Let’s go to Mars
Mars is the next frontier for humankind. When the Saturn-V rocket took men to the moon in July 1969, if you asked the people then how 2020 would be, they would painted pictures of a space-faring society, a species of humans far more advanced than themselves. We’d have settled on one of Jupiter’s moons, or fought wars for land on Mars in their imaginations.
Sadly, we’re worse than before. The International Space Station - the ISS - is the one place outside Earth where man has set base, forget a small colony on the Moon. Humans only fly to the ISS, and only from Russian soil on a Soyuz rocket. The United States shut down the Space Shuttle program in 2011, and American astronauts travel to Kazakhstan to fly to the ISS. What happened to Mars?
Well, a lot of things that I can’t possibly unpack in one piece, but I’ll go over them broadly. The major one’s politics. The Space race between the US and Russia ended by the 70s, and then the political will dwindled, and so funding to NASA dwindled. Men were sent to the Moon with less processing power than what’s in our smartphones today, but it happened due to politics. The second would be priorities. Long-term projects require complex, long-term teams dedicated to these tasks. Space agencies around the world had far more immediate and interesting problems to explore. Indeed, they’ve been very busy, launching multiple landers and rovers and orbital satellites that have explored Saturn, its moons, Jupiter, Pluto, even hyper-fast rotating asteroids, and of course, Mars (Curiosity and Opportunity rovers). The third would be costs. That speaks for itself. The costs to consider a mission - to develop technology, test it, manufacture the rockets for such an arduous journey would be gigantic. Only a combined world effort over a period of time can achieve that.
But not all hope is lost. Planet colonization is still a distant dream, but the voices grow louder than ever. There are companies like SpaceX that have made this their #1 priority. They’re investing in building those rockets, the technology, the sciences that will take us to Mars.
Let’s hope the Coronavirus situation makes governments and space agencies take Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar poster’s words seriously - ‘Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here’. Once again, its all the Marketing guys who do the heavylifting. Sigh.