By G. E. Shuman
For my entire life, at least the entire part of it that I can remember, I have been interested in and following our country’s space programs. I have always been amazed at our ever-increasing ability to explore other worlds, with landers and rovers and space-borne telescopes and cameras. I have loved following the manned missions. I saw the first space shuttle flight and even remember, before that, watching Neil Armstrong take that first “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” on the moon in 1969. (Yes, he really said that. Yes, we really did go there and have landed there… six times.)
I like the fact that I have lived long enough to have seen both the first manned flight to space (Yuri Gagarin, 1961—now you know how old I must be), and will likely live to see the very first landing on Mars, at least. The world is amazing; modern technology is astounding.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX goal to not just land on the red planet but to colonize it is more great news than a ‘space-junkie’ like me could hope for. I’m sure I’ll never go there myself but I will live vicariously through those who do. There will then be life on Mars for sure. There will be aliens there, and they will be us. By the way, my name isn’t Elon, but my middle name is Eleon… which is close enough for me. Ha.
Musk’s lofty goal of a permanent settlement on Mars will eventually become a reality, I’m sure, and more eventually the people there really will be Martians, not alien invaders from earth. Babies will be born there who will know no other world but that one and that world will be their home. They will have their own rapidly-accumulating history, nations, customs, and laws. Some of those things will likely be similar to ones on earth, and some will probably not be. I find that all fascinating. The Martians will have personal and societal struggles unique to situations on ‘their’ world; they will live and die in the tough conditions that their world presents. In all of this, mankind will have become a true multi-planet species and will have accomplished Mr. Musk’s goal of safeguarding itself against destruction from some worldwide, earthborn catastrophe.
With all of this, I’m fairly sure that these new Martians will find the biggest problem will be to safeguard themselves from themselves. The first flights to Mars will take six months or more and will inevitably include arguments and perhaps worse things happening between the passengers. The first Martian war will be between human Martians, as will the first political and racial conflicts. That’s more than a bit sad. Still, all will not be lost.
We will take jealousy with us to Mars, but also compassion. We will take hatred but also love. We will take greed, but also generosity. We will take sin, and we will take Bibles. The humans from earth will be quite flawed indeed but are still worth saving. Perhaps the Martians will eventually do even better.