I was watching television. A commercial for an upcoming film, The Martian, came on. Now we’re here.
I don’t understand the fascination with space, specifically Mars.
I’m in space, on a planet, going around a massive star. That’s all I need to know, that’s all I want to know.
Moreover, I’m not a huge fan of planes, trains and automobiles—as they’re glorified death traps. I’ve come, over time, to govern such annoyances and live a normal life, but I’d rather avoid moving metal machines if at all possible.
Climbing into a giant fucking spacecraft, however, with untold gallons of jet fuel, having it ignited, then hurled at ludicrous speeds into what can only be described as “nothingness”—yours truly isn’t built. Much less sent to another planet that’s six to eight months away (if memory serves) in the fastest possible mode of human transport.
Again, I’m not built, nor cut out, for such nonsense.
Some, to my utter bafflement, are willing to risk their lives in pursuit of the unknown.
I’m cool on Earth.
Something that often goes missing when thinking about space exploration isn’t danger or the assumed excitement of discovery, but money. The Moon missions in the late-1960s and early-1970s cost the United States an estimated $25 billion (that’s in 1970’s money). Needless to say, taking into account inflation, that number would be well into the hundreds of billions in today’s currency.
The United States spent that cash hoping there would be some reward on the Moon. Sure there was nationalistic pride on the line vs. the USSR, but the point was finding what, if anything, the Moon had in natural resources.
It turns out there was nothing of value, some rocks and ancient dust. Once the public’s euphoric state about the Moon dwindled, there was no real reason to waste money and risk lives sending people there for no economic gain. Nobody’s been back (provided you think they even went) since 1972.
Under the guise of “we’re looking for life,” the primary reason NASA exists is locating resources. Thus, I have to assume that there is nothing on Mars worth spending $1 trillion to get, otherwise there would be plans to go get whatever’s there. So if the United States’ government won’t be the primary source for such expeditions, the private sector must lead.
I have deep-seated resentment towards power figures, and that bleeds into my views of politics. Most of the time I would assert governments don’t care about their citizens as long as they’re paying taxes, but I must admit, gun to head, I’d rather be in a NASA spacecraft than an independent one.
I feel it would be the difference between Fruit Loops and Fruity Os.
No way in purple sunshine would I ever allow a Richard Branson-type to convince me his rocket ship was up to par. In the government ride at least they have incentive to not let you die, as the nation’s morale would take a hit. Unless the Branson-like figure is coming with you, he’s already got your (what I’m imagining as a) £250,000 deposit, so he mightn’t care too much if, three months into the journey, the oxygen somehow malfunctions.
The concept of the film’s commercial was an astronaut gets stranded on Mars and must survive by himself on short provisions until, I’m assuming, the government comes to rescue him. Suppose all goes well, you land on Mars safely, your suit doesn’t tear, you don’t trip and sprain your ankle or something: How the hell do you get back to Earth?
Set in the future, this particular movie has apparent answers, but as it stands today—you aren’t coming back.
I’m not that committed to anything.
I love pizza more than some people I’ve met, but I’m not going to only eat pizza for the rest of my life, because that would be fucking stupid. Similarly, permanently leaving Earth to go to a place with red dirt, rocks and little-to-no oxygen is fucking insane.
That said, if you want to leave, I won’t stop you (as that’s probably best), but can we please stop pretending like this Mars thing is a good idea?
It’s all I ask.