Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pinoys on Mars

A GMA News Online writer asked me to comment on Pinoys who have volunteered for the one-way trip to Mars. Below is my answer.

Mars One may be hot copy right now, but it's really more of a gimmick than anything else. I'm doubtful if the project will really take off (pardon the pun) following the timeline they intend. The economics for human exploration of the red planet just isn't there right now. And they're planning to finance it using...reality TV? There's so many dodgy issues about the endeavor it makes me upset to think about it.

Look at the Mars One mission plan for habitation. The main component is the "living unit", which is essentially a giant inflatable tent. That's all that's between the colonists and certain death from radiation, month-long dust storms, and wildly fluctuating outside temperatures. You asked what life on Mars will be like? Well, for the Mars One kamikazes, it'll be dusty, grimy, hot, cold, boring, and uncomfortable. Mercifully, it will also be very, very short, assuming they even manage to land alive.

This is not to say that humanity won't ever land on Mars. We will, someday, but not through the joke that is Mars One. Before we get there, there has to be a compelling reason. Look at all the past movements in human history towards unknown lands. We've either been driven by economics, war, religion, or some combination of the three. None of that is present now.

Rather than Mars, the more plausible immediate trajectory for human colonization of space would be the moon and the asteroid belt. They're closer to earth so they would be more logical stepping stones. Mining would be the primary motivation. Once you've established an economy around that, then some form of culture and semi-permanent habitation would follow.