Don’t ask me how, because it’s embarrassing, but (through Internet's magic) I watched "The Martian” recently. An award-winning film, I enjoyed it, but must admit: I don’t understand our fascination with Mars.
I’m in #Space, on a planet, going around a massive star. That’s all I need to know, that’s all I want to know. Moreover, I’m not a huge fan of planes, trains and automobiles — as they’re glorified death traps. I’ve come, over time, to govern such annoyances and lead a relatively normal life, but I’d rather avoid moving metal machines if at all possible.
Climbing into a giant spacecraft, with untold gallons of jet fuel, having it ignited, then hurled at ludicrous speeds into what can only be described as “nothingness,” I'm not built for that — much less sent to another planet that’s six to eight months away in the fastest possible mode of human transport.
History shows it's not worth it
Something that often goes missing when thinking about space exploration isn’t danger or the assumed excitement of discovery, but money. The Moon missions in the late-1960s and early-1970s cost the United States around $25 billion (in 1970's money). Needless to say, taking inflation into account, that number would be well into the hundreds of billions in today’s currency.
The US spent that cash hoping for lunar reward. Sure there was nationalistic pride on the line vs. the Soviet Union, but the point was finding what, if anything, the Moon had in resources. It turns out there was nothing of value, just some rocks and ancient dust. Once the public’s euphoric state about the Moon dwindled, there was no real reason to waste money and risk lives sending people there for no economic gain. Nobody’s been back (provided you think they even went) since 1972.
Under the guise of “we’re looking for life,” the primary reason NASA exists is locating resources. Thus, I have to assume there’s nothing on Mars worth spending upwards of $1 trillion for, otherwise there'd be plans to go get whatever’s there. So if the United States won’t be the primary source for such expeditions (seeing as space shuttles aren’t even around anymore), the private sector must lead.
I have deep-seated resentment toward power figures, and that bleeds into my views of politics. Most of the time I would assert governments don’t care about their citizens as long as they’re paying taxes, but I must admit — gun to head — I’d rather be in a NASA spaceship than an independent one. I feel it would be the difference between “Fruit Loops” and “Fruity Os.”
Our brains should tell us the same
There's no way a Elon Musk-type could convince me his rocket ship was up to par. In the government rocket at least they have incentive to not let you die, as the nation’s morale would be at stake. Unless the Musk-like figure is coming with you, he’s already got your hefty deposit, so he mightn’t care too much if, two months into the trip, your oxygen somehow malfunctions.
The most unrealistic thing about THE MARTIAN is the smooth, stable videoconference feed between Houston and Pasadena— Josh Lincoln Dickey (@JLDlite) April 6, 2016
The concept of the film was an astronaut gets stranded on Mars and survives alone until people come to rescue him. Supposing all goes well (you land on Mars safely, your suit doesn’t tear, you don’t trip and sprain your ankle or something): How the hell do you get back to Earth? Set in the future, this particular movie had answers, but as it stands today — you aren’t coming back.
I’m not that committed to anything. I love pizza more than most people I’ve met, but I’m not going to only eat pizza for the rest of my life, because that would be crazy. Similarly, permanently leaving Earth to go to a place with red dirt, rocks, and little-to-no oxygen is insane, too much commitment can sometimes be a bad thing. That said, if you want to leave us, I won’t stop you going (as that’s probably best), but can we — as a society — please stop pretending this Mars thing is a great idea? #Science #Travel