FIRSTLY, ABOUT MARS

Mars is a dusty, cold, red desert world that has a 24-hour day, seasons, polar ice caps, weather and the largest volcano in the Solar System, Mount Olympus.

Right now, is the only planet inhabited by robots. But Mars is also within reach. The fourth planet from the Sun, Mars is a potential new frontier for humanity.  Even though the atmosphere of Mars is 100 times thinner than Earth’s, and it gets very cold out there (- 60° Celsius is the average temperature), on nice summer days, near the equator, Mars can be like Wellington: 20° Celsius. So maybe, just maybe, people could live there and one day, understand the technology to even terraform Mars. Until then, domes and caves could be our best bet.

There are a few things we know about Mars:

It is the nearest body in the solar system known to possess mineral resources necessary to sustain a permanent human presence.

It has beautiful landscapes billions of years old that can shed light on the early history of the Earth and our solar system.

Mars is the next most likely place in our solar system where life may once have or may still exist. Spacecraft we sent to Mars since the 1960: fly-by spacecraft, orbiters, landers and rovers, have found lots of evidence that the planet was once warmer, wetter and had a thicker atmosphere.

One of the most explored bodies in our Solar System, Mars once had ancient, persistent liquid water and a complex surface geology. The relief of Mars is very similar to Earth. We now found modern water, perhaps even liquid water underground and discovered recent climate change, we understand why the planet is loosing its atmosphere, we are figuring out its planetary magnetism and modern geological processes.  We also detected seasonal spikes in methane, a gas that on Earth is made mostly by living organisms.

We’ve been looking for life on Mars ever since we first pointed our telescopes at it and hoped it would hold canali, the famous mistranslation of the Italian word channels. The first spacecraft to perform an experiment that was meant to discover whether there was life on Mars or not, were the Vikings. The results were inconclusive and there was a lot of disagreement about them. This is the reason why, over the years, our strategies for Mars exploration evolved from ‘Follow the water’ to ‘Explore habitability’ to ‘Seek the Signs of Life’. If we found evidence, it would change everything – Earth would no longer be the only place with life.

While scientists are looking for life on Mars and make sure we are not contaminating the planet with life from Earth (which is what Planetary Protection does), other people and organisations, such as Space X are preparing to visit it.

In the last decade, major strides toward feasible, affordable human missions have been made and the question is no longer, “Can humans go?” but “When will humans go?”.

Mars Society New Zealand - MISSION

The purpose of the Mars Society NZ is to educate the public about planet Mars, including raising awareness of the uniqueness of this beautiful red planet and what it might hold. While we encourage exploration and settlement of the planet Mars we believe we should go to Mars with science and with a profound understanding of who we are as human race. When we are to settle Mars, we should do so with respect. We should settle Mars because it is the next frontier and a stepping stone towards the humankind becoming a spacefaring civilisation.

MARS is not Planet B.

We cannot move to Mars because somehow Earth got destroyed. If we have the technology to terraform Mars then the same technology will serve here to repair the Earth. The science we discover studying Mars is very precious to understand how to take care of the Earth.


What can New Zealand contribute to the exploration of Mars?

New Zealand is a great place to study in order to understand how life on Mars might have developed. This is called an ‘analog’ place. There are many places in New Zealand that can support this such as the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Antarctica is another great analog for Mars.

Furthermore, New Zealand is a great nation of explorers. We arrived on these shores after setting out on a path of finding new territories. We can learn from the experiences of those early explorers who travelled in small groups, just like the first space explorers will do.

This low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin" on lower Mount Sharp. PIA19808

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