Since February 18th, 2021, the United States space program has had a curiosity rover exploring the Red Planet. Besides all sorts of interesting things, its mission is to search for evidence of microbial life, seek soil, gather rocks, and fly over its landing site, the Jezero Crater. All your standard astronaut stuff, right?
Nevertheless, we can’t help but feel like the world isn’t as curious about space exploration as it was back in the mid-20th century. Yes, we do have bigger fish to fry right now with the pandemic raging, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore planetary science. Hence, our article aims to list five of the most important reasons for Mars exploration.
Let’s check them out, shall we?
Understand the Origins and Ubiquity of Life
The landing site of our little Mars rover (Perseverance) is not an ordinary rocky wasteland as you’d expect. Scientists believe it once was a lush place with a whopping lake and many flowing rivers. So, they think it’s the ideal place to seek remains of extinct life. Moreover, the Jezero Crater will be a great location to experiment with new technologies and lay groundwork for further exploration of Planet Mars.
One of the main objectives is to understand whether there was life some billions of years ago or it’s solely reserved for Earth. So, if Perseverance can prove such big theories, the way we see life would never be the same. It would mean that we’re not alone in the Universe. And although it’s a long shot, experts still think it’s worth a try.
All this time, we found comfort in the fact that there’s no proven form of life outside our home planet. But if Perseverance could change that, the way we understand science, philosophy, and religion will quickly stir into a new direction. For some, this might be pretty disturbing, while others will, on the other hand, hail it as a triumph. Nevertheless, it’s important to have our hopes grounded and see what comes from our latest mission to Mars.
Develop New Technologies
Space exploration isn’t just a nerd fantasy that serves no purpose. It’s a catalyst for developing useful technologies we use on Earth too. From GPS systems to wireless technologies, our everyday life owes so much to NASA and international space programs. Therefore, this mission to Mars can help us develop new ways of solving crucial problems. Even if we don’t find evidence of life there, we’ll still profit on some other level.
For example, we’ll improve our ability to process large amounts of data and the way we communicate across long distances. Also, it will benefit navigation tools and telemedicine. After all, the space program is behind our ability to miniaturize technology and use it to remotely control vehicles from miles away. Just think about the amount of work behind being able to successfully land and control a rover on Mars.
Encourage Space Tourism
For as long as we remember, theories about traveling to outer space for a vacation were a big fantasy for many. And you can see it in pop-culture as well. You know, sci-fi movies and TV shows always dealt with these ideas. Of course, some of them paint it bleak and horrifying, while others tend to look on the bright side, but the point still stands.
In a not-so-distant future, it will be a privilege for the rich. Such trips will cost millions upon millions, but that doesn’t mean that it will stay like that forever. And even if our generation won’t be able to experience such vacations, it’s still interesting to think about it. Just imagine having a bachelor party on Mars. Wouldn’t that be great?
Space tourism will broaden our views. It will be just like when people began to travel across continents in boats and experienced different cultures for the first time. Sure, such things led to colonization, but this time, there’s no one to colonize on the new planets. Well, at least not until we find other intelligent lifeforms.
Facilitate Space Mining
Lots of objects that fly around our solar system come from the same minerals and chemicals that are present on Earth. In other words, asteroids, moons, and planets themselves can be pretty rich in elements we find useful down here. And if we find a way to harvest them safely, it will be another benefit of Mars exploration.
It’s no secret that we struggle with the number of premium materials right now. But if we find them out there, we’ll be able to keep up with our demands and even expand them. Such rare objects could enrich our industries, designs, and distribution processes so much that new technological frontiers will become a reality.
Nevertheless, resource utilization of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen will be as big of an achievement as being able to light a fire. If we can find a way to make the air we breathe on the surface of Mars, we’ll be one step closer to making our new home on the Red Planet. So, keep your fingers crossed for MOXIE (Mars Oxygen Experiment), will you?
One of the things that make us who we are is our undying curiosity about the world that surrounds us. And exploring the outer limits is the perfect way to satisfy that need. The knowledge we’ll come out with from this mission to Mars will improve the development of already existing sciences. It will, furthermore, improve humanity as well.
Space exploration has already helped us confront our needs to learn and understand more. And in the next couple of decades, we’ll be able to answer even more questions that keep us awake at night. We’ll maybe even be able to understand why we’re here and where we’re going. It works for both our past and future.
But don’t worry — we won’t end up like characters in Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus.” There are still no signs of evil xenomorphs lurking around space and looking to impregnate our bodies with little facehuggers. But then again, who’re we to make such bold claims? We’ll just have to wait and see what our little rover has to find in the vast plains of the Red Planet.