By Jim Plaxco
The following article, originally titled "Making Mars Relevant," is taken from the March 1992 issue of Spacewatch and is based on a presentation given by the author at the 1992 Mid-Continent Space Development Conference and the 1992 Midwest Space Development Conference.
There are two ways for us to get to Mars. The first way is to reduce mission costs to such a degree that private enterprises could afford to undertake them. This is a job for the engineers. The second way is to increase the perceived value or economic return of missions to Mars making higher mission costs more acceptable. This is a job for the space activist community.
To most people, Mars is a distant cold planet with no bearing on our daily lives. This perception of Mars' worthlessness means that as long as mission costs remain high, funding for such missions is unlikely. To quote Seamans and Ordway, "Support for large-scale scientific and technical endeavors must involve a preponderance of the public. U.S. citizens must view the effort as worthy of their tax dollars if support is to last for extended periods." (1) In the same vein, Hans Mark and Harlan Smith write that "compelling scientific, technical, and cultural reasons to justify the initiative [SEI] must be set forth to keep it rolling past the term of the incumbent president." (2)
National opinion polls indicate a lack of real societal support for costly space exploration programs. A 1989 national Opinion Research Survey found that only 16 out of 100 people felt that funding for space programs should be increased. The results of a 1989 Gallup Opinion Poll to determine the public's perception of the value of the space program in general are contained in Table 1. The goal of another Gallup poll was to find out how important the public thought it was that the U.S. be first to send a man to Mars. The results of this poll are contained in Table 2. These polls do not include the opinions of today's children who will be tommorrow's voters and policy makers, as well as ,hopefully, space activists. However, the results of an International Assessment of Education Progress Survey contained in Table 3 are not promising. We can only hope that our kids are "faking it" on these tests in order to lure other nations into a false sense of complacency.
Table 1: 1989 Gallup Organization opinion poll.
QUESTION: On the whole, do you feel our investment in space
research is worthwhile, or do you think it would be better
spent on domestic programs such as health care and education?
Worth Spent No
while Better opinion
NATIONAL 43.0 52.0 5.0
SEX Male 51.0 43.0 6.0
Female 35.0 59.0 6.0
AGE 18-29 years 43.0 55.0 2.0
30-49 years 50.0 45.0 5.0
50 and older 35.0 57.0 8.0
EDUCATION College Grad. 58.0 39.0 3.0
College Inc. 51.0 43.0 6.0
High School Grad 38.0 56.0 6.0
Not H.S. Grad. 26.0 66.0 8.0
INCOME $50,000 + 63.0 33.0 4.0
$30,000-$49,999 46.0 48.0 6.0
$20,000-$29,999 43.0 52.0 5.0
Under $20,000 28.0 66.0 6.0
Table 2: 1989 Gallup Organization opinion poll
QUESTION: How important do you think it is for the U.S. to be the first
country to land a person on Mars? Would you say this is very important,
somewhat important, not too important, or not important at all?
Very Somewhat Not too Not at all No
Important Important Important Important Opinion
NATIONAL 19.0 32.0 25.0 23.0 1.0
SEX Male 19.0 31.0 26.0 23.0 1.0
Female 18.0 32.0 25.0 23.0 2.0
AGE 18-29 years 18.0 39.0 23.0 20.0 0.0
30-49 years 16.0 32.0 28.0 24.0 0.0
50 and older 22.0 27.0 25.0 24.0 2.0
EDUC. College Grad 14.0 35.0 28.0 22.0 1.0
College Inc. 19.0 30.0 33.0 17.0 1.0
H. S. Grad 18.0 35.0 23.0 24.0 0.0
Not H.S. Grad 26.0 23.0 21.0 27.0 3.0
INCOME 50,000 + 16.0 35.0 29.0 20.0 0.0
30,000-49,999 10.0 38.0 29.0 22.0 1.0
20,000-29,999 23.0 32.0 22.0 22.0 1.0
Under 20,000 22.0 26.0 24.0 26.0 2.0
Table 3: International Assessment of Educational Progress Survey,
Educational Testing Service. NOTE: Germany and Japan did not participate
in this survey.
