Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Proposed Mars One Game Show Is the Ultimate Anti-Survivor

Via Wired:
Mars One... intends to establish a human settlement on Mars in 2023. They need astronauts. Anyone on planet Earth can apply if they meet the basic requirements… The selection process will begin during the first half of 2013. Mars One experts and viewers of a “global, televised program” -- think reality TV where the prize could be a trip to a dry, dusty world -- will choose from among the applications… “The people of Earth will have a vote which group of four will be the first Earth ambassadors on Mars,” the Mars One website says. Subsequent teams will be sent in two-year intervals. In 2016, the company plans to begin rocketing supplies to Mars, including spare parts, two rovers, and living units that can be assembled into a base once humans arrive. But it’s a one-way trip for all involved: Once on Mars, there’s no coming back.
So, viewers will vote the "winners" off Island Earth so we get to watch them commit suicide at launch, in flight, attempting to land, or definitely in no time flat on the surface of an incomparably alien, lifeless, bitterly cold, irradiated planet surface without any hope for return. Who can doubt that the "winners" will be the most qualified competitors, and not the hottest numbers, nor the biggest publicity whores, nor simply the biggest assholes who we hope to have a hand in killing by voting them into this death trap for frying? While this sounds to me like a profitable ratings winner, it is certainly no way to have a viable space program.

Much is made by the "Mars One" folks of the fact that they do not mean to burden taxpayers with the costs of this Mars-shot, so I guess it really comes down to the money-making after all, anyway.

If I may be serious about even this for a moment, let me say here and now yet again: There never has been and there never will be any such thing as a "private" or "for-profit" space program.

Public dollars always underwrite the "private" contractors in such arrangements. And though a good case can often be made for such public-private partnerships (Lunar Lander, anyone?) nobody should be under the illusion that randroidal market forces are or ever could spontaneously crystallize into an interplanetary NASA or United Federation of Planets or whatever libertechian moonshine drives this incessant nonsense talk of the glorious space hotels and asteroid mining and terraforming frontiersman of the capitalist space pirate utopia just around the corner.

Unless the Moon or Mars or the asteroid belt are made of zero-weight sooper-soma or all-purpose unobtainium there is no way to profitably monetize a space program by getting at their mineral wealth. Incredible up-front infrastructure costs aside, there is simply no substance actually available on earth, however costly, however rare, however hard to get at, that cannot be more cheaply gotten to here on earth than getting it to earth from off-earth. Paradigm shattering discoveries and profitable technological spin-offs from a viable Mars program are almost inevitable as a general matter, but remain much too unpredictable in the specificities of their domains of application or in the determination of their relative winners and losers to entice the necessary levels of investment by individual firms in such a program -- only national or planetary scale governments stand in the broad relation to economic prosperity to justify such public investments.

There is no extraterrestrial site more hospitable than the least hospitable place on earth, and there are no techniques available to make that the least bit less true that wouldn't be incomparably better spent making the least hospitable places on earth more hospitable first. So, there will be no extraterrestrial colonies to re-enact brutal "Age of Discovery" exploitation fantasies with, or to relieve overpopulation pressures with, indeed there will be no escape hatches via space from any of our difficult political or environmental problems.

And it should go without saying that Low-Earth-Orbit momentary zero-gravity amusement park rides for celebrity tech CEOs and digi-bazillionaires do not constitute a real space program.

Please do let all that sink in for a moment, all you libertopian SpaceX Space Cadets.

Shunting all this Heinleinian flim-flammery to the side, the only reasonable justification for a trip to Mars remains as always the collective accomplishment of so daring an endeavor, the discovery of new knowledge, and the eventual establishment on Mars of a scientific research station, and the only way to ensure those ends would be an international public investment in a governmental space program, national or international.

