179799481

                179799481

                Twelve orbits a day provide the Mars Global Surveyor MOC wide angle cameras a global "snapshot" of weather patterns across the planet. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

                Photo by: Universal History Archive

                Universal History Archive

                Where should we go? The Moon or Mars?

                There’s been a lot of excitement around space exploration recently. Astrophysicist Paul M. Sutter discusses the viability between the Moon and Mars.

                January 16, 2020

                Space is sexy again. After the excitement of the initial Apollo missions dwindled into a subject only discussed by ultra-nerds, and the cool factor of the Space Shuttle gave way to the realization that it didn’t really do much, people generally lost interest in space.

                But now we’re back at it again, and this time…we mean it.

                Private companies like SpaceX are gearing up to send Starships (and I’m not using that word as some sort of over-wrought metaphor, they are literally naming their next generation of rockets the Starship) to Mars. Then there’s NASA, who’ve recently announced the Artemis program with the goal of sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon, in hopes of laying the groundwork for continued human habitation on our little grey satellite.

                But we can’t go everywhere in the solar system simultaneously, at least not this generation. With limited time, money, resources, and interest, what should be our next major goal in human space exploration?

                179799997

                179799997

                A chapter of the layered geological history of Mars is laid bare in this postcard from NASA's Curiosity rover. The image shows the base of Mount Sharp, the rover's eventual science destination.

                Photo by: Universal History Archive

                Universal History Archive

                A chapter of the layered geological history of Mars is laid bare in this postcard from NASA's Curiosity rover. The image shows the base of Mount Sharp, the rover's eventual science destination.

                “Mars” is easier to say than do. Yes, it has all the temptations: whoever first sets foot into that red dirt will be the first human to walk on another planet and surely something that will end up in the history books right after the entry for Armstrong. And Mars has some things going for it that the Moon doesn’t: more water (it’s frozen, but it still counts), more gravity, and more…redness.

                But Mars is far away. Like, really far away. Because we have to wait for the orbits to line up just right, the minimum length for a there-and-back-again mission to Mars is about 18 months. 18 months of weightlessness. 18 months of only a thin sheet of metal between you and the vacuum. 18 months of isolation from the rest of humanity.

                3258897

                3258897

                10th July 1972: A close-up picture of the moon taken from Apollo 16.

                Photo by: NASA

                NASA

                10th July 1972: A close-up picture of the moon taken from Apollo 16.

                On the other hand, we have the Moon. Nice, close, and accessible Moon. It’s so easy to get to the Moon that we’ve already done it, back before we had cell phones and internet. Seriously, we figured out how to land on the Moon just a couple decades after inventing two-ply toilet paper. You can hop on a Starship, awkwardly bunny-skip across the Moon, and be back by the end of the week. If something goes wrong, help is only a day or two away.

                And yet, it’s easy. Why should we invest billions of dollars in accomplishing things that our ancestors already did?

                But space is hard. Distance is hard. Time is hard. Getting Mars and back is frighteningly hard. We don’t have the technology right now to get us safely to Mars and (more importantly) safely back. We’ll have to work as hard as we can for decades before solving all the engineering and technical problems. They’re not insurmountable, but they’re real.

                And because orbits are orbits and launch windows are launch windows, we only have a couple chances every year to try for Mars, whereas with the Moon we can give it a (moon)shot basically every day. Our current knowledge of how to live and work in space is based on decades of try-and-try-again, testing techniques over and over until they become routine. Will we have enough chances for a successful Mars mission before funding and/or passion dries up?

                We can certainly get to the Moon much faster than Mars, but will those missions ignite as much curiosity and drive as a push to the red planet would?

                It’s hard to say. But whatever we do, let’s get off this planet and try something new.

                Paul M. Sutter

                Paul M. Sutter is an astrophysicist at The Ohio State University, host of Ask a Spaceman and Space Radio, and author of Your Place in the Universe.

                Next Up

                SpaceX vs. the Universe

                Fans of space are having a tough time picking sides over a recent controversy between SpaceX and astronomers. But what's the big debate all about? Astrophysicist Paul M. Sutter digs into both perspectives.

                Following Blue Origin’s NS-12 Rocket Launch

                Blue Origin, Billionaire Jeff Bezos’ spaceflight company, is rescheduled to launch its NS-12 reusable spacecraft on Wednesday, December 11. Watch it LIVE.

                DNA's Building Blocks May Have Their Origins in Outer Space

                One of life's building blocks could have originated in outer space. But if this experiment shows how these building blocks actually formed, how exactly did they get to Earth?

                India’s Space Agency is Going Big… By Going Small

                Astrophysicist Paul M. Sutter shares the latest in the world of rocket launches and what India’s SSLV is all about.

                Check Out the Crab Nebula –The Leftovers from a Giant Cosmic Firework

                The Crab Nebula sits 6,500 light-years away, and is currently about 11 light-years across. But while it looks pretty from afar, don’t give in to the temptation to visit it up close.

                Let’s Look for Water on the Moon

                NASA is headed to the moon, but this time it's in search of water. Astrophysicist Paul M Sutter shares what this means and why it's important.

                Check out the Earth’s 800,000 Year Old Battle Wound

                Scientists may have discovered the location of an ancient buried crater, a result of a meteorite that barreled into the Earth some 800,000 years ago.

                Reusable Rockets: Expanding Space Exploration Possibilities with Retrievable Spacecraft

                With the evolution of reusable rockets through commercial companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, the cost of space exploration is decreasing. Learn more about today's "space race."

                Welcome to the Surface of Mars

                Through the use of cutting-edge instruments, scientists finally have the opportunity to probe deep beneath the surface and ascertain exactly how the terrestrial planet formed.

                Last Call for the King of Planets

                This month Jupiter is entering conjunction which means it's the last chance this year to catch a glimpse of the largest planet in our solar system.
                樱桃视频app在线网站