I'm tired of people complaining about Mars. Someone else, today mused on this in their journal and I had been meaning to get around to it myself. So here it is.
The reinterest in our space program is one of the few things Bush has gotten right. You may be cynical about the motivation or the timing, and all the grandstanding and posturing, I know I am, but regardless of the motivation, this is a good thing.
Conspiracy theories aside, we went to the moon over 30 years ago. We didn't do it out of any need to do so (accept to beat those vile Soviets to it) but to simply go. To expand the frontier of human exploration and experience. Space truly is the last frontier and being content to sit here on our little ball in the heavens betrays the human spirit, and certainly the Western/American spirit.
Naysayers like to claim that robots and remote controlled machines can do the same job cheaper and safer. To this I say, bullshit. There is no substitute for the rational faculty of the human mind in research, exploration, and critical thinking. The logistics of the distance between Mars and Earth makes remote control machinery impractical for serious exploration of the Martian landscape and her resources. At the very least, we need humans in orbit around Mars so that radio transmissions can be in real time, but if we're going to go that far, we might as well go down there ourselves.
A permanent colony on the moon is impractical. For a colony to be successful, there will need to be natural resources which the colony can make use of. The international space station is rightfully the more logical solution for our "close to home" colony. If we're going to colonize another planet, Mars is the next most suitable candidate, but we will never know unless we go there and survey its landscape and resources. Is there water that can be utilized? Is the soil capable of sustaining vegetation? Are there minerals such as iron, copper, and silver which could be utilized in construction? Are there nuclear rich resources that could be utilized for energy sources? Are there compunds and elements we haven't even dreamed of existing?
These are questions we cannot know the answers to until we make the commitment to do it. Naysayers look at the immediate and now. I know that the beneifts of us going now will likely not be reaped in my life time, but it shouldn't stop us from taking the steps to do it now. Will people die, suffer hardship, and will it be expensive? Certainly. No more than it was for the Europeans who colonized and settled this hemisphere 300 years ago.