There will soon be life on Mars

A one-way trip to Mars

The Mars one institute announced last week that they are looking for candidates to travel to Mars. The catch? It’s a one-way trip.

Starting in 2023, the institute will begin sending groups of four to Mars with no way of returning. By 2033, they will have increased the population to twenty-four.

The main question is: What kind of candidates will be willing to taking what is essentially a death-sentence in order to travel to Mars? The institute assures candidates that food and supplies will be sent every two years, but how long is this likely to continue? Projects and companies lose funding constantly. Do you really want your future survival tied so closely to an institute’s financial future?

So the question is: Why go? Why dramatically shorten your life in order to live in a small habitat with between three and twenty-three people in an uninhabitable environment? It may be a logical question, but it’s surely one we’ve had many times in human history.

When people took long sea voyages to unknown lands in the past, they had the same fate awaiting them. The likelihood of sudden death isn’t enough to kill peoples’ sense of adventure. The very reality of confinement and harsh conditions, whether on a ship or in a Martian capsule, aren’t enough to deter people.

So what is it that inside people (some of us, at least) that makes us explore, leave the comfort of our homes to take large risks?

If you think about it in evolutionary terms, though, it begins to make sense. The people that took the risks are our successful ancestors. Going back to leaving Africa, it was the people that left and survived that have populated the Earth. It’s the people that risk going to war, that conquer other nations and repopulate them in their own image. Taking risks is a successful strategy, in one sense.

You have the flip side of things, of course. The risk takers tend to die a lot, but once they die, they cease to matter in terms of evolution. As long as risk takers have more children than the homebodies they dominate, risk taking continues.

So, is something driving the volunteers who will travel to Mars? It’s impossible to say, but they are certainly going to have to be people who suppress logic for passion. One day, we may well thank them for paving the way to other planets and eventually other stars.



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