Should we colonize Mars?

Subject classification: this is a science resource.

Mars is our nearest neighbor and the planet most similar to Earth in the Solar System. For millennia, we have known of its existence and only in recent times has the prospect of colonization gone from science fiction to plausible plan. Should humanity push this path?

Mars in outer space
The red planet.

We're talking about colonization in the 21st century, not in the remote future.

Arguments edit

We should colonize Mars edit

  •   Argument We should colonize Mars to mitigate existential threats to humanity as a species. For example, Global catastrophe scenarios, e.g. catastrophic climate change, a large asteroid impact or an all-out thermonuclear war.
    •   Objection Shouldn't we use those huge amounts of resources earmarked for colonizing Mars to mitigate those threats? It is important to note that many of these threats were created by humanity itself (eg climate change).
      •   Objection A question is not an argument.
        •   Objection This is irrelevant. It does not have to be an argument, specifically. It is an objection in the form of a question.
      •   Objection Some of these threats are not created by humanity, e.g. a large asteroid impact. And whether there will be technology to deflect such a large asteroid is unclear. Colonizing Mars, if feasible, would protect humanity and any life forms it brings to Mars from a single-planet catastrophic event, whether man-made or not.
  •   Argument We should ensure the continued existence of living things.
    •   Objection Living things include those that thrive in extreme conditions and these are unlikely to be hit by most considered adverse events such as a large asteroid impact.
      •   Objection Living things also include those that do not thrive in extreme conditions, and those that would be affected by adverse events.
    •   Objection What living things? Colonizating Mars will do nothing to preserve endangered species on Earth.
      •   Objection A question is not an argument.
      •   Objection [Add Single Additional Indentation (tab)] This objection is irrelevant. It does not have to be an argument, specifically. It is an objection in the form of a question. And it also has an argumentative statement.
      •   Objection Any living things that humans would bring to Mars would survive a large asteroid impact on the Earth, or catastrophic climate change on the Earth. That assumes that colonizing Mars is possible, of course. Thus, colonizing Mars would provide an insurance by creating redundancy.
  •   Argument Colonizing Mars could bring Earth many, many resources.
    •   Objection We have plenty of resources here. We don't need more resources, only more wisdom in using them.
      •   Objection Even if we don't need more resources, having more resources is always better.
        •   Objection ´More is always better´ is a personal and ideological motto, not an objective truth that should give human behavior. We should use Earth´ resources more efficiently.
          •   Objection Having extraterrestrial resources could help us preserve better our planet's resources.
    •   Objection Importing more resources from Mars to Earth will imply even more greenhouse gases to pump to our atmosphere.
      •   Objection Not all resources on Mars produce greenhouse gases. We could control imports like we do here on Earth.
        •   Objection How would we transport them? We can’t just build a rocket on mars that easily. On earth, with all the expertise and materials, it takes ages (5+ years) to build a rocket that can send a singular rover to mars. Imagine having to do that with 100s of tons of materials with crew and the supplies needed to keep them alive. And we would need to send a lot of the expertise to mars just to build a rocket there, to make sure it doesn’t fault and that it’s built correctly. Gravity on mars is lower than earth but it still has an atmosphere and such that would make it incredibly difficult getting off.
    •   Objection Transporting bulk cargo from Mars to Earth would be tremendously expensive, so resource extraction on Mars for markets on Earth would be economically infeasible.
      •   Objection Transporting cargo with current technology would be tremendously expensive. If cost does not hinder colonization, why would transporting materials?
  •   Argument Colonizing Mars would give humans a mission so high that no nation can accomplish on its own, and that all countries would benefit from. This has the potential of uniting nations, which is something we should strive for.
    •   Objection If Mars is colonized, it will be done by the few superpowers that have the capability of doing so.
    •   Objection Groups of organizations can achieve great things by competing against each other in a positive-sum way (e.g. successful free-market economies), rather than by uniting together into a single organization, so an effort to colonize Mars wouldn't necessarily unite the world's nations even if all the world's nations did participate in the effort.
  •   Argument We should colonize Mars to fulfill our destiny.
    •   Objection There's no such thing as our destiny, or at least it is not for all humanity, but for a few individuals.
    •   Objection Even if there is such thing as our destiny, we don't know which of the many possible destinies we can come up with is the real one.
      •   Objection Experts can decide.
        •   Objection Experts on what? There's no such thing as "experts on humanity's destiny".
  •   Argument Most nations that have fallen into decline throughout history have done so primarily because of a lack of progress. The colonization of a new world would mean progress for humanity. This progress could save humanity from a hypothetical decadence caused by the lack of progress.
    •   Objection Nations have not declined mainly due to lack of progress, but often a mistaken idea of what progress means was what led to an irresponsible exploitation of resources that generated their collapse; among many other factors such as competition with other nations, logistical inability or environmental changes.

