Landing on Mars is a Distraction

I never thought I would be that guy who harumphed about why we should attempt a landing on Mars, I've long dreamed of the day humanity stepped foot on another planet. It is just that going to Mars now seems so irrelevant and uninteresting when we may not have a planet to come back to.

Published by Tony Darnell on 26th Jul, 2021

I never thought I’d be ‘that guy’ who harumphed his way through a conversation about going to Mars by saying, “Why go to Mars when we have all these HUGE problems here on Earth?” But these days, I find myself, a guy who has dreamed of exploring space all of his life, asking that very question.

NASA Mars Poster
Sure, let's explore. I guess.

I can’t seem to come up with a really good answer to the question: “Why go to Mars?”

Really though, why do it? We actually do have huge problems here right now, so huge that humanity may not survive them. At best a trip to Mars is a distraction from those problems, at worst, it could give us false hope that we can escape this planet and not have to deal with them at all.

The problems I’m talking about, of course, are related to climate change and its attendant issues: wealth and racial inequality, dwindling natural resources, biodiversity loss, overpopulation, this list is quite long actually.

I suppose in the shadow of all these issues, there’s no real harm in going to Mars, it’s not like NOT going will make things better here, and spending the relatively small amount of money to get there isn’t going to take anything away from our efforts to solve climate change.

It’s just that for the first time in my life, going to Mars seems irrelevant and uninteresting. I’d rather have a home to come back to before leaving on a holiday trip to another planet.

At any other time in my life, I’d be cheer leading the efforts to go to Mars, “Hell yeah man, LIGHT THAT CANDLE!” “Absolutely let’s set up a colony on Mars, a permanent human presence from which we can learn all about this planet.” “What are we waiting for, we shoulda done this years ago!” "Let's science the shit out of this!"

Maybe it’s the involvement of the space billionaires and their space penises, maybe it’s the myopic rants of Robert Zubrin. Maybe that’s why I don’t care. Maybe.

Or maybe it’s that instead of using neurons figuring out how to build a habitable place on an inhabitable world, we should maybe concentrate on keeping our planet habitable.

What’s so great about going to Mars (apparently a simpler problem if you listen to Zubrin’s clackings) when we can’t figure out how to reduce our CO2 emissions?

What a minute, I guess the problem here isn’t that we don’t know how to reduce carbon emissions, we do, it’s just that we can’t agree first that there’s even a problem, and second what to do about it. Ah, that’s the real issue, we are in a slow cooker and won't admit it.

You know, now that I think about it, maybe we don’t need more neurons, just more maturity. Billionaires, scientists and engineers sure as hell can’t give us that, healing the Earth is as much a moral as a scientific problem - probably more so. Paying attention to Mars, and dreaming of terraforming it to make it Earth-like is lovely to think about, and less stressful. Let’s think about that.

Still, I can't help but think that making the Earth stay more Earth-like is easier (and more important), but that's just me, I guess.

Alright, I've changed my mind. Let’s go to Mars, let’s ride the billionaire space penis to Mars. While the rest of us are ducking for cover from wildfires, hurricanes and floating on coastal barges in a fish-less ocean, we can say we’ve done it - and be distracted for a few moments longer. Lemme get my water wings.

Polar Bear Water Wings
Maybe he can survive on Mars

Published by Tony Darnell

Tony Darnell Profile Picture

Tony Darnell is the creator of Deep Astronomy, LLC, a company dedicated to sharing the wonders of the universe and providing perspective of our place in the cosmos. For most of his life, Tony has been interested in science communication and education and has dedicated the best part of his life towards that interest. While embarked on that mission, for 30 years Tony has also worked as a software engineer and worked on writing code for telescopes, astronomy data pipelines, image processing and data analysis. His last gig was the goal of a lifetime: working on data from the Hubble Space Telescope.