Occasionally it’s strange to see photos from the Curiosity Rover on Mars. Some of them feel distinctly like home. I can almost imagine a person walking by on the soft sand, through the pathway of rocks, and over the horizon, like a traveller navigating the desert. The latest panorama of Mars gives me that feeling in spades.
And yet, this rusty world has too thin an atmosphere to allow a human to breathe. It has no water to drink, and intense radiation from the Sun that prevents life from blanketing its surface. It is human, and yet alien. No homo sapiens has ever set foot on this enigmatic world, a neighbouring rock as lonely as our own, lost in the cosmic ocean.
Mars is inhabited entirely by robots, for now, but with all of the data we gather, we will see an ever growing need for a human mission, to do the things that robots can not, and gain the deepest insights while returning home with samples of rock.
Mars, in the mean time, continues to wait silently.