Should We Go to Mars or Back to the Moon? Choosing the Next Target for Human Exploration
When humans finally blast off for another world, where will we be going? Will we return to the Moon, and take over where the Apollo astronauts left off, or will we press onto Mars, and set foot on a whole new planet?
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Team: Fraser Cain – @fcain
Jason Harmer – @jasoncharmer
Susie Murph – @susiemmurph
Brian Koberlein – @briankoberlein
Chad Weber – [email protected]
Kevin Gill – @kevinmgill
Created by: Fraser Cain and Jason Harmer
Edited by: Chad Weber
Music: Left Spine Down – “X-Ray”
Humanity is going to need to make a difficult choice in the next few years. One that will have implications for the very future of space exploration: classic Star Wars or the new Trilogy? Star Trek fans feel your pain.
But also, we’ll need to figure out whether we should push on with the human exploration of Mars, so that Mark Watney can fulfill his potato destiny, or return to the Moon and build Moonbase Alpha. It’s surprisingly difficult to choose.
First, the case for the Moon. Obviously, the Moon is close. It’s just a few hundred thousand kilometers away, and it only takes astronauts a few days to get there, land on the surface and continue our scientific exploration of this world – which we still know very little about.
Why is the far side so different from the near side? Are there lava tubes and even vast underground caverns that future colonists could live in? It would be great to get more geologist boots on the regolith to find out.
Although it’s expensive, going to the Moon could eventually pay for itself. There are vast reserves of Helium-3 just sitting on the surface of the Moon. This material is rare on Earth, and could be used for future fusion energy planets. Not to mention other valuable minerals and elements that might just be lying around, ready for collection and used for space-based manufacturing.
The Moon makes sense as a testing ground, for humanity to perfect the techniques of surviving and thriving off planet Earth. If we can make it there, then we stand a chance of going the distance as a true interplanetary species.
The big problem with the Moon is that it’s completely inhospitable to human life. There’s no atmosphere, no protection from the Sun’s radiation, enormous temperature variations and a gravity so low it could be lethal over the long term.
The lunar regolith is like tiny shards of glass that would get everywhere, into everything, and be a constant danger to anyone living on the Moon.You couldn’t imagine a worse place to live.
The Moon is close but it sucks, what about Mars? Mars is much much farther than the Moon; the average distance to Mars is about 225 million kilometers.
This means that a journey to Mars with even a short visit to the surface will take the better part of 2 years. Astronauts will be beyond any kind of rescue and completely reliant on their spacecraft and supplies for that entire journey.
During their voyage, they’ll be bombarded with radiation from the Sun and there’ll be no protection on the surface on the planet either, because Mars doesn’t have a global magnetosphere like Earth.
So now it’s time for you to decide. The fate of humanity rests on your shoulders. Should we press on to Mars, or focus our energy on the Moon or even Venus? Give us your suggestions in the comments below.
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