The Purpose of Going to Mars
In late 1989 to early 1990, three people of interest to me were being drawn
into becoming Mars activists. Dr. Robert Zubrin came up with his
Mars Direct plan. I came up with EMA. Kim Stanley Robinson
decided to become a science fiction writer.
Dr. Zubrin's Mars Direct has knocked the estimated cost of going to
Mars down by a factor of at least 10. Kim Stanley Robinson wrote
a trilogy of books that explore in detail a possible future of the planet
Mars. His books are entitled, "Red Mars", "Green Mars," and "Blue
Mars." Along with Dr. Zubrin's "The Case For Mars" Mr. Robinson's
trilogy make for great reading for people seriously interested in getting
us to Mars.
Mr. Robinson attended the Second Convention of The Mars Society, held
in Boulder, Colorado in August of 1999. During an hour long presentation
there, he outlined what he felt were all the wrong reasons for going
to Mars. Although he was extremely eloquent, I'm listing the essence
of his talk here in an embarrassingly inelegant manner (based on my memory
and lost notes).
The Wrong Reasons for Going To Mars
These comments were well received by the attendees at The Mars Society
conference. Mr. Robinson went on to attend Planetfest several months
later (hosted by The Planetary Society), held in Pasadena, California in
December of 1999. During a half hour presentation there, he outlined
what he felt were the right reasons for going to Mars. Again,
this outline of his talk written here does injustice to his clarity, eloquence,
and skills as a public speaker and profound thinker.
It's our manifest destiny to expand into space. Manifest
destiny invokes images of white settlers wiping out nonwhite peoples
such as native American Indians. It's a negative image.
Mars is the new frontier. The term frontier is a local
term within the United States. It lacks context for citizens of nations
that haven't had a meaningful new frontier in centuries. The images
it invokes are that of lawless white guys shooting American Indians and
engaging in cattle rustling, lynchings, and gunfights. The word wilderness
should be used instead of the word frontier.
Mars is a lifeboat in case Earth is destroyed. That's a notion
only put forth by wealthy people. In reality, if the Earth were being
destroyed (by man made or natural disasters) no one's going to let the
wealthy privileged few escape. We all sink or swim together.
Therefore, it's only feasible to consider going to Mars when Earth is in
Mars has resources we need. Be careful, as this sounds like
strip mining, and environmental destruction through industrialization on
a planetary scale.
Mars or Bust. (That's the slogan on the buttons generously
distributed by The Mars Society.) Do we really want to put it as
such an ultimatum? Most people would choose, "Bust." A better
slogan might be To Help Earth. [Note: This alternative
slogan was implied by Mr. Robinson, not exactly explicitly stated.]
Going to Mars for Those Who Aren't Going [Or, The Right Reasons for Going
That concludes Mr. Robinson's second presentation. I loved it.
I'm now passing these ideas and beliefs along to the students working on
Primal. Just as a campfire compels us to stare into it for
hours ( as if it were better than the best show on TV), new hills attract
us. We long to see what's there. Images from Mars have that
compelling quality to us.
Permanent Sublimity. We live in a technological world, filled
with potential life extinguishing events. For example, while sitting
in an airplane seat at 33,000 feet, we tend to not consciously focus on
the death that is just on the other side of the thin airplane skin.
If you think about it, you tend to develop a feeling of sublimity.
On Mars, you'd be permanently relying on technology to keep you alive.
Therefore, it's possible that you'd feel permanently sublime.
Help Earth. It'd be wrong to view going to Mars as escapism
from Earth's problems. Instead, focus on using this to help Earth.
You'd better be green.
Mars is a lens, giving us a planetary perspective. While functioning
on Earth, we think about Mars on Earth. Then we appreciate Earth
Be good Martians on Earth. Live outdoors as much as possible.
Enjoy Earth's gravity, the freedom on Earth to go outdoors without the
need of a pressure suit, the warmth of the Sun, the view of Earth's Moon,
the smell of forests, the sounds of nature. Learn astronomy, as it
will be there to keep you company on Mars. Don't let slightly bad
weather keep you indoors. On Mars you'll always be indoors or in
Take a tip from Indian culture: when you contemplate an action,
think about not only your current need, but how your proposed action would
affect the seven generations of people that lived before you, and the seven
generations of people that will come after you. Ask yourself, is
it good for them, too?
Whitney HS students visiting JFK's gravesite as part of having cultural
experiences -- learning about the values of the people of Earth.
I'm working on EMA:
In summary, I'm working on EMA to help Earth.
to establish a new culture (initially on Mars), one that's strong,
independent, deeply respectful of all life and strongly caring about the
fate of humanity.
to stimulate advances in technology, particularly in life support
to act as a measure of the best that humanity can do. The
execution of this project would let us see how good humanity can be at
its best. It's good to do that from time to time.
as a dedication to someone who was affected by how the world was going.
Students planting trees to restore a lost forest.