So I’ve been reading a lot of Nancy Atkinson lately. She’s the editor for Space Lifestyle Magazine and a contributing blogger for Universe Today. She’s got a great style and covers a lot of topics that really interest all of us who dream of going to space. What’s interesting is that she is that rarest of writers, one who actually understands a little science. (How many times have *I* been quoted in the newspaper with the label “local astrologer” captioned under my photo?)
She wrote a fascinating article a couple of months back promoting NASA engineer Jim McLane’s idea that a Mars mission is quite do-able within our lifetimes. The journey would be difficult and the effort would require international focus. We would have to rely on our ingenuity to make designs based upon technologies not yet invented. This sounds so very familiar somehow…
What is so fascinating is the caveat in such an endeavor — it’s one-way. Which brings us to our first bump: Who would ever volunteer for such a mission? Here is where the military makes the strongest case for involvement.
Now don’t go thinking we have plans on killing some very patriotic adventurer. Whoever goes would be stationed on the red planet for many years, possibly the rest of his/her life. But we would send supplies and expectedly more humans to build a small colony over time. Earth and Mars pass relatively close to each other every 26 months, so we’d have a couple of years in between supply ships to prepare.
When this story made headlines it prompted much discussion on the intertubes, so I don’t wish to re-hash a lot of that now. But the arguement that our military would have the easiest go at turning a manned Mars mission is worth a closer look.
Upon reading some of the ideas behind a one-way mission, SFC William H. Ruth III, a US soldier stationed in Iraq, said he is ready and willing to go. Not only that, but he may be speaking for a lot of the men in his division. SFC Ruth wrote,
“While reading Jim McLane and Nancy Atkinson’s thoughts on Space Colonization, I started to realize that we ‘ALL’ have lost our way. We have become so consumed by petty differences and dislikes of others that we all have forgotten our pre destiny of something better.”
What a wonderful sentiment! You’ve got to head over to the full article and read the rest of his thoughts. It’s worth your time.
The big picture is that our military contains men and women with the courage and abilities to take on such a mission. That’s the way it used to be in the 60s, and it can be that way again. There are many risks involved, but for a soldier stationed in a warring country that’s just daily routine. Sure, everyone wants to send Ellie Arroway, but that’s not the way it’s ever really been done. We send those who can forge the road, then we send in the scientists. Antarctica was first crossed by explorers. The science stations (arguably the *real* exploration) came later. The first astronauts from any country are militarily trained and usually fighter pilots. Remember, we’ve only had one scientist ever on the moon; the rest were there to collect samples, test technologies, and spark our imagination. The first person on Mars should carry those same directives.
Mars will still be there when it’s my turn.