The dream of space exploration might become little more than stardust if we’re not too careful.
The article, “To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission to Mars,” co-authored by Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch and Dr. Paul Davies (published by the Journal of Cosmology), suggests that it is time to consider manned missions to Mars, a goal we can achieve within 20 years. (1)
This is big news. This is big vision. This signals we are indeed living in the future. But where’s the conversation? People can gather round the water cooler to discuss the latest “Mad Men” episodes, but something like space exploration and Mars rarely finds serious consideration in mainstream America. Mars is typically the subject matter of science fiction stories, astrology, astronomy and occasionally, major news stories.
There is one catch: it’ll be a one-way ticket.
To be sure, it’s not the happiest scenario and sounds more 1620 A.D., than “2001: A Space Odyssey,” yet the works of Robert A. Heinlein examined some of the more plausible ways in which man could travel beyond the stars. His novels, essays and stories inspired a generation. Schulze-Makuch and Davies are to some degree, Heinlein’s children. (3)
People seem to get stuck on Iraq, 911 and Katrina, when talking about the legacy of George W. Bush, but some forget that he supported space exploration and was seriously pushing for a new frontier amongst the stars. In 2004, he said: “We do not know where this journey will end, yet we know this: Human beings are headed into the cosmos.”
Whatever your opinions of the 43rd president, this clearly showed an unexpected direction, a futurist’s perspective. He even suggested returning to the moon by 2020, taking that experience, and then as he put it, “we will then be ready to take the next steps of space exploration: human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond.”
There are downsides to what Schulze-Makuch and Davies propose, such as sending older people (around 60 years of age) as “settlers,” since the radiation will likely render the traveler sterile, among other health problems. (2)
Today, we seem more interested in our 3 and 4G networks, latest apps, and new breakthroughs in tech, than reaching out to the stars. We’re wowed by 3D. Too bad.
Disney’s upcoming “Mars Needs Moms” (March 2011), not only uses Mars as a central theme, but is directed by Simon Wells (the great-grandson of H.G. Wells). Mars is popular culture (“The Martian Chronicles”), science, extrapolation, and possibly, one day, it could be home.
Consider for a moment that this isn’t science fiction anymore. Each day brings us closer to the end of all things, because let’s face it, whether you lean more towards science or religion, it doesn’t matter: resources are hardly inexhaustible. All things must pass.
Mars isn’t a child’s fairytale. Mars isn’t just an exotic locale for use by the science fiction writer.
It’s an investment in mankind’s future.
1) Yahoo! News, “Scientists propose one-way trip to Mars,” http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_one_way_to_mars
2) The Journal of Cosmology http://journalofcosmology.com/Mars108.html
3) “President Bush Offers New Vision to NASA” http://www.nasa.gov/missions/solarsystem/bush_vision.html