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Martian Monoculture

written by Ferand Peek on June 28, 2005
number of views: 74712 |   printable version (text) (PDF)

An asteroid settlement.
An asteroid settlement.
Credit: NASA
I love the idea of colonizing Mars as much as the next space enthusiast. However I have been asking myself more and more lately: 'is it necessarily the best option for us to undertake?'

I can't help but see the same historical conflicts over land or territory or market influence, social system vs pure capitalist system, wealthy nations competing with poorer nations, played out again upon the surface of another world.

It is possible that by the time such a project was completed, or substantial populations were living on the surface of Mars, the people of Earth may have moved past their current trend towards mono-culturalism through the power of multinational companies, and on to something perhaps more humane.

However if they haven't, the people who control the flow of money in this world will continue their company's or country's need for growth.

Can you just imagine the legal battles over water-mining rights at the south pole?

Or buying a coffee at the Pavonis Mons Starbucks after disembarking the Martian Elevator? Or shopping in McDonalds for a McMars burger with Deimos fries and a Marineris sized Coke?

Personally I'd rather leave Mars wild than see the corporations snapping up the naming rights. Or see on the news that Boeing is competing with Northrop Grumman for the next-generation Mars-atmospheric-fighter-jet contract. A 'defence' need for the newly inaugurated United States of Hellas Basin.

I concede such a thing may never come to pass, however if the current trends on this planet continue, once the monied public could afford to emigrate, the companies would be right behind, to continue their influence on the next. And nations would no doubt form along the usual cultural, ethnic or religious lines.

And would we be doing anything really that different from today?

One of the main reasons given as to why we must colonize Mars is that it is our duty to spread the seed of humanity from the single fragile home it currently inhabits.

While I agree completely with this sentiment, I don't think Mars is necessarily the best choice, and I think it certainly shouldn't be the first.

My favorite idea is the notion of the asteroid settlement.

While it may sound boring initially consider this:

An asteroid can have caverns hollowed out of its interior for food and living space. Claustrophobic?

What about a starscraper set into the asteroid's foundations and reaching outwards providing spectacular views for its inhabitants, who could live in the comfort of the artificial gravity created by the asteroid's spin.

While a technical and engineering challenge possibly beyond us at the moment, what is it next to the entire terraforming of Mars?

A far more achievable objective?

Also an asteroid could travel any orbit its inhabitants may wish to set it upon. It could see the sights of the Solar System; the rings of Saturn, the volcanoes of Io, the ice covered surface of Europa.

Now isn't that a little more appealing than being stuck in dust storms for months at a time, on a planet which climate is undergoing massive upheaval?

Or alternatively an asteroid could be positioned in Earth's orbit, or possibly a stable Lagrange point, to enjoy participating in an expanding space culture. It could host a hotel starcraper with a premier view of the Earth/Moon system, the lowest floor a penthouse suite with a standard Earth G. International scientists could be billeted there and could experiment in zero-gravity stations which could slowly orbit the asteroid. But most of all it would be small enough to be a community of only thousands, resistant to the influences of corporations and nations.

A truly new human experiment.

Separated by space and their inherent nature as single physical entities. Hundreds of such asteroids could be colonized, each unique in its choice of culture and way of life.

Humanity spread throughout the Solar System and beyond.

Societies full of the brightest and best. Facing new challenges and freed from the endless cycles of violence and control this planet seems to propagate.

I hope.

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