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Focusing on Humans

written by Luciano Méndez on September 08, 2004 | contact me
number of views: 74740 |   printable version (text) (PDF)

Protesting Mars.
Protesting Mars.
Credit: AP Photo
One of the hurdles for achieving human Mars exploration plans is the reduced percentage of the society that supports this enterprise. Most belittles its potential historic importance as a vector of change for our world, and they even consider it prejudicial. Al least two consequences derive from this; 1- A decrease in political and economic support to human to Mars programs, which difficult its accomplishment. 2 – The violation of the basic principle obf space enterprise as an element of mankind expansion, since according to the golden rule of space exploration, it must be carried out in a way that reduce, not increase, the stress in world’s society.

In order to generate the support needed to solve both problems, a different approach to human Mars exploration could be adopted, by placing the scientific and technological aspects on a secondary level –yet not reducing its importance– and focusing on the human being and the highly rich space configured around it. Thus, the human to Mars program would become mainly a worldwide media undertaking to communicate the immediate benefits that global society will get from human presence on Mars and also to help reinforcing a richer human identity for this and the centuries to come. Each mission would become a worldwide relevance event somehow like the Olympic Games, an event to “celebrate humanity”, as the slogan says.

New goals

Which are the current reasons to support human Mars exploration and why are they still not convincing enough for the common run of people? In one hand, is often said that the scientific and technological breakthroughs derived from human exploration and settlement of mars justify the efforts since it will benefit our civilization as a whole. In the other hand, we have the intangible profits in the long term as the expansion of the physical as well as mental frontiers of humankind alongside with its intellectual and spiritual enrichment, and so on. However, most people underrate both reasons because from their point of view they are about abstract possibilities of unlikely effect in everyday life. We could say accurately that the main interest of everybody is related to what has immediate repercussion in our personal, everyday life and to what is touching and exciting moves us in an emotional manner. This would be the principle to have in mind when it comes to obtaining support.

Then, to focus on humans that will travel to Mars will guarantee people’s interest in the enterprise, for the same reason why the reality shows became a success: because every spectator identifies with some characteristic of the participants´ personality or life story, generating the empathy that allows meeting the explorer experiences. Therefore, the exploration of a far-away world would stop being a distant experience to become a sum of emotive situations of a fellow man involved in an unprecedented adventure. Millions of people will take part in it first emotionally and then in an intellectual way, in order to enjoy this adventure of knowledge. Therefore, the goal of influence positively and immediately in everyone’s personal life would be achieved.

The observing world will discover itself in the Mars explorers, since they will be simply the reflex of what we humans are. To reinforce this affinity it would be needful to broaden the topics to tackle during the journey, besides from the ones related to Mars research, in order to include the diversity of public interests. The mission should be successful in becoming an ambit of discussion and diffusion of ideas applicable to the everyday life in the current international context, by undertaking topics that constitute the human space in which we all live: relations between people, affective relationships, cultural activities and traditions, philosophical, political, and religious perspectives, and so on. The starting point to undertake them would come from the daily life experiences of the astronauts. The crew will become the raw material to be studied by each investigator of the various disciplines taking part in this worldwide event alongside with the spectators and media hosts on earth. To get acquaintance with each other, to establish bonds by interacting with the audience and chatting about the situations that we all face as humans can be very attractive in many ways, and if it is well planned it will guarantee the capture audience interest. We can think of diverse TV programs focused on different aspects of this exploration of human nature in this unusual setting that will enlighten never seen profiles. A TV channel broadcasting all this material would be as attractive as the Discovery Channel (Why not “The Humanity Channel”?). When the journey had just started, it will be an excellent moment to get to know them, having the crew canned in the ship for months. Think of radio programs with local broadcastings in every country, hosted by the astronauts –almost in real time– alongside with famous commentators in constant feedback with the listeners. In addition to the documentaries, let’s imagine funny TV programs like zero gravity cooking, a talk show, and one about crew memories and anecdotes about life in their respective fatherlands. Interaction with the public –both before and during the mission– in order to make them participants, is clue to succeed. The accomplishment of this goal will turn the phrase “we will all go to Mars” into more than just a good slogan.

