's better be an old guy. You might be able to use huge water tanks as a shield in space and once you land dig a tunnel and live there. But even with all that, you get a lifetime dosage.

    Getting home is a problem. Luanching an Earth to Mars mission from Earth is one thing but then you also need to launch a Mars to Earth mission from a bare planet with no industry

    YES it can be done. But not in 20 years, not in 30 years.

    As for science missions. Clearly we CAN do those, let's continue with them.

    Finaaly when it is time to go, send people ONE WAY. Simply commit to sending a mission and supplies every launch opportunity until "forever". In other words when it is time to go, in maybe 50 or 60 years go to stay.

    But yes for now we wait.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • ...

      You can provide adequate insulation if the spacecraft is launched in orbit, from the ISS, or from the moon, as this allows for a greater weight capacity. The Chinese are already working on it.

      April 23, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  42. mooseantlers

    Having read most of the posts, i'm offering my 2 cents worth.

    I'm basing this on the tech aspect and omitting times prior to WW2.

    The civilian sector has benefited from NASA and military applications. Whether we choose to profit from it is what makes theses companies what they are today. GPS is a good example. Can we profit from GPS depends on how you look at it. If all is well, it sure helps you get from point A to point B in a (hopefully) quicker. At todays fuel prices, isn't it worth a couple of hundred $$ for a one time expense? Did you use it to help you navigate to a new job, get help or any number of things? What about hands free phones in your car.

    I will admit that every taxpayer has made their 'contributions'. You need to be able to come up some idea to be able to profit from it.

    I am like millions of others; I want to know what's out there. We'd be crazy to think that we are the only life forms? What good is it when we continue to drain our resources without any recourse? We depend on oil for everything we do. Yes, there are alternative energy sources and we need to maximize these.

    This may sounds like I'm stealing a line from the Star Trek theme. We need to consider that greed and wealth only benefits those directly responsible. I'm all for having an 'electric vehicle'; too bad it's got a backup gasoline engine. If nuclear is capable to of powering an aircraft carrier for 20 years, can't we come up with something that is mcuh smaller that can be applied to a homeowner to power a house . . . for many years?

    April 23, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • ...

      They already have designed one they're testing on Curiosity, and plan to do so more extensively should a manned mission to Mars be funded. If it succeeds you can bet they will share it with the automobile and aerospace industries as they have done in the past. Now don't you just love NASA?

      April 23, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • cja

      The problem is cost. We could build and do many things. The cost of the GPS system is trivial compared to humans going to Mars. Would YOU contribute $10,000 of your own money to help pay for a mission to Mars? That is about what each and every person with a job in the US would have to pay

      April 23, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
      • ...

        Not really. NASA's budget is less than 0.5% of the federal budget; look it up. And most of that is spent on their personnel to retain the best minds. We spent more of our own money funding an over-sized military than anything else, as others have stated.

        April 23, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
      • Ben R

        Short Answer: Yes.

        Long Answer: Why on earth would I not want to be a part of what would undoubtedly be the greatest adventure in human history? Even if all I get to do is help them buy a plate of heat shielding or a crate or two of supplies, I'm still helping humankind take that next step into the greater universe.

        On a lighter note: Maybe NASA should do a Kickstarter...

        April 23, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  43. Nitalynn

    The moon is much closer and a better training ground to get our feet wet. We have never tried to start a camp off world yet and in an emergency we may be able to get help to them. We are trying to run before we have even learned to turn over much less walk or even to crawl. There is another issue also. China is talking about putting a base on the moon. If you do not understand why this should require us to do the same then think about a rail gun on the moon launching rocks at us. No nuclear war heads to interfere with recolonization of the damage area.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  44. HEP

    Saying it takes real human scientist to do substantive investigations is erroneous. This sounds as if the author is too narrow minded to dream of a robot sophisticated and specialized enough to do the job. Think of the spin-offs of NASA technology if they were to launch development projects for more probes like Deep Space. Probes that could make decisions on their own and report back to Earth when they think they have found something. Intuition is just another level of AI.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  45. jj

    I agree, we should build a Moon base and go to Mars. We may need to if there is a life-exterminating event on Earth.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • ...

