Here at Republibot our mandate is to ask questions that no one else is asking; ideally the painfully obvious ones that no one even *thinks* to ask. To that end, I have to think it’s well beyond time to question what the appropriate focus of our manned space program should be: Mars, or Venus? The common wisdom, of course, is “Mars! What the hell is wrong with you? Why would you even ask such a thing?” But of course the Common Wisdom is Common simply because no one ever questions it, not because it’s inherently right. We’ll discuss the Pros and Cons for each planet under the jump.
It is taken as axiomatic in Science Fiction that humanity’s future lies in space. If that assumption is really the case, then a fundamental failing of NASA – and indeed every Space Agency in the world – is that everyone is talking about exploration and no one is talking about colonization. In fact, the last NASA symposium on that subject was in 1977, a full thirty-two years ago! The Soviets never discussed it as far as I can tell, and the Russians are far too pragmatic and cash starved to even joke about such things. The Chinese Space Program is likewise barely soldiering along, so the idea is not even a blip on their radar at the present, insofar as we can tell.
Granted, in a world that hasn’t even visited its own moon in thirty-seven years, things like “Space colonization” do seem a bit grandiose, but the desire to at least check out the apartment is hardwired in to us, even if you don’t have the money to move there. So we sublimate our inherent primate desire for territorial expansion with the code word “Exploration.” We’ll not go to the Moon or Mars to claim it for the US or Mother Russia, instead we’ll go simply as lookey-loos, in the sake of science, ostensibly trying to find evidence of long-extinct extraterrestrial life or subterranean water, which may not exist in the first place, rather than for any of the more bankable reasons that people actually give a damn about.
But inasmuch as we talk (And talk. And talk. And talk some more) about manned exploration of space without ever actually doing anything about it, the target of choice is always Mars. And there’s always some mumbled sentiment about how “Mars is the future.” We hear this so much, and for so long now – more than half a century – that we tend to accept it without thinking, much the same way that Democrats automatically assume all Republicans are stupid, and the way most people believe all French people are rude. Mars is the logical choice, right? Yes? Isn’t it? I mean, it’s *such* a logical choice that people have ceased to consider any other option. It has become the *only* choice. From where I sit, having just one choice is pretty much the same as having no choices at all, and I recoil from that idea. So let’s look at our options, shall we?
First, as a baseline comparison, let’s take a look at our own planet: - Our diameter is just shy of 8,000 miles, our breathable atmospheric pressure is just under 15 pounds per square inch at sea level, and our average surface temperature is a surprisingly low 57.2 degrees. Our day is 24 hours, and our year is 365.25 days. Our gravity at the surface is 1G. There is lots and lots of liquid water because of this high gravity (Earth is the densest object in the Solar System this side of people who voted for Hillary in the primaries), and our ‘gravity well’ is deep enough that we never loose any of it to space. The same goes for the air: we have a thick atmosphere and a disproportionately strong magnetic field that, working together, screen out nearly all solar and cosmic radiation. It’s home.
Now let’s take a look at Mars: - The planet’s diameter is just shy of 4,220 miles, or a hair over half that of Earth. Such atmosphere as there is on mars is toxic, and the pressure is just about 1/11th pound per square inch at ground level. (Yes, you read that right, it’s that low!), and our average surface temperature is around 51 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit (Though at the equator during a particularly hot summer, it might get up to a balmy 23 degrees above zero.) The Martian day is 24