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Reality - Mars Style

written by Frank Stratford on July 28, 2005 | forum profile | contact me
number of views: 76975 |   printable version (text) (PDF)

Real people.
Real people.
Credit: Cooperative Bank
When we talk about colonization of Mars it can bring to mind visions of our past colonial history in places like the U.S and Australia. Those visions also carry the unpopular realities of those times- things like mass genocide, slavery, convict labour camps and destruction of the environment to name a few. To some, the word "colonize" seems to mean that we will somehow commit the same mistakes. There are also many people who still hold on to the hope that we can colonize more areas of planet earth like Antarctica or in our oceans and deserts. Yet more people wonder how any significant human presence can ever be maintained in space colonies knowing our dismal efforts so far have produced nothing. It all seems too hard. Our transport systems for shipping people to Mars don't yet exist they say and judging from present technologies and political realities, it may never exist, or if it does it will be only for the privileged few. The case against a future of human settlement in space and on Mars holds many harsh and disturbing realities which the space enthusiast crowd has largely ignored in their quest to see us actually get out there. On the other hand, any argument that ignores reality can never be taken seriously.

So let us look at the problems facing us. First there are the unsolved and complex technical challenges which engineers and scientists have only just begun to scratch the surface of in relation to human settlements in space and on Mars. Issues like- "What will lower gravity do to the human body and species over a long and indefinite period of time?" or "How will food be produced in environments totally hostile to all life, and what energy and nutritional needs will have to be met for growing food crops successfully in space or on Mars?" then "What will extra radiation do to certain species, human or otherwise over long periods?" and "Will we have to genetically engineer everything to even have a slim chance of survival?" From the design and requirements of the transport system to the planning of greenhouses and new settlements, from problems with lack of air pressure, extremes of heat, cold, long days and a host of medical issues to name but a few, the technical challenges are very real and cannot be ignored. I am glad to say there are some people here and there who are putting some serious thought to these issues and with a name like Red Colony we play a vital part in this endeavor.

Second, and maybe most importantly, there is the issue of motivation. Why should we go? Many arguments of the past have referred to a "because it's there" or a pioneering tradition we must somehow maintain for the future of humanity but let's think about it for a minute. Do the average public see what the space advocacy community sees? We try so hard to raise awareness and interest but it always seems to miss the mark. When I talk to non-space fans about colonization of Mars they give me a funny look like I'm crazy or something. Such priorities to most people are really "out of this world". Where we see unlimited potential for all of humanity they see nothing but where their next paycheck is coming from and how they are going to pay the bills. Most average people simply cannot afford to put their priorities where space advocates do. People are not confident that we can deal with earthbound problems and so can not see how settling Mars is even a realistic possibility. What then is the answer to such real life concerns? They cannot be ignored and if they are ignored we do so at our peril.

So I come to one of my major points- Settling Mars and other areas of space will mean more jobs for people, a lot more than they ever imagined. It would mean the creation of an entirely new industrial and commercial sector in nations all over the world and for many centuries to come. Giving money to the settlement of Mars and other places like the Moon is an investment in all of our futures, whether it's our tax dollars or our own private donations. Saying that we will have more jobs in the world should not be underestimated as a powerful motivation for average people to be involved. There will always be boom and bust but what we are talking about here is the addition of a new economic engine to the nations of the world. Smaller or earth -based projects will never generate this type of employment revolution as a new force for prosperity all over the world. Building new worlds and homes on those worlds will benefit all of humankind in very real "paycheck" terms.

Now people will ask- "How can these "Jobs" benefits affect me when it looks like they are having problems even getting the shuttle into space?" The answer lies in us making the first steps. Mars must be visited by continuing manned missions as soon as humanly possible. This is something the public can make happen. They have the money but they won't waste it on decades of scientific base Antarctica -style research. The public will not support just a scientific based mission. They will want to know what the plan is for settlement and how they can directly benefit. We cannot lie to them. The first years will be hard, just as all previous new settlements on earth were faced with many hardships. An idea that people might understand is a Mars Investment Bank. A pool of funds is created and is used to fund various space projects while at the same time earning interest for the investors. Institutions need to be created first if people are to see what it's all about for them. A New Mars Stock Market could be set up here for the immediate benefit of people on earth right now. Even a governing body of some kind that would allow people to volunteer a portion of their income or savings to Mars and space based projects in general would help people understand and be involved in the formation of a new "Nation World". If people are to see the benefits they must be laid out clearly for them, A to Z. I say, work with what already works. A Mars Corporation could be set up that would be unlike any private corporation before it. The shareholders would benefit only if the various projects could create a viable income. This would take creative thinking and would not be easy, but private sector ventures know how to accomplish such tasks. For now, it is my belief that the PR industry would be one of the first ways to have people benefiting in the short term. Space tourism will work but the numbers are not very encouraging. What we need now is an industry set up to popularise space settlement as a serious new future direction for all people. This means not just more sci-fi and books, but a far broader outreach that shows people in an entertaining fashion just what settling Mars can mean for them. As yet there is not one movie that shows us in graphic and awe inspiring detail just what a settlement on Mars or the Moon might look like as a successful venture. The movies I have seen play to people's fears and only seem to encourage them in those fears. We need a new series of movies, books, TV shows, magazines, resorts, theme parks etc., that show the world in terms they can understand just what a successful settlement venture might involve. We have not humanized space yet. Sci-fi is great for inspiration but to the average non-interested public it only reinforces their view that space stuff is really "Out There". It's like the old westerns from 50 years ago. Back then the movies portrayed an idealistic view of the west and left out much of the reality that modern westerns have as their themes. This is what must be done with space exploration and settlement themes. They need desperately to be portrayed in a positive and accurate light so that people can begin to see themselves living on Mars or being part of a future where we live on other worlds.

The emotional influence of the media cannot be underestimated. It will be the first step we must take if we are to take the real steps of settling another world. Until now, space exploration has been the exclusive domain of NASA and a few other select agencies and wealthy individuals around the world. This will not and has not helped average people understand what the benefits are for them. That's where the power of the media can be used to show the world what Mars and space can hold for them. Instead of escapist fantasy, we could have works of fiction that portray human dramas in a setting of a Mars colony or a Moon base or elsewhere, made closer to our own timeframe so that people can relate, as stories of future societies tend to bore people who might be trying to see how they could be living on another world in the here and now.

Colonization is not a dirty word. When applied in the context of Mars it truly will be a leap into uncharted territory. There are no earth based comparisons that will help us understand it. That is where we can create a new settlement on Mars with the first step of a thing called "Vision". What do we want Mars to be? (Not what could it be based on past examples.) This vision is yet to be created. That vision will be the new meaning of space colonization. We now need to decide what we want space and Mars settlement to look like and present that as an inspiring and all-inclusive picture of our future in space. People will want to know- "What will I be doing on Mars?" "What will it mean for us here on earth?" Grandiose schemes and utopian ideals are out. What people need now is reality, Mars style. Only then will they catch a glimpse of what Mars can mean for them and only then will they get involved in this most awesome of futures.

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