Having intrigued generations, the notion of sending humans to the Red Planet now appears a feasible idea and could have scientific--and even economic--benefits.
Will human footprints ever appear in the foreign soil of Mars? Many think so. NASA astronaut Sally Ride thinks there should be a human expedition and eventual habitation of Mars early in the next century. Ride included a Mission to Mars in her four part Ride Report written in the aftermath of the Challenger tragedy in 1986. She suggested human exploration and eventual habitation of Mars by 2005--an ambitious goal eleven years ago.
Photo. An artist's conception of an early human delegation to the Red Planet. Courtesy of NASA.
The first step to putting humans on Mars is sending robotic explorers to the planet in the 1990s. The next step is to find out how to send people to Mars.
Why should we send people to Mars? Don't we get enough information without spending the resources to send humans to Mars and keep them safe and happy on the way there and back? One reason is to collect the abundant natural resources on Mars. Some things Earth is running out of, Mars has lots of.
Humans can also repair the equipment used to explore Mars. No matter what technology we devise, robots can't think as well as humans. Humans will add a dimension to Mars exploration robots cannot achieve.
A few astronomers think it would be a good idea to have human missions to Mars's moons before we have a mission to the planet itself. A human mission to the moons of Mars is called the PhD proposal because the moons of Mars are Phobos and Deimos.
Robotic explorers in the 90s will not only collect soil samples and map the planet but also help us make a selection for a site for a human outpost. We have met this goal with Global Surveyor and Pathfinder. Pathfinder landed on Mars on July 4, 1997 and Global Surveyor arrives at Mars in September of 1997.
Mission to Mars. An educational site created for the ThinkQuest contest.