Mars: To Boldly Stay

©NASA

Mars

NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay studies the most extreme parts of Earth to understand how life might survive in other perts of the universe. But he's also studying another life form living in space: humans.

Chris McKay: "The problem isn't going to Mars - its staying on Mars. We need to take the view that we need to stay. Its not "to boldly go - its to boldly stay". You need to change that verb. Staying on Mars - I don't think we know how to do that. When I say "stay" I mean the way we stay (for example) in Antarctica. Can we imagine setting up a program on Mars that has a continuously operating base for a hundred years? Right now I think the answer to that is no. We can imagine short missions - Apollo-style missions: go to Mars, grab a few rocks, come home. I do not find that very interesting at all. I think that when we go to Mars we need to go to stay."

Miles O'Brien: "It doesn't feel like its a well thought out campaign at this point. Its like a horse designed by a committee at times."

Chris McKay: "The plan for going to Mars is not well thought through. I think that part of the reason why it is not well thought through is because the pieces are so expensive that they do not fit in the box. If we can knock the prices down on all of the pieces then we can fit them into the box reasonable and we may have a plan that works more clearly. Right now they won't fit because the pieces are so expensive that you can't put more than one in. So ... some people want this, other people want that. They've gotta fight because they can't both fit in the budget. If you can drive the cost down then everything fits in and everything can happen."

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