Saturday, October 30, 2010

NASA offers you life in prison: on Mars

NASA's Ames Research Center is working on its "Hundred-Year Starship" project that will sell you a one-way ticket to Mars:
Pop Sci, Google News, Google
This job is clearly not appropriate for losers. It's kind of dramatic: NASA needs to save some money. The return trip is more expensive, roughly by a factor of five or so, and NASA wants to save the money by sending settlers who have the balls to do the unthinkable.

Would you have the courage and desire to spend the rest of your life in a space suit in between red stones, living at permanent risk that the vital technology may stop working at any moment? Would you be eager to work for some hypothetically brighter future of the people who continue to live on the blue planet rather than the red one?

If you wouldn't but if you accept that they will surely find someone who will be ready to participate, do you have any moral complaints against the plan?

I wonder how the life - and its end - would work in the absence of hospitals, hospices, good entertainment centers, classical restrooms, and millions of other things. Could the job be safely done by prisoners or terrorists? It's surely a topic for a very emotional movie.

NASA expects such an expedition to be there before 2030.


  1. Death-by-cop is an American phenomenon in which a suicidal person who lacks the courage to end his life himself provokes a policeman in hopes of being shot. NASA's so-called 'plan' might offer such individuals an alternative, which we could call 'death-by-Mars.' But, unlike the Japanese, say, or some Muslim cultures, suicide has no sanction in American tradition. And using convicts in such a scheme is ruled out by the U.S. constitution, which explicitly prohibits 'cruel and unusual punishment.'

    Moreover, what 'job' is it they'd be doing on Mars beyond just trying to survive? If that's all it is, what's the point? If there's more (say 'terraforming' the planet to make it habitable by humans, which was a staple of 1950s science fiction), why couldn't it be done by unmanned technology, which is even cheaper, not to mention safe?

    This doesn't really sound to me like a serious proposal...

  2. this does not seem to be an unreasonable plan at all. I wonder why so many are seeing it as something not reasonable?
    Robert L Forward wrote a novel on this concept- of sending people on one-way interstellar voyages. How is this different from someone relocating to do a research assignment on another continent, far from the home culture?
    Life is a one way journey. If someone is passionate about space exploration and many are, then one way trips will be part of fulfilling that passion.

  3. The late great Robert L. Forward wrote a good novel on this sometime ago. since all of us who are ratinal know we are going to die, why not die pursuing something that we care passionately about? What could be more fulfilling for someone who truly cares about exploring Mars than to know that they could enjoy a lifetime of exploration and research on site?