Witt: Before heading to Mars, work to do on Earth

According to a recent ScienceAlert, a free online daily newsletter, Bill Nye (the Science Guy) thinks one would have to be on drugs to think Mars could ever be habitable for humans.

“Are you guys high?” he asked in a USA Today interview. “We can’t even take care of this planet where we live, and we’re perfectly suited for it, let alone another planet.”

In his comments he noted it (Mars) is too cold, there is hardly any water, no food and, most importantly, there is nothing to breathe.

He’s not alone in his skepticism about the prospects of colonizing Mars. Noted astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson is equally skeptical.

It should be noted, not everyone feels the same.

Elon Musk, chief executive officer of SpaceX, and Stephen Hawking (now deceased) believe (and apparently did believe, in the case of Hawking) mankind has great opportunities on Mars.

In fact, it was Hawking who suggested humans must find other planets to colonize in order to survive as he felt humans would eventually make Earth uninhabitable.

Of course, Musk has a vested interest in seeing the exploration of Mars and, potentially, its full exploitation, since his business is providing means of projecting man into space.

To be perfectly candid, one should not be too quick to say something can never be done. There are too many scientific developments that have taken place over the decades which, in many cases, came along much earlier than predicted or anticipated.

From a purely practical viewpoint, and based on the ways in which man is using the resources of this planet, it seems highly unlikely manned exploration of Mars is going to be high on the list of things that have to be accomplished.

As is often pointed out when people talk about space exploration, we know as little about the depths of our own oceans as we do about conditions on the other planets in our solar system.

While the exploration of either of them is difficult, it perhaps seems learning more about the environment which sustains mankind here is more important than attempts to colonize a barren planet some 40 million miles away.

There is always that quest of man for knowledge and the more remote the knowledge, the greater is the desire to acquire it.

Thus, the exploration of other planets, harnessing the ability to travel across the vastness of space will always have a magnetism to the imagination of man, just as in centuries past man wanted to find out what was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean or explore the polar regions.

Never say never, especially when it comes to the ingenuity of man and science.

Getting humans to Mars may come in 20 years or 50 years. Or it may not come for another century. And even when a human has walked upon that planet’s surface and returned to Earth to share his experiences, there will still be time before trips there become routine, when the costs no longer — if they ever do — outweigh the benefits.

But for now, Nye and Tyson probably have simple logic on their side.

There remain many things left for man to do here on his home planet, most especially making sure it remains habitable for the foreseeable future.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.