There a SHORT-TERM Economic and Social Justification for Human Exploration and
Settlement of Mars?
Robert E. Becker, 131 Old County Rd., #168, Windsor Locks, CT 06096
The Space Exploration Initiative died stillborn years ago, largely unfunded, widely viewed as unfounded. While a stream of smaller, robotic missions to Mars has started, human exploration seems to have been removed from any official timeline!
This, despite the robust economy, possible evidence of ancient life in a Martian rock, millions of hits on the Mars Rover Web Site, availability of relatively inexpensive missions like Mars Direct, and energetic advocacy by luminaries like Carl Sagan. Traditional arguments - the human exploratory spirit, intellectual excitement, and economic benefits down the road - suffice for exploration enthusiasts, but are not sufficient for the general public, and especially not for their elected representatives.
Our nation has a notoriously short attention span. All these arguments pale in comparison with immediate economic and social problems. Proponents of exploration often take a “not my job” attitude towards these issues. But until we embrace them, our arguments will remain largely unpersuasive to the public.
Human beings can not be “Faster, Cheaper, Bettered” out of the process if Mars Exploration is to gain broad support. It is the very ambition of full-fledged Mars Exploration, which can provide that justification, starting in the SHORT-TERM, during the DEVELOPMENT phases. It is this scope - living and working on another planet - which can bring space closest to the person in the street, just as on the frontier of yore.
It is the responsibility of the exploration community to apply its collective CREATIVITY and formulate cogent arguments RELEVANT to those who are NOT enthusiasts. Answering the title question affirmatively will do that. The Mars Society is the perfect multidisciplinary organization to launch a CONCERTED effort to answer it. If we succeed, a new exploration initiative could be announced, not with a bureaucratic whimper, but with trumpets blaring.