Given the plethora of problems on Earth of late, I’ve seen more than a few stories about the possibilities of living on Mars. Back in 2015, NASA officials said they thought there could be a manned mission to the Red Planet as early as 2030. I’m not quite sure that timetable is still valid, but unmanned treks are still in the works. There was one rover that was to be launched this July. But COVID-19 (stupid virus) put the kibosh on that. It now appears the next blast-off won’t happen until 2022. Who knows what that will do to the idea of putting humans on the dusty surface?
One report I saw recently indicated that properly colonizing Mars and starting a new civilization would take at least 110 people. There was no delineation of tasks or abilities assigned to those 110 in the article, but it’s probably a safe bet that scientists, engineers, and a couple of medical folks would be included. (I think I’d throw in some musicians, writers – of course — someone has to document everything — and other entertainers as well if for no other reason than to provide enjoyable diversions from having to just survive every day.)
It seems the movie “The Martian” came pretty close to what a real-life settlement on Mars might look like. If you haven’t seen it, the story revolves around a small group (maybe half a dozen or so) of astronauts who build and live in an oxygen-filled dome and grow plants in glass greenhouses. I won’t spoil the plot by giving anything away, but there is a slight problem that arises causing one of the crew to be VERY creative.
Real scientists have suggested that in order to create soil for plants, “a mixture of rocks, salts, water and organic wastes and decomposers (insects and microorganisms) are needed. Water will be extracted from ice terrain and recycled using natural filters.” Easy peasy, right?
If the possibility of sending people to Mars actually becomes a reality, I’d wager that several of you may be thinking what occurred to me: Forget about the scientists. I know 110 politicians I’d much rather see on Mars than here on Earth. Send them. Unfortunately, within one Martian year they’d probably screw up things on that planet as badly as they have here. But it is kinda fun to think about.
Imagine The Donald, Fancy Nancy, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Mitch “The Turtle” McConnell, Sleepy Joe, Crazy Bernie, “Lyin” Ted Cruz, and a whole host of other elected officials all on board a spaceship for at least six months or longer. Then having to coexist inside a giant bubble after that. (We could even include several assorted characters who aren’t part of the political world many of us would like to see anyplace other than on Earth. I don’t know if that scenario has the makings for a great situation comedy or of an Armageddon. (Perhaps both.)
Even if there are no politicians among the 110 initial pioneers on Mars, if this is a permanent or even semi-permanent settlement, how long would it take for a “government” to break out? Is it really share and share alike? Is everybody cross-trained in several jobs? Suppose Scientist A really takes a liking to Engineer B but Engineer B would prefer to keep company with Medical Person C? That pesky human nature can play havoc with even the best laid plans.
Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind SpaceX, whose company just successfully launched a mission to the International Space Station, suggests that we “nuke Mars.” Back in 2015, he posited that the quickest and easiest way to heat up Mars, stir up greenhouse gases, and make the planet habitable would be to drop nukes on the planet’s poles. (I don’t think NASA warmed up to the suggestion, though.)
I haven’t seen a price tag associated with any of these endeavors yet. Chances are, though, none would be cheap. Why, we may be talking about more money than has been spent on stimulus checks, coronavirus tests, masks, respirators, et al, (if that’s possible).
Maybe, just maybe, we should get our own house in order before setting up shop elsewhere. I’m not quite sure how 110 Americans would get along any better than 320 million others of us do (or, actually, don’t). So, while heading off to Mars might sound cool in theory, it may not be so much so in actuality. Although, shoot, there’s definitely some merit in transporting a couple of busloads of We the People’s employees in Washington, 80 million miles away. Can’t argue with that.