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Recently, Americans watched the space shuttle Columbia explode over Texas, claiming the lives of its crew. Much has happened in the wake of this unfortunate accident, and many bold people have stepped forward with many bold opinions. Like most bold opinions, I make it a point to ignore the vast majority of them.
Quite frankly, I think that most of what I hear is knee-jerk responses and reactions fueled by fear or stupidity. We will always have starving, homeless and impoverished people in human society. It is the nature of mankind; some are more talented and obtain more than their "fair share" (for those of you who like communism) and others are either less intelligent or too lazy to avoid poverty. I have little pity for them.

As for solving all the other ills of the world first, that won't and shouldn't happen either. War is a boon for scientific advancement, superpower cultures devouring smaller and weaker ones is a fact of history that has provided the world with all of its greatest civilizations (Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Mayans, Aztecs, Egyptians, Imperial Russia, the British Empire, and even America). War is necessary to human advancement, for that is the only thing that regularly forces a society to advance. The only other thing I have seen that drove a society to great advancement was John F. Kennedyís challenge to put a man on the Moon.
Along the same lines as war (though far more benevolent) we find space exploration. For those of you who claim to have the best interests of humanity in mind, consider this: for the rest of the world to live as Americans do, we would need three times the natural resources of the Earth. Three times. We can give to the poor until we have nothing left, and the world will still be "poor." There are too many people on this planet to grant everyone on it what you and I would deem an acceptable lifestyle. This leaves us with a choice: either find more land and natural resources or kill off the excess population. I cannot advocate the latter, so we are left trying to inhabit other planets (or moons) in the solar system.

I think that the solution is a simple one. I propose that we build a Mars colony within the next fifty years. Those who wish to inhabit this new society within the colony are required to sign contracts of indentured servitude for whatever period of time is deemed necessary and reasonable. These people will provide the manpower and labor needed to assemble, maintain, and establish all phases of the colonial program. During this time, they are provided room and board.

With this program in place, all among the unemployed who want work can find it, and national budgets are not nearly as strained as they would be should this project be build using traditional economics. Even more importantly, we could build big.

It is absolutely essential that we do not build a colony that can support ten people. Rather, this colony must be able to support thousands. This would boost the pride of the general population in the project, and it would allow us to use Mars as a true colony, and not a research outpost. We have seen what the American public thinks of expensive projects that are solely for research, and it goes without saying that the public would never fund a project of this magnitude if it were one of them. We have also seen the tremendous public response when a major project was to go where no man had gone before. The Apollo program were the glory days of NASA, and those days must and will return if this project is undertaken. When those days return for NASA, perhaps we may gain a little more pride in our nationís heritage as the greatest society of space explorers in history. The only problem is that we need competition.

One of the greatest fuels of the space program in the 1960ís was our competition on the other side of the iron curtain. Two societies were in a deadlock, each trying to prove the other to be inferior. This was what really drove the public to support such an expensive program; we were afraid that the Russians would outpace us in technological development, and thus gain the upper hand. We need that again, but it looks to be a long way off. The best prospect is china, but we have un-demonized communism enough that the public would probably resist the program. In all honesty, another cold war would probably be the best thing for America if this were to be undertaken.

In conclusion, what we as a people need right now is an all-out space race between America and the rest of the developed world. If undertaken in the manner described here, the benefits to society could be tremendous. It will require us to overcome some of our taboos about servitude, and it will require a significant amount of propaganda to convince the public, but it will relieve the already terrifying overpopulation problems of the world. Our people will advance to extraterrestrial environments sooner or later, so it might as well be sooner.

"You have lied to me, my dear Morpheous, and I have ended our little game; I wonder if I fear the truth more than your lies?"


The following comments are for "A Humble Proposal"
by The Recycled Avatar

Another Humble Opinion
Several points, and bear in mind that you wrote something calling for a response. First of all you should re-read your Marx if you honestly believe that communism has anything to do with anyone anywhere trying to get his fair share in life, it goes much deeper than that, and what you say is a gross over simplification of an arguably erroneous, but nonetheless complex social theory.
Secondly, I do not know where you got your facts about the Earth's overpopulation and the fact that with the resources at hand we can not support ourselves. That is simply not the case. South America, Africa and Asia are still virgin continents for modern standars, waiting to be reaped, that would feed and boost the living standards of our wolrd ten fold at worse. Now you rightly argue that a dominant culture is needed to undertake such a porject, and that is what I think should be done. Instead of dreaming up new cosmic plans, we should instead devote our money (and our ink for that matter) to tapping into the more than abundant resources that are to be found right here on Earth.
Thirdly you propose a system of indented servitude, a fancy name for serfdom, and a return to a Cold War environment, again I suggest you re read some history before makking such claims.
Although your proposal might in all eventuallities be workable, I do not think it calls for the changes and conditions you see as necessary for such a project to be undertaken, and so I must disagree with it.

