The debate on the ethical implications of colonizing Mars began after discovering that there is flowing water on the planet. The key is whether human beings should think that this planet is theirs or assume that it is a shared source or preserve its untouched environment. Driven by the idea of settling a new planet and understanding that human footprint would destroy the Earth, many companies are ready to invest billions. Although Mars colonization can be a way to survive for humanity, it is potentially harmful to the Martian environment and the solar system.
The population of the Earth grows, the environmental imprint becomes serious, and science develops rapidly. All these factors logically lead to the idea of settling Mars as a new home for humans. The survival of humankind is the key argument in favor of the Red Planet colonization, which would prevent the oblivion of the modern civilization. According to Levchenko et al. , even low chances of finding a new life in space are associated with potential great discoveries in biology, chemistry, and history. It would significantly change the understanding of the universe and also transform its philosophical comprehension. However, ethical considerations should also be considered regarding Mars as an integral part of the solar system.
The Red Planet may have indigenous forms of life that can be disrupted by human settlers. It is the main argument against the colonization of Mars, which is discussed by Smith et al. . The mentioned authors state that galactic biodiversity is critical, while humans have no clearly defined moral obligations towards other planets. Moreover, potential harm to the solar system refers to generating space junk and violating gravitational balance, as Smith et al.  note. The issue is complicated by the need to manage social isolation and privacy challenges that astronauts may face. Levchenko et al. [1, p. 7] assume that the “definition of value of human life, choice, and privacy may take quite a different meaning on Mars to that on Earth”. It can lead to stress, misunderstanding, fatigue, and depression. In addition, Mars colonization creates a problem of choosing the ones who would survive on the Red planet, and those who would remain on the Earth, which is a question of equality.
The opposite viewpoint of human enhancement implies human gene modification to colonize Mars. In terms of environmental ethics, Szocik  claims that it is expected to allow people to adapt to microgravity and radiation without changing or even destroying planet Mars. Another ethical alternative to terraforming Mars refers to designing and sending enhanced human embryos, which would lead to the creation of settlements. In this case, there are such issues as informed consent, human physiology, and the moral right to change human genes, as demonstrated in . Compared to the colonization of Mars, human enhancement suggests minimal invasion and damage to the unsettled planet. Accordingly, it can be a viable option to choose to ensure the ethical exploration of not only Mars but also other planets.
To conclude, the colonization of Mars creates many ethical issues. On the one hand, it is a way for humankind to survive and identify new life forms. On the other hand, it is potentially harmful to Martian life forms and the solar system. Therefore, it seems to be better to use gene modification in space exploration. Ethical implications and moral obligations need to be determined in detail and before settling on Mars.
I., Levchenko, S., Xu, S. Mazouffre, M. Keidar, and K. Bazaka, “Mars colonization: beyond getting there,” Global Challenges, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 1-11, 2019, Web.
K. Szocik, “Ethical, political and legal challenges relating to colonizing and terraforming Mars,” in Terraforming Mars, M. Beech, J. Seckbach, and R. Gordon, Eds. Wiley, 2021, pp. 123-134.
K. C. Smith, K. Abney, G. Anderson, L. Billings, C. L. Devito, B. P. Green, and S. Wells-Jensen, “The great colonization debate,” Futures, vol. 110, pp. 4-14, 2019, Web.