|Actual image from Endeavor.|
Mars is now the next great target in space, and rightfully so. Curiosity, an American Mars exploration vehicle, will be landing on Mars within two weeks. One of the finest places I have found to explore Mars online is (ironically) "Explore Mars" (www.exploremars.org). You can find features and content that are breathtaking and captivating. Today's "Picture of the Day" is a female Chinese space explorer. This begs the question: "What will the 'SpaceRace' to Mars" look like as it takes shape?
For many years it seemed that only a group of countries could pull off sending humans to Mars successfully. The risks, including cost and political risk, seemed most logically spread over several countries. More recently that landscape has changed.
The United States is in the midst of a major retooling of its program in an effort to make long space voyages. India and Russia have space programs that are in motion. Europe has seen space faring efforts slow as a result of conituning, pervasive, economic troubles there. One of the most credible players in this field are the Chinese. Slowly and steadily they have built a credible space program with a clear, focused intent - to launch the first human to walk on Mars. It is no mistake the countries who have resources turned toward Mars are those who are healthy and aspire to guide humanity in the next 100 years, much as the US has in the past 50.
Good STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education will contribute to the efforts of the country that makes it to Mars first. In addition, the educational and technological benefits of a country adopting and championing a challenge like this are enormous. Think back on the 1960s (or research it!) and you wil lfind true educational reform coupled with a plethora of "spin-offs" from NASA.
How do you feel about the coming race to get to Mars? Is it a race at all? How is this like past exploration of areas of Earth, and how is it different? If you need a bit of inspiration to discuss, take a look at "sunset on Mars" from NASA's JPL website. There's nothing like sipping a good cup of coffee and watching a sunset is there?