One Way There—No Way Back

"Distant Horizons" Photo by Krista Housley Clement (used with permission)

 NASA is throwing around the idea of a one-way Mars mission, called the Hundred-Year Starship program.  Four people, aboard two separate ships, would go to Mars with the understanding that they would stay and not come back.  A mission “there and back again” to a gravity well as large and distant as Mars would have to carry much with it in order to power a launch from the Mars surface and the flight home.  A one-way spacecraft could be built much smaller, simpler, and far less expensively.

We would continue to send the explorers stuff to live on of course, but they would need to become self-sufficient in many ways as soon as possible.

Some polls are asking the question, “Would you go?”  I answered “no”.  It is just not something I could do with my life right now.  If I were younger, and single, then maybe.  I have roots.  Too many people, like the six-year-old typing this post for me as I teach him how to use a computer, need me here.

I guess that’s what it takes isn’t it?  The fur trappers of the pre-1830 American West were often like that—no attachments.  Many of them were even orphans.  These are those who braved the dangers of un-paved terrain, harsh weather, hostile indians, and big bears to forge a path for the people and two-way travel technology that followed.  Some returned to the East later, after they retired, but for a very great many of them it was indeed a one-way trip.  They are in the history books, some more prominently than others, and filled a niche when they might not have found a decent niche if they’d stayed home.

Sailing to California for the California Gold ...

Image via Wikipedia

 People left behind generations-old roots to sail the oceans to distant lands, never to return.  Many Irish immigrated to North America after a potato blight killed a million people.  Some other immigrants left their homelands over governmental, cultural, or religious issues.  Many who attended the California Gold Rush stayed in California afterward (it was such a nice place to live after all).  

Wilderness immigration efforts did not always turn out very well; small settlements sometimes vanished after hard winters, their inhabitants lost forever to the folks back home.

Would an immigration to Mars be a successful venture, or would we be left saying of them, like Timmons said on the movie Dances with Wolves, “Why don’t he write?”

Mars-manned-mission vehicle (NASA Human Explor...

Image via Wikipedia

Life on Mars would be hard, worse than the Viking expeditions to southern Greenland.  It might take people with little to come home to to live on Mars for most if not the rest of their lives.

It is not for everybody, as exciting as it sounds.  But do we even have the technology for permanent, self-sustaining colonies on a planet that doesn’t even have enough oxygen to breath?  Or perhaps first we need ask, do we as a country still even have the will to sponsor a venture like this in which the certainty of life is subject to so many unknown variables?  Many long-term closed-environment experiments on this planet have failed.  Have we become too civilized to take this kind of risk with other people’s lives, or would the commitment of humans stranded on Mars fire our resolve to keep a space program going?  Are we even stable enough as a planet to commit to this kind of “point of no return” path to space, or is this an important stage in the evolution of our species–a catalyst for a more cooperative and stable human culture?

Answering these questions might effect what kind of explorers we’d send.

Well, here I will ask just one of these questions, with a Poll Daddy poll.

Share this poll on FaceBook.

~ by Bill Housley on November 1, 2010.

One Response to “One Way There—No Way Back”

  1. […] the original post here: One Way There—No Way Back « Bill Housley Share and […]

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