Elon Musk wants Mars. We all should

span.p-content div[id^=div-gpt] { line-height: 0px; font-size: 0px;} “He awoke — and wanted ”
 
That’s the first line of Philip K Dick’s classic novella, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, the inspiration for the Total Recall films. I first came across the story in a sci-fi anthology back in high school, and I can remember the force of the yearning the words roused in me: I wanted Mars, too. After all, men had just walked on the moon and everybody knew would be next.
 
Well, the moon landing will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in two years, and human beings haven’t even tried to walk anywhere else. So when announced on Friday that he hopes to send a manned mission to the red planet by 2022 — just five years from now — I felt my heart leap.
 
The 1969 moon landing capped an era of enormous optimism about what humanity could achieve. was saving hundreds of millions from starvation. Integrated circuits heralded a digital revolution. The campy innocence of the original Star Trek dates from those years. So do the Jetsons. People actually believed that science was the endless frontier.
 
Since then our species has turned its vision inwards; our image of human possibility has grown cramped and pessimistic. We dream less of reaching the stars than of winning the next election; less of maturing as a species than of shunning those who are different; less of the blessings of an advanced technological tomorrow than of an apocalyptic future marked by a desperate struggle to survive. Maybe a focus on the possibility of reaching our nearest planetary neighbour will help change all that.
 
has long fascinated us. The ancients associated it with various gods. Venus shines brighter in the sky, but somehow we have always known that our destiny lies with Filmmakers have been taking us there for decades. 
 
That’s all fiction. But maybe we’ll get there in reality. Nasa has been pushing the idea for years. The agency’s current timeline would put humans on the planet in the 2030s. China intends to get there first. Musk claims he can beat them both.
 
Every time someone proposes a mission to Mars, critics worry that the whole thing will be too expensive, that the money could be better spent elsewhere. Although I get their point, they’re only half right: The same complaint could easily be directed at every dollar we spend on rent or education or food. Besides, in Musk’s scheme the investment would come (mostly) from private sources. The point is to make the project self-sustaining.
 
For those of us who dream of the stars, reaching has always been a preliminary step. Musk agrees. His bolder plan is for humanity to advance along the path of becoming “a space-bearing civilisation and a multi-planetary species” — an ambition he laid out earlier this year in a thoughtful paper. Musk argues that what he calls the “Apollo-style approach” would make the cost of colonising prohibitive, something on the order of $10 billion a person in current dollars. But people would move in droves, he insists, if the cost can be brought down to somewhere near the median price of a US home, around $200,000.
 
It’s a lovely and elegant idea. Can we do it? I have no idea. But Musk’s confidence rekindles in me the old excitement. Perhaps we need not be earthbound forever. Perhaps we as a species can once more look skywards with a shared sense of anticipation and excitement, confident that if we cannot reach the stars, our children will. So I hope we’ll try. I may not see in my lifetime, but I’m thrilled that you might see it in yours. © Bloomberg

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*