We should not colonize Mars edit

  •   Argument We already have big problems here on Earth. Colonizing Mars would be a huge waste of resources.
    •   Objection This should imply a reduction in the budget for military issues, not for space.
      •   Objection Yet military spending and R&D has been demonstrated, many times over, to be the main source of innovation that improves even day-to-day life.
        •   Objection Space exploration has also provided many benefits that people use in day-to-day life
    •   Objection Colonizing Mars could solve many of the problems here on Earth, through the unlimited influx of resources.
      •   Objection What resources? The soil on Mars is unfarmable. The air is unbreathable. The only thing mildly reasonable is mining but that would not be a colony. A colony requires food, water, and air, and to provide that would cost more than we could export.
    •   Objection By that same argument, nobody should be doing anything that isn't helping sick, hungry or thirsty people.
  •   Argument We should aim to colonize the Moon first. It's much closer and just as airless, waterless and exposed to solar winds as Mars.
    •   Objection The moon is even less resourceful than Mars, it's even more barren and harsh than Mars is. At least on Mars there's an atmosphere, but the moon is simply a dead, dusty white rock in space.
  •   Argument There is no economically viable reason of justifying an effort to colonize Mars, and without one, any colonization effort will run on a finite supply of political will and will fail once that is exhausted.
    •   Objection There's more motivation to Martian colonization than "political will", there is the genuine motivation to keep the human race alive and the eventual goal of terraformation.
  •   Argument Although some aspects of the rough Martian environment can be terraformed with technology, the low gravity and lack of a magnetosphere are intractable problems, and whether a healthy human population can live with such conditions is unknown. Establishing a permanent colony despite this would be unethical.
    •   Objection Colonists can volunteer.
      •   Objection Yes, but their children will not have consented to being born on Mars and made part of a dangerous experiment. We're not sure what low gravity will do in prenatal development[1].
        •   Objection No child has ever consented to being born anywhere. We don't bar people from having their children wherever they want.
  •   Argument If we go to Mars too quickly —perhaps at all— any claim of discovered indigenous martian life might be challenged as life introduced from Earth.
  •   Argument The contents of the following scientific paper ( - titled "Humans Should Not Colonize Mars" - provide moral arguments against Mars colonization. This article offers two arguments for the conclusion that we should refuse on moral grounds to establish a human presence on the surface of Mars. The first argument appeals to a principle constraining the use of invasive or destructive techniques of scientific investigation. The second appeals to a principle governing appropriate human behavior in wilderness. These arguments are prefaced by two preliminary sections. The first preliminary section argues that authors working in space ethics have good reason to shift their focus away from theory-based arguments in favor of arguments that develop in terms of pretheoretic beliefs. The second argues that of the popular justifications for sending humans to Mars only appeals to scientific curiosity can survive reflective scrutiny.
  •   Argument The contents of the following scientific paper ( ) - titled "Moving to Mars: The Feasibility and Desirability of Mars Settlements" - argue that lead their authors to conclude that the normative grounds for Mars colonization are weak: "The on-going space settlement debate has raised questions whether it is possible to settle other planets, and if it was, is it something humans should do. The problem with this space ethical discussion is that it can easily become too vague. To avoid this problem, we suggest a framework for identifying relevant variables that affect the feasibility constraints and desirability factors of establishing space settlements. The variables we focus on include the settlement stage, scale and time frame. Based on the relevant literature, we take mission cost, survival, habitation, water, in situ resources for food, oxygen and fuel energy and dependence on Earth as feasibility constraints that are relevant for the framework. None of them are hard constraints, but rather soft feasibility constraints that make it difficult to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars in the near- to medium-term future. However, in the past, humanity has achieved goals that first seemed infeasible. To justify the costs and effort, the goal must be highly morally desirable. We discuss five different desirability factors that could help justify the effort but as each framework has unique feasibility constraints, not all of these factors are sufficient or necessary to justify this effort. We argue that some of the desirability factors prominent in space ethical literature are not sufficient or necessary in our framework, and thus, we conclude that the normative grounds for establishing a permanent Mars settlement in the foreseeable future are weak."

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