Every now and then the news just throws up something fascinating. This morning I read this article about a company opening submissions for a one way ticket to Mars.
My immediate response and interest in this article is partially due to the fact that I’m currently reading Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden, a science fiction novel that has been nominated for the Clarke Award, for very good reason. Dark Eden is set on another world, where a handful of humans landed and two, a man and woman, were left behind and reproduced.
Of course, the reality of this Mars project is not quite as interesting as my ‘Dark Edened’ mind first made it out to be. If we’re talking seriously then there’s the funding and ethical issues of the project which means that it’s entirely possible and probable that this project will never leave the ground (pun intended).
So let’s not take it too seriously.
The company orchestrating this project are hoping to film those people that leave Earth for Mars for good, in a sort of ‘out of this world Big Brother’ reality television programme. To be honest, I can’t think of anything more sick and this sounds like it’s come straight out of Black Mirror (it isn’t April 1st is it?).
While reading the article, I imagined that the people settling on Mars would live in large transparent domes where they could grow their own food, have wildlife around them (brought from Earth as part of a scientific investigation of course) and breathe their homemade oxygen. The reality is very depressing. Below is an image of the connected domes that these people will actually be living in. It looks like a prison, set on a planet that is freezing cold, where the air isn’t breathable and if the depression doesn’t kill you, the radiation will. Where do I sign up?
Just what sort of person will go for this? A scientist who had dedicated their life to discovery and is willing to forego the rest of their life and whatever Earth may have given them? Maybe they would take their existing family with them and destroy their children’s lives in the process.
Or perhaps the applicants will be those who don’t feel that Earth has anything to offer them. Those who despair, who need to escape. Or perhaps there will be people who need to escape Earth for different, criminal reasons.
I’m getting overexcited, of course only people with a sound mind will actually be allowed to go. Then again, maybe my ideas aren’t so far fetched. How easy is it to fool others into thinking you’re of sound mind?
Even if the company does find a good group of people who wish to leave Earth behind, and even if the Big Brother reality television show doesn’t end with a bloody, space murder, or if people on Earth lose interest and stop watching and we forget about our people lost on Mars…the group who do settle on Mars probably won’t survive very long.
Despite the cold, the captivity and the radiation, I would imagine depression and anxiety would get to the people first. And if it doesn’t? Well, the radiation would make them infertile, so the idea of a new colony of humans on Mars bred from this group is also probably out of the question.
This is a story that truly grabs the imagination and throws it into warp speed. Science fiction that might become fact. But as with all stories, the reality is never as good as that which we imagine, and I haven’t even considered all of the other things that could go wrong between the group landing and dying (Prometheus, Alien and Pitch Black immediately spring to mind). While the idea is exciting in principle, and has made my fingers itch to start typing, whichever way you look at it this story has a tragic ending.