Why There Will Be No Mars Colony
When we peel back the Star Trek fantasy layer, we find… nothing good
If you are of a charming, sweet, and irredeemably naïve disposition you may find the superficial ramblings of billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos not merely amusing but compelling. You may, like them, have spent a significant portion of your life staring at entertainments purporting to show humans whizzing around in space as though it were as normal as going off on a supermarket shopping trip.
Perhaps, like our aforementioned billionaires, you think the answer to chronic human self-destructiveness is to ship humans from Earth to a whole new planet on which to be equally self-destructive — only this time without the atmosphere, gravity, water, and protective magnetic field we enjoy here on our little blue planet. Perhaps you’re so terrified by the fear of a huge asteroid slamming into Earth that you believe, as they claim, the only “answer” is to create vast artificial colonies off-world. Even though the probability of our species surviving long enough to intersect with an ultra-rare asteroid collision is effectively zero (most species come and go in the space of less than one million years; ours almost certainly will self-exterminate within the next few centuries).
But if you’ve thought carefully about the Mars Colony proposition for more than a few milliseconds you will doubtless have arrived at the inevitable conclusion: there will be no Mars Colony in the foreseeable future.
It’s easy to enumerate the very many physiological reasons why going off to live on Mars is a truly terrible idea. First of all there’s the six month trip to get there, during which the astronauts will absorb extremely harmful levels of solar radiation because they’ll be outside the protective envelope of Earth’s magnetic field which helpfully deflects nearly all this radiation and is the reason why astronauts can remain on the low-orbit International Space Station for a year without dying of cancer. But on the Mars trip, which will last at least six months, the radiation will penetrate their bodies unchecked. Shielding would be so heavy as to be impracticable. Worse yet, once on Mars that radiation will continue to penetrate their flesh and bones because Mars has no magnetic field. Perhaps…