NASA Administrator and senior science advisor to President Obama, Charles Bolden told attendees at The Humans to Mars Summit in Washington that "Mars matters."

The summit, which is currently being held between May 5 and May 7, features discussions about the current and future plans and efforts by NASA to one day send humans on a long journey to the Red Planet.

So does Mars matter to Bolden and others at NASA?  Here are a few reasons he mentioned during his speech.

  • "Because its formulation and evolution are comparable to Earth's"
  • "Because we know that at one time it had conditions suitable for life"
  • "Because what we learn about the Red Planet may tell us more about our own home planet's history and future"
  • "Because it might just help us unravel the age-old mystery about whether life exists beyond Earth"

Bolden isn't the only one who thinks exploring, and maybe one day settling the Red Planet is important.  Some of the most important science minds of our age including Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Buzz Aldrin, Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson all have similar views about Mars but want to make sure that we also colonize the planet as well.

They cite five different reasons why this important:

1.  Ensure the survival of our species.

With Earth being the only home to our species, we are at greater risk of extinction due to cataclysmic events.  The dinosaurs are one of the best examples.  They managed to live and rule this planet for 165 million years but today there are only traces of them left because of one asteroid collision.

2.  Discovering life on Mars

Searching for signs of life should be a priority as we work to discover if we are alone in our solar system.  Bill Nye has said that we should be sending people to the planet as people can explore much more efficiently than even the best robot explorers we can create.

There is a theory that exists that states that life on Earth could have come from Mars as a result of microorganisms hitching a ride on rocks that impacted our planet.  It isn't much a stretch to believe this, as Martian rocks have been found here on Earth.

"You cannot rule out the fact that a Mars rock with life in it landing on the Earth kicked off terrestrial life, and you can only really test that by finding life on Mars," Christopher Impey, a British astronomer and author of over a dozen books in astronomy and popular science, said.

3.  Improving life here at home.

Some of the best improvements in our way of life have come as a result of humanity pushing its limits beyond what it once thought were boundaries that could not be broken.

"Only by pushing mankind to its limits, to the bottoms of the ocean and into space, will we make discoveries in science and technology that can be adapted to improve life on Earth," Alexandar Kumar wrote.

It's impossible to predict how new technologies will be used in other areas once they are developed and used for space exploration.

4.  Growth and improvement of our species.

Much like the original Apollo moon landings worked to bond an entire generation, exploration and possible colonization of Mars could bind a new generation together in ways never before believed possible.

"Yes, if it galvanizes an entire generation of students in the educational pipeline to want to become scientists, engineers, technologists, and mathematicians," Tyson said. "The next generation of astronauts to land on Mars are in middle school now."

5.  Political and economic leadership.

Buzz Aldrin, at a hearing for the US Senate's Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, said that getting to Mars was essential to both science and policy.

"In my opinion, there is no more convincing way to demonstrate American leadership for the remainder of this century than to commit to a permanent presence on Mars," he said.

If Americans don't go, someone else will.  Whoever does make the journey will reap both scientific and political benefits.

"If you lose your space edge," Tyson said during his interview with Zakaria, "my deep concern is that you lose everything else about society that enables you to compete economically."