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To What Extent Should Space Agencies Prioritize Sending a Manned Mission to Mars?

Space Exploration

Space is the current, unexplored frontier. People have been really fascinated by the new idea of the actual ability to colonize another planet such as Mars. There are even some trips planned to go to Mars in the next couple of years. At one point in history, all this was science fiction and something beyond humanity. Today, it is a possibility, people are excited to learn, discover and experience new things on Mars. However, this should not be the priority of space agencies, especially since there is so much that is unknown about space and by sending people with little knowledge, they would be at risk. There are health risks, environmental and technological problems that haven’t been resolved yet.

One of the space technology problems that is not resolved yet is carrying the heavy cargo through Mars’ atmosphere. The rockets that have to carry this much cargo aren’t developed yet. In the article “The Journey to Mars: Bridging the Technology Gap,” which was published by NASA stated that having a rocket that is going to carry such a heavy load and descend through the thin atmosphere of Mars is going to be a real challenge. There has never been a mission carrying so much cargo like the one that would be expected to go to Mars. There are also other needs that should be thought of. According to Kumar Krishen, who is the senior scientist technologist and R and D lead for the Technology Transfer Office, NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston and Texas; there is still a need for improvements in the water and air recovery systems for a long space mission. Therefore, it would not be as easy to create those advancements and to have everything in a good shape for the future. In addition, space agencies do not have a large amount of information when it comes to space. Hence, conversely to prioritizing colonizing Mars, space agencies should gather more information about space and become more advanced in the technologies before sending the mission.

“These data, combined with estimates of the radiation exposure during flights to Mars, allow us to predict the frequencies of dicentrics in T-lymphocytes of astronauts to be 10–40 times higher than the control level of one dicentric per 1000 cells” was stated in the article “Manned missions to Mars and chromosome damage”,which was written by several authors, some being experts in medical physics, nuclear physics, and accelerator physics. This is stating that the amount of radiation that a person is exposed to in a flight to Mars would increase the chance of dicentrics, which are chromosome with two centromeres, if the dicentrics are not corrected it would cause chromosomes to be added and some deleted, there is also a chance of them combining in an undesirable way leading to health problems. Being exposed to the amount of radiation in space, according to “Manned Missions to Mars and Chromosome Damage,” could lead to “cancer, central nervous system effects, cataracts, circulatory diseases, and acute radiation syndromes.” NASA also talked about how space radiation can result in people having “nausea, vomiting, anorexia, and fatigue.” in its article “The Human Body in Space.” Astronauts would be exposed to stronger radiation that on the inside of the magnetosphere of Earth stated Tanya Lewis, who is a biomedical engineer. Thus, thinking of how much radiation people on the spaceships would be exposed to and the fact that this amount of radiation would have a lot of negative effects on the human body which makes a manned mission to Mars not worth the risk in the present or the near future.

As well as resulting in physical health problems, it also causes psychological problems. In the academic journal “During the Long Way to Mars: Effects of 520 Days of Confinement (Mars500) on the Assessment of Affective Stimuli and Stage Alteration in Mood and Plasma Hormone Levels,” which was written by authors from astronaut research centers as well as laboratories of medicine and neuroscience; it discussed how the three quarter phenomena which include the excitement changing to depression, then to aggressiveness. This phenomenon would be caused by psycho-physiological factors, which ends up leading to mental issues.

Space agencies do not have the numerous amount of information needed when it comes to the environment of Mars. They have some information based on rover observations, but there has been no human to physically set foot on Mars. There are several environmental factors on Mars that are unpredictable. According to Krishen, “The unpredictable environmental factor on Mars is the presence of regional dust storms." This is one of the things that are unpredictable, therefore, showing that sending a manned mission to Mars would be a big risk. The people on the trip would be putting their lives in danger as well as having them go through all the environmental changes.

It might seem like an exciting and necessary step to colonize Mars, on the other hand, space agencies shouldn’t be prioritizing it. Especially, that there are several risks and disadvantages that would outweigh benefits like new resources or a solution to overpopulation. Before space agencies make the decision of starting to colonize Mars they should take the environmental and technological challenges, in addition to health risks into consideration.


Krishen, Kumar. “Technology Needs for Future Space Exploration.” IETE Technical Review 26, no. 4 (July 2009): 228–35. doi:10.4103/0256-4602.52992.

Lewis, T. (2018). Radiation and Boredom: Manned Mars Mission Faces Challenges. [Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].

NASA. (2018). The Human Body in Space. [Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].

NASA. (2018). The Journey to Mars: Bridging the Technology Gap. [Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].

Obe, G., R. Facius, G. Reitz, I. Johannes, and C. Johannes. 1999. “Manned Missions to Mars and Chromosome Damage.” International Journal of Radiation Biology 75 (4):429–33. doi:10.1080/095530099140348.

Wang, Yue, Xiaolu Jing, Ke Lv, Bin Wu, Yanqiang Bai, Yuejia Luo, Shanguang Chen, and Yinghui Li. 2014. “During the Long Way to Mars: Effects of 520 Days of Confinement (Mars500) on the Assessment of Affective Stimuli and Stage Alteration in Mood and Plasma Hormone Levels.” PLoS ONE 9 (4): 1–9. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087087.

"Space Exploration and Human Evolution." The Japan Times. Accessed December 28, 2018.

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