Finally, an astronaut after my own cynical heart.
A while back, I argued that building colonies on Mars is stupid. "But you're not an astrophysicist," you may tell me. "You're not even a scientist. In fact, how do I know you're not just a computer program impersonating a journalist?" I can't argue with any of these concerns [humanmode] *wink* [/humanmode]. But check it out! A real-life astronaut agrees with me now.
Bill Anders, a former Apollo 8 pilot and NASA astronaut, recently told the BBC that sending humans to Mars is dumb.
“What’s the imperative? What’s pushing us to go to Mars?” asked the spunky 85-year-old. “I don’t think the public is that interested.”Besides, NASA just isn't the same space program it was in the good old days, back when we had to get to the moon before Russia because that's the kind of thing that apparently motivates space travel.
"NASA couldn't get to the Moon today. They're so ossified," Anders said. "NASA has turned into a jobs programme... many of the centers are mainly interested in keeping busy, and you don't see the public support other than they get the workers their pay and their congressmen get re-elected."
Oh, and the space station? Kind of a bridge to nowhere.
"I think the space shuttle was a serious error. It hardly did anything except have an exciting launch, but it never lived up to its promise," Anders added. "The space station is only there because you had a shuttle, and vice-versa. NASA really mismanaged the manned programme since the late lunar landings."
Besides, people's ideas about Mars are a tad ... exaggerated?
"I do think there's a lot of hype about Mars that is nonsense," said Frank Borman, another astronaut who went on the Apollo 8 mission. "Musk and Bezos, they're talking about putting colonies on Mars, that's nonsense."
That's my main problem with the idea of sending humans to live on Mars too. It suggests that humans are so separate from the earth that we could set up shop on some other planet just fine. But Earth isn't just some rock we happen to be standing on. We are made of earth; we are the planet come to life.
Some think we'll destroy Earth and move to Mars, creating Earth-like environments on the red planet. Humans are certainly are destroying Earth's ecosystems. But no matter how badly we mess up the planet, humans will always be made of earth, and Earth will always be more Earth-like than Mars. It's not rocket science.