Warren E. Leary writing in the NY Times asks “Will Humans Ever Visit Mars?”
I have never questioned whether humans will go to Mars. I only wonder when we will embark on this adventure.
Leary reports that this feat is within the grasp of one prosperous nation like the United States.
The article highlights the approach championed in Dr. Zubrin’s book, "The Case for Mars." Zubrin suggests sending unpiloted vehicles to provide equipment and a way for the people who would land later to get home.
This approach avoids the difficulty of developing one giant ship with equipment and supplies for a round trip. The first landing would be a spaceship that would be a return vehicle. It would land intact, so it could take off again, but it would have used up its fuel.
Supply and mining and processing vessels would follow. The humans would arrive last. They would dig for subsurface water and other materials they could convert into fuel for the trip home.
Leary qoutes Dr. Louis D. Friedman, executive director of the Planetary Society: Mars is the only planet we know of that humans have a chance of colonizing to prove they will not be forever Earth-bound.
"Mars becomes the experiment. If we can't make it on Mars, then Earth is our limit and we are going to have to re-examine our relationship to our home planet."