Why Send Humans to Mars? Looking Beyond Science
February 24, 2011 Leave a comment
By Pabulo Henrique Rampelotto
In the last decade, the human exploration of Mars has been a topic of intense debate. Much of the focus of this debate lies on scientific reasons for sending, or not sending, humans to Mars. However, the more profound questions regarding why our natural and financial resources should be spent on such endeavor have not been addressed in a significant way. To be successful, the human exploration of Mars needs reasons beyond science to convince the public. People are far more interested in the short-term outcome of exploration than any nebulous long-term benefits. Finding the right balance of science and other factors is critical to convince taxpayers to part with $100 billion or more of their money over the next couple of decades to fund such endeavor. In the following, I briefly explain why the colonization of Mars will bring benefits for humans on Earth, looking beyond scientific reasons.
The engineering challenges necessary to accomplish the human exploration of Mars will stimulate the global industrial machine and the human mind to think innovatively and continue to operate on the edge of technological possibility. Numerous technological spin-offs will be generated during such a project, and it will require the reduction or elimination of boundaries to collaboration among the scientific community. Exploration will also foster the incredible ingenuity necessary to develop technologies required to accomplish something so vast in scope and complexity. The benefits from this endeavor are by nature unknown at this time, but evidence of the benefits from space ventures undertaken thus far point to drastic improvement to daily life and potential benefits to humanity as whole.
One example could come from the development of water recycling technologies designed to sustain a closed-loop life support system of several people for months or even years at a time (necessary if a human mission to Mars is attempted). This technology could then be applied to drought sufferers across the world or remote settlements that exist far from the safety net of mainstream society. The permanence of humans in a hostile environment like on Mars will require careful use of local resources. This necessity might stimulate the development of novel methods and technologies in energy extraction and usage that could benefit terrestrial exploitation and thus improve the management of and prolong the existence of resources on Earth.
The study of human physiology in the Martian environment will provide unique insights into whole-body physiology, and in areas as bone physiology, neurovestibular and cardiovascular function. These areas are important for understanding various terrestrial disease processes (e.g. osteoporosis, muscle atrophy, cardiac impairment, and balance and co-ordination defects). Moreover, medical studies in theMartian environment associated with researches in space medicine will providea stimulus for the development of innovative medical technology, much of which will be directly applicable to terrestrial medicine. In fact, several medical products already developed arespace spin-offs including surgically implantable heart pacemaker, implantable heart defibrillator, kidney dialysis machines, CATscans, radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer, among many others. Undoubtedly, all these space spin-offs significantly improved the human`s quality of life.
At the economical level, both the public and the private sector might be beneficiated with a manned mission to Mars, especially if they work in synergy. Recent studies indicate a large financial return to companies that have successfully commercialized NASA life sciences spin-off products. Thousands of spin-off products have resulted from the application of space-derived technology in fields as human resource development, environmental monitoring, natural resource management, public health, medicine and public safety, telecommunications, computers and information technology, industrial productivity and manufacturing technology and transportation. Besides, the space industry has already a significant contribution on the economy of some countries and with the advent of the human exploration of Mars, it will increase its impact on the economy of many nations. This will include positive impact on the economy of developing countries since it open new opportunities for investments.
To conclude, the human exploration oftthe red planet will significantly benefit all the humanity since it has the potential to improve human`s quality of life, provide economic returns to companies, stimulate the economy of many nations including developing countries and promote international collaboration.
Here is a series of ‘Analysis of Evidence of Life On Mars’…