The long commute … to Mars

Another View
By Bill Hall

Are we earthlings now preparing to settle on Mars because our frisky planet is overcrowded with babies?

Or do our space dreamers now want to occupy Mars just because it is there?

For whatever motive, current urges of taming Mars are even more difficult than the Lewis and Clark expedition. Lewis and Clark had natural oxygen. Running out of air did not concern them. Nobody in that expedition ever complained about a dangerous lack of oxygen (with the possible exception of waking up in the morning with a grizzly bear standing on your windpipe).

I don’t doubt that these new Mars explorers can eventually find a way to create permanent communities over there. The road to Mars will be paved with the knowledge of making food out of rocks, dust and sunlight, not to mention pockets of water.

That is not to say that a Mars plan can even remotely get started within 15 years. It will take decades to make Mars hospitable. Most of us will never live to see it happen, let alone perfected.

Meanwhile, there is a melancholy element to such notions. When you embark on going way over there as far as Mars, any return trips to this same old planet will be as rare as European explorers in the 1500s stumbling into a new world.

To this day, many of those younger people who pick up their lives and move to new continents like North and South America will be tearing themselves away from Mom and Pop in the old country, never seeing them in the flesh again.

Of course, the old country parents of immigrants today can keep in touch electronically. Their children who moved to America can still let the grandparents they left behind peer through Internet devices that make grandkids into a virtual family television program. Their favorite channel will be looking at new grandchildren they may never hold.

Many of the immigrants who come to North America today have a better shot at an eventual income large enough to take a newborn back to Ireland or Poland or Africa for a visit with grandpa and grandma. But for many, the rupture is permanent.

Similarly, my parents were were defeated by a dust bowl that killed their farming lives and gave them no opportunity for a solid living with the unemployment rate at 25 percent.

So they pulled up their roots in North Dakota and immigrated, in effect, to another planet named Idaho, demonstrating with their feet that they preferred eating to starving.

As a child, I finally met my paternal grandmother in the flesh during the two weeks when she came to visit – and then never again. It was two weeks of cuddling in a life of many years.

Of course, that is a pittance by comparison with how distant the journey is from Earth to a new home on Mars. Even if a grandparent had the wealth to go visit a grandchild in the Mars housing villages, it would take months of travel in suspended animation to go give a grandson a hug and a toy puppy.

Instead, reality would dictate that you skip the horribly long nap on board a Mars delivery vehicle and just stay home on Earth. You can sit in your own living room getting to know the new grandson by conversing with his state- of-the-art hologram. You can enjoy his company and not have to worry about his spilling milk on the dining room carpet.

Similarly, the kid doesn’t have to listen to a grandparent telling him how backward life used to be on Earth by comparison with the wonderful new world of Mars.

Bill Hall is a Lewiston, Idaho writer who contributes regularly to the Enterprise.