During 'the sixties’ that were my formative years Star Trek was new and NASA wasn’t much older. Many things were changing and the atmosphere was positive especially in Canada where the cold war, Vietnam, racism, civil rights and all the other social issues of the time had less impact than they did south of the border. Space was the final frontier, at least for those like me. No one cared if the space race was just a big PR contest between the superpowers or that all those early manned rockets were really repurposed nuclear missiles. There was optimism in the air and anything seemed possible. I was swept along by all the hype just like lots of others and when the moon landing took place I was perfectly ready to believe the ‘authorities’ when they said that we’d be living on the moon soon. A manned mission to Mars was expected to take place in 1983 after that!
Now it’s late 2015 and talk of manned space exploration is usually reserved for American state of the union addresses where it’s purpose is to convince audiences that America is still number one. So when I heard in the media that NASA had a major announcement pending about its Mars MAVEN project I thought it would merely amount to one of those noncommittal press releases. You know the ones about finding some new evidence indicating life on Mars, or not, but maybe, but don’t quote us because it’s all speculation so far. As it turns out this one might be more than that. It might even lead to some serious thought.
The upshot of the announcement was that the solar wind is blowing away Mars’ atmosphere and has been doing so continually for millions of years because Mars hasn’t the protection of a magnetic field. If that is true, it will put the kibosh on any plans for terraforming and\or colonizing the red planet because any new atmosphere would be stripped away too. That leaves only the moon within reach, which has no atmosphere either.
The human race has often been responsible for parasitically occupying one place until they’ve drained its resources, polluted and generally laid waste to it. Then, leaving the mess behind they repeat the process in another pristine place. It’s the nature of the species.
In the fermentation of alcoholic beverages, the process stops when the alcohol produced by the yeast itself reaches so toxic a level that the yeast cannot survive. Likewise, we may have to stop shitting in our own nest and start looking after it instead, because it is the only one we’re likely to have. Someone may yet come up with those unlikely or magical warp engines that Sci-Fi enthusiasts dream about, but more likely the ‘powers that be’ have made warp drives and the problems of interstellar distances sufficiently challenging keep kids like us in our own back yard indefinitely, for the well-being of ourselves and others in the cosmos.