Still waiting for humans on Mars

Still waiting for humans on Mars

By Rick Zucker and Chris Carberry

Getty Images

For over 50 years the United States has talked about sending humans to explore the planet Mars.  Landing humans on Mars has been an integral goal of U.S. space policy for many years, and the Red Planet has garnered more interest and enthusiasm from the general public than any other destination in space exploration. So why hasn’t humanity cut the gravitational umbilical cord holding us down on our home planet? Why haven’t we walked yet on Mars? What are we waiting for?

While there have been many reasons contributing to our inability to achieve what humanity has dreamed of accomplishing for centuries, inconsistent policy direction has been the primary reason we have not sent humans to Mars, or anywhere else for that matter beyond Low Earth Orbit since the last Apollo crew ascended from the surface of the Moon in 1972.  Policy makers and others have provided many so-called explanations over the years, such as “There is no mandate to go to Mars”, or “The time isn’t right”, or “It’s not technically feasible”, or “It’s too risky”, or “Robots can do it better”, or, “We need to fix our infrastructure first”.  But these are really just excuses, and none are truly valid.

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Is the Moon a necessary step on the path to Mars?

Mars Base Camp concept

Human missions to Mars, like this Lockheed Martin concept, should not depend on initial human missions to the lunar surface, which should be justified on their own merits. (credit: Lockheed Martin)

Is the Moon a necessary step on the path to Mars?

If members of the space exploration community were surveyed as to where humanity should go next if funding was not an issue, most, if not all, would probably say, “To both the Moon and Mars.” Unfortunately, budgetary and policy restrictions force tough choices and have made it difficult to proceed with both the “Moon and Mars” goals simultaneously.

As a result, advocates for both goals have tended to be at odds on whether the primary goal of the United States space program should be to send humans back to the Moon or on to Mars, and which destination should come first.

Do we actually need to land humans on the surface of the Moon before we go on to Mars?

Over the past few years, the concept of human missions to Mars has gained momentum as the primary goal of the US space program, not only in the executive and legislative branches of government but also among numerous commercial players as well as in the press and entertainment communities. In fact, humans-to-Mars has been the cornerstone of official US space policy for over a decade, as set forth in the NASA Authorization Acts of 2005, 2008, and 2010. Indeed, in the proposed NASA Authorization Act of 2015, passed by the House of Representatives, stated in Section 201(a), “It is the policy of the United States that the goal of the Administration’s exploration program shall be to successfully conduct a crewed mission to the surface of Mars to begin human exploration of that planet.”

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How We’ll Choose the First Mars Colonists

How We’ll Choose the First Mars Colonists

Go to the profile of Stephanie M. McPherson
Stephanie M. McPherson

Image credit: Bryan Versteeg, Mars One

In some ways the first Martian colonists will have it easier than the colonists of Earth’s history. Rather than a rag-tag group of religious outcasts, or refugees from war and famine, the first Mars residents will have undergone years of physical and psychological tests to determine the optimum group for the mission.

But that doesn’t mean it’ll be a walk in the park. The first colonists will face an intimidating task in establishing humankind’s first outpost on another planet. After a long voyage, they’ll have to deal with a hostile environment, limited supplies, and the pressure of knowing that everyone back home is counting on them.

Figuring out who’ll best be able to cope with the myriad challenges involved—both foreseen and unforeseen — is no easy task. To survive, these first colonists on Mars will have to get used to living in a confined environment with people of different backgrounds and ethnicities, much like the multicultural group orbiting the Earth on the International Space Station now. As such, a lot of the same selection principles that go into choosing astronauts today will apply.

Gender distribution of the 100 candidates in Mars One’s third colonist selection round.

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Rocket explosion will delay commercial space deliveries

Rocket explosion will delay commercial space deliveries
Brian Dowling Friday, September 02, 2016


BAD BLAST: A SpaceX rocket delivering a Facebook satellite exploded at a Cape Canaveral launch pad yesterday.

The dramatic explosion yesterday of a SpaceX rocket on a Cape Canaveral launch pad — with a 
$195 million Facebook satellite strapped to it — is expected to delay orbital deliveries in the red-hot commercial space industry, experts told the Herald.

“With this failure, they are going to take a few months to do an investigation and that is going to push everything back for a lot of customers who are relying on them,” said Bill Ostrove, a space industry analyst with Forecast 
International who expects the FAA to launch a review of the explosion.

Brian Dowling for Boston Herald

First NASA Landing Site/Exploration Zone Workshop for Human Missions to the Surface of Mars


Explore Mars proposes to land the first human mission in Copernicus Crater.

Although this crater has many of the requirements for a landing site to be considered (geologically interesting places and features like Olivine dunes and gullies that hint of water) the overriding reason to propose Copernicus is, that the first landing of Humans on Mars will be writing history. It will be a pivotal moment in human history., where humans will start to view themselves as a two-planet species. Knowing that the landing of humans on Mars will be talked about for centuries, even for millennia,  the choice for a spot with historic value, as the Copernicus Crater has, makes sense to all the billions that will talk about it for generations to come.

Who was Nicolaus Copernicus?  In 1543 Copernicus created another pivotal moment in human history by publishing his book on The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. In this book he proves with meticulous mathematical calculations that Earth (and thus humans) are NOT the center of the Universe. This knowledge of not being the center of the universe  shook up humanity and how it viewed itself in general and started a science renaissance.

By landing in Copernicus Crater we humans show that we understand that Copernicus started the process by which we now find ourselves on Mars.

Explore Mars will present its presentation ‘Writing History’ on Thursday 29 October 2015, 4:05 pm.

Click Here to Watch the Streaming Broadcast of the Workshop