9 January 2004

Is Mars Ours? - The logistics and ethics of colonizing the red planet

But the future peopling of Mars is much more than a scientific endeavor. It is a step of historic and spiritual importance for the human race. Any group that seeks to garner support for human journeys to Mars must reassure people that this goal is broadly humanistic and environmentally conscientious. There is no reason why this can't be the case. The fanatical comments quoted above do not represent the majority view of Mars Society members; some are credible, thoughtful activists with an inclusive vision more likely to win wide support for continued Mars exploration. I hope they succeed in burying the 'pioneering the West' analogy before it does any more damage to the cause. While we're at it, let's retire the word 'colonization,' which carries a permanent stain, and talk instead about the 'cultivation' or 'animation' or 'peopling' of Mars. I know that some of you Mars hounds will dismiss the above as a bunch of PC nonsense. Fine, but it's your movement that is not yet taking the world by storm.

Grinspoon's article beat (but only just) the trial balloon being floated by the White House. As it happens I am enough of a space cadet to think a Mars mission is a fantastic idea. The Bush coterie almost certainly see this as a way to emphasise their boy's vision and not much more (there is after all, not much to emphasise) but even a seed planted for bad reasons can grow into a good thing.

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