Our columnist has no plans of going to the Red Planet.
A Dutch organisation is hoping to send four people to Mars by 2026. In the US, there are plans to send a two-person team to fly within 100 miles of Mars in three years’ time (although having gone that far I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to land there). In about a dozen years from now, a friend, neighbour, someone’s cousin or a newspaper headline is bound to land on Mars – and most people we know should still be around. The adventure is upon us.
So let me make my stand clear. I have no desire to go to Mars. Paris, yes, Santiago, happily, Rio, by all means, but I draw the line at Mars. First, there is the matter of transport. I feel claustrophobic travelling on the pillion of a two-wheeler; what chance do I have squeezed in with three others in an area the size of my writing table, my only entertainment watching my bones get brittle, teeth develop cavities and eyelids dropping off? And for variety, watching the same happen to the others?
Then there’s the fact that I am too set in my ways, and cannot land in a city (or planet) that may not have water, and if it does, then we’ll have to separate the H from the O so we can breathe the latter. Pioneers on earth didn’t have that problem. Both water and oxygen were in plentiful supply, and the wheel was just waiting to be invented.
Perhaps my great grandchild will be the ideal fit for Mars. By then the commute time might have become shorter than the time it takes me to get to work in Bengaluru. Cities that look like ours would have sprung up, and traffic problems would mirror the ones on earth. There would be a McDonald’s and Starbucks on every corner. The rate at which we are depleting the earth’s resources would mean that the Earth would look from Mars then rather like what Mars looks like from Earth now. Those born and brought up on Mars might even be asking if there is water on Earth.
Although the initial plan is to send two or four people at a time, soon we should be able to transport a couple of million a week. Especially if the old files of Captain Kirk are decoded and the real meaning of ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ is understood.
Pioneers have to discover things afresh, fight the elements, go to war against one another, die of diseases, manage without burgers. It is the fifth or 10th wave that enjoys the fruits of that struggle. Since I can’t belong to the later group, I don’t want to be in the first.