Ticket to Mars

By Kersley Fitzgerald

To Ray Bradbury, Mars was a magical place, inhabited by beautiful creatures. To Edgar Rice Burroughs, it was an opportunity for Confederate veteran John Carter* to escape an Apache war party and romance Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium. To H.G. Wells, it was home to a technologically superior but bacterially vulnerable race of invaders. Today, over 200,000 people have applied to settle on Mars and find out if these stories have any truth in them.

Mars One is a non-profit foundation that aims to establish a permanent settlement on Mars in 2023. Because of the environment of Mars, all activity will take place in environmentally sealed habitats or specially designed protective suits. Mars has 1/3 the gravity of Earth, which will result in lost muscle tone and bone density. It is half-again as far away from the sun as Earth, making its average temperature negative 80 degrees Fahrenheit. And its environment is composed of 95.3% carbon dioxide and 0.2% oxygen, as opposed to the 20.9% oxygen/0.1% carbon dioxide of Earth, making breathing impossible without manufactured oxygen. In addition, the air density of Mars is 0.6% of that of Earth's; despite what the cute little scene at the end of the original Total Recall would have you believe, Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Rachel Ticotin would have died almost instantly as their blood boiled out of their veins.

Terraforming is not an option—at least not for several thousand years. In order to increase the air pressure to something humans could stand, we'd have to induce an artificial greenhouse effect to squeeze gases out of the ground and ice caps. That is, if the ice caps actually exist. A much more complicated and time-consuming process than turning on ancient Martian technology or planting a bunch of trees.

All of the initial supplies and equipment will have to come from Earth. There is no organic material or liquid water in the soil, making outside agriculture impossible. Mining and manufacturing of indigenous materials would still require equipment from Earth. There is a good amount of silicate oxide in the ground, which could be refined into structural glass, and plenty of Aluminum and its alloys. But manufacturing would require a large heat source and a very good exhaust system.

Once the initial team reaches Mars and has gone through their pre-packaged supplies, they will be able to have fresh produce from the hydroponic greenhouses, but no meat. Protein will likely come from grains and beans. Resources will be tightly controlled. Medications and vitamins will come via unmanned supply ships from Earth.

All this to say, Mars will not be ready for large-scale settlement—an escape from the troubles of Earth—for a very long time. In fact, for the first several teams sent to Mars, their flight will be strictly one-way. Resources are far too precious to spend on a rocket trip back home.

The question occurs to me, then, should a Christian volunteer to go to Mars?

Yeah, I know, 99.999% of the Earth's population wouldn't want to go, anyway. No trees, no sunny breezes on your face, recycled water from you-don't-want-to-know-where. You'd say goodbye to your family forever. You'd likely never go swimming again. And you'd be surrounded by the same people with the same annoying habits for the rest of your life (the plan is for four new people to arrive every two years). But it seems to me that Christians would have to consider some things that unbelievers wouldn't.

God made the Earth for us and put us here. Would moving to Mars be a rejection of His ordered creation? In Genesis 1:28, God gave mankind our marching orders: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Whether the word "earth" is referring to territory, dirt, or non-heavens, there's nothing to indicate God meant other planets.

The specific mission of Mars One is to reinforce an unbiblical worldview. It should be no surprise that the worldview of the Mars One team does not include a 6-day creation. But to join the crew, a Christian would have to commit the rest of her life to humanistic, evolutionary work.

The social environment of the crew would be highly dedicated and highly skilled, but not particularly God-honoring. With the stresses of the living conditions and the lack of children, sexual partnerships would most likely be fluid. When sufficient advancement has been made to allow for children, "cross-breeding" will likely be required to ensure a healthy gene base.

I know it's nuts, but I still kinda want to go. I wouldn't leave Dev, of course. But I've wanted to be an astronaut since I was in sixth grade.

I had heard of a site (which I can't find now) that encouraged atheists to apply for the Mars mission. In looking for it, I found an atheist forum on the subject. The reactions to the mission surprised me. A few people wanted to go, but many more either insisted it was unethical to subject people to a one-way suicide mission, or said they would only go if they were very old or had a terminal illness.

What happened to the greatness of humanism and the fulfillment of human exploration? My guess is that when this life is all you have, it becomes all the more precious. If you don't believe in an afterlife, why waste what time you have, sacrificing yourself in incredibly uncomfortable settings?

Maybe Christians are the best option to go to Mars after all. What do you think?

Interested in learning more about Mars colonization? I've read and enjoyed Ben Bova's Mars, but I see Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy (which I haven't read) gets even better reviews. For a wonderful, funny, gross book about what it will take to get to Mars, see Mary Roach's Packing for Mars.

* The movie is different from the book, but, in my opinion, is one of the most under-rated movies of all time.

Image: 1967 edition of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

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Published 10-9-13