He has a profound and even spiritual connection to Mars, and in his vision of the future, Mars settlers will share it:. And, the next place to wander to is Mars. And I wish I was with you. Sagan exemplifies the union of ethics and science, which is part of the reason he remains both relevant and beloved. Theoretically, we could make Mars habitable on a grand scale by terraforming, which would help produce more oxygen, raise the atmospheric pressure, and establish an ozone layer. Even Sagan suggests releasing the Martian atmosphere from the polar ice caps by covering them with genetically engineered, heat-retaining plants.
That would be his job, to fight against the very thing that might prevent his staying there. He would have a private horticultural war with Mars.
But who gets to make such decisions? One of the more complicated logistical and ethical questions about Mars involves ownership. Who would own those resources? Who would own, or be responsible for which may or may not be the same thing the colonies and structures on Mars? Would the first humans on the planet stick a flag in it, and even if they did, what would that mean?
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The treaty provides a foundation, but without additional guidelines, it raises more questions than it addresses. One area it fails to address is private companies. These days, private companies are doing everything from transporting cargo to and from the International Space Station to developing rockets and spacecraft for travel to other planets.
The treaty says states are responsible for the activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, which likely means that the actions of private companies need to be authorized and supervised by the appropriate nation—but what exactly does that mean? What happens if a colonist finds a jackpot of gold or iridium on Mars? Over time, though, would that lead to the same scenario that currently exists on Earth: that uneven resource distribution causes certain areas to boom and others to languish, and their inhabitants along with them?
Perhaps someday Mars could be independent, but for the foreseeable future, Mars colonies will rely on Earth, which will likely subject them to ownership. The consideration of such questions has to be undertaken carefully, though by whom may depend on what organization sends the colonists to Mars. But if Mars One, a Dutch nonprofit, establishes the first settlement on Mars, what state, if any, is responsible for oversight?
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Would responsibility transfer to the ESA, or would the relatively new and small Netherlands Space Office assume managerial duties? More importantly, would we trust private companies with something as high stakes as establishing a settlement on another planet? Over history, governments have undertaken those missions, paving the way for a free market.
Interpersonal conflicts will be inevitable, as will isolation, loneliness, cabin fever, anxiety, and depression. Settlers may be able to use robotic counselors to help them deal with such problems, and could email or even text their friends and relatives on Earth.
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Those interactions would take tens of minutes for each message, but it beats the Pony Express. Colonization is a boundary-breaking, frontier-pushing experiment, thus not everything can be known or planned ahead of time.
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Ethics apply not just to the planet itself, but also to the people doing the work. Riding a rocket to Mars is different than sailing to the New World. The most worrisome aspect about Mars One is its funding proposal, which primarily relies on income generated from broadcasting the mission. They liken their television marketing revenue to that of the Olympics , but that raises a slew of new and troubling questions. The multi-year selection process for the mission is now also a casting process.
Will the show be edited, or even scripted? How much will be filmed? The agency will also explore setting up a research base on the moon, while a Mars probe is likely by the end of this decade. China aims to build its own space station around Dubbed Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace, it will have a core module and two other modules for experiments, altogether weighing 66 tonnes and able to carry three people, with a designed life cycle of at least 10 years. The facility would be used for scientific research in a dozen areas including biology, physics and material sciences.
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