Why Mars One Is Already A Success

Image credit Bryan Versteeg

Image credit Bryan Versteeg

I’ve heard the talk that Mars One won’t ever get off the ground. There’s no way that they can raise the money just from media rights and it’s just a goofball idea to begin with. The applicants are a bunch of dreamers and sending settlers to Mars by 2023 when we haven’t sent people beyond low Earth orbit in decades is just crazy talk. That just makes me smile because there was a time when people thought that humans wouldn’t ever leave Earth’s atmosphere at all and now we’ve been as far as the Moon. Even if Mars One never actually launches anything, I can call it a partial success because it actually got even the naysayers talking about the possibility of expanding to Mars.

Even the naysayers serve their purpose because, even though they are criticizing Mars One, they are likely to work the idea of settling another planet into their audience’s brains. They get curious and turn to Google to see what they can find out. They find videos featuring the leaders of Mars One and similar efforts like Inspiration Mars, and those videos start making them think that these guys could really do this. Lead proponents of exploring and settling the Red Planet are obviously enthusiastic enough to devote large chunks of their lives to the endeavour and people are really, truly signing up for a project that takes the idea of making humanity a multi-planet species from the realm of science fiction to being close to a reality.

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An Interview with Robert Zubrin

Not that it’s going to be easy. Leaders like Robert Zubrin as much as admitted that taming Mars will likely be the work of individualists who aren’t afraid to give up the comforts of Earth and accept the fact that there won’t be anyone around to bail them out if they run into trouble. Check out Robert Zubrin’s How To Live On Mars for a candid and often funny look at what an early Martian society could look like (and, yes, it can get some noses bent out of shape if you don’t like his rugged-individualist, caveat emptor, “thumb your nose at the nanny state” take on some topics or just don’t recognize sarcasm when you see it). Obviously, it won’t be for quitters and the people who say it can’t be done. So don’t sign up if you aren’t the type who can rough it, bum it, put in a productive lifetime of work, face the Vogon poetry and still know where your towel is.

Some historical events are just seen as inevitable when you look back at them. If all of Christopher Columbus’s ships had sank (and two of them did!) before he stumbled across the American continents, it’s very likely that somebody else would have tried again in a few years or a few decades, depending on how the socio-economic powers in Europe would have reacted to the fact that he never came back. In a few centuries, the success or failure of Mars One will be seen as inevitable. People could look at the skeleton of our settlement and think, “Oh those poor people, they sure had guts.” Or they could talk to our descendants who proudly show off a museum display of the landing modules we used way back in the day.

SpaceX and Mars

Hyperbole aside, Elon Musk is also serious about the Red Planet and thinks he can be at the forefront of colonization if he can get potential emigrants to put up the money.

Besides, Mars One isn’t the only plan in the works. SpaceX founder Elon Musk says that, if he can get 80,000 people to put up $500,000 each, he can build a sizable colony on Mars in a decade. That’s about what some moderately successful people might pay for a spacious home in a good neighborhood. So, even if Mars One fails, it might slow down the pioneers who seek to colonize a new world but it won’t entirely stop colonization from happening. Even if the worst happens, I would still call our little settlement a partial success because it actually got the average person outside of a handful of space enthusiasts talking about making Homo sapiens a multi-planet species.

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