      You mean ourselves? It's already happening. The event began when the neanderthals learned to make fire. True story.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  46. daveinla

    But how does racism factor in? If its a CNN story racism must be at the root of it.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • ...

      In that case, Neil deGrasse Tyson is black, but he's widely respected regardless. See, feel-good piece!

      April 23, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  47. Mason

    No..No...No...We have to wallow in misery. We can't do anything that would benefit mankind and broaden our horizons..Let's just kkep fighting religious wars...none of this Mars foolishness.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  48. Prup

    It seems that to move this to a place of actually discussing ideas, we all need to decide if exploration / technological advancement is something that the general public should pay for in taxes. No doubt it is costly and would benefit from tax money to make a substantial advancement become a reality quicker... Exploration of the continents was done by countries for centuries, exploration of the ocean is being done every day, some with tax-payer backing. Ultimately tax money will be spent of exploration at any time. We have to decide if teaching and engaging the youth to be dreamers, and to dream the big dreams is benefited by space exploration. Yes, this will generate a resource "return" in the form of more scientists and professionals who dare to dream and expand the new tech markets that the US can compete in. But for the general idea of the world, advancing based upon curiousity, is the space exploration idea worthy, or can we get folks interested in helping the starving, homeless, and in general, in-need? That is where this arguement comes to a head... how to excite people today to fix the problems of today, or do we allow ourselves the ability to look past those problems, and to the future, now ?

    April 23, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  49. bobcat (in a hat) ©

    While the thoughts of conquering other planets are the dreams of youth, when one matures, they learn to put away those thoughts for more practicle endeavours.
    There are many more important things to use these funds for at this time. While our government spends these billions of dollars on projects that won't even be close to a possiblity for decades, we have so many homless and starving people right here in our country that could well use the benefit of these funds. Let's put our priorities in coreect order. Let's fix our own planet before we set out to destroy another.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • ...

      That's the same thing everyone told the great inventors and explorers of antiquity. Did they listen? No. And we're glad they didn't.

      April 23, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  50. Tr1Xen

    Well said, and agreed!

    April 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  51. JeffinIL

    Mars Needs Women

    April 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  52. EnviroGuy

    We have only explored roughly 1 percent of the ocean, 'nough said.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  53. stopforaminute

    We can't fund trips to Mars or exploration because we need to spend money keeping dysfunctional but able bodied Americans in the newest Jordans, the finest Section 8 homes, and lets not forget energy assistance, gubment cell phones, and groceries! We need that money for endless war too! And indirect reparations!

    Mars? Forget about it.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  54. T in Austin

    One thing we know, every so often,65 millon years, the Earth destroys most life on the planet.
    If we don't get off this little mudball, to the tune of 10,000 people living out there somewhere, we could go the way of the dinosaurs. We may have time, we may not.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • ...

      You forget the fact that we like to prepare for disaster – AFTER it happens. Doh!

      April 23, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  55. ...

    "If we all can persevere, if we can in every land and office look beyond our own shores and ambitions, then surely the age will dawn in which the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved."

    "The United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward—and so will space."

    "Man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space."

    "This generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it—we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding."

    "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

    "The opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward."

    "The growth of our science and education will be enriched by new knowledge of our universe and environment, by new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school."

    "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future."

    "The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were and ask, why not?"

    -Excerpts from speeches by President John F. Kennedy

    April 23, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  56. Terry C.

    I want that rover in the picture above right now.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • ...

      It would probably comprise unique compounds developed by NASA, which shared it with the automobile and aerospace industry. Which would benefit everyone as well. If we support NASA that is. Of course, many Americans would rather the Chinese patent them first, since they are hiring up all the best minds that we're laying off left and right for our military industrial complex. Why do they go? Because private industry pays the big bucks to the executives, not scientists and engineers, whereas China has realized the opposite is more important. Thus, our private sector can't possibly compete against the Chinese government. The WSJ stated that at the current rate, in a few decades China will be surpassing us in tech. So, we'll be buying products all the more from them, this while they have a near monopoly on rare earth minerals which are used in all electronics and.../gasp...missiles, aircraft and other weapons. Let's not tap the far more valuable resources off-world, but let's just keep giving the military a blank check, because it's all flowing right over to the Chinese. No wonder they love us. They're laughing away to the bank, and already assembling their own space station, investing in long-term tech for a permanent presence in space, and begun work on a spacecraft to reach the moon and Mars. They tap the deposits on the moon and Mars before us, and they have our economy in the bag, and guaranteed so for the next century.

