“Forget the Moon. Let’s head to Mars”. (Buzz Aldrin, Lunar Astronaut)
“It’s a fixer-upper of a planet, but we could make it work”. (Elon Musk. CEO of Space X)
“They may go off to Mars, just for the ride, thinking that they will find a planet like seer’s crystal, in which to read a miraculous future. What they’ll find instead is that somewhat shopworn image of themselves. Mars is a mirror, not a crystal”. (Ray Bradbury, Martian Chronicles , 1950)
October 30th will mark the 75th anniversary of Orson Wells’, Mercury Theater of the Air, “War of the World’s” radio broadcast in 1938. Wells, then only 23, decided to update and adapt H.G. Well’s 19th century science fiction novel as a realistic reportage of a Martian invasion of Earth, presented as a series of urgent news bulletins. His show began at 8 PM on a Sunday evening which was prime time in the golden age of radio. It is believed that perhaps a million listeners thought that this Martian invasion was real and panic broke out in various parts of the country, especially in New Jersey where these hostile invaders supposedly landed. The urgent and anxiously ominous tone of Well’s dramatization found fertile ground, within a population already on edge, during the uncertain times leading up to the outbreak of World War II. When news of these panics reached CBS studios, the young actor went on the air again with a special announcement that his dramatization was only fiction.
During October of 1938, my mother, already engaged to my father, was visiting her father at his rural farm in northern New Jersey. As the family story goes, they were listening to the show when their closest neighbor raced over from some miles down the road to warn them of the coming invasion. According to my cousins, this concerned gentleman was hoping to heroically rescue my mother, whom he fancied, from the multiple , pulsating seafoody tentacles of these tripod encapsulated alien invaders. Mother dismissed any such notion, and insisted that his urgent visit was only motivated by a genuine neighborly concern. My cousins, however, are sticking by their story, given that their source was probably my grandfather. Anyone who knows anything about our secretive Cornish culture will understand why I chose not to pursue either version.
In H.G. Wells’ original War of the Worlds, published in 1898, he imagined a race of Martians motivated to escape their own dying planet and survive by invading and colonizing their closest celestial neighbor. Now, in our 21st century it seems that the situation may actually be more the other way around. More than a few modern visionaries and space pioneers now consider Mars as a kind of Planet B option for the human race, if our home world should become uninhabitable. Such speculation is no longer limited to the realm of science fiction. Earth has a history of comet collisions and asteroid impacts; together with our modern environmental crises of climate change extremes, over-population, global epidemics, dwindling resources as well as increasing life-negative radiation levels and other sources of environmental pollution. Just this year we discovered that our global wild life population has been reduced by half…. many species of marine life have disappeared and our planetary web of life is clearly under siege.
This Mars as a Planet B survival option is clearly stated in science fiction writer Poul Andersen’s, Is There Life on Other World’s? (1963):
Colonization means potential immortality for the human genus. Man’s safety on Earth was never great, and it dwindles hourly. Disarmament, even world government will not guarantee survival in an age when population presses natural resources to the limit, and when knowledge of how to work mischief on a planetary scale becomes more diffuse, among peoples who may become ever more desperate.
Similar thoughts are set forth in a column published in 2004, in the New York Times by English physicist Paul Davies:
“In time a Mars colony would grow to the point of being self-sustaining. When this stage was reached humanity would have a precious insurance policy against catastrophe at home. During the next millennium there is a significant chance that civilization on Earth will be destroyed by an asteroid, killer plague, or global war. A Martian colony could keep the flame of civilization and culture alive until Earth could be reverse-colonized from Mars.”
In a resonant, yet lighter note, science fiction writer Larry Niven maintains that dinosaurs became extinct because they didn’t have a space program. (space.com)
The fourth planet out from our Sun has intrigued mankind from time immemorial. As a rusty orb, traveling overhead and throughout the dark and countless night skies of the late nineteenth century, Mars provided a natural focus for H.G. Wells’ tale of hostile invaders, given its long standing and mythological associations with aggression. Ancient Greek and Roman myths associated the Red Planet with their God of War. When its two irregular moons were discovered, which may be captured asteroids, they were named Deimos (terror/dread) and Phobos (panic/fear) after the two sons who always accompanied their father into battle.
