To stay put and fix what’s broken, or to leave the earth altogether and try our luck elsewhere…

NASA’s Chief Technologist, Mason Peck, took to Reddit this afternoon, answering questions on everything from the democratization of space, and our current research into warp drives, to the role of 3D printing in the colonization of other planets, and the possibility of encasing our astronauts in water during the voyage to Mars in order to protect them from the negative effects of radiation. It’s fascinating stuff, and, in a perfect world, we’d be investing more than just a half a percent of our federal budget on it. Unfortunately, though, it’s not a perfect world… as evidenced by the fact that we spend so much time talking about who holds our President’s umbrella, and so little about what it would actually take to build sustainable human communities in space. And I suspect this will ultimately be humanity’s undoing.

I would have thought, in the wake of our moon landing in 1969, that fear and superstition would have slowly started to melt away in the face of science, giving rise to a new age of enlightenment, but that’s not really what happened. Instead, a great many of us doubled down on ignorance, denying global warming, and demanding, until blue in the face, that our President, in spite of the overwhelming documentation to the contrary, was born outside of the United States. And, as education budgets are being slashed, and the grasp of lowest-common-denominator “reality” television is becoming more strong, I think it’s likely that we’ll see the dumbing down of the American population continue, and our federal dollars being spent on things like walls along the Mexican border, instead of manned space exploration. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of humanity, and a big part of me thinks that we should just allow the whole experiment to end here on earth. But, at the same time, I also think that we’ve gone too far to just throw in the towel and give in to the forces of stupidity now. And it’s that part of me that thinks that we should begin looking more seriously at what it would take to get a rocket to Mars, full of brilliant astronauts of childbearing age, ready to blast off and leave this rapidly decaying planet of ours for good. So, that’s the big question for tonight – should we give up on earth, or should we focus our activities on saving it?

This, as I see it, is the biggest question facing humanity… and I think it’s summed up pretty well by the following two quotes – the first of which is from theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, and the second of which is from celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. I don’t think the two are by any means mutually exclusive, but, if you follow them through to their logical conclusions, I think you’ll agree that they point toward two very different visions for our future. So, with all that said, I’m curious as to what you stand… Should we put all of our efforts into finding another planet, where humanity might have a better chance of long term survival, or should we fight to make that future on earth? (Personally, I think we need to do both, but where’s the fun in arguing that?)

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  1. dragon
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    A scientist,

    or someone who has to stick his finger into the wind to decide how much his god might play into this?

    Tuff call.

  2. Anonymous Mike
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    The stupid will always be among us on earth. By leaving we’ll have an opportunity to start over again without the fundamentalists and anti-science nut cases. I like Tyson’s idea that we just fix stuff here, but, judging from the global warming debate, it’s not going to happen.

  3. Elf
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    We don’t need a rocket that can reach Mars. We just need one, filled with religious fanatics and Tea Partiers, that can reach the sun.

  4. Elf
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    note to my fellow readers: That was a joke. I was not suggesting genocide. Personally, I think that these people should be put in reeducation camps, not launched into white hot core of a burning star.

  5. EOS
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Save your money, no rocket needed. We’ll be leaving at the rapture to reach the Son.

  6. anonymo
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Well now you see what you wanna be
    Just have your party on TV
    ‘Cause the man from Mars won’t eat up bars when the TV’s on
    And now he’s gone back up to space
    Where he won’t have a hassle with the human race
    And you hip-hop, and you don’t stop
    Just blast off, sure shot
    ‘Cause the man from Mars stopped eatin’ cars and eatin’ bars
    And now he only eats guitars, get up!

  7. Edward
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Space travel is the rapture for people who can think. I just figured it out thanks to EOS.

  8. Mr. X
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    The American people won’t change and there’s no political will to tell the truth. So we keep on fracking and scraping the bottom of the petroleum barrel as the earth literally burns. I wish I could be an optimist, but I don’t see the groundwork being laid to change things. Instead we have a well funded campaign demanding that things stay the same. The only chance we have is to ship off our best and brightest in hopes that they take the best of what we have to offer and leave the rest here.

  9. Rai Harashi
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Both. Shoring up Earth still leaves us with a single point of failure. If we can scratch out an existence on other planets, then a meteor or rapid climate change won’t wipe us out.

  10. double anonymous
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Neither. We should let another species have a shot. We’ve proven ourselves incapable of stewardship.

  11. 734
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Dragon, I’m not sure I understand you comment. Are you saying that Tyson isn’t a scientist but someone who “has to stick his finger into the wind to decide how much his god might play into this”? If so, what exactly does that mean?

  12. Meta
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    One of the best things form the Reddit AMA with Peck:

    NASA has been funding an exciting study known as Contour Crafting, which involves using a kind of large 3D printer to assemble large structures on the Moon from lunar regolith. One of the most exciting possibilities is that we could be recycling old spacecraft, building new spacecraft out of asteroid material, all of which will increase access to space, because we will only have to launch the valuable difficult to manufacture components such as integrated circuits and people.

    “Building new spacecraft from asteroid material.”

    How cool is that?

  13. Elliott
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    NASA is also printing food!

  14. wobblie
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    EOS and many others like him/her just don’t get it. The Rapture has already happened, and they got left behind with us heathens.

  15. double anonymous
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    Jesus was an alien, and space travel IS the rapture.

  16. GG
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    It’s not hot when sorority girls do duck-face. Somehow it works for Hawkins though.

  17. God
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    It is amusing to ME that some of you have the brains but not the (political) power to fix the mess others have created. You are all interconnected – only if you can work together can you safe yourselves from a dying planet. Unfortunately, I doubt it.

  18. Knox
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    EOS also likely believes in “clean coal”.

    Fortunately, though, most Americans believe in global warming and feel that something should be done about it.

    From today’s LA Times:

    “70% of American adults say global warming should be a priority for the nation’s leaders, while 87% say leaders should make it a priority to develop sources of clean energy.”,0,4227375.story

  19. EOS
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 4:45 am | Permalink


    Bandwagon fallacy. Not a logical argument.

  20. Demetrius
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    @ Knox

    Something like 90% of Americans support universal background checks and longer waiting periods to buys guns, too, but that ain’t gonna happen, either.

    It is becoming increasingly clear that even when it comes to issues about which there is as close as we ever get to a national consensus — the need for more rational gun laws, taking action on global warming, etc. — the public will, no matter how strong, is no match for the financial interests of oil companies, gun manufacturers, TBTF banks, etc.

  21. Posted May 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I think Hawking’s idea makes good sci-fi talk, but it’s pretty silly in the end.

    As for the Rapture, that’s a pretty pathetic response. If God intended humans as stewards of the Earth, I doubt he intended that we slack on our duties on some promise of eternity.

    It’s interesting that conservatives scream about welfare programs, assuming that they will sap man’s will to work, but use the Rapture (a guarantee of salvation) as an excuse to do nothing.

  22. Jorda Sandals
    Posted June 18, 2013 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    Humankind does not deserve another bite at the apple. We had our chance and screwed the pooch.

  23. Kat
    Posted September 12, 2013 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    We need to use this planet up and move on like Jeff Goldblum uses up young women.

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  1. […] astrophysicist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, said it best. “It’s a very simple argument. If we have the power to convert Mars into […]

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