Have you heard what’s in the Stars?
Preparations, it seems, are already well under way to ensure that before we foul this planet up completely, we are able to abandon ship and bugger off to colonise Mars.
According to a report in the Independent (2 June) more than 200,000 people have so far applied to be on the first one-way trip (no return flights will be possible) and a privately funded ‘Mars One’ mission intends to land the initial batch of 20 onto the planet by 2025. (Where the temperature is minus 60C and the atmosphere has so little oxygen that it cannot be breathed).
One of the candidates to make it through the first part of the selection process is Sarah, 30, an accountant from Inverness. ‘I want to dispel the myth that accountants are dull’ she says, and adds ‘I find myself waking up every morning thinking there must be more to life’. Yes, Sarah, most members of the working class feel exactly the same way, but hopefully we can still sort the problems out on this planet. Starting again from scratch on Mars seems a bit extreme.
We must admit that we haven’t given a great deal of thought to what skills will be most useful on Mars, Sarah, but just forgetting the temperature and lack of oxygen for a minute; if you think your accountancy expertise to tot up your fellow colonists savings and sort out their tax returns will be very much in demand, being thought dull may be the least of your problems.
‘The first inhabitants will decide how to organise themselves politically, after studying different social structures on Earth’ says the Independent. Exactly which social structures they have in mind they don’t say, but imagine the problems the first settlers will face if they try to set up a system based on private ownership, and using money and a market system.
Will they take a supply of sterling, euros, or dollars or will they manufacture their own Mars money? (Perhaps instead of taking gold bars to base the system on, they could use Mars bars?). But more importantly, how will they decide which bits of the planet are owned by which people? Will they employ each other and pay each other wages to do the work? Who will do the dirty jobs? Which ones will be the bosses and which the workers, and how will that decision be made? Will they set up borders, and armies and police forces to keep each other in order? And if they discover oil, or gold, or diamonds, or potatoes (which would be much more useful) who will they belong to? It sounds so bloody unworkable you wonder why we ever tried it here.
And as if these problems were not enough, the Independent assumes that they will also need a heavenly input. ‘Religious activity and beliefs will be a matter of individual choice’ they say. Perhaps Mars is a bit closer to heaven than we are here on Earth, but why they need to throw this spiritual spanner into the works we can only guess.
As far as we know there is no intelligent life out there, so let’s just hope that there are no less-than-intelligent Martian Holy-Joes with a little green Martian god and a prayer book of their own. Imagine having to convince the locals that they now also need some Martian mullahs, Martian rabbis, and Martian parsons.
If that didn’t bugger the whole project up the establishment of a Martian capitalist system certainly would.