The colonisation of Mars: Sacrificial or far fetched?

By Alina Ostrovsky

‘Shooting for the stars’ is a concept that has been conditioned in us since a young age. It encourages us to not limit our ambition in pursuit of greatness. Embedded within the abstract presence of our consciousness, the concept functions to stimulate the state of our morale most figuratively. However, considered literally, scientists are envisioning that ultimately our future is among the stars. While this implies that the future should be interstellar, the pressure is on a whole other physical dimension.

Time is ticking away for the Earth

The alarming factor about this assertion is that the urgency of it becomes inescapable as the clock continues ticking. The irony lies in the fact that the message is a call to escape—to escape the most infinitely dreaded self-destruction of our Mother Earth. All this will cause our very own annihilation to the degree of an irreversible state of extinction. Therefore, to the stars we must shoot and relocate in an agitated frenzy to perpetuate human existence. However, the completion of the task entails several dilemmas.

Stephen Hawking, the great British scientist, believes, along with many other experts, that Earth’s physical state is severely deteriorating. As a doctor looking at its MRI, his diagnosis of the Earth is that it has entered a cancerous stage of unalterable sickness—sickness that is propagated by the human civilization. To elaborate, in his very own words, he states:

“We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production scarcity, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, ocean acidification…. [and many others for which reason]…more than any time in our history, our species needs to work together.”

A costly affair

This is where the subject becomes sensitive. How do we work together? Elon Musk, the leader of the SpaceX project, who is in rivalry with NASA, came up with a technology that would be able to take people to Mars. This is in an effort of colonising it to escape the approaching fatal fate of the Earth. However, the dilemma is that the expedition is costly. A ticket per individual is $200,000, which most people are not fortunate enough to have in possession. Even if, hypothetically speaking, people had the financial means for it, Musk said that a “fully, self-sustaining civilization on Mars would need around 1 million people.” This is a staggeringly minuscule .014% of the Earth’s population at which point the rest of the human beings would be left behind to suffer. 

Getting our priorities straight

This does not strike as moral to some people. They believe that the wealthy people have lost their sense of priority by being more excited to invest their financial resources into a thrill instead of gathering resources to fix the Earth. In defence of those accused, they believe that the Earth has reached a state that is unfixable. The only solution is for some to migrate, otherwise, all would perish.

Besides, even if we were to fix the overbearing physical issues of the Earth, we would still be left to deal with the self-destructing nature of humankind including “apocalyptic terrorists, psychopaths, psychotics and eco-terrorists” as said by Phil Torres and many more. Hence, the grand effort of ‘fixing’ the Earth appears more comical than practical, and much more ambitious than the effort of colonising Mars.

Who gets to go to Mars?

However, the central question remains whether it is moral to leave your fellow brothers behind. Yes, it is, because the cause self-justifies. Denying science is a ticket to foolishness. To perpetuate the existence of humanity, sacrifice is required in order to open possibilities. This would require suffering and heroism. Since the ticket is so expensive, only wealthy people would be able to afford it and that sounds unfair. The solution that would be most beneficial is to create a population in Mars that comes from all walks of life.

To create a diversified society, the best way to determine who will go is through a lottery. Since Mars can only hold a million people with the initial resources that it would entail to migrate, it is only right that those people are to be chosen by chance. The process could involve a screening of criminal records similar to the Green Card lottery, a procedure to immigrate into the US.

The five step process

Just like it took many opportunity costs to colonize the New World, this should be a similar endeavour. As outlandish as it may be, with the right technology, it could be very much achievable. According to Market Mogul, the first step is to ‘explore’ the territory and the second is to ‘base construction’. This would constitute a process to make the planet habitable. The third step is ‘The First Settlement’, in which some kind of import/export economy is created between Mars and the planet Earth.

The fourth step is ‘Terraformation’, which is a stage in which the settlers are to keep maintaining the habitable conditions of Mars. This includes growing crops and developing an agricultural and industrial society. The last step is ‘Population Growth’, which involves creating and maintaining an industry that will enable other people to migrate to Mars and will be self-sustaining like the planet Earth. So essentially speaking, even though only a million are allowed in the beginning, in the long run, there will be opportunities for others to migrate before the Earth self-annihilates itself. As sacrificial as it may sound, it is a very moral act. 

Featured Image Credit: Visual Hunt