When this stage was reached, humanity would have a precious insurance policy against catastrophe at home. During the next millennium there is a significant chance that civilization on Earth will be destroyed by an asteroid, a killer plague or a global war. A Martian colony could keep the flame of civilization and culture alive until Earth could be reverse-colonized from Mars.

mars may not be no kind of place to raise a kid, but, then again, either is the earth
Theres an interesting op-ed piece in todays New York Times by a professor at Australias Center for Astrobiology. His article is on the subject of a manned mission to Mars. Essentially he says that we should do it, but that we shouldnt rule out a scenario in which astronauts going to Mars would not be coming back to the Earth. (They would live on the planet until such time that they died, conducting scientific experiments and communicating them back to us here. We on Earth would send them supplies every two years.) He says not only would a one-way mission be far more scientifically feasible and affordable, but that wed have more than enough people volunteering for such a duty. I think he makes good sense.

One of the points he makes, and I think its a good one, is that we cant continue to put all of our eggs in the Earth basket. The human race has to establish colonies where it can, just in case something terrible happens here on earth and all life ends. Heres his quote:

I dont know how many NASA scientists read this blog, but my hope is that if there is someone out there in a position of power within the agency that you will add my name, as well as that of my wife and our as yet unnamed fetus, to the list of people willing to go. The thought terrifies the hell out of me, but I know its what I need to do for the sake of future Maynard generations. (If you know Linette, please dont tell her about any of this just yet. I havent had a chance to mention it to her.)

Its actually kind of hard for me to reconcile my thoughts on this matter. As much as Id like to give Bush hell for suggesting a multi-billion dollar manned expedition to Mars, I think it might be in the best long-run interests of human-kind. Yes, I know that the money could be put to use funding education, and, yes, I do think that he should be focusing here on Earth instead of in outer space, but still I like the idea of having a few humans tucked away somewhere else, just in case. The old me would have said, Fuck the humans. If we cant get our shit together on this planet, we deserve to die with it. But, if you think about it, weve also done some pretty amazing stuff. We learned to fly, built the pyramids, invented democracy, we had Benjamin Franklin and Martin Luther King and Leonardo Da Vinci. That heritage, I think, is worth preserving. So, yes, I think that Bush should be planning an exit strategy in Iraq, not an exit strategy for the earth, but, at the same time, I think we really need to look at the world situation realistically. Were like a cancer on this earth and its not going to keep feeding us forever. Sooner or later, this planet will die.

Happy new year, everybody.

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