December 3, 2008

How to live on Mars

The other day, I wrote about "What we have learned in Space" and how manned space travel is likely too dangerous and too expensive for humanity to spread out to other planets.  Robert Zubrin disagrees -- in book form -- with "How to Live on Mars"

For us to say we can't go to Mars today is to basically say that we've become less than the people who got us to where we are today, and that's something that we can't afford. The risks associated with a human mission to Mars, given what we know today about Mars and about space technology, are much lower than the risks of the Apollo moon program were.

I think that this freedom to be the maker of your own world instead of simply being the inhabitant of one that has already been made is a truly grand form of human freedom. We had that during the period from Plymouth Rock through the closing of the American frontier in the late 1890s. There's a famous quote from a great historian, Walter Prescott Webb, that says "People will miss the frontier more than words can ever express. For hundreds of years they heard its call and bet their lives and fortune on its outcome." This is why we still look back today at the time of the American frontier as a great time, despite the fact that it was filled with all kinds of harsh experiences and heartbreak.

So with Mars, there will be grand successes and there will be heartbreak. Not everyone will strike it rich, but everyone will get a chance for a new start. There's a reason why millions of people in the Old World sold everything they had to get a ticket on a ship to get them to America. And for some of them it didn't work out so well. But it did for enough of them that they're still coming today.

I'm all for it, it's just that I doubt it will happen.  It's not that I believe the world lacks for Christopher Columbuses, no... no, the world lacks for Queen Isabellas.  Who out there can fund a trip to Mars?  Which country?  What people?

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