All posts filed under: Mars

The Need for Scientific Caution in the New Space Race

On May 30th, 2020, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched from NASA’s facility at Cape Canaveral. Hidden in the roar of the thrusters was the crack of a starting gun for the second era of human expansion: The era of private crewed space exploration was on. During the last era of expansion, voyagers like Zheng He, Vasco Da Gama, and Magellan leaned on territorial rulers for financial support. This set off a cascade of resource-hungry expeditions the aftermath of which we’re still sifting through today. SpaceX, on the other hand, has managed to raise $36 billion USD, primarily through private funding. If SpaceX were a country and its valuation were its GDP, it would have $4.5 million per person, an order of magnitude above the richest country, Luxembourg. They’ve raised the money by promising investors that they’ll turn a cargo transport business into something that will “enable the space flight capabilities necessary to make humans a multi-planetary species.” This era is a complete rewrite of what the future looked like two decades ago, when NASA mothballed …

Should We Colonize Mars? The Fate of Humanity May One Day Depend on It

On October 21, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that he foresees NASA will land astronauts on the moon by 2035. “We need to learn how to live and work in another world,” he told lawmakers. “The moon is the best place to prove those capabilities and technologies.”  The article that follows comprises the seventh instalment in “Our Martian Moment,” a multi-part Quillette series in which our authors discuss what kind of society humans should build on Mars if and when we succeed in colonizing the red planet. Four years ago, at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elon Musk set out two possible paths for humanity. “One path,” he told his audience, “is we stay on Earth forever, and then there will be some eventual extinction event.” He was not foretelling immediate doom, just noting that nothing lasts forever. Inevitably, if humans stay long enough, we’ll suffer some sort of extinction-level disaster, similar to previous mass-extinction events encoded in the fossil record. The universe …

In Space, Let Meritocracy Reign Supreme

On October 21, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that he foresees NASA will land astronauts on the moon by 2035. “We need to learn how to live and work in another world,” he told lawmakers. “The moon is the best place to prove those capabilities and technologies.”  The article that follows comprises the sixth instalment in “Our Martian Moment,” a multi-part Quillette series in which our authors discuss what kind of society humans should build on Mars if and when we succeed in colonizing the red planet.   For science-fiction writers, Mars always has been a blank slate on which to write our hopes and project our fears. Ray Bradbury imagined a Mars settled by farmers who cover the red planet with idyllic midwestern American towns. Robert Heinlein, swept up in 1960s counterculture, imagined a Mars where gnostic aliens teach free love, spiritual wisdom and psychic powers to a hippy messiah. More recently, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars trilogy—science fiction’s War and Peace—imagines …

One Small Martian Step for Man…One Giant Leap Toward the Annihilation of All Mankind

On October 21, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that he foresees NASA will land astronauts on the moon by 2035. “We need to learn how to live and work in another world,” he told lawmakers. “The moon is the best place to prove those capabilities and technologies.”  The article that follows comprises the fifth instalment in “Our Martian Moment,” a multi-part Quillette series in which our authors discuss what kind of society humans should build on Mars if and when we succeed in colonizing the red planet. Our editors invite submissions to this series, which may be directed to pitch@quillette.com. Early in his administration, U.S. President Donald Trump suggested that the United States should send an exploratory manned team to Mars. This year’s 40th anniversary of the moon landing has re-energized talk of space exploration. Recent items in Daily Caller and The New Atlantis offered enthusiastic visions of astronauts going off to the red planet, even as others offered naysaying. Like …

In Mars Co. We Trust: Understanding the Coming Interstellar Corporatocracy

On October 21, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that he foresees NASA will land astronauts on the moon by 2035. “We need to learn how to live and work in another world,” he told lawmakers. “The moon is the best place to prove those capabilities and technologies.”  The article that follows comprises the third instalment in “Our Martian Moment,” a multi-part Quillette series in which our authors discuss what kind of society humans should build on Mars if and when we succeed in colonizing the red planet. Our editors invite submissions to this series, which may be directed to pitch@quillette.com. A century from now, Mars is a desert world dotted with autonomous, corporatocratic, oases-like city states in competition with each other for citizen customers. Land ownership is anathema to Martian identity, and notions of democracy are quaint artifacts from terrestrial history. Voting is a thing that cavemen did. Weird? Absolutely. But where imagining the future is concerned, if it isn’t weird …

Blasting Enlightenment Values Into Martian Orbit

On October 21, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that he foresees NASA will land astronauts on the moon by 2035. “We need to learn how to live and work in another world,” he told lawmakers. “The moon is the best place to prove those capabilities and technologies.”  The article that follows comprises the fourth instalment in “Our Martian Moment,” a multi-part Quillette series in which our authors discuss what kind of society humans should build on Mars if and when we succeed in colonizing the red planet. Our editors invite submissions to this series, which may be directed to pitch@quillette.com. What better time to reflect on how to run an earthling colony on Mars than the current moment, when things seem to be in a depressing state all over our home planet. Indeed, I am reminded of a Soviet joke from the late 1970s, in which an elderly Jew seeking to emigrate looks over the globe in the exit-visa office weighing …

Do They Know It’s Christmas—On Mars?

On October 21, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that he foresees NASA will land astronauts on Mars by 2035. “We need to learn how to live and work in another world,” he told lawmakers. “Mars is the best place to prove those capabilities and technologies.”  The article that follows comprises the second instalment in “Our Martian Moment,” a multi-part Quillette series in which our authors discuss what kind of society humans should build on Mars if and when we succeed in colonizing the red planet. Our editors invite submissions to this series, which may be directed to pitch@quillette.com. Early on in human Martian history, Christmas will clearly be whenever December 25 falls on Earth. But eventually, practices and cultures on the two planets will begin to diverge, and the question of when and how holidays are properly celebrated in a Martian context will become a non-academic one. The first question we need to answer: Why do we need a different calendar at all? Why don’t we …

Our Mission on Mars: Obey the Lessons of Mutiny on the Bounty

On October 21, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that he foresees NASA will land astronauts on Mars by 2035. “We need to learn how to live and work in another world,” he told lawmakers. “Mars is the best place to prove those capabilities and technologies.”  The article that follows comprises the first instalment in “Our Martian Moment,” a multi-part Quillette series in which our authors discuss what kind of society humans should build on Mars if and when we succeed in colonizing the red planet. Our editors invite submissions to this series, which may be directed to pitch@quillette.com. In September, 2017, Elon Musk announced his intention to establish a Martian colony by the mid 2020s. “If there’s a third world war, we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of human civilization somewhere else to bring it back and shorten the length of the dark ages,” he told an SXSW (South by Southwest) audience in March of 2018, while …