Most Used Tips On How To Choose The Best Steak

The steak. Almost a staple in our diets. However, not all steaks are created equal, there are those delicious steaks, and then there are the godly tasting steaks. Knowing the subtle differences can me...

News Company - avatar News Company

3 Tips for Improving Your Physical Fitness, When You're Starting from a Pretty Bad Place

Fitness is one of the most important things in life for overall health and wellness – and maintaining a regular fitness routine has all sorts of potential benefits, ranging from better medical outco...

News Company - avatar News Company

Top 5 Events to Enjoy in the United Kingdom Every Year

The United Kingdom as any country holds numerous engaging festivals throughout the year. What makes the UK offer to stand out from the rest is their exciting travel landmarks and cities that nearly ...

Goran Kezić - avatar Goran Kezić

Friday essay: YouTube apologies and reality TV revelations - the rise of the public confession

A little over a year ago, former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith made a tearful confession and apology to the public, having been banned from cricket for 12 months for ball tampering. Smith&rsq...

Kate Douglas, Professor, Flinders University - avatar Kate Douglas, Professor, Flinders University

Population DNA testing for disease risk is coming. Here are five things to know

Screening millions of healthy people for their risk of disease can be cost-effective. But it raises ethical and regulatory concerns.from www.shutterstock.comDNA testing to predict disease risk has the...

Paul Lacaze, Head, Public Health Genomics Program, Monash University - avatar Paul Lacaze, Head, Public Health Genomics Program, Monash University

Why Sydney residents use 30% more water per day than Melburnians

Melbourne's water supplies are running low after years of drought.shutterstockThis week Melbourne’s water storage dropped below 50%, a sign of the prolonged and deepening drought gripping easter...

Ian Wright, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science, Western Sydney University - avatar Ian Wright, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science, Western Sydney University

From gun control to HIV: six ingredients of successful public policy

Australia’s national policy response to HIV/AIDS has been lauded as one of the best in the world.ShutterstockIn the lead up to the recent federal election, there was plenty of negative rhetoric ...

Joannah Luetjens, PhD Candidate, Utrecht University - avatar Joannah Luetjens, PhD Candidate, Utrecht University

How the dangerous evolution of Pakistan’s national security state threatens domestic stability

Protests followed the terrorist attack that killed more than 40 Indian military personnel in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. AAP/Jaipal Singh, CC BY-NDIn February, a terrorist attack by Jaysh...

Robert G. Patman, Professor of International Relations, University of Otago - avatar Robert G. Patman, Professor of International Relations, University of Otago

Taming wild cities: the tall buildings of Australia show why we need strong design guidelines

Towering canyons of concrete and glass are an increasingly dominant feature of fast-growing cities like Melbourne.ymgerman/ShutterstockPrivate enterprise has shaped the skylines of Australia’s c...

Timothy Moore, PhD Candidate, Melbourne School of Design, Monash University - avatar Timothy Moore, PhD Candidate, Melbourne School of Design, Monash University

Let them play! Kids need freedom from play restrictions to develop

Playing in nature improves children's learning, social and emotional skills.MI PHAM/unsplashYou may have heard of play. It’s that thing children do – the diverse range of unstructured, spo...

Brendon Hyndman, Senior Lecturer and Course Director (Postgraduate Education courses), Charles Sturt University - avatar Brendon Hyndman, Senior Lecturer and Course Director (Postgraduate Education courses), Charles Sturt University

If you think less immigration will solve Australia's problems, you're wrong; but neither will more

More by luck than design, recent recent levels of immigration seem to be in a 'goldilocks zone' that balances economic, social and environmental objectives.www.shutterstock.comAre we letting too many ...

Cameron Allen, Researcher, UNSW - avatar Cameron Allen, Researcher, UNSW

Gamers use machine learning to navigate complex video games – but it's not free

Playing Dota 2? You can do better with a little help from machine learning.Shutterstock/hkhtt hj Some of the world’s most popular video games track your activity as you play – but they&rsq...

Ben Egliston, PhD candidate in Media and Communications, University of Sydney - avatar Ben Egliston, PhD candidate in Media and Communications, University of Sydney

Grattan on Friday: Shocked Labor moves on – but to what policy destination?

Bill Shorten has said he likes doing the family shopping, nevertheless Tuesday’s front page picture in The Australian did capture the savagery of changing political fortunes. There was Shorten, ...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Narendra Modi has won the largest election in the world. What will this mean for India?

Narendra Modi's image was ubiquitous on the campaign trail – a sign of how much Indians have gravitated toward his cult of personality and nationalist rhetoric.Harish Tyagi/AAP The resounding vi...