On a deeper level, the international crews on Mars will configure a new acting space for humanity in the Red Planet. This will be useful as a platform test bed for international relations models between people from different cultures, subsequently applicable on a large scale on Earth in order to improve the coexistence. One of the most clear and powerful messages would be that tolerance and cooperation between all nations is feasible and essential when it comes to create a better living space to live together, both in a small community on Mars as well as worldwide on Earth. Imagine how valuable would be a positive experience involving two astronauts natives of cultures or nations having causes of enmity –say Jewish and Muslims for example– exposing their differences, getting to know each other, living together and becoming friends during a mission to Mars, far from the subjective influence of theirs local environments. Their fellow compatriots watching this encouraging event may revise their prejudices and might behave in a different way.

New concepts

This approach redefine Mars as an stage where humanity can continue its performance, its development, together as a whole, reinterpreting who we are, and how this can help us building a better world on both planets. Influence the setting of better social conditions on Earth could be possible if human Mars exploration find its place in popular culture as an icon of this search, contributing to redefine what is to be a human, from a different point of view than the one established according with the Cartesian paradigm. This paradigm laid the foundations of the historic and social ambit that became the living space for western civilization during the last three centuries, which is now undergoing a mutation. These new times require new concepts to succeed in taking a right course in this historic crossroad. That is why philosophy is taking an ontological turn, which means, the cultivation of a more flexible space starting with a new self-understanding of what we humans are.

The Cartesian paradigm is marked by the excessive rationality and inflexibility at all levels, leaving in a secondary level the feelings, the subjectivity and others characteristic inherent in human beings. It defines man especially as a rational being in a pre-established world that has to be understood in order to be controlled. This notions, valid for centuries, are now collapsing, thus marking the end of an epoch, perplexes us by so much instability; institutions becomes inefficient, population exponentially grows and diversifies, turning the world into an unseen, startling and overwhelming puzzle, scattered with economical political and social conflicts.

On the other hand, the post-Cartesian paradigm comes to add flexibility to the interpretation and development of the human being, considering it as a being that gives rise to a reality of its own by means of the interaction with the others and the interpretation of the world. Thus, man gives shape to a social environment trough the generation of sense and construction of an identity, since the world in which we all live is produced by our being and our developmental journey, which determines in each moment certain generative processes as the feelings, the memories, the categories, and history. Considering all this, post-Cartesian paradigm poses an attractive option to build a human identity as a base for elaborating new forms of coexistence and joint development both for the present times and for the centuries to come.

The human approach of human Mars exploration aims at exploiting the infinite possibilities of man as an intrinsically representative and interpretative being. The missions will be “signification-building machines” capable of elaborating and conveying powerful messages that raise valuable interpretations. The communicational possibilities of such a magnitude events are inexhaustible and the emissaries on Mars should be capable of accomplishing these objectives, since they will be both the hosts of a show as well as the guides in the road of discovery. In this sense, is clue to make up an international crew qualified in several professional fields. They will create a human environment taking into account the various cultural expressions not imposing “the truth” but representing the human groups’ diversity of truths and inviting everybody to take part in this experience of get to know each other. Is essential to include broad sector of the population in order to strength the idea that this is not a first world’s adventure but humanity’s as a species walking towards a brighter, in common future. Thus, human presence on Mars would persist in time far beyond the first mission’s euphoria.

Summing up, and paraphrasing the astronauts of Apollo 8, we will come all this way to explore Mars but the most important thing we will discover will be human nature. As the message sent on board the Voyager I and II, the human Mars exploration will help us reconsider what is truly important when we watch our world from the distance, and will set an example for present and future generations showing that humans are capable of marvelous things when we act together in peace. A strong message of hope sent to ourselves.

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