Curiosity drives humankind to accomplish things that they themselves thought impossible. If there were no natural drive to discover and explore worlds beyond our own, then neither the United States nor their rival counterparts would have bothered with space exploration as a point of competition during the space race.
Space exploration has a greater value than merely being a measuring stick of the greatness and ingenuity of a nation. The secrets revealed and the discoveries made through the exploration of other worlds will prove essential to the long-term survival of the human race. The resources of the world are dwindling while the population continues to increase—humans are, in a sense, outgrowing the planet. Mars has the chemistry essential for life on Earth even if the red planet cannot support life itself. Beneath the frigid, dusty surface of the planet, there is water ice. In the rocks, there is iron, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen. These and other materials could be processed and used to create radiation shielding, building materials, breathable air, rocket fuel, and many other things needed to create an independent colony on the red planet. Raw materials could even be sent back to Earth and used as a subsidy to the diminishing resources of the world.
If the descendents of the human race are to survive beyond the time span of other species that have emerged and perished throughout Earth’s history, space exploration in our age is vital. No matter how conscious humanity is about preserving the fragile ecology of the Earth, its ability to support life will one day in the distant future naturally cease to be. If being able to survive the ages is a goal for humankind, then learning how to harness the resources reaped from places beyond our home world will be the key to it.
A manned trip to Mars is a practical goal for the next half-century. In 2020, NASA plans to send another advanced robotic mission to the red planet to gather important data, some of which will be used in the steps toward the president’s goal of a manned orbit of Mars by 2030. After that, a human setting foot on the red planet and returning to Earth is a plausible and achievable goal. Other possibilities for a manned mission to Mars exist outside of the laboratories of NASA. A Dutch company has recently secured funding for their Mars 1 project and plans to see it come to fruition by the year 2023, seven years ahead of the president’s plan to put astronauts into orbit around the red planet in 2030.
All of these activities denote an interest and devotion to the exploration of space. From the first moment humans looked into the heavens and wondered what the lights moving across the sky could be, the destinies of the two became intertwined. Human curiosity and intelligence has yielded the fruits of success on this world; it will yield the fruits of survival on the next.