There’s been a lot of talk recently about a human expedition to Mars in the pursuit of colonizing, inhabiting and terraforming the planet into Earth 2.0. SpaceX’s Elon Musk has expressed his hopes to land two crewed spacecrafts on the red planet as early as 2024! But, why the interest in Mars?
Mars colony supporters argue the survival of our species, reducing our dependence on Earth and its resources, and the search for alien life (outside of Area 51, of course.)
Our Earth is experiencing dramatic shifts in climate. The average surface temperature has risen 1.62° F since the late 19th century, leading to warming oceans and melting ice sheets, with Greenland and Antarctica losing a combined 413 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016. Global sea levels have also risen about eight inches in the last century, and recent hurricanes, typhoons and wildfires have devastated communities. Our planet is dying, and many people are advocating for outward expansion in order to sustain our species.
Now that we know the stakes, let’s take one small step and one giant leap back.
Mars is a valiant and valuable goal to work towards, but it can also create a frightening outlook that can have devastating consequences to our planet and species if we don’t approach the mission with a certain mentality. This outlook is the idea that we are giving up on the Earth and seeing Mars as the solution to all our environmental problems, which could be a very wrong and detrimental view of the goal.
Think about if your house were on fire. Wouldn’t your first instinct be to put out the fire and salvage what you have rather than to call up your real estate agent and immediately start scheduling open house visits? Discussion about a future Mars society should not be an excuse to divert effort off addressing climate change, regulating global emissions, stimulating renewable energy standardization and innovation, and preserving the Earth. Rather, the Mars discussion should give us perspective on how dire our environmental issues truly are and open a path for real action towards sustainability and the preservation of our home.
While a future society on Mars is definitely important to work towards, the present should never be overlooked or taken for granted. It’s always fun to daydream about one day borrowing your alien neighbor’s Rock Crusher 9000 to trim your lawn, but don’t fail to think about our home turf. Mars is an ambitious goal with a clearer lens each and every day, but by no means should it stop us from addressing the environmental issues of our home planet, and how we can and should work collectively in order to preserve what we currently have.
Lionel Li, Investment Intern
NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and ESA (European Space Agency) are working on a Mars sample-return mission as the next step in its study and eventual pursuit of planet colonization, having signed a LOI for the expedition in April 2018.
Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan
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