9 YEAR OLDS 13 YEAR OLDS
SCIENCE 4th of 14 14th of 19
MATH 12th of 14 15th of 20
HOMEWORK 8th of 14 16th of 20
The political environment also seems to mirror this viewpoint of the
noncriticalness of space exploration. The relative unimportance of space
exploration is made quite clear by President Bush's comments on the
subject in his State of the Union Address of 01/28/92. President Bush
stated " ". The Democratic reply, delivered by Thomas Foley was equally
eloquent, " ". In the first two Democratic Presidential debates, not
one comment was made about space exploration. This evidence should make
it quite clear that as long as manned Mars mission costs remain on the
order of tens to hundreds of billions of dollars, the current political
environment and public perceptions, as identified in the opinion polls,
will prevent us from reaching our neighbor.
The members of the space activists community can play an important role
in combating public and political indifference. We can do this by
disseminating as much information about the benefits of space
exploration as possible. The remainder of this article is devoted to
putting forth a variety of reasons why the exploration of Mars is
important. It is not comprehensive. It is meant to serve as a starting
point from which the reader can proceed to pursue his or her own ideas
as to why manned missions to Mars are important.
Broadly speaking, benefits that can be derived from an extensive program
of both manned and unmanned exploration of Mars fall into several
categories. These categories are:
- PLANETARY SCIENCE
- LIFE SCIENCE
- RESOURCE UTILIZATION
Linking each of these categories together, and providing immediate
benefits to us, are the Spinoffs. The idea of using spinoffs to justify
space exploration is a question open to debate in the space activist
community. However, the general technological advancement that has
occurred as a result of prior space endeavours is indisputable.
Spinoffs are a powerful by-product of our investment in space that
cannot and should not be ignored. In taking the steps necessary to send
men to other worlds, we are creating new worlds. The technologies
needed for these new worlds include artificial intelligence, energy
production and management, environmental control systems, food
production, manufacturing techniques, mining processes, robotics and the
means of integrating these various technologies together. Additionally,
invaluable and novel data is generated by the study of the human, animal
and plant physiologies in non-earth environments. In this vein, space
exploration has not been the only source of spinoffs. When Charles
Darwin took the position as naturalist aboard the Beagle, he was exposed
to varieties of plant and animal life not found in his native England.
The spinoff of his around the world voyage was his theory of evolution.
Planets also undergo evolution. Other than spinoffs, probably the most
immediate benefits of Mars missions will be in the arena of Planetary
Science and Comparative Planetology. The basic question we want to
answer is why is the Earth such a nice place to live, and will it always
be so nice. Falling into this category are planetary evolution,
planetary atmospheres, planetary hydrology, planetary geophysics, and
climate change. A report issued by the National Academy of Sciences in
1978 stated that "the triad of terrestrial planets, Earth, Mars, and
Venus, should receive the major focus in exploration... The ultimate
goal in their exploration is to understand the present state and
evolution of terrestrial planets with atmospheres. The comparative
planetology of these bodies is a key to the understanding of the
formation of the Earth, its atmosphere and oceans, and the physical and
chemical conditions that led to the origin and evolution of life."(3) By
studying surface morphology, chemical makeup, lithology, the
distribution of surface materials, and the interior structure of Mars,
we may begin to understand how our two planets turned out so
differently. Permanently staffed laboratories on Mars would be able to
carry out extensive analysis of Martian surface samples and environment.
The idea of man as an important component of Martian studies is supported
by a recent OTA report which states that "Experts in field research
methods believe that... human explorers are likely to be most effective
in carrying out geological field studies... or searching for signs of
indigenous existing or fossil life on Mars."(4) Previous study of other
worlds has had a bearing on our understanding of volcanoes, earthquakes,
A special bonus associated with Mars are its two moons Phobos and
Deimos, which are generally accepted to be captured asteroids of the
carbonaceous chondrite variety. Asteroids are important because they
are very primitive objects. Determining the composition of asteroids
will provide important information when it comes to evaluating models of
how the solar system formed since they contain a record of the relative
quantities of the various elements present at their time of formation.
