Dear Dr K, In the year 1969 the first humans stepped on the moon. More than 40 years have passed since then, but humans still haven’t stepped on Mars yet, and seem to have stopped visiting the moon altogether. Why aren’t humans making any progress in space?- Bizz Aldrun
Just because we were able to get to the moon doesn’t mean Mars is just another step away. Look at the moon in the sky — it’s huge! It sometimes looks like it’s so close you could hit it with a pebble if you threw it hard enough. Now look at Mars. Can you see it?
Ask an astronomer to help you — it’s that tiny red speck that’s almost indistinguishable from the stars in the sky, and it’s supposed to be significantly larger than the moon. The problem is that after the moon, Mars is the next closest thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s a stone’s throw away. If only there were something just slightly further than the moon for us to go to, we surely would have gone there by now.
You’re right about the fact that we don’t seem to be very interested in visiting the moon any more. That’s because, in humanity’s few visits to the moon, we established quite conclusively that there’s not much to do there. There are no monuments or other sites of historical interest, there are no low-gravity amusement parks, there are no forests or rivers or wildlife to draw tourists. You might say you want to go there not as a tourist, but as a scientist, but there are unfortunately no good universities with strong science departments on the moon, either. There are just a lot of craters there.
As for Mars, we haven’t been there yet, but we’ve examined it to the best of our abilities using remote probes and devices, and it seems to be the same story there as well, except that it’s much dimmer and redder than the moon.
In the four decades since we first landed on the moon, however, let’s remember that we’ve progressed in other ways, one of the most significant among those being communication technology. Today you can keep in touch with friends on another continent, talk to relatives on the other side of the planet, even marry someone who lives under the ocean, without ever having met them in real life.
All these things were inconceivable back then, which is why they probably placed a much greater emphasis on having to physically establish one’s presence in a place. Today, we’re satisfied if we can see it on the Internet without having to get out of our chairs. And for that, we have put cameras on space robots that have been doing the job just fine.