Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Plan B: Mars

The Space Between Us is a 2017 movie that I do NOT recommend as it is heartbreakingly depressing.

It’s the story of a boy who is born and raised on Mars whose heart (larger) and muscles (weaker) are adjusted to life on Mars but not on Earth.  He takes a trip to Earth to find his father and the girl he has fallen in love with via cyber chat.  But he can’t survive for long on the Earth, and in the end, he has to return to Mars.   “Home Sweet Home” say the boy and his father overlooking the barren red Martian landscape at movie’s end.  The sentiment is fake and it is obvious.

But the premise of the movie is stupid.  “If we had to, mankind could make a fresh start {on Mars}.  We’re in trouble and it’s our fault.  … Mars is a planet ripe and ready for life.”  We have made such a mess here on Earth that we need a backup plan, a Plan B, and Mars is it.  So, they begin to colonize Mars, 6-8 Earthlings at a time.

Why is this premise stupid?    As much of a mess as we have made here, it would take a much much much much bigger effort to restart civilization on Mars than to clean it up here.  Even if we buy the movie's premise, we would be adding only a few more humans to the Martian “civilization” each decade; even after 100 years the Martian population would still be under 1000.  Hardly a civilization, hardly a city, or even a small town.  And all living under a protective bubble with no room for failure.  Or accidents.  What would it take to do it the right way, by terraforming Mars?  1000 to 100,000 years.

We have made a real mess here.  But with a real will, we could fix it.  Billions of us made the mess, so billions of us could be put to work to clean it up.  And if we can not clean it up here, what right do we have to suppose that the Martians, our own offspring, would not take the same path and trash Mars too?

Lest I be accused of being a “space Luddite,” I do foresee (even dream of) extra-planetary (if not extra-galactic) space exploration and colonization.  Indeed, To My Countrymen has an essay titled Live Long and Prosper wherein I muse hopefully about a “Star Trek Future.”  But before we begin to run around the Orion Arm of our galaxy, we will surely establish a colony on Mars (if not terraform the Red Planet).  But we have to recognize that neither of those goals is imminent.  Baby steps.  Let’s settle a colony, a permanent colony, more than one colony, on our closest neighboring planet – the Moon.  After we establish a human presence on the Moon (and maybe Titan), for 100 years or even more, we can begin to get serious about extra-planetary exploration and even colonization.  Not to mention that the most important challenge we face on the way into deep space is the ability to survive on our home planet.  Fail that and the rest is humbug.