Manned missions to Mars give us our best opportunity to study these
"dinosaurs" of the solar system up close.
Phobos and Deimos are also excellent sites for the study of impact
processes. Exactly how craters come to look like craters is still a
subject of some debate. Some feel that crater morphology depends on the
body's surface gravity while others place more importance on material
strength and the impact velocity. Studying the craters on Phobos and
Deimos can help to settle the issue. The study of Phobos and Deimos
will tell us about the structural strength of asteroids. We will also,
for the first time, be able to study first-hand craters created in a
very low gravity environment. A better understanding of these processes
will aid in our understanding of Mars which will aid in our
understanding of Earth.
Within the arena of planetary science, we begin with planetary evolution.
Planetary evolution is concerned with the birth of planets from the
solar nebulae and their development to their present state. One
interesting aspect of this evolution is the Goldilocks paradox. The
Goldilocks paradox is that Venus, Earth and Mars all formed at the same
time from essentially the same materials in the solar nebulae, but Venus
became a furnace, Mars an icebox, and Earth turned out just right. At
this time there is not enough evidence or data available to give a
definitive answer to the question of why this happened. The obvious
answer is that Mars is to small and to far from the Sun, and Venus is
just to close to the Sun, but we can't be sure. It is theorized that
Mars may have lost a significant portion of its atmosphere during the
impact of the object that created the Argyre Planitia but we won't know
for certain until on-site studies are carried out. Sampling the surface
to catagorize the amounts of volatile compounds could help determine
whether or not the Martian climate did undergo massive change. It can
also provide valuable data about the early solar system since the
average age of the surface of the Earth is only 250 million years old
but the average age of the Martian surface is estimated to be on the
order of 2 to 3 billion years old.
The surface morphology of Mars will also be studied to better understand
the extent and intensity of the period of early bombardment that
occurred some 4 billion years ago.
Man's activities are right now effecting the course of planetary
evolution on the Earth. Man can also can affect planetary evolution on
Mars through terraforming. In a recent interview with the Wall Street
Journal, Robert Haynes, former president of the International Congress
of Genetics stated his desire to see NASA concentrate on the
terraforming of Mars in order to spur discoveries in environmental and
planetary science. That we may one day be able to turn Mars into a
semi-hospitable home for life is the second most important benefit of
making the move to Mars. The most important benefit is that Mars may
provide us with information that may be vital to the saving of our own
Through his activities, technological man has made great strides in
altering the Earth's environment, especially its atmosphere. In an
article in the January/February issue of the Planetary Reporter, Carl
Sagan stated "Other planets provide important insights about
what dumb things not to do to Earth." By studying how
planets atmospheres are similar and different, scientists can gain a
better understanding of how accurate their models of Earth's atmosphere
are. Probably the three most important discoveries to come out of the
study of planetary atmospheres are knowledge of ozone depletion, the
greenhouse effect and nuclear winter.
In 1974, Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina of the University of
California, Irvine were studying the chemistry of the Venusian
atmosphere, especially the effect of chlorine and halogens. They
discovered that chlorine acts as a catalyst in the destruction of atomic
oxygen and ozone. Their studies led them to the discovery that manmade
chlorofluorocarbons would act to destroy the ozone in our stratosphere.
It is the stratospheric ozone that absorbs incoming solar ultraviolet
radiation. The effects of this radiation are most clearly demonstrated
on the surface of Mars. Planetary scientists were quite suprised by
Viking's failure to identify any organic materials in the Martian
surface soil. It was later determined that the actions of solar UV
radiation would have acted as an agent in the breakdown of any exposed
Hydrogen and hydroxyl radicals, which are formed by the photochemical
destruction of water, can also act to destroy the ozone catalytically.
Models and theories of how this would happen in the Earth's atmosphere
were tested by studying the latitudinal distribution of ozone on Mars.
In the Earth's atmosphere, such studies are complicated by the presence
of nitrogen and chlorine.
The greenhouse effect is the process by which certain gases in the
atmosphere, known as greenhouse gases, cause the surface temperature of
a planet to be warmer than it would otherwise be. Greenhouse gases are
those that absorb infrared radiation. The primary greenhouse gas is CO2.
