The planet Mars is the closest we have in our solar system to being called hospitable (well, after our own beloved Earth)- it has surface gravity, an atmosphere, carbon dioxide, minerals and most importantly, water. But would you want to take a one-way trip over there?
Some scientists, like Dirk Schulze-Makuch, speculate that to safeguard the human species against catastrophe on Earth, within 2 decades we could start sending over small groups of colonists to start living on Mars. Others, like Apollo 14 astronaut Ed Mitchell, say we are not ready to be discussing living on the red planet. NASA is not going anywhere near the idea, but Schulze-Makuch claims that the private sector may be more interested in investing in the missions.
After all, humans are dreamers-of-what-could-be, and pushing the boundaries is what drives scientific exploration. After exploring the surface of planets, the next step would be visiting in person- think of the incredible technology we would develop to deal with travel to and life in such a harsh environment.
But we haven’t even sent a human to Mars to walk on the surface, let alone try to make a life there. Which of us will be ready to literally leave their world behind and survive on an alien planet? And why should we colonize other planets anyway? If it won’t benefit the individual -and most of us remain on Earth to perish when an asteroid hits us- why should we care if the species propagates itself through the universe?
If you do decide to hold a classroom discussion around this topic, look into our Mars Mission Box as an extension activity for your students to practically explore some of the challenges to life on Mars, for example protecting ourselves against radiation.