So, Mars.  Pretty awesome, right?

But what good does landing on the planet do for those still here on Earth?  Sure there will be some benefits in material standard of living and well-being that result for our children.  And there might be some low hanging fruits we’ll pick in our lifetime.

But let’s say only the next generation will reap those rewards.  Does that mean the landing has no meaning or value for you and me?

Looking over my Facebook feed and various headlines of articles it seems that a lot of people running around and alive today think it is pretty important.  But why?

Well that is a question we’d like to ask you, reader: If landing on Mars doesn’t effect your material quality of life, why is it still important?  What intangibles can we reap now?

*via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
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  1. Jimmy says:

    We gain clarity of perspective. Just like the photo from the moon of earth gained us a perspective of our earth as a single system, environmentally. Or like the Pale Blue Dot image we gain understanding of how small all our earthly purpose is and how we may gain from a larger action. Mars may gain us nutrients of what it means to live on a rock that is for the most part inhospitable to our existence and how fighting this may be worth it as an act unto itself.

  2. joe says:

    beyond any scientific advancement, at least for a brief second, and possibly sustaining a bit more, it gives a chance for many of us to look beyond ourselves, and to think of possibilities.

    myself and many of my contemporaries pine for the days of the beginning of the space program where almost every boy, and many girls, wanted to be astronauts, but more so that it put a focus on advancing science. we read, we dreamed, and many pursued and became pioneers of technological advancement.

    so, it inspires, maybe to a smaller extent now than it did then, people to strive to endeavor, work and explore beyond the confines of earth, and to think more in terms of what man can do, rather than god.

  3. Peter Primavera says:

    Paul – My sense is this is about delayed gratification. Very little that fundamental science or the space program’s exploratory missions do will provide any benefit immediately. The issue is what benefits are provided over time. The vanguard of science rarely has an immediate effect or impact, but it requires new insights, techniques, engineering, and support. The benefits are often unanticipated discoveries. Fundamental science is at the core of the exploratory programs at NASA. I will also say that anything that promotes science and the intellectual honesty of the pursuit of science is highly beneficial to Society and is of immediately value. Anything that puts the spotlight on science instead of the commercial fiasco we call Olympics is very good thing. Is there an immediate material benefit? Not as far as I can tell, but that certainly does not qualify ar useless science. If it does we need to remove some folks like Gallileo and Darwin from the pantheon of great science.

  4. joe says:

    unfortunately, it looks like the 24hr news cycle is up for curiosity. so, maybe any popular influence is over unless there’s some significant discovery. 🙁

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  6. Andrea David Edelman says:

    It’s absolutely useless. NASA has a budget and they go through the motions without any good reason for doing so. There is no long term vision. We’re roving around on the surface of a rock where no one will ever want to live.

    The usual argument that the technology will be useful for yet unknown purposes and lateral integration is utter crap since for this level of spending and this many scientists we could develop lots of other technologies useful now, technology has an opportunity cost like any investment.

    The challenge is space today isn’t to go somewhere far with a light load, it’s to go somewhere close (LEO, Moon) with a heavy load. For that we’ll need radically new technologies like a space elevator.

    If we’re kept up the pace of advancement we had in the 60’s we’d have a million people living on the moon by now. The moon can be used for food, electricity and habitation. All it takes is construction, for that you need materials and for that you need lift capacity. That we don’t have and aren’t working on.

  7. Michael Kovarik says:

    Astrobiology is incredibly important, and its practical utility is not hypothetical. Other than Earth, there are two good candidates where life may have spontaneously spawned from inorganic processes: Mars and Europa. Everything we know about biology comes from what has been naturally selected given Earth’s environmental conditions. Hopefully, by studying life (or the remains thereof) on Mars, we may be able to reconstitute the boundaries which govern biological science.

    Andrea, a space elevator and a lunar colony sounds awesome. The problem with that is that NASA’s budget is less than half of a percent than that of federal government’s and has been continuously in decline since the Nixon administration. Both a space elevator and and a lunar base costs a considerable amount of resources to maintain. On the other had, the Mars Science Laboratory is self-sustaining. That is, NASA is giving the most bang for the taxpayer’s buck.

    • Paul says:

      That’s great! We definitely understand that there are lots of practical benefits, Michael.

      However, we were wondering what kinds of intangible benefits such science and exploration provides.

  8. Howard Young says:

    It is important to know whether life once prospered on Mars, and if so what might have caused its demise. More significant however is the very act of exploration – a seemingly inbred activity of the human species. Not all humans explore, but our species has always ultimately benefited from the explorers amongst us. We DON’T KNOW what is out there, but through exploring we get to FIND OUT. Also explorers are a bit like experts doing Math, where the vast majority of new results are useless except for doing more Math. Even though many new theorems will be usable in time, it is the very act of creating new Mathematical results that pushes the human mind in ways it has not been pushed before.

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