      April 23, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  57. LMNOP

    as long as they make weed legal on mars, count me as good as there!!!!

    April 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  58. bobhands

    Does anyone here have an imagination? Anyone here dare to dream? Money this, money that. Who cares about the money. How about doing something for the Human species?

    April 23, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  59. RobM

    Yeah! To Hell with waiting! Im going right now! Oh.... wait.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  60. RadarTheKat

    To all those who wish to keep their feet on the ground:

    Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
    And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
    That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned,
    A sun that is the source of all our power.
    The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
    Are moving at a million miles a day
    In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
    Of the galaxy we call the Milky Way.
    Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
    It's a hundred thousand light years side to side.
    It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
    But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide.
    We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
    We go 'round every two hundred million years,
    And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
    In this amazing and expanding universe.

    The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
    In all of the directions it can whizz
    As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
    Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.
    So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
    How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
    And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,
    'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth.
    – Monty Python

    April 23, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  61. Prometheus

    I thought people knew this already. Rockets are outdated. We are going to build a time machine. A time machine can travel backwards but not necessarily forwards. It can slip through dimensions. It could even get to Mars in a flash. Old rocket science will be extinct. But not necessarily the technological advancements that will come with the new research. See Ancient Astronauts. We're the Aliens.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  62. Jules

    I totally agree. A manned mission the Mars would mean a whole lot more than just a manned mission to Mars. It would inspire an entire generation (and future generations) to think big and to innovate and create new technologies.

    And as for the cost – Sure, it would cost a lot. But nowhere near the amount of money that we waste every year on other things, the military being the most obvious.

    Lets go to Mars dammit, and lets do it soon!

    April 23, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  63. Capt. Sheffield

    What Mars has, most, is the potential for a self-supporting colony to exist there. The biggest advantage in going to Mars is that, currently, all our eggs are in one basket. One good *smack* from a sizeable rock (and there's plenty darting around up there) and humanity could be gone. The only hedge we have against such extinction is to get off this planet. Mars is the most likely and viable first step in that direction.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  64. WIlly

    I was surprised that they did not mention that a colony outside earth could save mankind from extinction if it was hit by some disastrous event.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  65. dane

    Oh my f**king god, the amount of trolling and idiotic comments on this story is giving me a massive headache. No one cares that you can copy and paste things from wikipedia to support your "argument", no one cares about whether or not you think this is good for our economy because you are too ignorant to understand its value. CNN should just turn comments off, this cesspool of crap makes me want to throw up.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Jules

      I agree. Your comment sucks.

      April 23, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  66. Pete

    count me out of any mars colonization plans. born on earth, die on earth.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Thlix

      k. stay here and Rot like the Neanderthals did. Personaly, I'd like to see humanity advance. I'd like to know before I die that humanity has once again found its sense of adventure and drive, its need to go where they haven't. I'd like to see man on the moon, and on mars. and know that maybe, next time a Planet killer desides to hit the earth.. that Humanity will survive. that Humanity had beaten even the Dinos.. that in our 100,000ish years in our current form.. we beat out a species/breed that rules the earth for some 300 million.

      April 23, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • ...

      Me see rock! Me hit rock! See me hit rock!

      Sadly, that line of thinking is far too common these days.

      April 23, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  67. Richard Bird

    Could someone please enlighten me a bit about why we don't go to the moon first. I have read there are expensive minerals there on the surface as well as frozen water. There was something about helium 3 as well although I am not up on these things. It just seems to make more sense to put a base up there and get our feet wet sort of speak. I can imagine a Chinese colony up there in the future,why don't we get there there first?

    April 23, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Thlix

      Actualy to my knowledge thats sort of the "plan" get to the moon, use its reqources and H3O to help build and power the ship to mars. be a lot cheaper then trying to build a ship and launch people from earth.

