Source: CVDaily Feed
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
—Spock, Vulcan philosopher
I have thought of scribing a column about the proposed manned mission to Mars for some time. I would be remiss to not speak at any length about our curiosity regarding space exploration without mentioning the loss of Leonard Nimoy.
I became a Star Trek fan as a kid because my cousin Vincent was a fan. He had illustrated books of the original series, canonical novels based on the characters and, most impressively, a reference book that was a group of schematic maps of the Enterprise. In an era when many young kids fell in love with television shows that were rerun incessantly on UHF stations—if you are under the age of 30, ask your parents what UHF was—Star Trek reigned unchallenged.
Regardless of how anyone felt about Captain James T. Kirk’s raging machismo, everyone loved Mr. Spock. When Star Trek debuted in 1966, most alien life forms seen in television and films were sinister, malevolent or mindlessly hostile towards humans. Spock was not. He provided the philosophical balance between Kirk’s fanatical idealism and Dr. McCoy’s humanitarian morality.
If there is one profound reason why Star Trek still holds sway a half century after it came into the world’s stream of consciousness, it is because Spock’s cold, unshakeable logic was what we all wished to apply to the things in our lives that drove our insatiable passions.
Spock will forever be one of the greatest characters ever created.
It would not be hard to believe that those who are behind the mission known as Mars One were huge Star Trek fans growing up. But like most Trekkies, the visionaries behind Mars One might be avoiding the harsh realities of life.
Mars One is a Dutch non-profit company planning to send four people to Mars…one way. You read that right. Essentially, if you left the iron on before blasting off into space, your house is going to burn down. Forgot to bring back those library books? Well, you can call NASA to accumulate your late fee balance. There is no coming back. Sayonara!
Mars One has been justifiably lambasted by nearly every astronomer and scientist who has made a career out of trying to find a way to get us silly humans to leave this blue orb we call home and go somewhere else.
Mars One will pick 4 regular people from around the world and train them to be astronauts. What could possibly go wrong? The logistics of the mission has also been called into question. Giving these explorers enough food, water and protection from the elements are just the initial concerns. What about intangibles like sudden health problems? Do you remove the tonsils and appendixes from all the astronauts?
And lets not forget the unforeseen psychological problems that can be conjured up when you stick four people together for the rest of their lives on a spaceship and a foreign planet. Hijinx will most definitely ensue.
With all of these problems–which I just scratched the Mars surface of–the most unfortunate aspect of Mars One is an angle that is both financially necessary and culturally inevitable. Mars One will be a television reality show.
To help fund Mars One, it is currently proposed to make the mission a 24/7 viewing experience for we Earthbound couch potatoes. I imagine the teaser for an upcoming episode would read like this:
Sergei and Jill must re-evaluate their relationship after Jill admits that she has developed feelings for Jean-Pierre during their rover mission to Mars’ Olympus Mons volcano.
Question: If an alien species that was traveling towards Earth intercepted a satellite transmission of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”, could you blame them for annihilating us from existence?
I have always held a polarity of opinions regarding space exploration. I stand in awe at the genius of those who not only built spaceships that put men on the Moon, but could figure out the mathematics necessary to send spacecrafts to planets millions of miles away; and, to have those machines send us pictures from these foreign worlds. Our reach for knowledge about the universe we inhabit is boundless.
And in July I will be like a child on Christmas morning as the New Horizons space probe beams back to us images from Pluto and, soon after, the Kuiper Belt beyond. It is one thing to measure the distance between Pluto and Earth; it is an entirely different animal to know we can span that difference and breach it with a machine that came to be through the imagination and innovation of human minds.
But this is where the Spock in me comes to the fore. It may be, dare I say, fascinating to see images from Pluto. It may have been a great achievement to have put men on the Moon. But neither of these triumphs stopped a young mother from dying of cancer. All the money spent on every space mission could have been used to feed starving children.
Logic dictates that the needs of suffering outweigh the needs of the curious.
What could we have accomplished if every astrophysicist decided to be a neurosurgeon instead? That might come off as unfairly cynical. For that I do apologize. And it may well be that the space exploration that has been advanced since and because of the Cold War era could provide us with the answers to who we are and where we are going. That alone can be worth the time, effort and money that has been poured into these remarkable endeavors.
Mars One should not stand on the shoulders of the genius that has come before it. Even if the initial criticisms of this ambitious mission are belayed by its successes, the objective of Mars One does not appear to be an honest exploration of our red neighbor. It comes off to me like an entertainment vehicle. That makes it irresponsible, dangerous and disingenuous to its scope.
Spock would find that to be highly illogical.