Perhaps the most common question about going to Mars is why should humans go in the first place? Earth has plenty of problems, why worry about a whole other planet? There is no single answer, but rather there are three:
Exploration: Easily the most common reason given for going to Mars is an appeal to the human desire for exploration, the intrinsic benefit of expanding our understanding of the universe, and the possibility of what scientific discoveries await mankind upon our arrival. Mars could teach us a great deal about planetary formation, the history of the solar system, and even the origins of life. For Mars and Earth were not so different 4 billion years ago, the Martian atmosphere was once much thicker, its surface warmer and wetter, and thanks to the discovery of meteorites that traveled from Mars to Earth, there’s evidence suggesting that Mars may have had life in the past. Perhaps more tantalizing, singled celled organisms, after being blasted from the Martian surface on rocks ejected from some ancient impact, could have conceivably survived the trip to Earth, seeding our own world with life. We could very well be the descendants of Martians; such a discovery would radically alter our understanding of the origin of life. Mars could also teach us a great deal about climate science. Ice core samples from the Martian poles could give a glimpse into the past by scanning the atmosphere locked in the bubbles of ancient glaciers. Finding out what “killed” Mars might help us save Earth from potential disasters yet to come.
Exploitation: For many in the private sector, there’s one simple reason for going to Mars: there is a fortune to be made on a new world. The quest for wealth was what largely drove the settlement of the Americas in the Age of Sail, and Westward Expansion in the 19th Century. Mars could be the great trade-port of the Solar System, providing a staging point for mining operations in the Asteroid Belt and processing raw materials for consumption on Earth. Mars could just as well be the Silicon Valley of Space; developing new technologies to be used to make Mars more livable, and licensing those technologies to manufacturers on Earth. From software, robotics, to genetics, technologies developed on Mars could have limitless applications on Earth. One need only look at the spinoffs from NASA’s existing programs to know that space exploration has a habit of paying people back with new technologies. Finally, Mars would be a planet with an economy all its own, with trade being conducted that never directly makes its way to Earth, but with opportunities for Earth-based investors to generate huge amounts of wealth from ventures made on a new frontier. Imagine getting in on the ground floor of the Martian coffee industry, setting up the first shipping company on a new world, or being the first person to start manufacturing rovers that would become the Model T of Mars. To paraphrase Star Trek’s Rule of Acquisition 75: Home is where the heart is, but the stars are made of gold.
Survival: I personally have begun to lean more toward the argument that for humans to have any chance of surviving the next century, we must make Mars into a new home. As climate change begins to take its toll on Earth, the risk for the collapse of civilization, even extinction grows ever higher. The US Military, NASA, and the bulk of the international scientific community all agree that Earth’s climate is changing, and the forecasts of the severity of climate change’s effects become bleaker with each passing year. Moreover, climate change is just one of many threats facing life on Earth. Asteroid and comet impacts pose a very real threat to the continuity of civilization, to say nothing of rogue planets and gamma ray bursts. Simply put, we may not have a choice about whether we should colonize Mars. However, Mars doesn’t have to be just a lifeboat for Earth, it can be Earth’s salvation. Colonizing Mars would lessen the burden of a large population, reduce the consumption of Earth’s resources and buy humanity some time to repair the damage to Earth’s environment. The technologies developed for making Mars habitable could be applied to Earth to reverse the effects of climate change, and restore damaged ecosystems.
Humans are going to Mars, be it out of a desire to learn more about the universe, profit from its riches, or save our species from its own destruction, and RedWorks is preparing to facilitate that effort for whatever motive drives mankind to its next home. RedWorks habitats will be the Mars’s first science stations, its first mining camps and research centers, the first communities for the pioneers who will take the first steps on the next frontier.