Amidst the continuing dreads of 2020, the year 2021 marked the world celebration of the landing of NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Mars – following the successful placement in orbit of The Emirates Mars Mission (UAE) Hope Orbiter. This March, China will attempt its first landing on Mars of Tianwen-1 rover. The new space race was catapulted by Space X’s aggressive entry in 2002. Elon Musk, through the Mars Project envisioned to bring one million people in the cold and rusty planet by 2050. The Space X’s Starship will realize every space enthusiasts’ dream of the first manned flight to Mars by as early as 2024. Like this writer, Elon and all others who grew up watching Spock and Flash Gordon doesn’t want to end up into the oddity of a generation lost in space.
As more and more private companies, like Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and worth noting the creative and aggressive newbies, enter the new age of space race, the more they can create a network of productive industries that could amalgamate into a thriving “space economy.” This shows that space program outside the governments’ sphere can create a more productive and faster endeavor in achieving the interplanetary vision. The “colonization of Mars” may become the new gold rush and it may also be our chance to realizing a utopia.
The colonization of Mars will take us into another step on our evolution as human species. It will not only be a test of our talent to produce the most advanced and economical technology, but it will also tap our curiosity and yield the philosophical understanding of what a colony outside our home planet will mean to us.
Unlike the Earth-bound colonization of the past, this one does not have to displace a society or civilization through war and genocide because Mars, for the moment, have nothing to give us except a new condition that will fuel man’s quest for glory and wealth. After all, the space race was fueled by the competition for leadership between the USA and USSR representing capitalism and socialism respectively.
More than that, a colony in Mars will provide a condition for a new stage to our self-reflection. It is said that the ability to recognize oneself in a mirror gives a stimulus to self-awareness – the ability to understand the self and differentiate from the others. The “being” connotes self-awareness, that is, an individual that has the ability to define his existence and his social-historical essence (his connection to society, the past and future.) The size of our connection to society is largely dependent on our activity as species. The herd and the family were a small starting point of social organization; while the nation and global community is the biggest, so far, we have ever lived into. The interplanetary organization is the next giant step.
The space age seems to have come naturally as an offshoot of the post-war period. It became a non-confrontational continuation of world wars. Except from regional conflicts, the world can brag about peace for 76 years now specially in Europe. General peace seems to have hasten our entry into the interplanetary stage.
On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin, aboard the Soviet spaceship Vostok 1, had entered into a new self-realization. He said: “When I orbited the Earth in a spaceship, I saw for the first time how beautiful our planet is. Mankind, let us preserve and increase this beauty, and not destroy it!”
Visual sensation is the most influential among our senses. While we cannot directly experience what astronauts, cosmonauts or taikonauts has seen and felt in space, the communication of their experiences influenced our idea of the Earth. That idea has metamorphosed from pure text, illustrations and numbers into a real and living planet. Therefore, it objectified our sense of global or spiritual connection.
Furthermore, during the Apollo 8 mission on the moon in 1968, astronaut William Anders took a photo of the Earth against the background of the surface of the moon and space. The photo will later be known as Earthrise which Nature photographer Galen Rowell has realized as, “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”
The Independent wrote in January 9, 2009: “The image of the world rising in the dark vastness of space over a sun-lit lunar landscape became an iconic reminder of our lonely planet’s splendid isolation and delicate fragility. It was an image that would eventually launch a thousand environmental movements, such was its impact on the public consciousness.”
6.4 billion kilometers away, the Voyager 1 on 14 February 1990 took a photo of the Earth appearing as a tiny dot resting on a sunbeam. Later in 1994, Carl Sagan used it to title his book, “The Pale Blue Dot.” He wrote: “It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”.
A colony on Mars, 217.98 million kilometers away, will be like a faraway mirror reflecting our own image back to Earth. The great book said, “God created the world into His own image.” But men have not been loyal to his resemblance. The industrial West had set its own recreation of the world, however, the image that has born from it was not perfect like the God it has discarded. Well, I guess that should just serve as friendly a reminder, that each opportunity to create also gave us the opportunity to fix our depravities and madness that act as fetters to our evolution towards becoming greater species. As the old proverb says, “opportunity knocks only once.” Our entry to the door of Mars’ tabula rasa will also mean a chance to realize the utopia. If we fail this time, the same humanity, marked with wars, genocide, exploitation, poverty and hunger will succumbed to the dust of Mars.