In the past couple years, the overtly social media-friendly tech mogul Elon Musk has infected his followers with his fervent ambition of inhabiting Mars. Speaking at the 2018 SXSW, he claimed that we must move to Mars in order to preserve our species, should a calamitous circumstance like, a third world war arise. It seemed a far fetched and vaguely hypothetical scenario then; it certainly did not appear to be the case a mere months ago. And now with the deadly Coronavirus engulfing the globe in its flames, the fanciful scheme of the eccentric billionaire does not look awfully unappealing today.
As recent as 11th March, Musk tweeted an image with the caption ‘Occupy Mars’ (mistakenly, with an image of our moon drenched in a sublime red glow). This sent me down a lane of thought — transforming Mars into a safe, habitable and welcoming neighbourhood may be an ambitious goal, but by no means a sensible one in the near future. NASA plans on sending humans to Mars by 2030, which is a full decade away and who’s to say what pages are overturned in the forthcoming time. Mars One, a now dissolved Dutch company had estimated that it would cost US$ 8 billion to bring the first four persons to Mars, and a surplus of US$ 6 billion more for every subsequent mission. Surely it must’ve occurred to someone that if we pour all this money into improving the planet we already live in, how the trajectory of things could be different.
I’m aware that the thought of exploring outer worlds, no less settling in one is highly tempting, as opposed to the drabness of something, say, ridding the oceans of over 150 million metric tonnes of plastic waste. Humans, after all, are a rather curious creature. I also understand the passion and devotion some show towards fulfilling this inquisitive quest (as the internet slang goes, ‘for science’). However, what troubles me is packing our bags and skedaddling off to a neighbouring planet may seem like a pretty good solution to all our problems on paper, but it does not answer one key issue. If — or when — we move to Mars, we’ll be carrying the entirety of humanity’s baggage with us, the same which has bit by bit nudged Earth off a cliff. What good will it be if we do not improve our ways of living here, and carry on making the same mistakes there?
It’s high time we recognise that even if we succeed in settling elsewhere, issues that have plagued earth, and humanity as a whole will not suddenly sink to a bottomless pit. I, for one, am of the belief that Mr. Musk’s dreaded (and somewhat hopefully opportunistic) endeavour may ultimately prove to be dispensable, should we coalesce and direct our attention towards doing what we can do right now: revive planet earth.