Saturday, December 04, 2004
Recognizing the right of humans to occupy Mars.
Unknown to many outside the space community environmental concerns are gaining currency among advocates of space exploration and threatening human exploration of space. On one side are those who fear that human activity in space will contaminate the pristine environments of other planets. Mars is a special concern because of the possibility that life might exist there. On the other side are those who don't believe that environmental concerns should stop human exploration. There is a vast middle ground between those who oppose human exploration entirely because of the risk and those who would ignore completely any environmental concerns.
But here's a proposal from the environmental side that appears to open the door to human exploration of Mars. The two scientists in the article below propose setting aside seven regions on Mars for preservation and protection from human influence. In the course of their proposal they make a remarkable concession to human exploration of the planet: "It is the right of every person to stand and stare across the beautiful barrenness and desolation of the Martian surface without having to endure the eyesore of pieces of crashed spacecraft scattered across the landscape."
Although this statement makes a fetish of the barrenness and desolation of Mars's current surface condition, which is a problem many space environmentalists have, they come down in favor of recognizing that humans have a right to be on Mars. After all, one pretty much needs to be on Mars to "stand and stare" at its landscape, whatever the condition of that landscape. That's a step in the right direction.