We Don't Need To Go To Mars

posted by Tim Carmody Feb 02, 2023

Buckle up, this one is fun: Maciej Cegowski has begun what promises to be a multi-part essay arguing against a crewed mission to Mars. It's called "Why Not Mars," it's 8000 words long, with 66 footnotes, and it sings. I'm not even sure I agree, but I enjoy the hell out of it.

The goal of this essay is to persuade you that we shouldnt send human beings to Mars, at least not anytime soon. Landing on Mars with existing technology would be a destructive, wasteful stunt whose only legacy would be to ruin the greatest natural history experiment in the Solar System. It would no more open a new era of spaceflight than a Phoenician sailor crossing the Atlantic in 500 B.C. would have opened up the New World. And it wouldnt even be that much fun.

A few choice lines:

Even billionaires who made their fortune automating labor on Earth agree that Mars must be artisanally explored by hand.
There is a small cohort of people who really believe in going to Mars, the way some people believe in ghosts or cryptocurrency, and this group has an outsize effect on our space program.
I think it's time we brought the Mars talk down to earth, and started approaching a landing there as an aerospace project rather than the fulfillment of God's plan.
The things that make going to Mars hard are not fun space things, like needing a bigger rocket, but tedious limits of human physiology.
I would compare keeping primates alive in spacecraft to trying to build a jet engine out of raisins. Both are colossal engineering problems, possibly the hardest ever attempted, but it does not follow that they are problems worth solving.
I would pay large sums of American money to be a fly on the wall at the meeting where someone tries to pitch senior career civil servants on working for Elon Musk.

And so forth. If you don't find yourself persuaded, you should at least be hectored into entertainment. (And what a position it is, to be a citizen of a civilization in the 21st century, where one ought to be persuaded to attempt interplanetary flight).

Via Baratunde Thurston.