Yuhao, forever. All that is on Earth

Yuhao, you’ve certainly raised a valid point: why do we continue to devote billions of dollars to explore a planet that is clearly uninhabitable? Mars’ frigid climate coupled with virulent dust storms…it’s a rather dangerous mission and a seemingly futile effort. NASA’s Director of Planetary Science Jim Green commented on the Pluto flyby, “We explore to survive” (Fecht, 2015). These very words echo the sentiment that exploration pushes us in entirely new directions to ensure a future for generations to come. Our Earth, as we know it, will not be habitable forever. All that is on Earth and whatever progress we have made is going to be at risk of extinction until we are able to sustain ourselves on another planet. As you mentioned, past discoveries showed that Mars has not always been a harsh, static environment and that there has been water discovered beneath the surface. Highlighting on Lesson 2.7 (How and Where Can We Look for Life?), astrobiologists “follow the water” and finding underground networks of water on Mars strongly suggest Mars could have once supported life, or at least might have created the conditions necessary for life to exist (NASA, 2007). If we did not continue to send probes to Mars, I believe we would not be fortunate enough to discover Mars’ past and its prospect of life. I’d like to support Natashia’s evidence that Mars shares several similarities with Earth, so there may be a possibility that one day we could inhabit Mars. Likewise, without undergoing missions to capture shots and find information about Mars’ size, structure, composition etc, we would not come to the idea that Mars is similar to Earth in some aspects. Because of this very potential, it has been a growing preoccupation among us to think about our destiny and where it will lie in the future (will it be on Mars?).Following up from Natashia’s points on if we were to ever live on Mars, I’d like to bring up another detail into the discussion. Before we can think about sending anyone there, it would be pertinent to note that Mars is completely devoid of a magnetosphere, which would cause anyone outside their protective shelter to be exposed to high levels of lethal UV radiation from GCR’s, or galactic cosmic rays (Redd, 2016). Humans would need a spacesuit whenever they go outside, and every moment spent out would add to their radiation exposure. MarsOne (2017), the non-profit organization dedicated to colonizing Mars in the future, stated that about every three days on Mars, habitants would acquire the equivalent of a year’s worth of radiation back on Earth. While underground structures could provide ample protection, it is not the least bit preferable as essentially, it would be like living in a mine. Director Jim Green discussed the possibility of deploying a magnetic shield on Mars’ atmosphere. This is supported by the scientific consensus that Mars actually once had a magnetic field that protected its atmosphere. Around 4 billion years ago, the field disappeared and was slowly being lost to space. As a result, Mars changed from its warm, wet environment to the cold, dry planet we know to be today. An artificial atmosphere surrounding the planet could shield it from radiation and counteract solar wind. Evidently, encompassing the whole planet seems far-fetched, so it was proposed that miniature magnetospheres could be implemented for the sake of protecting crews and spacecraft. It is predicted that with the magnetosphere, Mars’ atmosphere would thicken over time, which could potentially bring about an average increase of 4 degrees Celsius, enough to melt the ice beneath the surface (Dockrill, 2017). These conditions would trigger a greenhouse effect, further warming the atmosphere and allow more water to seep from the surface. Although our understanding of Mars and other exoplanets still remain in its infancy, there is much gain in trying to constantly expand our horizons and further enhance scientific knowledge. Small steps in the cosmos have actually become giant leaps for technology here on Earth. Keeping astronauts safe and healthy for extended periods of time while sustaining operations in space is an immense challenge. In order to minimize risk, we continuously innovate reliable cutting-edge technologies to advance toward our goal of exploration and subsequent colonization. Everyday technologies such as baby food, swimsuits, thermal blankets and MRI’s have made a significant impact to us and we can attribute it to space exploration (D’Angelo, 2016).. If we continue to invest, future generations will experience similarly positive impacts. Perhaps one day, we may understand habitable eco-worlds even better, then all the money, time and technology spent would be for a worthwhile pursuit.