To avoid this, the destiny of human space could end up resembling a less science-fiction future and more desert-caravans-and one place of the caravan permanently buried under meters of Martian soil (to protect from cancer-causing radiation) and you can only go outside for a few days max, because the spaceman will not protect you from light.
And also, who knows what the effects of long-term life in a low-gravity environment might be for these extraterrestrial expatriates. Even without the unknown, the risks currently known mean that trips to Mars will violate NASA's current safety guidelines for astronauts.
Now there is a simple solution to all these problems. But how do you feel about these words: "One small step for robots; one giant leap for mankind "? Instead of bundling people to colonize the cosmos, we can send bots. The current generation is not close to replacing humans, of course, but NASA does not plan to go to Mars until the mid-2030s – and judging from history, that period will likely slip. Meanwhile, robot technology is advancing at a rapid rate: just drop the "Boston Dynamics humanoid robot" into Google and take a look. Imagine what a robot like humans might be capable of in two or three decades.
A common rebuttal is: but sending men and women will inspire more people. After all, we are all transported to the Moon with Neil and Buzz, living through them. (Apart from those who only feel transported to a fake Moon Hollywood studio.) But are we really going to connect it to a human-like robot that prints pioneering boot in Mars dust?
Don't think of a clumsy wheeled machine like NASA's Curiosity, which is currently rolling on Mars; or land landers who land under tomorrow and don't even move; think robots are more relatable like, say, C-3PO than Star Wars – although maybe version 2.0 of him with courage software updates. Really, it is a quality picture of television that was sent back from the Moon that made us feel like we were there. The same thing can be re-emitted from Mars.
Having mechanical pilgrims who colonize a new world will not only be safer, but much cheaper. Every air transport launch that carries humans, for example, is used for half a billion dollars. (And there are more than half a dozen that are launched once a year!) But Curiosity's mission only spends 300 million a year. Robots are cheaper because they can be removed and life support and safety requirements are much lower. They won't give bleep flying about space radiation and low gravity.
NASA is currently developing humanoid robots for space exploration – officially known as their robonaut program – but the current plan is for them to be only hired assistance. Maybe we can all realize our Mars dreams early if we promote the helpers to the heroes.
Graham Phillips has a PhD in astrophysics and is a science journalist.