Before mankind ever is to think about living on Mars, there are a lot more studies he needs to do here on earth.
Just like the release of a new product, hardly ever goes without woes, if there is not enough background experience with the product (eg: if a company hasn’t done similar successful work before).
If we are to ever set foot on Mars, where the average temperatures range from -195 to 70F, and radiation levels are between 100 to 200x what we receive here on earth; and want it to be more than just a failure, we’d have to do much more research on the uninhabitable places on earth today!
Areas where the challenge is lower; and while we do so, we might benefit the survival of mankind on this globe at the same time!
Research that instead of spending billions in shooting a stick in the sky; we could invest in research on how to cultivate the land to grow crops in areas of extreme drought, heat, impenetrable soil, or extreme flooding, or cool.
Second part of research (which can be done simultaneously with the first); we have to do much more research in solitary confinement. We need to know what the human psyche is capable of suffering. How it’s mental and physical abilities are not only stuck in a tube, but also at low gravity, and low air pressure.
Spending 6 months in a metal tube doesn’t look very comfortable to me.
And this is only the time it takes to get to Mars, the second nearest celestial object we could land on (the moon being the first).
Now imagine spending 1,5 years in a tube stuck on a planet where every day the risk of failing is eminent, and where no one will rescue you, until the hopeful due date a few years later when hopefully another rocket will take you back, or at least resupply until the next one comes by.
Also needs to be done. Higher levels of radiation are present on Mars. Not only research to protect genes against radiation, but also how will we evolve over time in such different environments?
How do bacteria form, and what kind of illnesses can we expect in space, or on the planets?
A lot of these kinds of research can be done here on earth; in unpopulated, harsh areas, where almost nothing grows.
And while these studies go on, a lot of the NASA budget could be invested in research on how to harvest more land from the ocean. Build buildings under water. Allow humans to harvest oceanic space; be it either on top, in, or under the water (at the bottom of the ocean). Creating structures for living and/or farming under sea level, under the ocean; in an attempt to fit more people in this crowded world.
Genetically modify and (re-)engineer old and new types of vegetation.
Meaning, research plants from history, and recreate them, and use computer simulations, and databases, to reconstruct them; or invent new species of plants.
If you look at history
You’ll find that mankind must have been born around Africa/Europe/or the Middle east. From there, man took animal hides and was able to move a few thousand miles North, or South. New inventions, like huts, allowed him to survive in areas without much natural shelter; and where he could keep himself warm with the use of fire.
Mankind traveled to Europe and almost all the way to the North Pole, as to the tip of South Africa; and the invention of ships allowed him to colonise the continent of America.
While America already had people living there, still for the modern world, America was a way for crowded Europe to increase in wealth and power.
The invention of electricity allowed man to live even further up north, where temperatures reach well below minus 40 degrees in winter; and modern clothing allows for Eskimos to live more north.
So far, there still are 3 areas on this planet that are largely uninhabited. The South Pole (and parts of the North Pole), Deserts (Saharah, and/or rocky plateaus), and the Oceans!
These 3 places, where hardly anything grows, is exactly where we need to survive, before we can think of space!
We need more research in DNA, illnesses, and general health, before we can tackle the vacuum of space, where illnesses and accidents are much graver!
And while all this is going on, we need to learn to live in tune with nature. Find ways to harvest energies that cost us next to nothing (especially in solar radiation). Because somehow, we will need to find a way to live for the next (at least) 200 years, on this ball of rock before even thinking of planting humans on another ball of rock.
Earth, more and more, is looking like a place of extremes. Extreme cold in one place, while extreme hot in another. Extreme winds in one place, while extreme dead in another. Extreme flooding in one, while extreme droughts in another.
Unless the time comes where we learn to harvest these extremes, and create an artificial planet that will support us, without using much resources, we will continue to absorb all the resources we have, until there’s nothing left.
I mention ‘artificial planet’, as we were born on this planet, with animals and plant structure supporting our bare survival. With research in technology, and nanotechnology, we hope to be able to manipulate some of the building blocks of nature, to fit and suit our needs better than what nature offered us.
A lot of animals and plant life, seems to get extinct; and certain faith groups are believing this is because their task on this earth is completed.
Artificial Oxygenators instead of trees.
Artificially alter our temperatures.
Artificially make it rain or shine.
Artificially provide energy.
Artificial pollinators of plants
Transpose our energy needs from fossil fuels to radiation receivers
Artificially harvest solar radiation, and reconstruct the Ozone layer
Harvest asteroid minerals.
Artificial plants (that grow only nourishments) and meats (use machinery to grow protein chains, like meat tanks).
The space race?
While it’s viable to see people in space today, I don’t foresee people living in space any time soon. The 10 to 20 year window, might very well be a 100-200 year window, if we still will have enough oil and minerals.
Research in the Microcosmos
Nanotechnology and computer DNA simulations is currently where the money lies.
Research into finding new materials, new bacteria, and new ways of developing things beyond the microscopic scale, will allow us to do things we’ve never been able to do before.
At some point however, we will have to realize that the microcosmos is only going to give us that much. However, if we look at the atomic bombs, nuclear reactors, you can see that a lot of energy can be gotten from what’s appearing to be just a small rod of a mineral (Uranium/Plutonium/Lithium).
I’m sure we can still learn much from atomic research. About as much as mages from old, were trying to find cures and remedies for ailments, or trying to make gold from metal bars.
New materials is high on the list. Bacteria as well (as bacteria can be used to improve many functions we currently try to do with much larger machines).
Research into living organism computer chips (chips based on DNA strands, and on molecular levels); to combine living organisms and machine (as a precursor to melting man and machine). Artificial skin and body feature enhancements, that border the current scale of ethics (breeding of humans with artificially enhanced characteristics).
Computer simulations (like Folding@home) currently allow us to make great strides in medicine, by simulating DNA interactions. Simulators of this kind, have been used for ages, for the development of aircrafts, cars, buildings and bridges; and only now these simulators are being downscaled to the molecular (literally calculating molecule interactions).
And while it still takes a phenomenal pc or supercomputer, to make a few calculations per day, research into Quantum computers may make progress of these DNA research computations skyrocket!
It’s been quite a few decades, since we’ve stepped into the atomic age.
But research still needs to make strides on the atomic/molecular.
The Hadron Collider is doing a lot of that research; in the hope we’ll better understand atoms and to perhaps some day get more energy from fusion or fission.
Thorium salt reactor is one of those inventions that could potentially give human kind nearly free energy for the next 20.000 years!