Monday, 23 March 2015

I Want Mars, But Not Like This

Since Curiosity landed, the scientific community has been all kinds of excited about mankind's plan for Mars. While generally, the most reputable organisations are keeping fairly low-key about their plans and expectations beyond learning a few bits of stuff, some people got really excited.

For a while, there was a fair amount of talk about Mars One. And it did seem legitimately cool. And, while it didn't seem likely to happen immediately, it didn't seem all that far-fetched in the long run. It admitted that it was a fairly new project that still required a lot of work and it was backed some really cool people, including Nobel Prize-winning CERN scientists. Who else are you going to trust with your trips to Mars?

And then this happened.

And it broke my heart.

I won't say I had the best hopes in the world for Mars One, but I really did love the idea. I thought that if something like that could really get done, then maybe humanity was finally learning something. It would finally learn to work together, to watch how a society can work when it started over from scratch. It could teach us so much about what we're doing wrong here on Earth and make a huge difference to the way society is run.

And that's on top of all the cool stuff we'd learn about Mars.

Which would have been a lot.

And would in turn have taught us more about the universe, the solar system, our own planet. We could have made so much progress from being there. It is literally a whole other world for us to explore and learn from and utilise.

And even if Mars One didn't work out like it had hoped to, it would have at least made some kind of headway in getting us to Mars. Having a well written plan might have been enough to make a difference to what other organisations are doing about space exploration.

So I feel bad for everyone involved. I'm happy that I missed out on what looked like an incredible opportunity.

I'm aware that, given Lansdorp's response, there is room to give him the benefit of the doubt. But I don't think I want to. I'm sick of putting my faith into people who claim to care about something other than profits.

And what disturbs me is that once people decide this is a scam, they'll start to gradually stop caring about the genuine ventures people want to take. All too often, people make assumptions based on one experience. Or one high-profile story. And it does damage to the enthusiasm behind legitimate enterprises. And it's going to happen now.

I'm still excited about exploring Mars - about exploring all of space. I'm still going to follow Curiosity. And Cassini. And the Voyagers. Because I enjoy learning about the universe. I think it's the most exciting thing there is. Space didn't do anything wrong.

But I'm disappointed in people. And, while that's not new, it still hurts.

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