Mission to Mars
It’s a big universe out there. We’ve all looked skyward, trying vainly to gauge the distance to a star, mesmerized by the immensity of space and the comically irrelevant role we play in the Grand Scheme of Things. We’ve all imagined that somewhere out there in the twinkling infinity something awaits us.
We’ve gone to the Moon. We’ve mapped the edges of our galaxy. We’ve viewed photographic images seemingly culled from our collective dream of existence. Outer Space is a powerful symbol for many of our essential human concerns: hope, divinity, eternity. It’s the constant metaphor that lingers above us — around us, actually — reminding all of us anonymous souls that the capacity to wonder might be our most endearing trait.
Space is cool. Understanding it is even cooler. Maybe spending jillions of dollars on exploring it is a good idea.
It’s certainly not a practical one.
We haven’t yet figured out how to provide all the inhabitants of the Home Planet with potable water and nutritious food. We haven’t mastered the concept of justice. We are badly broken and in need of fixing.
Colonizing Mars has a nice, science-fictiony possibility to it: We could re-start America, or civilization, or the Human Race, and skip all the bad stuff that took us 7,500 years or so to never learn while we despoiled Earth. Utopian fantasies abound. But unless we make Mars — or anywhere else our rockets can reach — into a no-religion, no-industrialization, no-capitalism zone, we’re doomed to wreck whatever other rocky sphere we infest.
A heroic and morale-lifting voyage to Mars seems like an awfully expensive misallocation of resources and an awfully long way to go for the sake of a metaphor.