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How Traveling to Mars can Benefit Society


That tiny red dot in the night sky, 250 million miles away, is the planet

we call Mars which named after the Roman God of War. Mars has been in the

forefront of countless science fiction movies, and books, and its a very real

place. The most exciting part is we humans have reached a level of

technological amplitude that will allow us to actually go there. In fact, we are

already there with unmanned rovers exploring the rusted surface, which gives

Mars its red appearance (OCallaghan). The next logical step would be to send

humans there, which can dramatically speed up our search for extra-terrestrial

life, and gathering of science to learn more about Marss history.


However, sending humans to Mars is not just about the science and

technology that could be acquired, its also the impact it could have on society

here on Earth. We should send humans to Mars not just for the science, but

for the positive social outcomes that could arise from such a challenging

mission. Much like the Moon landings in 1969, it could unite our country

towards a common goal, while inspiring an entire generation of kids to pursue

STEM education. This would jump start our economy as more manufacturing

and technical jobs are available for mission development and future missions,

while also replenishing our dwindling supply of scientists and engineers here in

the United States. It could also restore the United States reputation as the
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undisputed technological and social leader of the world, much like after we

landed on the Moon.


Sending humans to reach the prized red Martian soil will be no easy feat.

Developing a mission to send humans 250 million miles away from home to

land on a fast moving object about half the size of Earth is nothing to take

lightly. It will push the boundaries of our current science and technology. Not

only will it be a technological challenge, but it will be a political challenge as

well. The development of a manned Mars mission, although already in

progress, will take many years to complete, spanning multiple political

administrations, and will cost billions of dollars.


The good news is there are multiple key figures involved in promoting a

manned Mars mission, and they have solutions to some of the major hurdles

we need to overcome. First and foremost, cost is a huge factor deciding the

future of a Mars mission. There are numerous estimations of the cost of the

mission, but according to the website Space, it would cost around 100 billion

dollars (Wall). Obviously, this is an immense sum of money. There is no

denying that 100 billion dollars is a lot of money, but in comparison the

National Priorities Project listed the 2015 military budget for the United States

at a staggering 600 billion dollars or 54% of the annual budget (Military

Spending United States). This pales in comparison to the 2015 spending on

Science which was 30 billion dollars, or 3% of the annual budget (Military


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Spending United States). Although a small increase in budget would help

NASA considerably, they are currently working on establishing partnerships

with other space agencies to share the burden of cost as we push technology to

its limits (Wall).


Since a mars mission has been in development for many years, there

have been several people who have proposed ways to reduce the missions cost.

One of these people is Robert Zubrin, an aerospace engineer, and founder of

the Mars Society. According to the Mars Society website, their main goal is to

educate the public, and advocate for the exploration and eventual colonization

of Mars. Zubrin has introduced several ways of cutting the costs of the Mars

mission, and plays a large roll in accumulating the support and funding

needed to make foot prints on Mars a reality. Essentially, Zubrins plan is to

use as much of the resources on Mars as possible which would reduce the

weight of the space craft which in turn would dramatically reduce the cost

(Zubrin). For Zubrin its more than the quest to further science, its about the

fundamental will of humans to want to explore. We are curious creatures,

which is why we have progressed so far, and its human nature to want to learn

more. Traveling to Mars would ignite this curiosity and will to explore once

again, as much of our planet has already been explored. Although, it is

important to realize that is there still a vast about of things to learn about our

own Earth.
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Although organizations like Zubrins Mars Direct are helping advocate for

a cheaper and more realistic Mars trip, there is a new player on the block.

SpaceX, a company founded my Elon Musk, marked the beginning of privatized

space endeavors. Opening space to the private sector means great things for

the economy, and saves tax payer dollars. According to the SpaceX website, the

company was founded to revolutionize space technology and enabling people

to live on other planets (About SpaceX). Musk is well known for his

extravagant ideas, and amazingly so, many of his ideas have become a reality.

