It appears that us humans could possibly set foot on the Mars within the next decade.
For so long, the idea of traveling to other planets had been confined to dreams and science fiction, but the time may finally have arrived to make it a reality. Ever since we made the first step onto the moon with NASA’s Apollo missions in 1969, we have thought that the next thing to do would be to turn to the Red Planet.
While it is the logical step for space travel after the moon, there are many more reasons why we would want to make this leap, one of these being the discovery of water on the planet that we previously thought was a wasteland. Rovers such as Curiosity and Opportunity already wander the land of Mars, gathering new information to send back home. After finding sedimentary rocks on the planet, it was discovered that water, at some point in time, had been flowing and present as well. This is known because this type of rock forms in water. The rovers found the remains of ancient rivers and lakes, as well as salt water in areas of the planet that may even be habitable to life. In addition, NASA has discovered ice caps on Mars, the northern polar cap being about 1,000, or 621 miles, kilometers across.
Elon Musk, mainly known for his work with the car manufacturer Tesla, has recently announced his plan to bring his space travel company SpaceX to Mars. While many do believe that the ideas for his technology and power supply are optimistic at best, he plans to send astronauts to the International Space Station as early as 2017 and an unmanned ship to Mars by 2018. His ultimate goal is to eventually get interplanetary travel and colonization of the planet.
However, Musk is not the only one with plans for Mars. The second man to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, has a “master plan” to colonize Mars within 25 years. He would have astronauts establish permanent colonies on the planet, before going on to terraform the ground to allow humans to farm. Appealing for NASA to accept his plan, he hopes to complete his mission by 2039, the 70 year anniversary of his Apollo 11 trip to the moon.
Nonetheless, successful travel to another planet will not be an easy task to accomplish, with obstacles such as solar eruptions or “sunflares” in the way. During a solar eruption, the sun lets out a large flare with a dangerous amount of radiation to humans. Our atmosphere protects us from most of it, but the emptiness of space could cause some problems. While solar eruptions such as the ones in 775, 1859, 1989, and 2003 did not affect life on Earth in a major way, astronauts could suffer a great deal of damage in space or on Mars. A solar eruption could cause lethal amounts of radiation to astronauts, and according to NASA they are a serious danger to space travelers. While sunflares are not the only potential issue in the depths of space, they highlight the danger of space travel and why it is not an easy task.
Traveling and setting up colonies would open up new doors for society. Never before has the idea of having humans live on another planet with self-sustaining colonies seemed plausible, but within our lifetimes it may become reality. If this does indeed occur, we would have a whole new planet at our disposal for settlements and eventually farming. It’s hard to imagine a day when Earth is no longer our only home. To me, it is amazing to consider the endless opportunities that lie ahead for space travel, in a sort of “manifest destiny” to go and colonize the Solar System and beyond. Inevitably, that will be the path that humanity goes down. For all you know, by the end of your life you could be living on Mars.