Elon Musk stirs our imagination once again with his plan to populate Mars. While the thought of visiting another planet is fascinating, I am not sure I would be up for buying a one-way ticket to Mars, not even at the “cheap” price of $200,000.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson, talking about interplanetary settlements planned by Mars One, an organization based in the Netherlands, stated last year:
“My sense is that there is an urge to create the same kind of pioneering spirit as what existed in the 17th century when the pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock,” Tyson said.
The problem is that there’s a huge difference between the first Europeans who traveled to America and the first humans that would travel to Mars. Even though the pilgrims knew they were also on a one-way trip, when they stepped off the boat they could still breathe the air and the trees were still made of wood so they could repair their ship, Tyson said in an interview in his office at the American Museum of Natural History.
But if you go to Mars you can’t breathe the air and you can’t just repair your ship — the first thing you’re gonna do is set up a hab module that resembles Earth,” Tyson said. “Well then are you really on Mars? No — you’re on Earth on Mars.”
For whatever reason Mars One wants to build a camp on Mars, Tyson said their current business model doesn’t look sustainable. Mars One is planning on paying for the mission through sponsors and a reality TV show starring the settlers, but it’s having trouble getting much investment interest. So far the company has raised barely over 0.01% of it’s $6 billion budget. (Business Insider, Science, Mar 4, 2015)
This morning, on CNBC’ Squawkbox, Tyson reiterated that there is no point in going to Mars just to live as though you are on Earth. He said: “No-one should want to put his life at risk just to say he has been on Mars.” However, he did give Elon Musk credit for “putting his money where his mouth is” and committing so much of his resources SpaceX.
Eric Mack, writing for c/net, Sci-Tech, comments on Musk’s plans and gives interesting insights into the ethics and legality of interplanetary colonization. Mack does say that Musk’s “Mars metropolis” is “insane but possible.”
To me, the whole point is that for Europeans who crossed the ocean to settle in America it was a one-way trip. When they arrived they could hunt, build, plant crops and pretty much live the same way they had lived in Europe. However, on Mars, there will be no outdoor activities unless you are in a spacesuit, and then only for a short period of time. Things could get boring pretty quickly and the likelihood is you will never return to Earth.
I am sure there are intrepid adventurers who are willing to take that risk. I definitely would not be one of them!