Mars is remarkably similar to Earth. Looking across its surface, we might think we were in Arizona or Jordan, but the similarities are mostly superficial. The atmosphere on Mars is ludicrously thin, roughly 1% of Earth’s. The two moons, Phobos and Deimos, provide no useful illumination. Water is present in frozen, trace amounts. Mars is less welcoming to life than Death Valley.
Mars as a second home for humanity is not a new idea. Writers and dreamers have speculated about not only visiting the red planet, but also setting up colonies, making us an interplanetary species. Elon Musk recently unveiled his plan to get us to Mars. Several people noted that his plan, while expensive, is more ambitious and cost effective than NASA’s planned mission. This is not a surprise. Government agencies move slow because bureaucracy breeds torpor, while innovators jump the line.
National Geographic’s recent mini-series, Mars, did an excellent job of blending documentary and narrative filmmaking, giving people an excellent primer on what a mission to Mars would be like–and how things stand now.
If we want to survive as a species, we need to be in more than one place. Should an extinction event occur, as it most certainly will, if we are isolated on Earth, our home will become our tomb. If we have populations offworld, however, then we can continue to grow. Governments are too reactionary to make this happen, but much like the explorers of old, modern tech moguls could leapfrog the bounds of procedure and get us closer to living on another planet.
As a writer, my job is to make people ask questions. Over the next few years, a lot of those questions will be about Mars.