When younger generations imagine what it must have been like to live through the first space race, and the initial excitement over the concept of a moon landing, they might compare it to the present day. Seemingly over the past year, our inevitable journeys to Mars have become a hot topic. It’s not a brand new topic, but thanks to various efforts to prepare for the idea of one-way journeys, a human landing on Mars suddenly seems imminent. We’re even starting to see this reflected in pop culture and entertainment. The wildly popular film The Martian is just a few years old, and The First is a brand new Hulu show, called a different kind of space drama and revolving around a first journey to Mars.

It’s all very exciting but there is a chance we’re imagining too much in the way of human involvement with the initial exploration and colonization of Mars. To this point, much of what we’ve learned about the Red Planet has come from unmanned rovers, and there’s reason to believe that modern tech like AI and virtual reality will dominate the early phases of our impending Mars movement as well.

Virtual Exploration

This is an idea that actually comes from a video game. It’s called Gonzo’s Quest, and while it’s most commonly found online as one of the games that can be played for free at slot sites, it’s also become known as having led the way for slot arcades breaking into virtual reality. Within the game, you essentially follow a Spanish conquistador exploring the lush New World and looking for riches. It’s a far cry from a Martian theme, and yet in a way Mars represents the most wild and unknown frontier since the New World in the Age of Exploration. And in context that makes you wonder: what if the explorers of the 15th century had been able to strap on headsets and virtually probe through accurate, mapped renderings of the world they’d soon be exploring? Might they have found efficient paths to areas of interest, uncovered unforeseen challenges, and even gained a level of personal comfort with the process? This is something we can theoretically do with Mars, at least with some degree of accuracy. And at the point when we actually have human beings setting out to explore Martian wilderness, it’s hard to imagine this not coming in handy.

More Advanced Rovers

What the Curiosity Rover and other tech products have achieved already in Mars exploration is remarkable – really, one of the great unsung achievements of the early stages of the space age we find ourselves in. As one article that went into great depth on the topic put it, AI already aids the agency’s research on the Red Planet, in part through rover technology. In a very general sense however, it’s worth noting that such tools are only going to grow more sophisticated the more we progress in the fields of AI and VR. More advanced rovers can and likely will be deployed not remotely but by the first teams of explorers to visit Mars. And at that point they could be vastly superior to the Curiosity Rover in terms of their ability to roam safely, record data, react to the environment, and, through virtual reality, allow the explorers a front row seat to the process. The results of expeditions from more advanced rovers figure to be invaluable.

Building Settlements

If you haven’t ever heard of a robot named Rollin Justin, you might as we get nearer and nearer to an actual Mars expedition. The robot is said to have four fingers on each hand, resemble a generally humanoid figure (minus legs), and stand six feet tall. It is a product of the German Aerospace Center and, per an article published earlier this year, is designed to help with household tasks as well as construction and maintenance on Mars. Justin is said to be equipped with very advanced AI that enables him to work without supervision, and to keep working if communications to any kind of control unit are for some reason severed. Whether or not this exact robot is ever put into use on Mars remains to be seen, but Justin’s existence does offer us a window into a future in which AI units will likely play a major role in building and maintaining safe settlements on Mars.

Maintaining Safety Measures

Last but certainly not least, fairly basic AI will also undoubtedly be used on Mars to maintain safety and security in whatever camps or settlements are ultimately set up. We can actually start to see versions of this in modern smart homes here on Earth, in which connected tech devices and systems can already alert us to dangerous gases, smoke, and unlocked doors, not to mention regulate temperatures and moderate energy usage according to preferences and requirements. While there isn’t much specific data or news out there just yet about this specific type of tech being used in Mars settlements, there is bound to be a “smart home” component to the whole concept, which will use AI to keep human explorers safe, comfortable, and properly equipped with resources.

by Guest Author, Steven E. Wright;