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Why Send Rich People To Mars?

Later today, millionaire and space tourist Dennis Tito is set to announce that he and a group of other wealthy people are going to build a private spaceship and fly to Mars. Yes, while the rest of us are struggling to pay bills, and preparing to deal with massive budget cuts to domestic government programs that keep our communities from falling apart, the One Percent are taking the extra money they have lying around and using it to have adventures in outer space.

Though the word is not yet official, it appears that Tito plans for his rich people’s Mars trip to include human passengers. One clue is that the press conference scheduled for today at the National Press Club will include Jonathan Clark, a professor of “space medicine”. Robotic missions don’t require medical specialists.

Why go to Mars, anyway? I can’t for the life of me figure out what the point of sending a group of human beings to Mars would be… other than vanity. What are human beings going to do on Mars that robots couldn’t do for us instead… other than have a good time and become famous?

These are the same people that we’re told cannot spare a penny more to pay in taxes.

mars elite club

9 comments to Why Send Rich People To Mars?

  • Bill

    Well, you know the old joke.

    Q: What do you call a thousand lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?
    A: A good start.

  • Xanti

    The potential technology existed in the 60s and 70s to conduct manned missions to Mars and beyond, and we should have began colonizing space long ago, if we’re actually serious about preserving the human species (which we’re not apparently). This isn’t pie in the sky Sci-Fi crap, it’s just logical.

    That being said, billionaires announcing plans to go to Mars is cringe worthy, but should be noted is not going to happen, it’s not them going to Mars that’s vanity, it’s just the empty announcements which are. Not that they have humankind’s best interest in space even if they were serious about going anyway :P

  • You say it’s just logical, Xanti, but you haven’t made a logically structured argument. You’ve simply made an assertion.

    What is the logic behind your assertion that the colonization of outer space, not yesterday, not last year, but long ago was necessary to preserve the human species? What is the logic that shows that we shouldn’t wait a hundred years, a thousand years, or ten thousand years?

  • Bill

    I hestate to touch the question regarding whether we ‘should’ be colonizing space in order to preserve the human race, because it’s a value judgement, but I must take exception to the notion that we could have begun colonized Mars in the 60s or 70s (or even today). In the 60s we found it pretty dang challenging just to swing by the moon for a couple of days; Mars (an orders-of-magnitude greater challenge, then and now) would have been impossible back then, and in terms of its expense it still is today (unless you’re a crazy jillionaire on a fling). Then, of course, just getting people to Mars is less than half the battle. There’s nothing to eat, drink, or breathe there (as far as we know), and no fuel (other than dimmer sunlight than we have here on earth). Colonists would sit around consuming the stores they brought with them, until they ran out, then they’d die. Major accomplishment. Sure, science fiction and speculation are replete with ideas for mining sub-surface Martian ice, using the water for hydroponic agriculture and for generating oxygen to breathe and hydrogen to burn (with sunlight as the energy source to achieve hydrolysis), yada yada yada. All completely impractical, plus raises the question of whether we really should be strip-mining Mars.

    My personal position on colonizing space in order to preserve the human race (aside from the fact that it can’t be done) is that if the human race can’t survive and thrive on this, the single friendliest planet we’re ever going to find (because we are perfectly adapted to this planet, and no other), then perhaps we don’t deserve to survive. And we certainly shouldn’t be visiting our insanity on the rest of the universe, too. Can you spell ‘cancer’?

    There’s plenty of time and space for further experiments in sentient life throughout the universe. We don’t bring anything special to the table. If we screw it up here…hey, that’s life.

  • Mark

    I’m betting that the backers of this mission are smelling profits all the way. Going into space has proven to be remarkably profitable. Just look around at all the technology that is a result of space exploration.

    You’ll note that there is no mention of actually setting foot on Mars. It’s just a fly-by mission. Their goal is not to send colonists to Mars, but to establish that they can successfully send people on long-duration space flights across the solar system. The Martian fly-by is simply to catch the world’s attention and make it a romantic mission. The real wealth out there are the asteroids and the minerals they contain. A single moderate-sized asteroid, if coaxed into a near-earth orbit, could be worth billions (trillions?) of dollars. Many asteroids are enriched in rare-Earth elements critical in the development of computer and communication systems. In the long run it would probably end up being cheaper to harvest asteroids for minerals than digging into the Earth. Think of the positive environmental aspects of getting our mineral resources from off Earth. No longer would we be strip-mining our planet for minerals.

    I’m sure someone’s going to mention that if they err on the orbit it could strike the Earth, but that’s really a remote possibility. If we can develop the technology to alter the orbit of an asteroid into a near Earth orbit, we could alter it again away from Earth.

    • Bill

      Hey, what could go wrong?

      • Mark

        For those of us down here on the planet, very little, actually. When I said bring an asteroid to a near-Earth orbit I meant they’d probably drop it into one of the Lagrange Points. Then the mining and refining would begin. By using raw materials already off planet we could build some huge structures in space much more efficiently and cheaply than by lifting all the materials out of our gravity well.

  • JeffD

    If they earned it they can spend it as they wish.. Do you know how much they paid in taxes? Or would you rather that they paid at least 90% of their income in taxes? How much is a “fair share”?

    • They need to be paying more than what they’re paying now, Jeff, which tends to be a much lower percent than what the 99 Percent pay. It’s not about paying 90 percent in income taxes. There’s a huge distance between that and what they’re paying now. The point is not that they have to sacrifice everything, but that they’re proving that they clearly can contribute a great deal more. While the rest of us deal with slashed basic services on Earth, they’re playing Buck Rogers with the money they’ll have literally floating around.

      The idea that asking these fat cats to carry their own weight will wreck the economy, when they’re planning outer space pleasure cruises for themselves, is absurd.

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