Getting to Mars
Ever since Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed his plans to make humankind an interplanetary species by getting to Mars, the world’s attention has been taken over by this fascination for the Red Planet. SpaceX, however, wasn’t the first to have plans for a mission to Mars. In fact, there have been such plans since the 1950s.
More recently, the lineup of Mars missions being planned out by various government and private agencies include those of Mars One, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin, together with the European Space Agency’s (ESA) 2020 ExoMars 2 mission and NASA’s very own plan to send humans to the Red Planet by the 2030s. Still others include plans by China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
With all the attention Mars is getting, a concerned citizen, Sam, asked resident Science Guy Bill Nye: “Why are we trying to live on Mars and re-create Earth there by making an atmosphere and soil and water we can drink and such? Why can’t we take those ideas, that motivation and direct it at our own planet that we clearly need the help with? Why is it easier to start fresh on another planet than to get people talking about our own?”
The Science Guy Says
Bill Nye found the question interesting and relevant. He admitted that getting to Mars and making it habitable isn’t going to be easy: “People, first of all, just don’t grasp the scale of it. It’s a planet. It’s a whole planet,” he said. He also reminded viewers that water, food, and air are non-existent, which would pose many problems.
Nye explained that taking care of our own planet and getting to Mars aren’t two exclusive goals. He credits our desire to visit the red planet to humanity’s sense of exploration, which has pushed us forward over the past centuries. His goal is to establish a scientific research base on Mars, much like our bases in Antarctica.
More than that, however, is how getting to Mars would change our world, especially, “If there’s something alive on Mars, and we could prove it,” Nye said, “it would probably change the world.”
“It would be astounding if we found something still alive there,” he emphasized. “If we make this discovery of life, it would not have been done by an individual. It would be done by a society [which] invested its intellect and treasure in this quest.” He closed by saying that finding life “would affect the way each and everyone of us feels about what it means to be a living thing in the cosmos; what it means to have this place in space.” Finding life on Mars would certainly make the universe less lonely. Thanks, Bill!