      April 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  68. John Hunter

    Great concept guys. And sadly, that's what it must remain for many generations to come.

    If the world [ and particularly America ] was living within its means, such scientific endeavour might be a possibility. However, to blithely assume that hundreds of billions of dollars should be diverted from servicing current demands is simply fanciful.

    There is no denying the benefits that came from Moon-missions and other space operations. JFK made a bold and achievable plan for man to reach the Moon. But they were very different times, and the plans meshed well with a relatively-stable world situation. We live in a zero-sum environment - to push in one direction translates to a take in another. Look at North Korea. How is it possible to justify starving a population to satisfy a bit of technical posturing?

    April 23, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Thlix

      60ish years of tech advances.. more computing power on your freaking watch then they used to make it to the moon..

      and people, even NASA says we couldn't make it back to the moon..

      freaking sick

      April 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  69. NickD2

    At a time when we are telling our workers they will no longer be able to retire, at a time when we are telling Americans that there is no money to even repair or upgrade levy systems, bridges and water mains, and at a time when this nation faces so many trillions of dollars in debt, we simply cannot afford to go to mars. i support space exploration and wish I were young enough to go, but its just not something we can afford to do at this time.

    Mars has been circling the sun for billions of years and it will be there a few decades from now. Waiting until after we have paid some bills is the only responsible alternative we have.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  70. jimmy dean

    WE GONNA FIND SOME ALIENS!!!!!!!!!!!! ALIEN BATTLE!!!!!!!!!!!! FIGHT FOR THE GALAXY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 23, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  71. oldtimeadventures

    We can't afford Mars right now. Our first priority should be to lower the cost of access to orbit (currently more than $10,000 per pound). I'd like to see a new X-Prize with the goal of $100 per pound. The award could be as much as $10 billion – an amount that could be paid off in a couple years with the savings alone.

    Maybe then we can think about going to Mars.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Thlix

      Now thats actualy a fairly reasonable objection. soo much better then the other grabage excuses some seem to be offering. well done! Personaly, i think we need a space elevator, carbon-nano tubes are getting close to where its possible.. if not praticle..

      April 23, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  72. Anthony Smith

    We currently exlore Mars, all be it by robots, and we also explore the oceans. I don't expect we will stop doing either in the near term.However, we cannot ignore the pressing issue of human population growth and the need to feed and house them. This is a near term issue which we need to deal with now, Mars on the other hand is not going anywhere. Since money is needed to both research the oceans and to explore Mars, and I'm assuming it comes from the same source... ie the taxpayer to a large degree, does it not make more sense to put the bulk of the money to the more pressing issue (note I am not saying all). Namely to figure out how to maximise and preserve the oceans to sustain the global human population as well as all the organisms we co-habit this world with.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Thlix

      think on this.. its a huge investment.. but think about what humanity could do with the resources of the astroid belt at our hands? how much iron, nickle, lead, gold, silver, just floating around out there...

      what could mankind do if it never had to mine another ounch of ore from the eart, all its metals and ores being taken from the astroids.. even syphoning off extra gases we might want from Jupiter and the other gas planets..

      the greenies could true earth into an eden. all heavy manufactureing done in space.. little to no need for any type of polution on the earth.. power from solor sataliets, ores from the astroids..

      Earth.. the Eden some claim to want to return to.. it could happen.. nigh endless resources await us if we're just willing to take them.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  73. lalverson

    We should go. But we never will. The people are too scared they will fall off the edge. and we'll never get to heaven for as we ALL KNOW is right above us in the pretty blue sky. I had hoped that in my old age I would have gotten to have the option of being buried on the moon. But no one wants to see the profit of going or the fact that the earth will only support 14 billion and we are at 7 billion now and growing. Our ignorance is going to kill us as a species. We forgot the first rule of living. NEVER SPECIALIZE. We have, and we are doomed for it.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Thlix

      Actualy i see it more as to many folks are short sighted. its all "what good does it do me" not thinking that while it might not have a major effect upon you.. your kids, your grand kids will grow up in a totaly diffrent world. just look at the moon landing, and the changes in our world from that...

      the trely sad part most of the folks dead set aginst it, claim thier aginst it becuase they think we have to make a better world here first.. yet ignore the huge binfitts awaiting the people willing to reach out their hand..

      pluck the fruit of knowledge and bite deeply.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  74. Dan

    We need to focus on building infrastructure on the moon than sending a few lucky people to a barren wasteland... Robert zubrin needs to realize that the cost of sending people from the moon to mars is several times less expensive than sending people from earth to mars.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • ...

