How to Go to Mars – To Stay


Let’s get this over with once and for all: We are going to Mars. The only questions are: When? Who? How? Which way? And, of course, why?


Science and civilization.

We go to learn about our solar system, to search for life, and to understand what happened to Mars so we avoid it ourselves.

We go to settle, expanding the domain of humanity and life, because that is what living species do — and if we stop we die as a culture.

Which way?

Straight there or via the Moon.
Elon Musk and old school Apollo fans want to go straight to Mars.
Elon wants to plant people, the old schoolers want to plant flags.

Many want to practice on the Moon — just three days from Earth — before sending people three months and 225 million kilometers to Mars. Some want a cislunar space station to learn long-duration spaceflight, others to get down and dirty on the radiation-bathed lunar surface. Still others want to stop at the Martian moons to mine propellants and operate robots on the Martian surface.


Most want to emplace supplies and equipment on Mars in advance, converting the atmosphere into propellant, air and water before humans arrive. Some want propellant depots in space on this end using lunar – or asteroid – derived materials.

Some want massive rockets hurling astronauts from Earth’s surface to the surface of Mars. Some want large spaceships that never touch ground on either end, cycling back and forth indefinitely with astronauts ferried up and down on both ends, a la Buzz Aldrin.

When? Who?

It’s in the wind, so soon. Next month’s movie The Martian may someday be seen as the cultural icon of the shift. Right now the only announced human Mars program is Elon Musk’s SpaceXs. I’m —> Read More