Approximately half of Venus' surface temperature of 900 C is due to the
CO2 in its atmosphere. Mars also experiences a greenhouse effect due to
the CO2 component of its atmosphere.
While the prospects of a major nuclear war appear to have greatly
diminished, the possibility of a nuclear exchange still exists. One
unexpected and unwelcome side effect of a nuclear war is what has been
termed the "nuclear winter". It is theorized that, due to the large
amounts of particulate matter injected into the atmosphere by nuclear
explosions, surface temperatures would drop dramatically. This knowledge
came from studies of Mariner 9's infrared spectrometer readings of the
Martian atmosphere during a global dust storm on that planet. The data
indicated that while the atmosphere heated up, surface temperatures
dropped. Atmospheric models based on this data were applied to Earth,
and the nuclear winter effect was uncovered. Also, the proposition that
high altitude smoke could spread quickly around the world was first
demonstrated by using models of the dynamics of the Martian atmosphere.
The data used in the analysis of nuclear winter may also have another
application. Polar heating that was observed during the global dust
storm bears a strong resembelence to sudden stratospheric events here on
Earth. Further data and modelling may provide insights into the energy
transport mechanisms involved in these terrestrial events.
The models comparing different atmospheres work quite well because they
represent different examples of the same phenomena. One method of
identifying the source of our atmosphere is to study the ratios of the
abundances of noble gases. These are gases that are chemically inert in
the atmosphere and include helium, neon, argon, krypton and xenon.
Measurments of these ratios for Venus, Earth and Mars point to planetary
outgassing as the source for each atmosphere, rather than coming
directly from the solar nebulae. In the same manner, measurements of
the relative isotopic abundance of N14 and N15 in the Martian
atmosphere indicate that the atmospheric air pressure on Mars 2 to 3
billion years ago was much higher than today. Other data provides
evidence that Mars may well have outgassed enough CO2 to generate a
surface atmospheric pressure of from 1 to 3 bars, with 1 bar being
Earth's sea level air pressure. By comparing the history of our two
atmospheres, we may be able to determine how the Earth was able to keep
a warm atmosphere 3-4 billion years ago when solar output was some 30%
less than it is today.
As important as life's effects on the Earth's atmosphere are the effects
of the Sun. The Sun is the major driver of weather systems. However, it
is difficult to separate solar effects from the effects caused by
Earth's rotation, axial tilt, air pressure, internal heating,
magnetosphere and surface boundary (the surface/atmosphere interaction)
conditions. Modelling is also complicated by the presence of water in
the atmosphere. On Mars, we can study these thermal effects that may
play important roles here on Earth, but which we can't observe. Some of
these thermal effects may be exaggerated on Mars because of its thin
Solar thermal tides and slope winds are two phenomena that occur on Mars
and that should be studied in detail. Thermal tides are caused by the
interaction of the solar diurnal thermal tide and the surface topology.
These tides are important as sources of energy for major wind systems on
Mars. These same systems are present on the Earth, but the energy
associated with them remains a question mark and is a major factor in
our current inability to determine the total energy budget of the
Slope winds are a result of daily temperature variations over a widely
sloping surface. An example is cool air rushing downhill in the evening
as the temperature drops. Studies of the Martian slope winds, which are
more pronounced than their Earth counterparts, have been used as
comparisons with Earth valley wind models, which are used in the study
of air pollution.
The presence of a planetary magnetic field results in the presence of a
magnetosphere. Earth has one and, it appears, Mars does not. The
presence of a magnetosphere impacts a planet's atmosphere by shielding
it from the solar wind, with the degree of effect being determined by
field strength and planetary rotation rate. On Mars, we have the
opportunity to study how the solar wind interacts with the atmosphere in
the presumed absence of a magnetosphere.
Another question to be answered is what is the ultimate fate of our
atmosphere? Gases can escape from an atmosphere by either thermal or
non-thermal processes. For Earth's atmosphere, both are important but
really can't be analyzed separately. On Mars, with its lower gravity,
the thermal escape of gases predominates allowing this mechanism to be
studied in greater detail.
