Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why haven't we colonized Mars?

An article on the other day marked 50 years of humanity in space.  Yet we have still to colonize a single planet or at least The Moon.  Why is that?
Well, for a number of reasons, I thought before I even read the article.  There's the enormous economic cost and perhaps even more insurmountable, the indifference of society.   But the article pointed out areas of resistance that are similar, yet distinctive in their own way.
First of all, the Cold War is over.  The Moon race was held basically as a political pissing contest between America and the Soviet Union.  Plus, technological developments in space exploration often filtered into defense.  The model of rocket that carried Yuri Gagarin into space was easily adapted into the first ICBM.  A sure game-changer in the world of warfare.  Without the Soviet threat, America as a whole just doesn't feel the need to go on with the program anymore.
Then there's the question of a willingness to go.  Since the Challenger and Columbia disasters, I think that people are being more reluctant when it comes to space travel.  We're openly asking ourselves, "is this worth human lives?"  
I think it is undoubted that lives will be lost in the colonization of Mars or any other planet.  I'm not trying to pessimistic but realistic.  It's dangerous business, space exploration.  Still, danger never stopped humanity from exploring in the past.  It didn't preclude the Vikings from coming to America in longboats that few of us would choose to traverse the ocean in today.  Plane crashes happen every year and car crashes happen every day, but most of us still get into those vehicles to get where we're going.  As Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, points out in the article, "My uncle landed on Normandy beach. They didn't hold up the Normandy landing until they thought it was safe. If you're going to wait to go to Mars until you think it will be safe, then you'll never go to Mars."
At first blush, Zubrin's comparison of the exigency behind the Normandy invasion and a journey to Mars may sound off kilter, but is it really?

Face it.  We're going to have to leave this planet.  Even if we enact every single possible measure we can to preserve the environment, something is going to happen that will force humanity to either leave or perish.  It might be overpopulation, a new form of deadly virus, or an asteroid on unstoppable collision course, but something will transpire that shall necessitate our leaving here in order to survive.  Better to be prepared with systems in place and colonies to go to in order to do so.
Besides...I want to know about those "monuments" on Mars.

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1 comment:

  1. On Facebook, PilotJess said: "I was going to mention that when aviation first started, the only people who would get in an airplane were the 'brave and daring.' Even when commercial air travel became possible, flight attendants were typically nurses "just in case". Un...til we used aircraft widely in war, and we pushed our service men to fly for the expediency of it, it was still regarded as a brave way to travel. In fact, the sheer lack of reliability was made fun of. "Time to spare, go by air." It took almost 100 years for people to think of air travel as commonplace. I think it will take a much larger exposure to space travel for us to have the will to send a manned mission to Mars.
    "You know that I'd love to go to space, but I'll tell you it scares the living crap out of me."

    Ditto that. It's the most inhospitable environment we can conceive of and just the sheer emptiness and infinity of it...yikes.