I read an article yesterday about the end of a 4 month long “Mars Mission Simulation”. Unfortunately, I also read some very negative comments about it from other readers. So I’d like to share with you why I think a Mars mission is a good thing.
To start with, I’ll respond to the “why don’t we focus on Earth” crowd. Aside from the obvious answers that: a) we do conduct scientific missions that are Earth-centric, and b) politics plays a major role in what Earth-centric science gets funded, space oriented missions provide a lot of Earth-centric value. This simulation alone was valuable in the following ways:
- Studying the response of permafrost on Earth to global warming
- Learning how to minimize environmental impact (essential on Mars, but important here)
- An improved understanding of how our bodies can adapt to different wake/sleep cycles (when the crew simulated the length of Martian days during the arctic 24-hour days)
Past space exploration has helped us on Earth with everything from Tang and a better ink pen to vast improvements in communication technology and a better understanding of what cosmic events may threaten our continued existence. Space is a cornucopia of science, both in getting there and in being there. Not to mention cable TV, cell phones, and weather forecasts, which rely on… satellites!
I could go further and talk about the limited life of our planet (do you really think we can live here forever, or do you just not care about future generations after you die?) and the possibility of harvesting valuable natural resources off-world, but I’ll leave that to the true space geeks.