Grades: 6th - 8th
From the earliest days of space exploration, no other object has excited the imagination of writers, scientists, engineers, and the public more than Mars. A neighbor in space, and visible to the naked eye on many clear evenings, the Red Planet beckons.
The development of modern rocketry was advanced by visionaries such as Robert Goddard and Werner von Braun, who always considered Mars to be their true destination. Today, we have the technology to make that dream a reality. What’s more, there is a compelling reason to go, beyond the human instinct for exploration. Life on Earth has suffered a series of extinction events over its long history and there is no reason to expect the future to be uneventful. Becoming a multi-planetary species is the surest means of securing a long and prosperous future for humanity.
If Mars proves to be without native life, as seems likely given our current understanding, then human colonists will one day become “the Martians”. There is, however, another possibility. Although no evidence for life of Mars has yet been discovered, much research in this area continues. If native life, even microscopic, is discovered on Mars, then the moral equation changes completely. Past campaigns of colonization in the name of Manifest Destiny have had catastrophic results for native populations in the Americas and elsewhere. What would it mean for life on Mars? Could humans colonize Mars without driving the native ecology to extinction?
Such questions cannot be answered without a more complete understanding of the Red Planet. Humans may go to Mars in the 2030’s, as currently planned. Most likely, they will find no Martian organisms to worry about. Even if they should, and governments decide against colonization, the discovery and in-situ study of Martian organisms would be the most astounding achievement of the century. There is no reason not to begin planning the first manned mission to Mars immediately. Your students begin today!
Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Fusion, "Mars: Manifest Destiny" (2020). Fusion. 4.