Exactly why is Earth such a water rich planet? Current theories of how
planets come to posess water say that Venus may once have had as much
water as the Earth. Measurements of the deuterium to hydrogen isotopic
ratios support this assumption. Measurements of this same ratio on Mars
also suggest that the planet was once wet, which would require a denser,
warmer atmosphere. Estimates for the total amount of water outgassed by
Mars vary greatly. The amount of water could have been enough to create
a global ocean anywhere between 50 and 1,000 meters deep. Today, the
Martian atmosphere holds as much as 250 billion gallons of water vapor
and substanial amounts are locked up as ice at the north pole, but where
is the rest of it? Was it ever there? Channels were discovered on Mars
by Mariner 9. We would normally associate channels with water processes
but because of the "dryness" of the Martian climate
today, many vehicles to explain their presence have been proposed.
These have included wind,
lava, glaciers and mud flows. No definitive answer will be available
until we actually visit and sample these sites.
The presence of carbonates could act as a confirmation of the previous
existence of liquid water on Mars. On Earth, liquid water supports the
formation of carbonate ions which will react with calcium and magnesium
ions. This combination precipitates out as carbonate rocks. The result
is that most of the Earth's allotment of carbon is bound up in carbonate
rocks. Today, the percentage of CO2 in the Martian atmosphere is less
than that of Venus and more than that of Earth. This would support other
evidence for the previous existence of liquid water on Mars. Recent
studies at the University of Hawaii using near-infrared spectroscopy
have failed to find evidence of carbonates. However, they have found
evidence of clays, which would be created from the presence of liquid
We can't say what the role of water was on Mars until we actually carry
out extensive on-site studies. Water's role as a source of water vapor,
which is a greenhouse gas, means that definitive answers to questions
about the history of the Martian atmosphere and climate will also have
to wait for answers to the questions of the role of water on Mars.
Geophysics deals with a planet's insides, its seismology, heat flow,
magnetic field and gravity field. Of particular interest to us are the
processes governing seismology and magnetic fields. Comparative
seismology can lead to a better understanding and improved
predictability of earthquakes.
Most important are those processes invloved with the production of a
planetary magnetic field, without which life might not exist on Earth.
Through history, Earth's magnetic field has both wandered, varied in
strength, and undergone pole reversal. It is suspected that there may
be connections between these changes in our magnetic field and climate
changes. There appears to be a correlation between polarity changes and
pole wanderings and the onset of global cooling, and the extinction of
some lower life forms. One example of this is the Gothenburg excursion
which occurred 13,500 years ago. In an era of rising temperatures,
rising sea levels, and retreating glaciers, our magnetic field suddenly
reversed ploarity. This flip-flop was followed by a thousand year period
of advancing glaciers and dropping temperatures.
Mars may once have had a magnetic field but, because of its small size,
the molten iron core would have cooled and solidified, and the magnetic
field would have been lost. This event may well have caused Mars to go
"cold". Data may be uncovered on Mars that could answer the question of
the role of magnetic fields on global cooling.
At this point, we do not know whether or not Mars ever did have a
magnetic field. The existence of a magnetic field today has not been
ruled out. If there is one on Mars, it must be very weak because it has
not yet been detected. And what if we discover that Mars never had a
magnetic field? How will this impact our current theories of our own
Climate changes are brought on by one of two processes: endogenic
and/or exogenic. Endogenic mechanisms are those factors originating in
the planet itself. An example of an endogenic change is the China-Tibet
plateau, with the Himalaya mountains standing as testimony to the
violent forces that have made our planet what it is today. This whole
range was created when India rammed into the Euroasian plate. The
creation of this mountainous area resulted in drastic changes to the
climate of our planet, as well as probably causing an increase in the
saltiness of the Atlantic Ocean. Exogenic factors are those brought
about by external factors. The most important exogenic factor is the
amount of solar radiation received by the planet.
The idea that external factors may affect climatic change and how
pronounced those effects may be are still being debated. One theory of
external change is the Milankovitch cycles. Proposed some 50 years by
Milutin Milankovitch, it explains variations in the Earth's climate by
the changes in the characteristics of the Earth's orbit and axial tilt.
