Planetary Society Co-Founder Says Humans Will Settle Mars, But That Will Be the Last Stop for Space Exploration

Friday, 13 November 2015 - 1:15PM
Astronomy
Mars
Nanotechnology
Friday, 13 November 2015 - 1:15PM
Planetary Society Co-Founder Says Humans Will Settle Mars, But That Will Be the Last Stop for Space Exploration
The Mission to Mars is at the forefront of everyone's minds in terms of human spaceflight and space colonization, but since we're never satisfied, we generally tend to assume that Mars would be a stepping stone to exploring and possibly colonizing other deep space locations. But according to astronautics engineer and Planetary Society co-founder Louis Friedman, human exploration of space will stop with Mars- at least on a physical level. We will continue to explore the universe using virtual technologies, but manned missions will cease once we make Mars our home away from home.

Opening quote
Humans will become a multi-planet species by making it to Mars, but no farther," Friedman wrote in his book, Human Spaceflight: From Mars to the Stars (adapted for Scientific American). "That is, they will never travel beyond Mars.
Closing quote

Culturally, Friedman believes that humans are explorers, and that space exploration will continue in some form "forever." But as our society becomes more technologically proficient, it will become less and less necessary for humans to undergo risky missions in order to travel to space. By the time we are able to reach Mars, Friedman asserts, our society will be so technologically advanced, our cultural notion of exploration will have changed, and we will be satisfied to explore other space locations using nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and other tech that would allow for virtual adventures.

Opening quote
Mars not only should be the next goal for humans in space but also is the ultimate and hence only goal, at least physically. Exploring beyond Mars will be done virtually, by processing information from other worlds while our bodies stay at home (albeit, I hope, on a multi-planet home of Earth and Mars).
Closing quote

Friedman believes that we will develop the technologies to send probes into deep space using solar sails, which NASA funded researchers recently concluded could achieve ultra-deep space exploration within the next ten years. But we'll send robots to risk their lives rather than real-life human beings, because once we settle Mars, it will no longer be necessary to send humans anywhere in order to protect our species's survival.

Opening quote
I am convinced that the long-range future of humankind is to extend its presence in the universe virtually-with robotic emissaries, bio-engineered payloads, and artificial intelligence. Payloads will be designed for information processing, not life support. But does that conclusion doom us to be couch potatoes-staying at home forever, confined by the limits of our planet? This is neither culturally nor physically acceptable. Culturally, we remain wanderers and explorers. Physically, the survival of our species requires humankind to become a multi-planet species. We cannot put all our eggs in our Earthly basket. It has too many forces that might cause it to fray-forces such as asteroid impact, large-scale conflict and war, pandemics, global climate change, and other types of environmental destruction, such as resource depletion and scarcity.
Closing quote

Although Mars is essentially a dry, frozen, arid wasteland, it is the only potentially habitable planet that we have the potential to reach in the near future, and therefore is the only plausible human destination. Once we reach it, however, Friedman is convinced that we will become a multi-planetary society.

Opening quote
Getting beyond Mars (with humans) is impossible-not just physically for the foreseeable future but also culturally forever. By the time we set foot on Mars, our technologies will have evolved so that the human presence in space is being extended robotically and virtually, rather than corporally-that is, by leaving the human at home. Human presence on Mars simply extends the definition of "home" to include the most sustainable place within the inner solar system where humans can build a resilient, enduring multi-planet existence.
Closing quote
Science
Space
Astronomy
Mars
Nanotechnology

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