No Other Option

There’s an old (mostly apocryphal) story about Cortez, and how when he reached the New World, he burned his ships. This sent a clear message to his men, we make this expedition work, here in this untested, foreign world, or we die trying. No Other Option is a hell of a motivating force. For better or worse.

Dirk Schulze-Makuch and Paul Davies are suggesting just this motivator be our guiding principal for settling Mars.[1]

A human mission to Mars is technologically feasible, but hugely expensive requiring enormous financial and political commitments. A creative solution to this dilemma would be a one-way human mission to Mars in place of the manned return mission that remains stuck on the drawing board.

I quibble with some of their specific recommendations but they are just that, quibbles. Sending geriatrics as your first wave of colonials is not perhaps the best way to ensure the longevity of the species. Mars needs Women! And Men! And young ones, willing to fuck for Science! Frozen already fertilized embryos and an assortment of surrogate mothers plus a nice wide assortment of genetically viable breading couples would be better.

Communications technology has already reached the point where they could send email and Facebook updates back to Earth  with only reasonable time lags, so it’d be even better than the first wave of European immigrants to North America, who were in a cultural and information vacuum once they got aboard the Mayflower.[2] Plus, once the colonials are there, we could just lob supplies at them on a regular basis,[3] shipping new waves of colonials every few years.

The two biggest hurdles are cost (this is where an eccentric billionaire would come in handy) and the psychological toll of knowing you’re on a one-way trip. But really, aren’t we all?

If we intend to outlive the slow demise of our own ecosystem, there may be no other option.

Link via io9.

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1. I love that they titled their paper: “To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission to Mars.” it’s exactly this by-the-brass drive to take chances that Star Trek stood for. Plus it beats NASA’s current motto, “Meh. Let the Robot do it, Dancing With the Stars Is On.”

2. Which was be design. But that’s why we’d be sending hip young scientists to Mars, not xenophobic religious fanatics who think Protestant England in the 17th century is just too gosh darn liberal.

3. Unmanned supply drones would be a relatively inexpensive shot as well, costing less than Virgin Galactic’s proposed tourist trap in orbit deal. Heck, we get a few of those prefab printers in orbit, we could basically build the ships and launch them from a staging platform in a Lagrange Point.