To avoid this, mankind's spatial fate may resemble a less fan-science-fantastic future and a larger caravan – a vacation in the desert – and where the caravan is constantly buried under meters of dirt (to protect itself from cancer-radiation) and you can go outside in just a few days for maximum because the cosmic suit will not protect you from the rays.
And who knows what life effects in the long run in a low-gravity environment can be for these extraterrestrial expanses. Even without strangers, the risks currently known mean that a trip to Mars would violate NASA's current safety guidelines for astronauts.
There is now a simple solution to all these problems. But how do you feel about these words: "A small step for a robot, a giant leap for humanity"? Instead of uniting people to colonize the cosmos, we can send bots. Today's generation does not come close to replacing people, of course, but NASA does not plan to go to Mars until the mid-2030s and judging by history, this timeframe is likely to slip anyway. Meanwhile, robot technology is progressing fast: Just drop the "Boston Dynamics Humanoid Robot" into Google and look at it. Imagine what robots like humans could be capable of after two or three decades.
The common opposition is: sending men and women would be much more inspiring for mankind. After all, we were all transported to the Moon with Neil and Buzz, who lived in them. (In addition to those who just felt transported to a fake Moon Hollywood studio). But will we really deal so much with the human-like robots that make these pioneering boots in Martian dust?
I do not think unstable wheeled machines such as NASA's Curiosity that are currently moving on Mars; or InSight Street, which hits tomorrow and does not even move; I think more relevant robots like, say, C-3PO from star Wars – although maybe version 2.0 of it with courage software update. Indeed, the TV quality pictures that were sent back from the moon made us feel like we were there. The same can be broadcast from Mars.
Putting mechanical pilgrims into the colonization of the new world would be not only safer, but much, much cheaper. Every launch of space shuttles carrying people, for example, cost half a billion dollars. (And there were more than half a dozen releases a year sometimes!) Yet the Curiosity mission costs only 300 million a year. Robots are cheaper because they are tolerable and life-saving and safety requirements are so lower. They will not signal radiation in space and low gravity.
Currently, NASA is developing humanoid space exploration robots, officially known as their robot program, but the current plan is for them to be just hired. Maybe we could all realize our Martian dreams sooner if we encouraged heroes' helpers.
Graham Phillips has a doctorate in astrophysics and is a scientific journalist.