As our closest planetary neighbor containing resources necessary for life and just half the size of Earth; Mars has long been a focus for serious study and speculation as a likely candidate for possible human contact and colonization. Early human missions to Mars were conceived as national government’s space programs; exploration rather than colonization, with planned sites for ongoing habitation. Yet, as early as 1948, former-Nazi, German-American, Wernher von Braun’s Mar’s Project, envisioned a fleet of space ships bringing 70 people to our neighboring planet; with a return plan after their spending 443 days on the Martian surface. Bearing in mind that Professor von Braun made it quite clear that his spectacular Moon landing was only made possible through the intervention of “extraterrestrial help”, his plans for Mars might well have included extraterrestrial assistance as well. His projected launch date was to be 1965.
It is a fact that there has been broad speculation that this or similar projects, also involving our Moon as well as other unnamed worlds; actually took place and remain ongoing. These missions allegedly launched a supposedly secret off-world Space Command; with extra-terrestrial officers, giving rise to a Breakaway Civilization, inter-galactic Black-Project enterprises and so forth. This is, of course, a purely speculative area, which various researchers have nevertheless defined as “a schism within humanity, involving an elite cadre of self-selected humans, which gave rise to something like a “planetary collective”. As strange as this may seem, even stranger is President Obama’s science advisor John P. Holdern’s repeated reference to an entity that he names as “The Planetary Regime”. (Ecoscience, 1977) Given this somewhat unusual and still very specific choice of words, one cannot help but wonder, as to what in the world, pun intended, is this “Planetary Regime” that our president’s science advisor kept referencing?
In theory, and as a result of this theoretical Breakaway enterprise, humanity was supposedly separated into two groups, by a 60 year notational time, and by something like a thousand years in technological time. A very real Breakaway Collective is believed by many to possess technologies that allow them to travel throughout our solar system, and have daily contact with non-human intelligences in a relationship too complex to analyze from available data speculation. As intriguing as all of this may seem, further investigation lies far beyond the scope of this old lady’s admittedly, Earth-bound blog. (Joseph P. Farrell, Ph.D.: Covert Wars and The Secret Space Programs, 2013, & Clif High, “Two Problems Too Big For Nation States”, www.halfpasthuman.com).
For those unfamiliar with this admittedly outlier material, more current information is available as a result of the Secret Space Program Conference: 2014, San Mateo, California (secretspaceprogram.org) with an impressive list of presenters including Wernher von Braun’s, close personal assistant, Dr. Carol Rosin.
One of the most adamant and leading proponents of Mars exploration is American aerospace engineer Dr. Robert Zubrin (b. 1952) who believes that healthy civilizations thrive on challenge; and lacking that, stagnation will set in, followed by inevitable decline. The charismatic Dr. Zubrin confesses to a lifelong obsession with space travel and to a nearly messianic need for our species to inhabit more than one world. After working for many years with NASA, he became increasingly discouraged and frustrated by the national space agency’s policy of confining most of their well funded projects within low Earth orbits.
The success of Zubrin’s, The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must, (1996), gave rise to his founding of the non-profit, Mars Society. Following his disappointment that NASA was unwilling to take up his Mars Direct Project, which bypasses any need for interim involvement with the International Space Station or the Moon, Zubrin turned to private sources for funding. The Mars Society continues to expand with over 4,000 members and some 6,000 associate supporters across more than 50 countries. (marssociety.org) While most national space exploration programs involving Mars have an emphasis on exploration and returning astronauts to Earth, a majority of the privately funded Mars projects advocate colonization with no return option.
Who on Earth, you may wonder, would volunteer for a one way trip to Mars? With space travel now opening up into the private sector, more than 200,000 people from 140 countries applied for a one way trip to Mars sponsored by the Mars One Foundation, located in The Netherlands. This project is the brainchild of Dutch engineer and entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp together with Arno Wielders, who count Robert Zubrin among other distinguished members of their advisory board. While CEO Lansdorp admits that his girlfriend thinks he is crazy, he insists that Mars One is not a hoax. Their goal is to establish a permanent human colony on Mars by 2025, along with every step documented by Reality TV if they survive the hazardous journey. Robotic landers will be sent ahead with supplies and inflatable structures for habitation and research, soon followed by an initial settlement crew of two men and two women. While reproduction on Mars is feasible, it is not intended, at least, not in the early stages of colonial development. (mars-one.com)
Other crews of four are expected to arrive every two years along with intermittent robotic deliveries of equipment and supplies. Granted that we may have a spiritual need for open frontiers, the freeze dried surface and harsh conditions on what appears to be a desert planet, mostly devoid of biological life, will provide any number of physical and psychological challenges for the newcomers. And while it appears that the Martian surface is devoid of life, there may be surprises lurking underground and deep within those mysterious craters, caves and deep-canyon formations.
Here on Earth, colonization has solved some problems and created others, many of which remain unresolved; and the process is likely to prove no different on Mars.