      I agree, moon and then Mars. The moon has enough resources to boost our economy while paying for further exploration at the same time. Also greatly reduces the costs of repeated missions. Now if only the politicians could wrap their heads around it. Most of them still think of space as some abstract universe.

      April 23, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  75. cpc65

    and let's not forget "Get your a** to Mars!"

    April 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  76. Jake

    You need to be careful with this. If you go there Darth Vader of the Borg or an Alien might come and rip you apart. This is foolish. The last thing the US needs is an Imperial/Alien/Borg invasion.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Miz

      It's the Turians you've got to watch out for... at least until the 2180s.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  77. cpc65

    Quaid, start the reactor!

    April 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  78. Derangedcowbrain

    The amount of ignorance of many of the posters here is overwhelming and disheartening. Most of the arguments against further space exploration have equivalent reasoning to people who once said "why go over that hill, we have a hill of our own?"

    "Why go across that water, we have all we need here?"

    "Why venture into the depths of the ocean, there's plenty to do here?"

    "Why launch into space, we have needs down here?"

    "Why visit the moon, it's far away and there's nothing useful there for us now?"

    If we adhere to these ideas, then what will we make of ourselves? Sit in our homes, watch tv, get fatter and more obtuse with each generation? Someone has to step up and challenge that new frontier.

    Now, I'm not saying Mars is the logical next step. But off our planet is a required next step. Establish a real space station as a hub of operations, and then the moon next, I'd say. And to those who argue we have problems down here, remember that exploration and innovation have jump-started new ideas and industries for all of time. Without these technological leaps, you wouldn't be able to sit in your house right now and comment to millions of others across the world about a topic such as this in the first place.


    April 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Thlix

      Actualy its

      moon base -> mars -> Mars base -> gold mine in the Astroid belt. as far as comerical and purely profit driven space exploration.. its the astroid belt thats where its At.

      Once we can get to it, and start mineing them huge rocks, and the Corps see just how much profit they can make by simply mkineing a 20 mile wide astroid made of nearly pure iron.... or maybe some of the few that seem to have very high gold content. wonder how the world would react if the US found a 2 mile radius astroid of pure gold....

      April 23, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
      • ...

        Well, our planet is made up of those same asteroids that bombarded it, so that's very likely. We've found other valuable resources on the moon as well, so I'm sure if we dig in more places we would find some, as it's comprised of similar elements we find down here. Of course, at the current rate, China may very well beat us to it.

        April 23, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • lalverson

      Totally agree..

      April 23, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  79. jrg

    Robotic probes are insufficient to do all the work we want to do, today. So wait a couple of years. Robotics is advancing at a very fast pace. Mars is such a hostile environment that any colony there would require very sophisticated robots to just survive, so lets develop and send them first. Climbing rocks, heavy work, delicate work, all will soon be possible via robots (check out "bigdog" if you don't think robots can climb). Unlike the current rovers, new bots will be much more self sufficient and need to phone home only when they find something they can not categorize. I find this view by the Mars Society to be astonishingly primitive and uniformed.

    Same for the deep oceans. If we every want to really explore let alone sustainably farm, the oceans we will need vast fleets of intelligent robots. We must take the human out of the loop, let alone stop sending them. Cameron's trip is fine since he is paying for it, but scientifically its not worth much. A fleet of perhaps 100 small bots that could methodically scan and catalog everything they find would be far more productive.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  80. Uncle Money Bags

    When we have brought the national debt to a reasonable level and have a balanced government and stable economy, then I will endorse a trip to Mars. But right now, it shouldn't be a high priority.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Thlix

      Actualy a well planned project would help reduce the debt.. as its money pumped back into the US ecomany. not to mention the research and side benfits. plus the possiblity of astroid mineing and the hugh benfits that alone would bring..

