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To Mars or not to Mars

“Some would say that colonising Mars should be the next big step of humanity, and despite there’s microbial life or not we should still go and claim it in the name of science.”

SHOULD WE MOVE
TO THE RED PLANET?

By 2021, humankind all over the world has plans to send probes to the Red Planet. Some missions have already taken place and some have even landed already. That’s the case of Perseverance, a probe that left our planet on July 30th 2020, and landed on our twin planet just last month. The goal of these missions is always to study the planet, its geology and wether or not it has signs of past —or present— martian life.

The results of this investigations may be crucial for a further colonisation of the Red Planet. If Percey finds signs of life on Mars, should we still continue with our plans to colonise it? And what if it doesn’t? Does it mean we have free rein to go and replicate our capitalistic civilisation at the frozen spheric desert that is Mars?

Some would say (me a couple years ago, for example) that colonising Mars should be the next big step of humanity, and despite there’s microbial life or not we should still go and claim it in the name of science. I used to argue that scientific knowledge and the understanding of how our planet came to be were more than enough reasons to try and settle there, let alone my own selfish excitement and curiosity for new things and events.

 

That was my view only some years ago, to the point that I made a whole masters Thesis around that speculation. What if we finally can’t control climate crisis and the consequences of our inaction take us by storm, should we move and try to start from scratch in that frozen orange rock? The answer seemed to be a rotund yes, and proof of this are the illustrations and visuals that I created back then and that today illustrates this article.

Well, luckily, my position towards this topic has shifted and evolved to accommodate more details and subtleties. I still believe that we should go to Mars —and despite what I think, any probable future scenario has Elon Musk planting a flag on the Red Planet anyways— but there are many things to consider first. For me, the biggest determinant is life, both on Mars and on Earth.

If there’s actually any kind of life on Mars, such as microbes or extremophiles, would it be ok to still go and risk both their survival and our own —what if these life forms are threatening to human health? Are we ready for an extraterrestrial pandemic?— Some people even wonder if we should avoid intervening Mars for the shake of a possible, potential future life to develop. What if we stop the slow, evolutionary timeline of potential life forms that are not already existing on the planet? Is it ok to play Gods? Well, for me that’s a price we can afford to pay.

“If there’s actually any kind of life on Mars, would that be ok to still go and risk both their survival and our own? Are we ready for an extraterrestrial pandemic? Some people even wonder if we should avoid intervening Mars for the shake of a possible, potential future life to develop.”

There’s this view that nature is always sacred, that things should stay “natural, as they are”, but we tend to forget that humans and everything they do is very natural as well. And yes, every decision we take has consequences, but not all of them are bad. In her book, Braiding Sweetgrass, author Robin Wall Kimmerer explains how many plants and other life forms used to have symbiotic relationships with humans and other non human animals. From a different perspective, historian Yuval Noah Harari argues the same using crops such as corn or rice as an example. The problem here is the capitalistic approach in our relationship with other life forms, not the relationship per se.

 

But even if some consequences are unexpected or bad, that’s also part of life. How many bugs and small insects do we kill every time we put a step on the street or every summer night we can’t sleep because of an annoying mosquito? How many viruses and bacterias have we successfully eradicated just because they were threatening to us without stoping to wonder if that was “natural” or “the right thing to do”.

 

I won’t be considering any other scenarios such as “what if another civilisation needs Mars more than us because their planet has been destroyed” as I’ve been reading during the years because… well, I honestly think there’s no need. One thing is to speculate over probable future scenarios and another one is to be biased towards a view and try to defend it at all costs.

But what if there’s actually life on Mars, from small microbes to even small insects or animals we may have not discovered yet? In that case, my opinion is that we should halt any human colonisation until we can be sure that it is safe both for humans and for those life forms. We certainly don’t want to create another pandemic nor to extinguish yet another species. If this happens, though, we will be in a very different scenario from the one we are today.

But let’s focus on the most likely scenario that there’s no life forms at all in present day Mars. What should we do? Should we go then? I would personally say yes, but always paying attention to these next issues.

 

“So, if we all agree that we don’t want to fall into space-colonialism, depleting capitalism or polluting, snobbish and useless tourism… then what’s the point of colonising a deserted, frozen and dried planet that is more than 6 months afar from our safe home planet?”

First of all, we should wonder what our real purpose for such a travel is. Are we really going there for scientific reasons? What’s more, are those scientific reasons truly motivated by an innocent and innate curiosity and desire to know more? Or are they being pushed by a capitalist agenda to conquer and exploit yet another planet and its natural resources? Are we maybe trying to take advantage of the technological developments needed for such a task and then use them for a different purpose here on Earth?

Second, we should consider who will travel to Mars and why. Scientists will be most likely the first humans who will put a foot on the Martian ground, and that’s ok. But what about the second wave of humans visiting or moving to the Red Planet? Will they be influencers, rich people and celebrities? What purpose would they serve? If the reason to go to Mars is finally a climate catastrophe on Earth, who will get the chance to save themselves and leave our home planet? What will be the role of capitalistic and exploitative companies whose only purpose is to mine minerals and resources?

And finally, what’s the cost both economically and in waste and ecological footprint of such a large scale mission? Reaching there and creating a scientific Martian base is already a huge challenge with a lot of social and economic consequences, but actually creating a permanent human settlement or even a city on Mars in the short-mid term future is crazy. Especially, when all those resources and human and economic potential should be aimed at solving our own ecological and social issues.

TO CUT A
LONG STORY SHORT

So, if we all agree that we don’t want to fall into space-colonialism, depleting capitalism or polluting, snobbish and useless tourism… then what’s the point of colonising a deserted, frozen and dried planet that is more than 6 months afar from our safe home planet? If our honest desire is to study it, and then apply all that knowledge to help preserve the Earth, then a couple scientific bases are more than enough in order to achieve that goal. No settlements needed, not another human civilisation unless is better than the one we have right now.

No colonisation is needed, no luxurious spaces travels are needed, no terraforming is needed. Instead, let’s decolonise our own planet first, let’s ensure that economic migrants and climate refugees are treated with dignity in our own planet and finally let’s make sure we use all our resources to save and worship our blue, full of life home planet.

Colonising Mars is not a priority.

We recommend you:

MARS,
National Geographic