Amitabh Mattoo, Honorary Professor of International Relations, University of Melbourne - avatar Amitabh Mattoo, Honorary Professor of International Relations, University of Melbourne

Everyone wants to go to Mars, or so it seems.

Elon Musk, NASA with Lockheed Martin, and now Boeing are all looking towards the red planet, with heady predictions of missions during the 2020s.

But at what cost? And could we even survive any long-term colonisation on Mars? Given the problems we face here on Earth it’s important to ask whether we should be better tasked with looking after the only planet we know (so far) that can harbour life.

Read more: Revealed today, Elon Musk’s new space vision took us from Earth to Mars, and back home again

The race to Mars

Boeing says it wants to be involved in the first mission to send humans to the red planet. The company’s chief executive Dennis Muilenburg told a US TV host in December 2017:

I firmly believe the first person that sets foot on Mars will get there on a Boeing rocket.

A key rival is Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX, which is already launching rockets. At the 68th Annual International Aeronautics Congress, in Adelaide in September 2017, Musk spoke of airline-like connections between Earth and Mars, with cargo missions to begin by 2022.

Lockheed Martin says it plans to send humans to Mars in the next decade.

Even the famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has argued that it is “essential that we colonise space” although he doesn’t see it happening that soon:

I believe that we will eventually establish self-sustaining colonies on Mars and other bodies in the Solar system although probably not within the next 100 years.

Exploring other planets

Scientific exploration of Solar system planets constitutes one of the most exciting achievements the human race is realising.

But by contrast, the idea of colonising Mars or other planets or moons is misleading. It yields an impression in many people’s mind that an alternative exists to Earth, a unique (so far) haven of life in the Solar system, currently suffering from global warming, rising oceans, extreme weather events, mass extinction of species and growing risk of nuclear wars.

Microbial life may exist on Mars or may have existed in the past. According to NASA:

Among our discoveries about Mars, one stands out above all others: the possible presence of liquid water, either in its ancient past or preserved in the subsurface today. Water is key because almost everywhere we find water on Earth, we find life. If Mars once had liquid water, or still does today, it’s compelling to ask whether any microscopic life forms could have developed on its surface.

But doubts have been raised recently with regard to the distinction between water and sand flow on Mars.

No atmosphere for life

At present there is no evidence of a liveable atmosphere under which plants or other organisms would survive on Mars.

Its thin atmosphere is less than 1% of Earth’s, consisting of 96% carbon dioxide, 1.9% nitrogen, 1.9% argon and trace amounts of oxygen and carbon monoxide. It provides little protection from the Sun’s radiation, nor does it allow retention of heat at the surface.

Suggestions as to whether biological-like textures in a Martian meteorite (ALH84001) signify ancient fossils have not been confirmed.

image This high-resolution scanning electron microscope image shows an unusual tube-like structural form that is less than 1/100th the width of a human hair in size found in meteorite ALH84001, a meteorite believed to be of Martian origin. NASA

In July 2017 researchers reported that the surface of Mars may be more toxic to microorganisms than previously thought.

A Mars colony warning

There is no lack of warnings regarding the colonisation of Mars.

If a colony was established it would take continuous efforts and major expense to keep it supplied, including likely rescue missions. Furthermore, the long-term isolation of the colonists may take its toll.

When the Mars One project announced in 2013 that it was looking to recruit four people to send on a mission to colonise Mars, Chris Chambers, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at Cardiff University, warned of the psychological risks the colonists would face.

Yet dreams stay alive. According to NASA’s mission statement:

Even if Mars is devoid of past or present life, however, there’s still much excitement on the horizon. We ourselves might become “life on Mars”, should humans choose to travel there one day.

Earth calling Mars

Space colonisation dreams are not entirely devoid of economic interests. The international space industry is said to be worth in the order of some US$400 billion a year, and predicted to grow to nearly US$3 trillion over the next three decades.

Space travel and colonisation ideas are mostly promoted by engineers and entrepreneurs who stand to gain from these schemes, but far less so by biologists and medical scientists who understand the terrestrial origin and physiological limitations of the human body.

There can be little doubt that, given modern and future computer and space technologies, space stations could be constructed on Mars, where a few privileged humans may be able to live for periods of time.

Read more: The new space race: why we need a human mission to Mars

Should humans colonise a life-bearing planet, we should ask whether organisms would fare any better than species extinguished on Earth.

The ethical polarity between those dreaming of conquering space and those hoping to defend Earth from global heating and a nuclear calamity could not be greater.

The billions and trillions of dollars required to develop and maintain colonies in space could approach the estimated US$1.69 trillion military spending globally in 2016.

As a scientist who examines how a changing climate influences human evolution, I argue that funds on this scale would be better directed at the defence of the lives of more than 7 billion humans on Earth, as well as protection of animals and of nature more broadly.

Read more