Of course during the State of the Union address that I just so eloquently blabbered about, I was reading about Mars. As you probably know, U.S. President George W. Bush gave this sweeping vision for a manned-mission to Mars. He basically proposed junking current NASA missions that involve things like the lame-o space station (what does that thing do anyway?) and robotic exploration, in favor of expensive, dangerous, and headline-grabbing adventurous manned exploration.
It’s a pretty bold vision, it costs a lot of money, and who knows if it’s going to happen. But either way you come down on the issue, I find it incredibly fascinating to think about.
The whole Mars discussion has prompted all sorts of out-there thinking, including proponents of a one-way mission to Mars and thoughts about what we might do on Mars (like use plutonium to heat the atmosphere to more human-friendly temperatures).
Despite how out-there it might be, I love all the sci-fi theorizing. What would a colony on Mars look like? What would they do? Is it just a bunch of boring scientific experiments, or would they actually be mining minerals and things of use. Would Mars become a scientific mecca, or another example of humans mucking up nature (or would our pollution efforts finally meet their match — a planet so inhospitable a little bit of carbon monoxide won’t make any difference)?
It’s especially interesting to compare all the challenges and dangers of space exploration to early exploration on our own planet. Sure, Arctic expeditions are dangerous, but at least you don’t have to bring your own oxygen.