      April 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  81. Tom

    A manned mission to Mars may lack a utilitarian justification, but as Dr Seuss would say, "these things are fun, and fun is good."

    April 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • LMNOP

      unfortunately this kind of fun is expensive. but i say what the heck?

      April 23, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  82. ang. reyes

    Let's go to Mars, where riches and a lot of beauty await for us, at he cost of $billion$ that will never be recovered. Ocean exploration is a no-no, it's too close and already contaminated...right terrestrials?

    April 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  83. Axtrax

    I did not read every single one of the posts but I did not see anything in the most recent 20 about the fact that there will at some point in time be another extinction level event here on Earth.

    Expanding the physical boundaries within which our species lives is the only way to effectively mitigate the risk of extinction through such an event. Expanding our presence beyond the boundaries of Earth is really about survival through foresight.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  84. Futile

    To argue about whether we should go to Mars is futile. As a species we have exponentially developed technology and discovered more things at an increasing rate since we first started rubbing sticks together. There is no force that has yet to slow or stop our development. To think that our individual opinion has any effect on this is just silly.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  85. Mark Silvers

    All well and good, however, even NASA says it isn't safe to travel to Mars due to health risks: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2004/17feb_radiation/

    April 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  86. Thlix

    wow.. rather sicking that the Nation that once lead the way to the moon has done such a 180.. A great man once said "We do this things because they are hard"

    April 23, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Thlix

      dang buchered my quote – 'We do not do these things because they are easy, but becuase they are HARD" freaking sick folks.. "oh we have to fix stuff on earth first." "no point" "useless"

      jumping baby zombie jebus people! Mars is just a stepping stone, to the real prize.. the Astroid belt! you want to save Earth? protect this fragile green/blue ball?

      GET HUMANITY TO THE ASTROID BELT! allt he iron, and nearly every other ore humanity could want for the next 3 thousand years is just sitting there, float around the sun. a few astroids a mile or two big would set us up for most of our life times! And you wouldn't need to dig and destroy earth to do it!

      Want free energy?! a hugh nuclear fire ball sitting eaxtly 1 AU away is pumping out endless energy, more then humanity could even hope of useing up..

      yet you fools keep sticking to that tied old "its hard"

      by all the freaking Gods, Devils, aliens and flying speggity monsters, please just blast this worth ball with a planet killer, humanity is freaking DOOMED.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  87. Brandon T

    Honestly, I feel going to Mars is a terrible idea. It's an ego project, nothing more - the scientific return relative to the cost will be minimal. We have SO MANY other major problems in this world - it would be far wiser to invest the money in alternative energy, for example. And I'm an astronomer, so this perspective arguably hurts me.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  88. Wolfpup

    I've been an avid space exploration fan since I was a kid, but I've long been persuaded that unmanned robotic missions are the right way to go. As much as space exploration and the science of cosmology fascinate me, I must respectfully disagree with all three of Zubrin's rationalizations.

    "For the knowledge" – finding life elsewhere would indeed be a major milestone, but practically and philosophically it would really only confirm what we already know is almost certainly true, or else our existence must be the result of an absurdly improbably happenstance. Moreover, the chances of finding life on this one particular planet are probably slim to none, and we may indeed be more likely to find it through programs like SETI or robotic missions elsewhere.

    "For the challenge" – we don't lack challenges right here on earth, where climate change and overpopulation are surely more immediate priorities.

    "For the future" – humans may well migrate elsewhere in the cosmos in the distant future, or perhaps such fantasies will be forever in the realm of science fiction, depending on how long humanity survives. But the idea of terraforming Mars into a habitable colony in any realistically foreseeable future seems far-fatched, and certainly not within the realm of present-day planning at the expense of other priorities like the planet we currently inhabit.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  89. Peter

    I think the point is that we tend to get excited about going to another planet more than about exploring our oceans. Which is understandable. I mean the oceans are right here and other planets are... well, they're other planets. very exciting! The trouble is that our oceans are in trouble and we need to give that attention, because if we screw up this planet, we won't have the luxury of exploring other planets in time. so, we need to do both, but we should not neglect our own planet.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  90. Brickell Princess

    Robert Zubrin must have gotten a hold of some crazy crack! I'll make this brief, NASA will not take us to Mars. NASA should never be allowed to launch a mission to Mars, and once again, NASA will not take us to Mars. Why? Because NASA throws away billions in tax payer dollars so that the fat cats at the private company United Space Alliance can retire in the lap of luxury.

