Saturday June 11, 2022

One-way ticket to Mars

One-way ticket to Mars

According to Mars One there have been 10,000 applicants so far.

There was a time when people looked up at the sky in bewilderment, felt humbled by its vastness and intrigued by its unattainable wonders. It was the one place that allowed a human being the courtesy of a boundless imagination. But that was then, and this is now.

This month, a Dutch company named Mars One has made the dreamers of us an offer they cannot refuse. It is to send people on a one-way trip to Mars to start a human colony on the red planet. With no way for return, setting foot on this elusive planet means they are eternally on their own. Left to their own devices and vulnerable to whatever dangers lie ahead, they are to fend for themselves. So who would be brave enough or mad enough to take this trip of no return you may ask?

According to Mars One there have been 10,000 applicants so far. Ten thousand people found this idea alluring enough to venture into a place of no return. Fearlessly accepting to take this one-way journey, leaving behind everything and everyone they have ever known and bidding farewell to their mother, Earth. They are expected to fly, four at a time, living on limited supplies of canned food and to drink water made of their recycled urine. Even if there was an atom of a chance that these people could return, Mars One explains that once their bodies have adjusted to the mere 38% gravity level on Mars they would be physically incapable to tolerate Earth's much stronger gravity.

According to Mars One, this project is to be financed through media sponsorship. The company aims to create a reality-TV show around this mission, transmitting the daily lives of these Martian converts who have willingly left us behind to live the rest of their lives on a planet far, far away. These real-life Jetsons will instantaneously become the celebrities no one on Earth could ever get to meet. The fact that this endeavour is to be a media spectacle somehow diminishes its integrity and gives off a dark aura of blatant exploitation of cosmic proportions.

Bizarre as I might think this journey is, the more I ponder it the more logic I see.

We have succeeded in destroying earth, infecting it with disease, abusing its resources and are now counting down to its slow but sure demise. The idea of being able to escape all the devastation we have created and start anew could be compelling enough to propel people into the darkness of the virgin skies in a tiny pod fuelled by their sheer hope and naïve optimism. 

Yet to think that this expedition is a mere escape would be looking at the subject from a one-dimensional perspective. The egotistical compound of the human psyche shines another light on this endeavour, man as conqueror of Earth is not enough, man must conquer the heavens as well.  Our narcissistic nature keeps us forever ready to plant a flag on foreign territory, our pens anxious to draw boundaries sectioning any place we choose to inhabit. After all, this might not be about the journey but about the spoils.

For the romantics of us, this journey could be about man the explorer, man the adventurous. It could be the culmination of the ultimate dream that started as a sketch in Leonardo da Vinci's notebook. It could restore our faith in human determination and achievements after we have come to believe that all man can achieve is death and destruction.

Whatever the reasons for the journey may be and setting aside the physical and psychological damage that can occur, if these Martian pioneers were to actually carry out this mission successfully, would they do it differently? Would they learn from their earthly mistakes and strive to build something better?

Will they be able to set aside religious disparities, will they erase racism, eradicate hatred, and will they shed the ruthless skin of greed? Or will the weaknesses of mankind prevail and they would end up starting a journey similar to the one we have taken? A journey that ends in a bruised and battered world.

I wonder if these 'chosen ones' have thought about the responsibility they shoulder, I wonder if they even care.


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