Manned Mission To Mars Essay, Research Paper
For hundreds of years the Red Planet, Mars, has fascinated people. Today it appears as if we re on the brink of exploring, or rather learning to explore, this great mystery. However, though the desire to explore Mars exists, an actual mission will take more than just will and reasons; it will require new technology, time, manpower and money.
There are many reasons people, specifically scientists, want to explore Mars. On top of natural curiosity, there are other themes that fuel Mars exploration. Discovering the planetary evolution of Mars is one main theme, that may also help us to understand Earth s evolution as well (Bender 3). Also, a future theme would be the colonization of Mars, which, as of now, is view as nothing more than a far-fetched idea. The question of whether or not life ever existed on Mars would most likely be answered if there were to be a manned mission and documented findings; right now, the speculation can only be viewed as just that: speculation.
Though we have many reasons to send a mission to Mars, we have yet to decide if the potential knowledge we would gain is worth the risks. The main problems that have kept Mar s exploration grounded thus far are cost and fear. Although money plays a pivotal role in society today, it definitely plays the main role in Space Exploration (Caiden 10). There are many projections for the cost of a manned Mars mission; NASA estimated that the price, spread out over a decade, would be about $50 billion dollars, while the Mars Society projects that it would cost about $20 billion to prepare and an additional $2 billion for each actual mission. Whatever the differences in the projections,
they all agree the cost will certainly amount to more that twice as much as the moon program between 1962-1972 but only a fraction of the 1989 $450 billion Mars mission proposal ( Office of and Founding Declaration ). Even if people knew the exact figures a venture like this would cost, there would still be the question of who would pay and to what extent. To offset costs, it s thought that a manned mission would be combined into a world mission; financially joined by the U.S., Russia, and the European Space Agency (ESA), although, other countries may contribute as well (Anzovin 66).
If people would work together and get past the cost there would still be another barrier, only this one is more psychological in nature. Humans are inherently afraid of the unknown and don t like to take risks; If you spend a lot of money and send this big piece of hardware to Mars and something goes wrong, then you re in a dilemma, Cookie states (Bernard 22).
If we can handle the cost and get over our fears, the next step is choosing a mission plan for Mars. There are two main plans being focused upon as of now; both have their supporters and their critics. The first is called Mars Direct , this involves the ERV (Earth Return Vehicle) being launched directly from the surface of Earth to the surface of Mars with no stops between, the shuttle carrying the crew also follows this route. For this plan we need the following: very powerful rockets, great timing, lots of fuel, and better communication ( Office of ). The second plan is called Mars Semi-Direct”, this plan is similar to the other except that the ERV and the shuttle are launched from an orbit around Earth to an orbit around Mars, then are sent to the surface; this plan may be a bit more expensive but doesn t take as much power and fuel, it also would most
likely allow for a larger crew onboard the shuttle ( Founding Declaration ). Both plans allow for a 1.5-year crew stay on Mars surface, also the ERV is sent before hand in both instances to generate power and resources from Mars surface for the return home.
After we pick a plan to follow, people must do much preliminary planning. New technology must be made; we cannot have a manned mission with our current technology (Zubrin, Robert). We must first learn how to counter the effects of long-term weightlessness and radiation exposure that our astronauts will have to deal with if they make the trek and we also need to acquire new and better rockets; as of now, our most powerful rocket is a Saturn 5 but, scientists speculate, that it will not have enough thrust to do the job (Madden 382). The Mars Society has already begun laying groundwork for developing a habitat that might serve as living quarters on Mars; right now it s being test in the arctic (MSFARS). On top of new technology, people need to outline certain mission goals; if we have a manned mission, astronauts must have time to perform their experiments at their destination and explore the surface of Mars, we must also have enough environmental knowledge necessary for safe human exploration. After these requirements are met, people can finally look towards human landing, exploration and, someday, permanent colonization of Mars.
If people get past the desire, the cost, and the preliminary planning, an actual mission to Mars is easy to outline. All the plans have certain basics in common; the landing site must be interesting and in a low elevation area for launching and radiation protection and the personnel would stay on the Martian surface, which provides shielding
from cosmic radiation and natural gravity (Bender 3). In either the Direct or the Indirect approach it s proven that there will be 22,000 ground kilometers that can be traveled by ground vehicles in the 1.5 year stay on the surface and astronauts will search for fossils to help with our current understanding of previous life on the planed and geological changes that have occurred. Gravity will be obtained by spinning the 2 parts of the module connected with a tether, and power to go home is produced on surface using the Methane/Oxygen or Carbon Monoxide/Oxygen combinations ( Office of and Founding Declaration ).
Despite the planning and dreaming about a manned mission to Mars the outlook of one actually being sent, at least anytime soon, looks grim and full of thoughtful speculation, not action. It s contended that by the time NASA s able to send a manned team to Mars scientists will have developed robots that could do the same tasks as people as well or better, Ralph Peters a scientist states (Bernard 24). With opinions like this from many top scientists, it s clear that a manned mission to Mars lay in the not so close future. However, the vitality that the space program and the hope it once brought America in the 60 s seems to have gotten lost in the decades. NASA needs a new place, Mars- and needs it badly. It s not just the money NASA needs; it s having a goal, a unifying vision for the future. A healthy, vigorous space agency is a national treasure that deserves to be nurtured. (Zubrin, Robert)