To Infinity and Beyond…?
photo by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center
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“Finally we are taking a step in the right direction!” This is what I thought in relation to space travel when I found out about the plans for Mars One-a manned mission to Mars. It sounded awesome. I mean, humans haven’t set foot on another celestial body for over 40 years! To be honest, if it wasn’t a one-way trip, I would sign up in an instant. Thousands of people around the world have already applied to move to Mars in 2023 and spend the rest of their lives there. How cool is that?

The Mars One announcement is just one part of a big year for space science. The world watched the livestream of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars back in August. The past six months made Canada proud as Chris Hadfield became the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station. (While he was up there, Cmdr. Hadfield entertained the planet below with his Space Oddity music video, filmed from space – Have you seen it? Check it out: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9danxNo).

As a physics student, I get really excited when I hear about advances in science in the news. But other news out there makes me wonder if we’re ready for those huge breakthroughs. Are we, as humans, advancing in all aspects of our collective character as much as we are in our scientific understanding? Is our society mature enough to handle everything we’re learning about the universe around us?

Consider, as a perfect example, the Mars One mission. If the project continues as planned, the four first humans will land on Mars in 2023. But how will they be chosen? Beyond the first two rounds, the remaining dozens of potential astronauts from each country will become the stars of a reality TV show. They will complete challenges and win over audience votes to become the last one standing from their home country. Then they will move onto the international stage and compete in teams of four for the opportunity to train for the mission. I don’t know about you, but I feel like being chosen to go to Mars – at least for the first mission – should be based – at least a bit – on credentials. But it will be based instead on a popularity contest broadcast around the world.

So why are the people behind Mars One determined to “boldly go where no man has gone before”? Instead of working for scientific advancement on behalf of humanity as a whole, it seems like Mars One is focused on leading the astronauts and engineers to fame and fortune. What can this show us about the motives behind our progress as a society? What are we really looking for among the stars? Leave your comments below. (For more info about the Mars One mission, visit www.mars-one.com.)

(See Related Post: My Narcissism Meets an Unwelcome Hero)