We have to go to Mars and beyond; at least at some point in time (our sun demands it), but I would rather see a colonized moon base, small asteroid colonies or even floating space stations all along the way to wherever and whenever mankind is going. You don't throw an infant off of a crab boat in the middle of the Alaskan ocean and expect it to swim. So why then is a floating dead rock almost 100 million miles away a good place for mankind to get our feet wet in the cosmic ocean?
If the whole reason for this is just to prove that we can do it, umm why, and to whom are we trying to prove it to? What will we learn by sending a manned space mission to Mars? It won’t benefit us much more than if there were only robots and monkeys on board the spaceship. There is no habitat for us to live; there is no terraformed Marshin soil or a protective breathable atmosphere for our fragile human bodies. Any tests on rocks, gathering samples we can do with robotics. If we need to test living subjects on Mars, take a few rats, bugs, and monkeys. If the mission is to prove man can sustain life for 30 plus months in space; fine, but lets do it a little closer to home; like on our neighborly tide generator; the moon.
What we should focus on is spending the $450 billion on better ways of leaving the earth, you know with out strapping ourselves in a tube pushed by millions of gallons of highly explosive rocket fuel. If that was the risk you had to take to pick up some eggs at your local Wal-Mart, I think we would have a lot more people buying chickens. It wasn’t until The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 that the US became truly accessible for you and me and with that; came the ability for Joe Nobody to travel where he wanted and when he wanted; which also evolved the car from a luxury to a necessity. Once we have a vehicle to safely leave and enter the earth without the threat of being incinerated by a faulty 30 cent o-ring, and a shield to shelter us from becoming a blistering puddle of our former selves thanks to cosmic radiation. Then let’s start exploring our celestial siblings.
In just over 400 years we went from the center of the universe being underneath our (understandably so) egocentric feet to realizing our humble, somewhat pathetic and tiny place in the known universe, but that’s okay, someday we will explore it, not you and I but we as mankind will explore it. As for the pace at which we are starting to explore and occupy space, we are cruising at lightning speed, especially when you compare our progress in the past 60 years to the rest of the time humans have inhabited this planet. It just seems slow, and unfair that your child hood dreams of being on a different planet, or walking on the moon, will most likely never be realized by you and probably not even by your grandchildren’s grand kids, but one day there will be a human on Mars pointing out to their child a tiny blue star in the night sky, and telling them the stories of a Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Neil Armstrong, and how their great, great, great, great grandfather was just like them…..an explorer.