Specifically, Earth's spin axis precesses (wobbles) with a cycle of
25,800 years; the eccentricity (shape) of the Earth's orbit varies on a
100,000 cycle; the obliquity (axial tilt) changes by 4 degrees on a
41,000 year cycle. These variations cause the amount and distribution of
solar radiation received by the Earth to change. However, because of the
complicated nature of Earth's environment, the degree to which these
changes affect our climate are still being debated.
Mars has greater changes of orbit and tilt than Earth, so the effects of
the Milankovitch cycle will be more pronounced. In fact, the
Milankovitch cycles could be responsible for the presence of the
laminated terrain at the Martian pole, but we won't know until we
actually visit the site and take samples. The history of climatic
change on Mars may best be studied by analyzing this laminated terrain
at the north pole. The fact that the Martian atmosphere is much easier
to model than the Earth's means that once we do begin to seriously
collect data on the history of the Martian climate, we can begin to
answer questions about the fate of our own climate.
Current weather changes on Mars can be produced when there are changes
in atmospheric composition and mass, or dust storms. Observations of
these changes and their effects can provide a test to theories and
atmospheric models developed to account for changes in Earth weather.
Earth's ice ages are also examples of climatic change. Will they return?
We don't know, but Mars may be able to help answer the question. As was
previously mentioned, continental movement on the Earth can drastically
alter weather patterns. It has been theorized that the actions of plate
tectonics may have contributed to the presence of ice ages. With only
one tectonic plate, Martian climatic history would be more stable than
the Earth's, making for better modelling. To quote planetary scientist
Bruce Cordell, "Earth's climate record is becoming reasonably well
known, but the complexity of our climate precludes accurate computer
simulations. Conversely, Mars is a simpler system, but we suffer from a
dearth of data for the red planet."(5)
Unicellular life developed on Earth approximately 3.5 billion years ago.
There is still dispute as to just how life did form. Which came first,
proteins or genes? Another theory, the Cairns-Smith theory, states that
organic life ascended from "clays". Based on evidence collected to date,
it would seem that Mars was quite similar to Earth at the time life
developed here. Because Mars has not been nearly as geologically active
as has the Earth, it is possible that evidence of ancient life may still
exist. The best places to look for this evidence would be in the
sediments that formed in the distant past.
A report issued by the National Academy of Sciences in 1977 stated that
"The discovery and characterization of present or prior life on Mars
would, in the opinion of many, constitute a scientific finding of
unparalleled significance to biology, and it would constitute a finding
of major importance to planetology."(6) Models have shown that near the
equator on a summer day, the top foot of Martian soil gets warm enough
that, given the presence of water soluable salts, liquid water could
exist for extended periods of time. Could life be hardy enough to exist
in this environment? Even the absence of evidence of life ever having
existed on Mars would be significant in helping to establish the
parameters under which life forms can develop.
In addition to searching for native Martian life, we will be examining
ourselves and the life forms that we import to Mars. The long-term
study of Earth-life in the Martian environment can yield important data
about the effects of living in reduced gravity and in the absence of an
Earth-normal planetary magnetic field.
According to John Logsdon, "If the vision of permanent human expansion
into space is ever to be realized, the ability to use the resources of
other planets must be developed."(7) Being the most Earth-like of the
planets, Mars holds all the basic elements necessary for the creation of
selfsufficient colonies. The most important of these resources are
carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Mars also has quantities of
sulfates, chlorides, and minerals that contain iron, titanium, aluminum,
magnesium and silicon, all extremely useful materials.
Examples of these resources and their uses are:
- Argon, 1.6% of the atmosphere, is a potential fuel for solar electric propulsion.
- CO2, 95% of the atmosphere, can be reacted with hydrogen to produce methane. It can also be reduced to produce carbon monoxide (CO) and oxygen. The carbon monoxide can be used to produce methanol(CH3OH) and other organic compounds.
- Hydrogen can be obtained by the electrolysis of water and is important for its use as a fuel.
- Nitrogen, 2.7% of the atmosphere, is an important buffer gas for breathing air. It can also be reacted with hydrogen to produce ammonia for fertilizer.