    Also, we need to fix our environmental problems here first. I get your dirty hippie explorer ideology but you need a desperate reality check. The Earth comes first!

    Once again, NASA will not take us to Mars. I will cut NASA's funding down to bottle rockets before NASA wastes another tax payer dollar on the fat cats at United Space Alliance. Enough is enough!

    April 23, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  91. Don Hurley

    There is absolutely no reason to go to Mars. It's a waste of time, human life, and money.
    If we're gonna go anywhere, we should be colonizing the moon and mining ITS resources.
    Until we've mastered something equivalent to "warp drive" capability (as depicted in Star Trek)
    best we focus on the moon, and down the road propulsion systems that can get us beyond our
    solar system and out into the Milky Way where there actually are other forms of intelligent life..but
    that life would probably take a look at us and what we've done to ourselves and our planet and
    treat us in a similar manner as we would treat plankton, as far as intelligence.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  92. Robert

    We're 12 trillion dollars in debt. We can't even afford to take care of the earth, let alone spending billions, and perhaps trillions more and the very survival of the USA as we know it is not even assured. How can we possibly concieve of an attempt to inhabit a dead world that's in an entirely different orbit in the Solar System. No no. Such lavish versions of "to bold we go" are luxuries for wealthy nations. They are not for bankrupt nations in decline such as the USA. I just have one question. Is or was Robert Zubrin employed by NASA or an aronautical engineering firm? If so, we can see where his loyalities lie. It's called, retirement without having to get retrained in a more useful career.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  93. Astro

    Let the naysayers knock the reason for going to Mars. Its going to happen, no matter what other people might think. Its just a matter of time before the economic make it possible for a private adventure to settle the red planet, and other places in the solar system. I just want one thing from people who don't agree. Just let me be to spend my own resources gettting to Mars.
    One thing I am wondering, how is the IRS going to collect when someone is on Mars?

    April 23, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Robert

      Yea, and you're going to have to pay the taxes for it. Can you fathom an effective 80% income tax rate after taking Government induced inflation into account? That's your future baby!

      April 23, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
      • ...

        Robert, you're a bit slow to the game, as your future's already in China's bag. Not to mention, they have the foresight to realize they need to tap those same resources off-world before we do to keep their leverage over us. They already announced their investment in long-term tech for a permanent human presence, and started work on their space station and spacecraft. With help from some of the great minds we laid off to preserve our absolutely necessary lifestyles that we would all die without, naturally.

        April 23, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  94. Huggaplanet

    Humans will be on Mars and they will make it back to. Space exploration is as important a frontier as ocean exploration, medical exploration, spiritual exploration and environmental exploration. It will involve the whole planet, a purpose for all humanity. Lets go! Mars is already mapped out. You want to see 400 places to go there look up our name. Mars is here too.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  95. Derek

    Go to mars? im not even sure if we went to the moon,,the last time we supposedly went to the moon was over 40 years ago. You would think that we would have gone back numerous times and had made it easy by now. Show me a satelitte photo of the flag that should still be on the moon...so dubious

    April 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  96. skipio

    We had better make sure that there are at least two planets in this solar system that harbor life. No sense of looking for big space rocks if there is no place to run. Two populations makes basic insurance sense.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  97. Garritt

    See if we can put all the time and effort into exploring our own planet and oceans as we do trying to go to Mars, we could find a way to save or planet and have no needs to try to inhabit another and destroy that one as well.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • ...

      There's no atmosphere, or native species, and thus no ecosystems. There's nothing to "destroy" in the first place. A mining company's utopia.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  98. ron

    this makes much more sense than exploring the oceans. we dont know about mars, there may even be life on it. we see the beach every day. whats the big deal. what a waste of money that would be

    April 23, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
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