- policy recommendations for the current administration -


Without a doubt, it is considerably easier to establish a permanent presence on the Moon than it is on Mars. The 86 times greater travel time to Mars means that equipment had better be pretty robust before attempting a mission to Mars. Likewise, the huge difference in return times makes a Mars mission significantly more dangerous than a Moon mission. If Apollo 13 had happened on the way to Mars, the crew would not have been able to make it back alive. Crew going to Mars had better be prepared to lose the real-time support from Mission control as time delay for communication can nearly reach half an hour. Also, the radiation exposure going to Mars is considerably greater than the three day trip to the Moon.

Another, really large reason why Mars is considerably harder to develop than the Moon is that Mars' travel time ties up the craft in a way that the Moon's short travel time doesn't. From a business standpoint, this is huge. Let's say that it costs $200 million to build each Super Heavy Starship (SHS) with all of the life-support equipment as well. That construction cost will have to be paid for by the passengers. So, a certain amount of the ticket price will go to cover that expense. Then it matters considerably how many times that ship is used. Round trips to the Moon take about two weeks whereas round trips to Mars takes about 26 months. This means that for any given SHS, about 52 times more tickets can be sold each for lunar exploration and settlement than for Martian exploration and settlement. Clearly, any business that wants to make money would prefer to sell tickets to the Moon than to Mars.

It should be the stated policy for the United States to conduct an initial, in-space mission to the Mars system as soon as possible.

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