- Silicon, extracted from the soil, can be used in the production of solar cells.
The presence of Phobos and Deimos, which are most likely carbonaceous
chondrite asteroids, is an added bonus. As a group, asteroids are
important sources of the elements and minerals needed to support a
spacefaring civilization. During the 1960's, approximately 50 percent
of the world's supply of nickel came from the site of a prehistoric
iron-nickel asteroid impact in Ontario, Canada known as the Sudbury
astrobleme. Asteroids, especially the iron-nickel type, are thought to
be richer in platinum group metals than the best ores on Earth.
Platinum metals include platinum, palladium, osmium, iridium, ruthenium
and rhodium (important in pollution control technology.) Approximately
95% of the Earth's platinum group metals come from South Africa and the
former Soviet Union. However, carbonaceous chondrite asteroids are more
of a storehouses for volatiles. Some estimates have placed the amount
of water contained in Phobos and Deimos as high as 1012 metric tons.
Noncritical materials and the tailings from asteroidal mining operations
may be used as sources of shielding mass.
Early studies of Phobos and Deimos will be particularly important as
testbeds for the development of the techniques needed to mine
asteroids. When working on asteroids, it will also be important to
learn how to minimize and deal with dust generated as a result of
activity on their surface. Apollo astronauts kicked up a fair amount of
dust in their excursions on the Moon. On an asteroid, this dust would
remain suspended above the "ground" for long periods of time because of
the very weak gravity field.
The resources of Mars, Phobos and Deimos can be used initially to
support Martian operations. with the goal of selfsufficiency. Once
developed, these same resources can be used to support operations in
near-Earth space, on the Moon, and in the asteroid belt. In the long
term, these materials may play a key role in interplanetary trade.
Cultural reasons for the exploration and settlement of Mars are the most
difficult to quantify and, possibly, justify. It can't be denied that
the exploration of space, and the by-products of that exploration, have
affected our culture. How often have you heard "If we can put a man on
the Moon, why can't we....?" Whether or not these effects have been
worth the investment that produced them is really a matter of personal
outlook. A wide range of arguments have been presented supporting man's
need to explore, and how this exploration has enriched the culture that
sponsored it. They range from being pride in one's country for its
achievements to a positive outlook for the future. In a NASA symposium
on exploration, Norman Cousins stated about Viking that "We went to Mars
not because of our technology, but because of our imagination."(8)
Perhaps the most compelling cultural reason for building a spacefaring
civilization is that it holds with it the promise of a wealthy,
unbounded future. Compare this with the future portrayed by many
environmentalists. Their position that we are Earth-bound and that
future generations will have to lead more resource-frugal lives is
negativist in outlook.
The reasons for the manned exploration and eventual settlement of Mars are many and varied. I have not covered all the possible reasons for going to Mars, like very long baseline interferometry. I have also not devoted enough coverage to other reasons for going. The thrust of this article has been to give the reader a starting point from which to work. Individually, each of the reasons presented for going to Mars is like a thread, not very strong when projected costs are considered. Taken together however, this family of threads builds a rope strong enough to support the weight of manned missions to Mars. In closing, I would like to quote former Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh who, in the 1960's, asked "What will it profit this country if we... put our man on the Moon by 1970 and at the same time you can't walk down Woodward Avenue in this city without fear of some violence?" It is the responsibility of the space activist community to answer this question for the Jerome Cavanagh's of the world.
(1) R. Seamans and F. Ordway ,"The Apollo Tradition" from Interdisciplinary Science Review 1977.
(2) H. Mark and H. Smith, "Fast Track to Mars", Aerospace America, August 1991.
(3) Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration of the National Academy of Sciences, 1978.
(4) Exploring the Moon and Mars Choices for the Nation July, 1991: Office of Technology Assessment.
(5) Bruce Cordell, "Mars, Earth, and Ice", Sky and Telescope, July 1986.
(6) National Academy of Sciences, 1977 "Post-Viking Biological Investigations of Mars".
(7) John Logsdon, "Resist The Pull OF Mars, Air and Space May 88.
(8) Norman Cousins, "Why man Explores" symposium, 1976.
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