and why do we want to colonize Mars?

Seems there has been this big push reach Mars once again. I understand the exploration side of it, and all of the things we will learn from sending humans that far into space.

But why the desire to colonize it? It’s a hostile environment. Any number of mechanical failures would result in immediate loss of life. It’s a dead planet. There is no machine to turn on and regenerate Mars’ atmosphere.

I’m sure that I’m oversimplifying it, but I’m not saving up to buy a ticket on Musk’s, Bezos’ or Boeing’s charter flight there.

Me, either. I saw what happened to Matt Damon.

Because it’s there.

Not yet.

At the very least, in the process of establishing a Mars colony we will encounter and resolve a huge number of problems, resulting in technological innovations that will be of use in our everyday lives, much as the Apollo program resulted in the development of the microprocessor chip (so that they could have onboard computers, unlike the Soviet spacecraft, which relied on Earth-based computers).

Same reason that’s commonly* found when people have some very strong attachment to attaining something and that the best that can be said of their arguments is that they are passionate. When they think their life will markedly improve if they have some magical-sounding number in their bank account or “the house/car of their dreams”. When people feel better about themselves when their sports team wins a championship, when their country wins at the Olympics, when they want to make America great again. Like a depressed bulimic man who wants to feel better by eating the biggest Twinkie he can find.

Another factor is erroneous extrapolation based on past improvements. Settling new lands on earth, improving transportation and communications has made a big difference. If we look at a curve of communication, transportation and their utility, it might look like an exponential curve if we want to be selective. However, many such curves are S-shaped curves with only logarithmic improvements past the exponential stage. It is analogous to a 19th-century man thinking that we’ll travel in flying trains powered by extremely powerful steam engines.

That’s supposed to be of zen simplicity and depth but it’s not. Lots of things are “there” (where they are). Saying that it’s there doesn’t give us info about why one would want to do that specific thing.

  • I said “commonly”, not “only”.

We are all dead in the end. Why not push forward, even at risk, in the meantime?

There are several things that could happen to render Earth uninhabitable, at least by humans. (A strike by a large enough asteroid, for instance.) So to ensure the survival of the species, we may want to establish colonies off-world and Mars is one of the places we can theoretically do so.

It is a stepping stone to Europa.

Careful. All these worlds are ours, except Europa. I don’t recommend attempting any landings there.

Antarctica is a much more inviting place than Mars, and the outposts there rely on steady re-supply missions - from the same planet (and the added benefit of a breathable atmosphere). I think it was Musk who recently admitted that the trip he was planning was a suicide mission, and it’ll probably take several suicide missions before anything even close to a sustainable outpost is established. Go up, get a couple of temporary dwellings erected, die, rinse, repeat.

Is that so different from what we’re doing here, if you want to look at it like that?

Right now we’ve got all of our eggs in one basket… and we’re trying to set that basket on fire. At the very least colonizing Mars will teach us lessons we’ll need to explore and colonize other planets. We have to get off this rock.


Mars is our backup copy.

Besides, even given the enormous risks involved, I’d volunteer in an instant, figuring it’s a more interesting thing to do than most people will ever do.

Earth, the day after it gets hit by another Dinosaur killer, is going to much more hospitable than Mars. A research outpost at the South Pole would be 100 times cheaper and 100 times more survivable than an outpost on Mars. Feel free to substitute your own orders of magnitude, but seriously, setting up a colony at the top of Mount Everest is a lot easier.

  1. We are going to have to become a space faring civilization at one point, its a question of when not if.

  2. Traveling to mars will hopefully open the ability to mine asteroids affordably, which will help with keeping people’s standards of living up

  3. If the earth becomes inhospitable due to asteroids, climate change, etc. being a multi planetary civilization will let our species survive.

  4. Because it is there, bragging rights.

On the other hand, even if we did establish Martian colonies, it would take a very long time, if ever, before they were self-sufficient. In other words, if we had people on Mars and something happened to Earth, would the Martian colony be able to survive indefinitely and independently? I would think not, at least not for many generations.

That isn’t true, all the science isn’t in yet on whether holding a lighter near a wicker basket can cause it to combust. We need to wait until all the science is in.

Well, as a species of tropical ape we’ve colonized a lot of places that would be either hostile or lethal to us without technology of some sort. To some extent, it’s a continuation of that.

Granted, the far less hostile Antarctica outposts do rely on re-supply, although for months of the year they are on their own. We have learned quite a bit from them, though, about isolated human groups. I’d like to see some attempts to make at least one self-supporting Antarctica colony. There would be the notable difficulty of a lack of sunlight for months at a time, mandating some sort of power other than solar which will either require re-supply of fuel or highly trained personnel (for nuclear, which is unlikely to be used for political reasons).

There is the notion of not keeping all our eggs in one basket. Extinction-level catastrophes have happened to the Earth in the past and could occur again. By having a self-supporting human colony elsewhere we could preserve our species and, in theory, perhaps recolonize the Earth when/if it becomes hospitable again.

Yes, Mars is a dead planet - some people dream of making it a live one.