While attending a wedding in New England, I had a chance to walk through the woods of a large estate. I noticed that one section of the forest contained trees randomly disbursed, another had pine trees organized in perfect rows and the final section was a mixture of the two. Curious, I asked the owners. They said that in the past, families expected their land to be handed down, not only to their children, but also to many generations yet to come. So they planned ahead, planting forest for their grandchildren. The odd hybrid section was a result of quitting this tradition mid way through.
I'm not a scientist, but I want to share my thoughts on Mars because I believe our past goals are somewhat short sighted. We go there to learn. We go there to explore. We go there to see if we can go there. There's nothing wrong with that, but it is short term. Our attitude is let's do what we can do in our lifetime and leave the future to the generations that follow.
I truly believe that if we go to Mars, we won't find any Martians. Instead, I believe we will create Martians. I believe that a new species of humankind will evolve. I don't necessarily think that this is good or bad, but I really believe that it is our inevitable destiny. Please allow me to explain.
Its a thousand years in the future. Mankind has had permanent settlements on Mars for the last 700 years. That gives us 300 years to first go to Mars and come back. Do nothing for decades. Go again and establish colonies, some of which will certainly fail. Mankind is relentless however, so we keep going back and eventually, someone will find something of value on Mars. An ore, open land, a benefit from not having a centralized magnetic field, it could be almost anything or a combination of many things. This will lead to a reason for us to be there. Work there. Live there.
So again it's a thousand years in the future. Humans have been living on Mars for twenty generations. Of course there will always be many who go for a while but return to Earth. Actually living out the rest of your life on Mars won't be for everybody, but some will make Mars their permanent home. They will have children there. They will have grandchildren there. They will begin to change their planet for their grandchildren.
Mars is very different from Earth, but over hundreds of years there is no reason why the atmosphere won't be thicken up. Terra forming will develop. Giant machines spewing tremendous amounts of gases into the air, working in harmony with genetically modified plants, microbes, maybe even insects or small rodents; all of which will start to change this frozen desert wasteland into a breathable planet with rain, seas and even an ocean. Maybe this total transformation takes two or three thousand years, but what's to stop it.
But again, Mars is very different from Earth and here's the rub. The Earth's gravity is three times greater than Mars. Radiation, living indoors and eventually breathing thin atmosphere will all be evolutionary factors, but gravity is key to producing a new human species. Generations of humans living at low gravity will produce real Martians.
Astronauts can live in zero gravity for months but their bodies weaken, their bones and muscles deteriorate. After a long time in orbit, they need a while to re-adjust to our Earth's gravity. Humans who spend any great length of time on low Martian gravity, plus the zero gravity of the trip there and back, are going to have a longer, tougher adjustment, but they will be able to adjust.
Now consider this. You are a fourth or fifth generation Martian, whose family has never left the planet. How could you ever make the adjustment back to Earth's gravity? It would crush you. So, imagine a mere thousand years into the future. We now have twenty generations of Martians. They will be different from us. Their bodies will probably be longer, and their muscles weaker due to the low gravity. Their lungs will be able to breathe in thinner atmospheric pressure. Due to radiation, their skin will mostly likely be thicker, perhaps even a little gray from lack of sunlight. Humans that live on Mars over many, many generations will be become Martians. Mankind will divide into two unique species.
Civilizations on Earth have only been around for maybe six or seven thousand years. When we think about our past and future goals regarding Mars, do we consider things on a similar time scale? I believe that if we do, a whole new way of looking at human evolution and destiny opens up to us. Just because we won't live to see it, doesn't mean that it won't happen or that we will effect how it happens. Just some thoughts on Mars.