Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The One Way Trip to Mars Option

There's something incredibly compelling about this proposal by James McLane:
To put a human on Mars within the lifetime of America’s current generation, only one scheme is feasible, and this feasible concept challenges our traditional thinking about risk and the value of life. The mission must be a one-way trip. It’s possible that the crew might consist of only one person. For the first manned landing on Mars, there can be no provision for the space traveler to return to Earth.
It's a fascinating suggestion, largely because it seems simultaneously instinctively repugnant, yet methodically logical.

But here's another spin on the proposition: I have little doubt that there are human beings willing to undertake a one man, one-way mission to Mars -- but would a person who is completely conscious that he is going on a what is essentially a "suicide mission" be able to succeed in getting to Mars in the first place?

McLane is absolutely correct when he says that such a proposition cuts directly to the heart of how we value life, heroism, scientific progress and human exploration. Absolutely fascinating stuff...


Anonymous said...

Considering there are any number of people willing to strap bombs onto themselves and undertake that kind of ACTUAL suicide mission for what they beleive is a Higher Purpose, I'm sure people would do it. I would add though that it is not really a suicide mission anymore than a life on Earth is also a suicide mission in that "no one gets out alive"

If a traveller went with provisions for living on Mars until a natural death (of course that is best-case scenario) s/he would not be on a suicide mission at all.

And I would also mention that levels of isolation are arguable too. IF there was a nice communications link s/he would live a life in a virtual community (lol as I do), possibly 100% emotionally embeded in a social network while remaining physically isolated. I'm sure there are people for whom that whould also work. I think the issuses of "hmanity" really are strongest when it comes to medical issues, The person will at some point get sick/age to a level requiring the physical help of another. Equipping a facility with things that enable a person to operate on themselves - that would raise moral /legal questions or perhaps some VERY remote robotic surgical arm could be used and controlled on Earth.

I think biggest question, and one that will not get asked at all is- what's the fuckin' point?
All the phenomenal costs of space travel at a time when basic needs are imperilled for FAR too many on the Home Planet is certainly the most relevant moral issue. And I also feel that ALL space exploration is firmly rooted intthe first half of the 2oth Century quais-religious belief in "Science" that stuff that is learned thru sapace travel is INVALUABLE and will help save us terrestrial lumps. Okay we have Velcro and Tang. ooh aah. And I'm sure some macho "boldly go" type can list other discoveries that were corrollary to space travel programs that benefit our daily lives. Don't care, not my point.

BUT has the unimaginably expensive financial outlay and massive scientific focus advanced civilization/humanity to an overall level that makes the effort the most responsible, moral and human choice? Is THAT what we need to be/should be focusing on NOW?

or is it a nice macho, colonial, Wild-West distraction for the most well-off nation on a planet during times of turmoil and discontent?

I read a bit about Sudan yesterday. Multiply that misery by every other Misery down here and then the idea of a bunch of ppl sitting on air conditioned couches marvelling at the tear-jerking advancements of the human race seems a bit obscene.

So i'm personally not convinced that a species that does this to one planet
is really mature enough to go running off to others RIGHT NOW, maybe a litle later. Maybe all those alien races on all those Star trek shows are right when they say "your species is a bit retarded right now, we'll talk to you noobs later".

But certainly after a realistic moment spent considering the "value" of life here, there's no need then to worry so much about the "so valuable life" of that ONE GUY who is sent to mars when we can so easily not worry about the many "lives of sure suicide" that there are down here. So if some well-off high-status white guy wants to strap fire to his ass and take a ride while a bunch of babies lay on and chew on garbage, let him.
bye bye D-bag.

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