If the opening monologue of every Star Trek series (except Enterprise of course; what was up with that theme song?) is to be believed, space is the final frontier. The first step into that frontier – 1969’s Apollo moon landing – is considered one of Mankind’s greatest achievements. Unfortunately, we haven’t been back since 1972 and the moon colonies that science fiction always told us we’d have remain science fiction. Worse, many space-minded experts now say that there isn’t much point. They argue that the future lies not in going back to the moon, but in going forward to Mars.
Of course, this proposal presents a number of technical hurdles to overcome in and of itself. After all, reaching Mars with the goal of studying it and eventually colonizing it means we have to master not only getting there safely, but also getting back. Or does it?
A recent article in the Journal of Cosmology titled “To Boldly Go” puts forth the idea that the exploration and colonization of Mars would be faster and more economical if the trip were one-way. Not unlike the same methods and adventurous spirit that drove people to colonize the new frontier that we call North America, an initial group of colonists would be responsible for setting up the basics of an official Mars Colony. Necessities (such as power and food) would be delivered via robotic probes prior to their arrival. From there, resupply ships would support the colony until it became self-sufficient. Utilizing these supplies and the natural resources of Mars, a workable, self-sustaining colony could be set up and used as a base for the continued study of Mars and all points outward. Initial colonists would mostly consist of older Adventurers due to the shortened lifespan that comes with harsh environments, lack of medical care and of course, living on a planet that’s bathed in radiation. That same radiation could damage reproductive organs, so anyone who is still in their childbearing years would probably be off the list.
Now, before anyone out there starts charging their iPods and packing some DVD’s to watch on the six-month trip (Space Cowboys would be wildly appropriate by the way), NASA is in no way on board with this plan at this time. That’s largely because NASA is pretty specific about their safety standards AND about bringing their people home. In response, I can’t say it any better than President Kennedy did when announcing our plan to land a man on the moon:
“There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”
If you’ve never watched it, I invite you to do so now. It’s every bit as inspirational as you imagine.
I have to assume that there are a lot of Adventurers out there who would immediately sign up for the chance to be one of the first colonists of MARS. We here at the LGA would be proud to set up the first Martian five-star restaurant and cocktail lounge… I can just imagine the first message back to Earth, “Mars… needs… bourbon!“