The Other I

October 29, 2010

Beginning with Mars

Filed under: Intriguing Science,Survival Strategies,Uncategorized — theotheri @ 8:47 pm

Perhaps twenty years ago, I read an analysis of what scientists might do to make Mars a planet that is habitable for human life.  It included ideas like hanging giant solar-reflecting shields in space to increase the Martian temperature and growing plants to generate oxygen and food.

The estimate at that time was that humans could start to colonize  Mars in about a thousand years.

Yesterday, I read that NASA has begun funding plans to send astronauts on one-way trips to Mars or its moon to set up permanent human colonies there.

They estimate that the project would cost about ten billion dollars, and that it would begin about twenty years.

I think the idea is that about four men would be the initial colonizers and that gradually additional settlers would go out and the community would expand.

I’m gob-smacked.

And yet, psychologically I imagine such a trip to Mars in twenty years would be little different from the great ocean voyages barely more than 600 years ago.  The voyagers, then, were going into a great unknown. They had no idea how big earth was, when or if they would hit land and if they did, whether they would find food and water.  None of them could know if they would ever return and many of them didn’t.  They might not even have been absolutely sure the world wasn’t flat.

Actually, colonizers to Mars in twenty years might know more about their voyage and their destination than the men who set out on sea voyages and discovered America.  And the rest of the world.

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