And, in case you are wondering, I am an enthusiastic champion of such a project. But precisely because I am serious about NASA and international space science I have no patience at all for privateering, profiteering, skim and scam artists, pop-tech journos and celebrity CEOs blathering on about private space programs and profitable extraterrestrial exploitation in an endless avalanche of deranged, deluded, distracting articles and press releases.


Anonymous said...

Venus, Not Mars:

Floating cities (standard Earth atmosphere is buoyant in CO2) on venus are a better idea ; there is a zone/atmospheric layer where the N/O2 inside the inflatable city would make it perpetually buoyant, an the temperature and pressure are just like earth normal. One could survive exposed with just regular earth scuba gear. Thick atmosphere protects from radiation, and the co2 can easily be converted to oxygen and water from the abundant h2s04. Power would come from solar or throwing wires down to collect electricity from the temperature differential of the surface and the cloud layer. even the sulfuric acid 'rain' would be very useful....probably have to rely on fungus and bacteria for food though, cultured in giant floating industrial complexes. mars has too thin an atmosphere, too cold, too little water, too much radiation. Robots that can hack 900 C would mine the surface for minerals and attach nitrogen baloons to float up ore.

jimf said...

> Anyone on planet Earth can apply if they meet the
> basic requirements… But it’s a one-way trip for all
> involved: Once on Mars, there’s no coming back.

"Heaven's Gate was an American UFO religion
On March 26, 1997, police discovered the bodies of
39 members of the group who had committed suicide
in order to reach what they believed was an alien
space craft following the Comet Hale–Bopp. . ."

Except this time. . . on TV?

Actually, there's no way they'll ever be able to
cobble together real hardware. But if the "selection
process" really is a ratings success, maybe the winners
will be featured in a movie.

In **that** case "Who can doubt that the "winners" will be. . .
the hottest numbers,. . the biggest publicity whores,. . .
[and] the biggest assholes".

Coming to a 3D IMAX near you.


jimf said...

Good grief, I'd never heard this before!

( )

"Among the dead was Thomas Nichols, brother of the
actress Nichelle Nichols, who is best known for her
role as Uhura in the original Star Trek television series."

Dale Carrico said...

Floating cities (standard Earth atmosphere is buoyant in CO2) on venus are a better idea... One could survive exposed with just regular earth scuba gear... probably have to rely on fungus and bacteria for food though, cultured in giant floating industrial complexes... Robots that can hack 900 C would mine the surface for minerals and attach nitrogen baloons to float up ore.

Now, if you actually have the talent to come up with some compelling characters, a suspenseful story, some evocative description and stirring dialogue, woven into a worthwhile theme you might have the makings of a good piece of science fiction. In the meantime, I do hope you at least got an orgasm out of that.

Black guy from the future past said...

When the hell did these randroids, libtards, an-caps become such a pervasive force in American society? We have people, poor people mind you, actually calling for the termination of government rather than strengthening it, bettering it, making it more fair and equitable and democratizing it. What happened? These fools are all over the web and in YouTube vids speaking on government and fiscal issues. And now they want to cart their ideological filth up into space. Oh dear. This must stop.

Hey Dale, ya think I can run for president and put an end to this madness? I might even consider making you vice president (LOL. Speaking of which, why is it so difficult for presidents to better government?

jimf said...

> What happened?

Well here's one thing that happened.

Check out the Book-TV video here:

Dale Carrico said...

If you are truly concerned about helping people solve problems together and ensuring our government remains of by and for the people running for a local office is an excellent way to go about that. It is hard necessary work, I recommend it. Otherwise, learn a useful trade or discipline and make your contribution that way. Don't despair at all the nonsense on the web, just try to understand it and know how to respond to it. Actually the tide is turning -- right-wing ideology is in eclipse in its neoliberal/neoconservative, patriarchal, white-racist, chrtistianist variations, and while it is true that futurology provides one of the remaining plausible vectors for a reactionary discourse capable of doing serious damage, I believe fewer folks are being bamboozled by that than before, too. By the way, the last thing I would ever want to be is a national figure, political or otherwise.