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Mars-Les Johnson

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According To Hoyt
Les Johnson
Sept. 28 2015

Mars. In the heart and mind of almost every science fiction fan I know, the mere mention of the planet Mars evokes a sense of “what if?” followed by wistful recollection of the many books, television shows and movies that have been made depicting the exploration of the Red Planet.

Who among us hasn’t wished they’d heard the live broadcast of Orson Wells’ The War of the Worlds back in 1938? A few of our older kin recall the disappointment of learning that Mars is a barren dessert and not the Barsoom of Edgar Rice Burroughs. We’ve experienced the joys of reading Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and the disappointment of seeing the truly mediocre television miniseries of the same name. And then there’s Ben Bova’s sweeping novel of Mars exploration titled, simply, Mars. And Kim Stanley Robinson’s series, Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars; the list goes on. And now we get to see how Andy Weir’s survival story, The Martian, survives translation to the big screen. (I’ve already seen it – There was a special screening at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville on September 21. No spoilers here!) Almost every science fiction writer, including me, have written about Mars in either a book or short story. It’s in our blood.

Since I work for NASA and have looked extensively at the technologies required to send people to Mars, I am often asked how close we are to being able to take such a journey. [DISCLAIMER: The very fact that I work for NASA requires me to say that “the opinions expressed herein are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer.”] Basing my opinion solely on information that is publicly available, the answer is… not straightforward. Let me break it into the three areas that Project Managers and Decision Makers (the ones with the money) use when they assess the viability of a project in an attempt to explain my answer.




What do we conclude from all this?

1) We want to go to Mars.

2) It is technically feasible to go to Mars.

3) It is logistically possible to go to Mars within a decade of deciding to do so.

4) A trip to Mars is affordable.

Why, then, aren’t we going to Mars?

Because it isn’t a priority. We, as a society, don’t want it badly enough.

Priorities can change. So get busy. Mars awaits!





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