“In a sense it’s our destiny to move beyond this planet and Mars is the logical choice,” said the 53-year-old scientist. She predicts that Mars is likely the site of signs of other evolved life forms, and having a laboratory on the Red Planet would be “critically important” for science.
NASA’s Manned Mars Mission: Significant challenges
Any future Mars mission would be fraught with difficulty, including the threat from high-levels of radiation once astronauts have landed, and Stofan claims NASA are still trying “to figure out how to adequately protect them.”
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Another challenge is presented by Mars’ thin atmosphere, which makes landing a colossal spaceship an incredibly difficult proposition. Scientists are still researching a “way of slowing yourself down really rapidly” under such conditions.
NASA’s Manned Mars Mission: Why Mars?
The expense of space exploration has come under fire from those more concerned with earthly problems, but Stofan claims that exploration of our solar system and the other planets contained in it is of great benefit in studying the Earth too.
Concerning a mission to Mars, Stofan claims that scientists would ideally be able to compare processes on Earth with those from other planets, in order to build a greater understanding of our own planet. She compares the work of earth scientists with that of doctors, whose understanding of a disease benefits from a greater number of patients.
Stofan has another riposte for those who claim that we should be concentrating on issues closer to home. “We get amazing technology spinoffs from the work NASA has done,” she claimed, giving examples such as fuel efficient winglets for airplanes to climate change monitoring equipment.
Stofan also weighed in on equality in the workplace, claiming that at NASA she has “had to work four times as hard to be taken half as seriously,” with men making up the vast majority of the workforce. She adds that if humanity wants to undertake new groundbreaking missions such as a Mars landing, we need to maximize our potential by involving the brightest minds from different genders and races, “not just white men.”
If we can effectively harness our potential, Stofan thinks we could see a manned Mars mission within the next 25 years.