He was able to successfully land a reusable rocket onto a floating barge in the

sea, which is a huge step forward for saving mission costs. NASAs current

approach is using rockets that are disposable, which has worked in the past,

but is a colossal waste of resources. Companies like SpaceX could play an

important role in a Mars mission, and could be the best way to reduce the cost

to tax payers, while still providing new jobs in the sector. Most importantly, it

will still inspire those kids who will look at Musk as a super hero, and want to

be him one day.


This leads us to one of the main reasons why we should go to Mars.

Todays world is run my technology, and like famed public educator and

scientist Carl Sagan wrote in his book called The Demon-Haunted World:

Science as a Candle in the Dark, Weve arranged a global civilization in which

most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have


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also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and

technology. This has become truer than ever here in the United States. The

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OCED, ranked

the United States 27th overall in Mathematics during their 2012 Programme for

International Student Assessment, or PSIA, study while comparing with other

countries (OCED). Although this arguably could be attributed to a poor

education system in the United States, I feel it is also a reflection of interest.


Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields, also known as STEM

fields, have a well-known dogma of being hard. I know this first hand as a

senior year Engineering major who already failed once and had to return as an

older and wiser student with more motivation in order to complete the

challenging studies. It takes someone who has determination, motivation, and

inspiration to pass through STEM education without failure. What better way

to spark the imagination of an impressionable young adult than showing them

what STEM fields can accomplish, by landing on the Mars. Besides, what job

could be cooler than being an astronaut, or rocket scientist?


A trip to mars would also help unite our arguably divided country. Its

no secret that the recent 2016 election has left a large rift within our society. A

mission to Mars would require support from both political parties, allowing us

to work towards a common goal. It would not be the first time Americans have

accomplished such a goal. When President Kennedy made his famous speech
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before the joint congress in 1961 stating that we would put a man on the moon

within the decade, we were facing many similar political tensions (Roach).

Not only did we accomplish our goal, but we did it within 10 years, using

extremely simplistic technology compared to what we have today. Granted, the

Moon is a much closer target. Chief NASA historian, Steven Dick, recalled the

event after 35 years stating, Putting a man on the moon not only inspired the

nation, but also the world. It showed society that anything is possible, even

during a time of turmoil (Roach).


We need to look past the price tag, and look at how stepping foot on Mars

could shape society for our country and the world. If we want to continue

progressing at such a rapid pace, we need to band together and become a

smarter, and more united world. When we step foot on Mars, we are visitors

from planet Earth, not the United States, Russia, Canada or any other country.

The lasting effects left upon the younger generation will help shape our future,

where people will be able to take charge of the technology that now runs our

world through increases in STEM education. Imagine how many Einsteins,

and Elon Musks there are out there waiting to be mesmerized by the cloud of

red dust as humans land on the rusted surface of Mars. A real life science

fiction movie for all Earthlings.


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Works Cited
About SpaceX. SpaceX, www.spacex.com/about. Accessed 20 March 2017.
OCED, Programme for international student Assessment (PSIA) Results from

PISA 2012. pp. 1-2. www.oecd.org/unitedstates/PISA-2012-results-

US.pdf. Accessed 10 March 2017.


Military Spending in the United States. National Priorities Project,

www.nationalpriorities.org/campaigns/military-spending-united-states/.

Accessed 17 March 2017.


OCallaghan, Jonathan. Why is Mars Red? Space Answers, 22 June 2012,

www.spaceanswers.com/solar-system/why-is-mars-red/. Accessed 13

March 2017.
Roach, John. Apollo Anniversary: Moon Landing Inspired World. National

Geographic News, 16 July 2004.

news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/07/0714_040714_moonlandi

ng.html. Accessed 10 March 2017.


Wall, Mark. Should NASA Ditch Manned Missions to Mars? Space, 5 August

2012, www.space.com/16918-nasa-mars-human-spaceflight-goals.html.

Accessed 15 March 2017.


Zubrin, Robert. The Promise of Mars. National Space Society, May 1996,

www.nss.org/settlement/mars/zubrin-promise.html. Accessed 13 March

2017.