as if / Ethics / Ideology / Philosophy

New Frontiers

If I could only, once again, set my foot into a forest, watch the ants on the forest floor and the dancing spots of sun light on the leaf litter. Smell the scent of resin and see the insects dancing between the bushes. If I could watch birds and hear their song.

I can hear the bird’s songs here but it is just a recording.

Mars One has designed a manned mission to Mars that has as little complexity as possible.

If I could only again put my foot into the wet sand, feel the warm waves and watch the drifting kelp and jellyfish. With each wave, my feet are sinking deeper into the sand. The crabs are running over the beach.

The most important simplification is that the crew will emigrate to Mars. They will spend the rest of their lives living and working on Mars. While sustaining human life on Mars is not trivial, it is far easier and safer than bringing the crew back to Earth.

Sitting in a street cafe, sipping espresso, listening to the noises of the city. A warm breeze is touching me. People are passing by, laughing, talking. I see people I have never seen before in my life. There are sparrows, dogs, wasps. Fresh apple cake with wasps.

Why should we go to Mars?

Why did Columbus travel west? Why did Marco Polo head east? Because it is that pull, that unknown, that prospect of adventure that compels humans to seek new frontiers to explore.

Adventure? Year after year of “adventure”. Sitting in the same small house. When we came here, we were excited, but now? Why did we come here? If you go outside, you have to wear a space suite. It is cold and the air is thin and not breathable. That unknown. Every day the same.

Never again the gentle breeze on my skin. Rain. You can listen to recorded noises here, but that makes it even more painful. Why did I ever want to come here?

There are a number of reasons to travel to Mars.

The first is the realization of an amazing dream! Sending a manned mission to Mars is a fantastic adventure. Imagine living on another planet, millions of miles from the Earth; looking up into the sky with the knowledge that one of the ‘stars’ is actually the planet you were born on.

That incredible feeling? Lifelong imprisonment in a GULAG. If you run into the “Zona”, you will die. Like in those camps, were people left the fenced area in order to end their lives, to be shot. And some of us did it. Went out and opened their space suits.

Who can even envision the incredible feeling of being the first human in history to step out of the capsule and leave your footprint on the surface of Mars? By this we implore you to not just think of that feeling for the astronaut, but the experience for all those watching back home.

It was an ideology. Somehow, every ideology creates its GULAG. We are like those who volunteered to go to Vorkuta to help build up the country, only to find themselves in a penal camp. A life sentence to go to a prison. No way out. The rest of your life indoors inside these few airtight houses. Being pioneers.

Those who observed Neil Armstrong land on the Moon all those years ago still remember every detail – where they were, who they were with and how they felt. This will be our moment, in 2025.

This is not a moment. This is year after year after year. I am turning into an old man. I want to walk through a city. What is the use of being a celebrity in a prison? I wish I could again sit on a hilltop covered with grass and watch a lark rise above it. All that exists here is a cold desert. Suppose you put this building inside some desert on earth, like the Sahara, and prevent us from ever returning. A concentration camp in the middle of the desert. A cruel fate, but at least, there, the air would be breathable. Does putting it on Mars make it better?

A second reason is good, old-fashioned curiosity. Where did Mars come from? Can it teach us about Earth’s history? Is there life on Mars? These are just three of the hundreds of burning questions for scientists all over the world.

I wish I could glide over the water in a sailing boat, and watch the dolphins. Which scientific question justifies the lifelong imprisonment of anybody? And what can we do here that cannot be done by machines?

Thirdly: progress. You could say that sending people to Mars is ‘the next giant leap for mankind’. This mission will jumpstart massive developments in all kinds of areas, a few examples being in recycling, solar energy, food production and the advancement of medical technology.

Did it, actually? If you want to advance any of these, just invest directly into research in each of these areas. So, that is progress! People were flying to Mars for the sake of “progress”. For the reintroduction of human sacrifice, in the name of “progress”! And to produce a TV show. Landing on the moon was a propaganda show. Going to Mars was the dream of 12 year old fascinated boys. When we came here, we were filled with ideology. We were believers. But that bubble burst after a few weeks. One morning you wake up and realize that this is what you will have for the rest of your life. A tin can in a cold desert. You come here 12 years old and then suddenly you wake up an old man. If I could be in Vorkuta instead! At least there was a forest there. Oh yes, fame and glory and adventure and new frontiers and progress.

