Over the last few years a lot of people have caught Mars fever. It seems a week doesn’t go by without a report of some new group wanting to send people to Mars, or some big name in the industry talking about why we have to go to Mars, or articles talking about the glorious future humanity will have on Mars. All of this worries me. In my opinion, a Mars base is currently not sustainable because there’s no way for it to make money. A few missions may fly doing extraordinary science, but if it’s then cancelled for cost the whole Mars Project may just be seen as an expensive stunt.
Fortunately, there are other places in the solar system besides Mars. While bases on the moon and amongst the asteroids won’t be as inspirational as one on Mars, they will have opportunities for businesses to make goods and services as well as profits, meaning less chance of them being outright cancelled. This will make life better on Earth and secure a firm foothold in space for humanity. The essays in “The Moon Before Mars: Why returning to the moon makes more sense than rushing off to Mars” allow me to describe my ideas on what can be accomplished on the moon and with the asteroids, and why Mars isn’t the destiny of humanity its cheerleaders make it out to be. I even made a short video talking more about this.
Here is a brief excerpt:
Many of the people gung-ho on Mars see it as a backup for humanity, in case something terrible happens on Earth. But there are enough metals in the Asteroid Belt to build hundreds of space stations. The population of a community station may only be ten thousand or so, but they would be scattered all over the solar system, each acting as a backup.
And one thing we can do with a hollowed out asteroid or a constructed vessel that can’t be done with Mars, is to put rockets on one and send it off to another star system. So basically, the math comes down to, if we go to Mars we get a planet; but if we go to the asteroids, we get the galaxy. Yes, we’ll do both, but what I realized is that those so focused on Mars, are just thinking too small.