Why is there a push to get humans on Mars in the next few decades? Wouldn't it be wiser to send only robots first to set up an entire colony; do research; try to establish self-sustainability, etc.

Human lives would not be at risk, and the benefits of using robots are manifold: cheaper, no food or oxygen needed, can work longer hours, do not suffer psychologically.

And then once the hardest work is done, humans could go...

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    $\begingroup$ Prestige………………… $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Aug 18, 2017 at 9:31
  • $\begingroup$ A lot of robots on Mars will be needed before a manned landing is possible. We need to know a good place with resorces and a level surface without craters or large bolders. But we also need to know of good places for human research nearby. Producing fuel on the surface for a return would require further robotic missions. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Aug 19, 2017 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ Complexity. It is less complex to send trained humans than to build and program robots to accomplish complicated tasks of which most of this is yet to be developed. $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2017 at 21:21

2 Answers 2


One reason is that we don't have robots as versatile as humans.

We have machines capable of high speed, high precision, reliability and endurance not possible for a human, but no robot is good enough to look at a hole in a sheet of plastic covering the base, take a roll of duct tape and glue the hole closed within 30 seconds since the breach, unless you design and program that robot for that specific task, taking at least a year of work of a large team of engineers. And there are millions of such various easy, simple, but extremely varied tasks - a large number of them unknown, unforseen - where human intelligence, agility and dexterity allow to complete the unplanned task within seconds or minutes from occurrence of condition that forced the task.

In particular, we don't have robots that can autonomously repair themselves or each other. And this is not going to happen in at least a couple decades.

If we want to reach Mars beforehand, we will need humans to assist construction of the base. Robots can complete a large portion of the work, and about everything that was foreseen, but for the unforeseen humans will be a necessity.

  • $\begingroup$ A quote from memory whose source I cannot locate: "I can program a robot to go to the vending machine, put a five dollar bill in it, press the right buttons, take the snack, and come back. But if there's a hundred-dollar bill on the floor, it will just roll over it". $\endgroup$ Feb 19, 2018 at 16:47

In the past 50 something years robots have been providing us with a wealth of information and incredible discoveries. There are many experts that agree with the idea that it will probably take human explorers to determine whether there ever was or even still life on Mars and therefor the conduct of many other scientific investigations that are not possible with robots alone.

There is a very well written post with some strong points about that "Six essential reasons why we need to send humans to Mars"

  • $\begingroup$ Is this an answer to the question. While correct could it not also be correct that robots could do the simpler task of building a habitat before further search for life by human explorers. $\endgroup$
    – lijat
    Aug 19, 2017 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah you are right lijat. $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Aug 20, 2017 at 13:41

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