…an amazing dream!

(Citations (the indented parts in the larger font) are from

http://www.mars-one.com/news/press-releases/mars-one-will-settle-men-on-mars-in-2023

and

http://www.mars-one.com/faq/mission-to-mars/why-should-we-go-to-mars

The picture is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manned_mission_to_Mars#mediaviewer/File:Mars_design_reference_mission_3.jpg. This picture does not belong to the Mars One project (there are, as far as I can see) no public domain pictures but you can see them on their web site: http://www.mars-one.com/.

I regard the citations to be fair use.)

10 thoughts on “New Frontiers

    • The right parts are citations from the Mars One website. I think what they are planning is unethical so I wantend to contrast this with something somebody might think after staying there for a while. What it is in my view is talking people into believing that going there is a great and wonderful aventure. What it actually is is a prison.
      A lot of people have applied and I wonder what they have in their minds. I thik there is some kind of “spacisim”, a belief system where people think that our future is out there. And while they are dreaming that dream, our planet is being destroyed.
      The true adventurer will like to experience the richness of life. Maybe I am a stay home guy. Space travel fascinated me when I was a small boy but it no longer does. The problems to be solve are here on earth.

  1. An excellent piece. You cut right through the nonsense and the delusion.
    And the contrast between the points of view is very well done.
    Let’s take care of our garden.

    • Thank you. When I stumbled uppon that project, I could not resist tuning my asifoscope to it…
      I have just harvested some salad and some snow peas and I spend the day sitting on my terrace, enjoying the nice weather and the swifts overhead.

  2. I really liked this post. I interpreted the commentary in small font as being that of the Mars colonist not a stay-at-home guy. I seriously thought about applying.

    • I am not stopping you :-) I was just thinking about how it would be for those people in the long term, so I wrote it from the perspective of a fictitious colonist who has stayed there for some time.
      I would expect people to be disillusioned in the long term as well as depressed. To me it looks like they are talking people into applying for a life sentence in prison. I find the project perverse.
      They might not have acrylic paints, watercolors, canvasses up there, so better think twice. :-)

      • I thought you wrote movingly from the colonist’s point of view. However, are we not already serving life sentences and in exile from our past? I wonder whether humanity is near the zenith of its industrial powers, faced by depleting resources and increasing population, more social inequality, privatisation of the common weal and reducing freedom. That step, to reach to the planets and thence to the stars, might be key to our long term survival. The colonists might make that sacrifice.

        • As I said, I won’t stop them but they will not like it. However, I think to solve the problems back here on earth seems easier to me than to leave earth, in terms of potitics. in terms of economics and in terms of technology. I see a necessity to change our world economy into something sustainable. Currently, we have an economy that only works well when it grows. Such an economy was probably bound to emerge because it would outgrow and overgrow any local non-growing system. However, the resources of the planet are limited. Theoretically, growth might go on if we go beyond the confines of earrth, but actually this, I think, by far more costly (in terms of resources) than solving the problems back here. The stars are so far appart that the more or less exponential growth of our past could not be kept. Mars is limited as well, and there are not many bodies in the solar system we could go to. Any other star is too far away.
          If we manage to turn earth’s economy into a sustainable one, we would still have enough time to go to the stars. If we don’t, we would not have enough time to do so. So we must terraform earth first and stop “martiforming” it.
          In order to transform our economy, we would have to change some institutions, and in other articles I have made some proposals into that direction.

          • I think we see the same issues and I agree with all your points. But the choices are unpalatable. A society that genuinely and strictly protected the Earth’s resources would, it seems to me, have to be an authoritarian one and every time I play that thought experiment I see repression and inequality. Perhaps colonising the stars is the gamblers dream.

            • What I am thinking about is not an authoritarian society. Instead, I think ownership of non-renewable ressources should be transfered to non-governmental, international organisations (think of foundations). There could be many such organisations, independent of any government and of each other. These organisations would each have a by-law or constitution that would demand that the resource they are having custody for would have to be used only in a sustainable way. Private ownership of such resources (or even government-ownership) on the other hands easily leads to destruction.
              I don’t want to propose an authoritarian regime. The problem is that people of the future are not represented in our democracies and as a result, they are exploited, One could give them their share of power by transfering ownership of these resources to organisations acting in their interest.

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