Why We Shouldn't Jump to Colonize Mars

Throughout my childhood I’ve absorbed hours of space-related media. From movies to books to rendered graphics on Instagram, it is hard to not gush at the novelty of sleek, futuristic tech. After Boomers had their thrill with the space race to conquer the moon, Gen X is eager for their share of the glory, hoping to colonize Mars, our nearest neighboring planet. Although I still understand the idea of exploring Mars as doing so may have great scientific discovery potential, I struggle to warrant dumping globs of money into settling there. With the project presenting great physical danger for little return and having little practical reasoning to support, it is hard to justify the diversion of resources away from more pressing issues on Earth.

Leading reasons for colonizing Mars are looking at it as a source of raw material or using it as a backup planet in case of a catastrophic event. Neither option is reasonable. Mars is far from the most convenient source of raw materials and is very expensive to reach. Even if we were to need to resort to extraterrestrial sources for resources, comets and asteroids provide ample supplies and are far easier and less costly to get. Furthermore, Mars cannot sustain human life without a lot of extra help. The planet is, quite bluntly put, a red dust cloud with an air composition of 95% CO2 and almost triple the amount of radiation exposure than on Earth, threatening the health of future Mars children. Humans die after exposure to 15% carbon dioxide in the air. Building off of that, the air is 0.1% oxygen (compared to Earth’s 21%) and the only other source of the life sustaining gas must be mined from the ground in the form of water.

On top of this, there’s our home planet’s health to consider. As Earth struggles with the battle against rescuing Earth from environmental concerns, rocket launches contribute to higher carbon emissions and worsening health of the ozone layer. Though both the government and private companies are working to combat the issue, perhaps we should direct more resources to this far more time-sensitive issue. Given that NASA has requested an additional 25.2 billion dollars to fund developing technology needed for Mars colonization while the US budget for energy and environment totaled 23.8 billion dollars in 2019, shouldn’t we focus our efforts firstly on Earth before testing new frontiers? 

With the practical, scientific, and moral implications in mind, the excitement of settling into a new place, such as Mars, should not be expressed so whimsically. While the discovery may be greatly anticipated, we should be wearily of disregarding the should-we-do-this question in favor of the can-we-do-this mentality.

Just a little against-the-grain editorial exercise. Would you want to go to Mars?

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Some Sciency Ponderings
Some Sciency Ponderings

Hi! I'm a science enthusiast hoping to spread some entertaining content to this community! Hope you enjoy!

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