The Crooked Cockroach

I wanna hang out on Mars!

Posted in Uncategorized by cready on September 2, 2009
Chill man!

Chill man!

The human brain truly is weird. Today, I happened to read the most bizarre, funny and yet intriguing articles I’ve read in recent times. Scientists of nations all over the world are scrambling to build technology that will enable man to go on the lovely Mars in near future. That’s brave. And that’s challenging too.

But here’s a thought : Why should an astronaut sent to Mars ever have to return?

Ya, I know – for international glory; for his children and grandma and grandpa; for making love to his wife when he comes back; for all the little budding Armstrongs out there who could look up to him and hound him for photos and autographs when he comes to their school as chief guest; and of course, for all the scientific experiments etc. he could share with fellow scientists.

But this is conventional [and naturally rational] thought. But as Lawrence Krauss argues in this brilliant NY Times op-ed [please don’t forget to read this], there are historical and practical reasons for giving scope to the wacky thought. Here’s why –

Historically, when Columbus set out to discover America over 500 years ago, did he know what lay in store for him? For that era, that voyage was as good as the Mars mission of today [think about it!]. There were impending perils and uncertainties attached with the voyage, but after all, he became a legend, didn’t he? I bet before sailing out from Europe, he must’ve looked in the mirror all mushy and told himself, “I know I’m embarking upon a suicidal mission, but I’m doing this for my people“. And believe me, many of those same people must’ve scoffed at his over-confidence. That’s how society is. But the same society surprisingly ended up idolizing the fool which it once mocked. And this is not just a one-off case. We know all about Galileo and Copernicus, don’t we? Even on a more personal level, think about the incidents in your life when your colleagues mocked your so-called ‘bravery’ but ended up regretting their behavior in private, if not in public. It is these same losers who don’t even have the guts to acknowledge their mistake of laughing at your ‘weirdness’. Guts are not for what you can do, but for what you possibly can’t imagine of doing. At the same time, most of these things are done for something in return. Every man is selfish. Columbus was giving up his future but only in the hope of building up a legendary name for himself, right? So what? At least he was doing something for a better future. As long as the greediness has a fair trade-off, it’s always good. And I strongly believe that it is these self-serving sacrificial acts that decide the fate of humanity.

Anyhow, enough with the history and philosophy. I sometimes laugh at myself when I think of these things. Makes me feel like an 80 yr. old grandpa! Now lets get to the practical reasons. As the article argues in the opening paragraph :

Now that the hype surrounding the 40th anniversary of the Moon landings has come and gone, we are faced with the grim reality that if we want to send humans back to the Moon the investment is likely to run in excess of $150 billion. The cost to get to Mars could easily be two to four times that, if it is possible at all.

1] $150 billion-times-two-to-three-times is a lot. And it’s not economical. So why not make it a one way trip and reduce costs substantially? 2] For a two way trip it will need the return journey fuel in turn increasing the mass of the ship in turn increasing costs. 3] [I quote from the article], if the point of sending astronauts is to be able to carry out scientific experiments that robots cannot do, then the longer they spend on the planet the more experiments they can do. 4] A substantial number of old astronauts have shown willingness to do this rather than die an uneventful death here on earth. 5] There are radiation problems. Astronauts will face a lot of health problems and be miserable when back to earth. So why not stay there and die with dignity?

The question is, who’ll bell the cat? Of course politicians will wrangle madly whether to make a bunch of astronauts sacrificial lambs. Now since I’m supporting this idea, I should step forward. And I am. But if only the NASA guys listen to me [;)]. You know what, I’m a brave person and I believe in wacky ways, but those NASA guys are just too haughty to heed to my calls. So why don’t I let the others have a chance [;)]? And as Mr. Krauss mentions, while on a trip to JPL, his friend mooted the idea to some astronaut dudes there and all of them volunteered. Call it mob mentality or ‘Star Wars’ effect or whatever. So I guess they can save me for later voyages.

Till then, I’ll park my ass here and just hang out with you guys.

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