24/7 Space News
MARSDAILY
NASA is looking for commercial Mars missions. Do people still want to go to Mars?
illustration only
ADVERTISEMENT
     
NASA is looking for commercial Mars missions. Do people still want to go to Mars?
by Steven Tingay | Professor Radio Astronomy - Curtin University
Perth (SPX) Feb 06, 2024

Mars has been a source of myth, lore and inspiration since antiquity. It is also an interesting place to research - a legitimate candidate for us to find some form of alien life.

Since the 1960s, Mars has been a popular destination for space missions. Now, for the first time, NASA has invited the private sector to submit proposals on commercial Mars missions.

These missions would range from carrying various payloads to the red planet, to providing communications relay services. No talk of a Mars astronaut just yet.

But do people still want to go to Mars? Absolutely. One question is, what is the best way to get people there? Another question - should we?

Modern exploration of Mars
Since 1960, there have been 50 missions with scientific and technical objectives related to Mars. Thirty-one of these have been deemed successful, which is not a bad strike rate.

There have also been plenty of spectacular failures, like the crash of the Schiaparelli lander in 2016.

These missions have returned a wealth of information about Mars - its atmosphere, orbit, geology and more. According to some parts of the internet, they have also returned amazing images of "faces" on its surface, "doors" in rocky cliffs and "fossilised bones".

In all cases, geologists had more mundane explanations (rocks). But such public interest shows that Mars truly occupies our imaginations.

A typical interplanetary space mission costs at least a billion US dollars, so the world's major space agencies have spent no less than US$50 billion on Mars over the years. And this is just to send cameras, rovers and landers. To send people to Mars would be next level.

A better way to do business?
NASA is starting to explore different ways to undertake space missions. For decades, NASA and other space agencies around the world have spent large sums on in-house planning, development, prototyping and production for space missions.

In the 2020s, the technologies that enable and support space exploration are increasingly being developed in the commercial world. An example most people will be familiar with is Elon Musk's SpaceX. Many of the SpaceX objectives have Mars and beyond as the ultimate goal - "making humanity interplanetary".

The development of the Falcon rockets by SpaceX, Starlink satellites, and the Starship rocket could not be further from NASA's historical model. Where the NASA approach has been conservative, SpaceX makes lots of changes fast, iterates quickly, and learns quickly from failure.

And SpaceX is not alone. There is a growing industry of commercial providers of access to space, particularly in the United States.

NASA's current roadmap involves going "back to the Moon" to re-establish a human presence with the Artemis program, then on to a human presence on Mars. In this roadmap, the concept of leveraging commercial providers has taken hold.

Instead of in-house development, NASA is moving in favour of specifying requirements and then assessing the solutions commercial providers might supply in a competitive process.

Pros and cons
It appears that now, even compared to 20 years ago, such an approach has become much more viable, as demonstrated by SpaceX. In theory, it could be cheaper and more efficient.

Likely the bigger positive effect will be the substantial stimulus to the commercial sector. With companies innovating to meet the requirements of space missions, the technology spin-offs will potentially have more economic and social impact than getting to Mars itself.

There is a good history of this from the development of technologies for space and from mega-science projects more generally.

However, it is very early days and the commercial approach has to prove itself. There is always an argument that once you start to cease in-house development at a place like NASA, capabilities start to gradually decay. Time will tell. The first steps - reaching the Moon - will go a long way in testing the approach.

But should humans go to Mars?
Mars entered the modern psyche as a place of mystery, promise and danger. This was illustrated vividly more than 100 years ago by H.G. Wells in the novel The War of the Worlds. The number of books, songs, TV shows and movies about Mars is enormous, containing some great (and not so great) art.

Should humans go to Mars? Musk wants to do it, sure. In the 2010s, the Dutch Mars One startup selected 100 volunteers to travel to Mars on a one-way ticket and raised millions of dollars before going bankrupt in 2019. There will always be some cross-section of society wanting to live on Mars.

Some will argue that before humans become interplanetary and start to "mess up" another planet, we should make sure Earth is looked after. Others point out that space exploration should do more to include sustainability.

Despite this debate, if the history of human exploration is anything to go by, you only need a tiny fraction of the population to be motivated enough to do it. If they also have the capital, it will happen.

I can't see that Mars will be much different.

Related Links
Mars at NASA
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

RELATED CONTENT
The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
MARSDAILY
NASA's CHAPEA mission reaches 200-Day milestone in Mars Analog Study
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Jan 12, 2024
The first crew involved in NASA's groundbreaking Mars analog mission, CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog), has successfully crossed the halfway mark of their year-long mission. As of January 11, the four-person team has spent 200 days in a specially designed habitat at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, with the mission set to conclude on July 6, 2024. This crew, which embarked on their journey on June 25, 2023, has been living and working in a 1,700-square-foot habitat th ... read more

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
MARSDAILY
Cygnus spacecraft arrives at space station with 8,200 pounds of cargo

Space Perspective secures investment for carbon-neutral space tourism

China warns US tech curbs will 'come back to bite them'

Virgin Galactic Marks 11th Spaceflight with Full Passenger Manifest

MARSDAILY
Britain's space capabilities boosted by Pulsar Fusion's latest engine test

Shake, rattle and launch: Dream Chaser spaceplane passes vibration test

Xichang Space Launch Site Celebrates 200th Mission with Geely-02 Satellite Deployment

China's Smart Dragon 3 launches satellites from South China Sea

MARSDAILY
A Drive With a View: Sols 4084-4085

Sols 4086-4088: Groundhog Day in Gale

Lake deposits in Idaho give scientists insight into ancient traces of life on Mars

Bright Rocks on the Horizon: An Exciting Glimpse of Uncharted Territory

MARSDAILY
BIT advances microbiological research on Chinese Space Station

Shenzhou 18 and 19 crews undertake intensive training for next missions

Tianzhou 6 burns up safely reentering Earth

Yan Hongsen's future dreams as 'Rocket Boy'

MARSDAILY
Intelsat Launches Inflight Internet Above the Arctic

Terran Orbital announces agreement with Shareholder Group

Geespace achieves milestone in satellite constellation development for future mobility

SmartSat and New Zealand Space Agency Forge Partnership for Space Sector Innovation

MARSDAILY
Spaceborne Computer-2 sets new benchmark for AI and ML on ISS

Rising Collision Risks in Sun-Synchronous Orbits Amid Satellite Surge

BlackStar Orbital to open new spacecraft manufacturing facility in Sierra Vista by 2026

Heritage ERS-2 satellite to reenter Earth's atmosphere

MARSDAILY
NASA Puts Next-Gen Exoplanet-Imaging Technology to the Test

What Kind of World is LHS 1140b

Ice and fire: Antarctic volcano may hold clues to life on Mars

Researchers spying for signs of life among exoplanet atmospheres

MARSDAILY
Europa Clipper gears up with full instrument suite onboard

New images reveal what Neptune and Uranus really look like

Researchers reveal true colors of Neptune, Uranus

The PI's Perspective: The Long Game

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


ADVERTISEMENT



The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.