( Posted by: Beauchard [Member] On: February 6, 2003 )

Indentured Servitude
Actually, indentured servitude is a condition of servitude that expires after the passage of a pre-determined period of time or the completion of a goal. Serfdom is for life.

( Posted by: The Recycled Avatar [Member] On: February 6, 2003 )

seriously oversimplified
Phew, that is quite an article. It's literally crying out for a rebuttal, so who am I to turn that down?
So... where to begin? Okay, first off I have to say that this sounds almost as much of a knee jerk reaction to the ones you complain about in the piece. It's also seriously oversimplifies most of the points.
Take poverty. Poverty is absolutely not about being "less intelligent or too lazy". You did make some valid points, but they were completely overshadowed by this sweeping statement. Look carefully: there are some incredibly stupid rich people out there, and some of the world's hardest workers are among the very poorest of peoples - you have obviously got no idea just how much effort it is to simply survive - let alone improve oneself - as a subsistence farmer. Most of the world's poor are poor because of bad luck; not because of anything they did or didn't do.
Your next topic is war as a means of achieving technological advancement. The ability of war to do this is well documented (even Kennedy's space race can be counted if you consider the Cold War), but I am shocked that you advocate war simply for this purpose. There are justifiable reasons for nations to go to war, and there is always a need to maintain a strong army, but suggesting war for the sake of technological development is callous and frankly disgusting.
On to the idea of going to Mars. This is more interesting, but I honestly don't think you have considered the enormity of the task. The Moon, maybe; but a Mars colony is not something we can do today. Not counting the preparation time, a trip to Mars takes upward of two years, and the journey can only even be begun when the planetary alignment is suitable. Sending even a small group of people to Mars for a short stay is a huge undertaking: all food and raw materials required for a four year round trip would need to be taken with. Sunlight on Mars is insufficient to grow food (ignoring the unknown fertility of the soil), but on those time scales, it will have to be done. A structure bigger than the current internation space station would be needed, and you can draw your own conclusions given the time and money it has taken to build that.
For the time being, the Moon is a more realistic target. Mars would only really be viable once we have established a Moon colony, and even then it would be a much larger task.
However, one should never forget that both the Moon and Mars are very hostile environments.
Using a system of indentured servitude to achieve the colonisation goal (of either the Moon or Mars) is another question. I believe this would be a feasable idea, but for people to volunteer for this would require them to trust the organising party. I do not believe that there are any governments, corporations or individuals with sufficient funds today who could generate enough trust to get the numbers of volunteers required.
The other problem with indentured servitude is that, especially at the beginning, many of the colonists would need to be experts in their fields. They are expensive people to employ, and removing the best scientists and engineers from our society would have a major effect on those left behind.

( Posted by: Spudley [Member] On: February 6, 2003 )

Thank you
Spudley, you bring up some good points. This piece is obviously in need of some minor refinements, and I will soon be able to add them.

First, within American society, building enourmous wealth does not necessarily require hard work. Likewise, hard work does not garuntee wealth. What it boils down to is that some people who many of us would say are very deserving do not have great wealth, and some people who aren't so "deserving" have more money than you or I could ever imagine. Those people are called smart investors.
Furthermore, when I say indentured servitude, I am refering to the fact that these people will sign a contract requiring them to work for a certain period of time. During this time, they will be provided with room and board, and possibly some kind of recreation. When the Colony is ready to go, it will be these people who do the going. They will be trained to assemble the colony, and trained to maintain it.
As to the enormity of the project, I DO understand. It is tremendous, and this is the very reason that it must be undertaken. This is beyond anything we have ever done and pushes the envelopes of human and mechanical performance. Food would have to be grown (at least temporarily) in massive hydroponic farms provided with artificial light. The details go on and on. Also, the work would go on and on, thus allowing larger numbers of people access to the program. For the economically disadvantaged, it's a new lease on life. The infant martian economy would be full of holes, and these people could easily fill many of those holes, thus giving them tremendous business opprotunities.
Thirdly, I do need to refine my satements about war. I do not advocate going to war simply for technological advancement. My position is that while war is a medium for atrocity, it also ensures the continual development of human soceity. War is a part of human society, and this fact must be embraced. More important than the war, though, is the competition. Typically, it takes a war to get the public to buy into the significance of that competition. That's what it took in the space race.
You also bring up that a lunar colony would be a better idea. I would strongly disagree. A lunar colony would have to fight a total vacuum, and that would make me incredibly nervous. Also, there we would have to deal with the known infertility of the soil. I think that a base in orbit around the moon is a better idea. The need for gravity can be answered with rotating portions of the station.
Finally, all of our most brilliant scientists would not go to Mars. Most would stay here and communicate with the pioneers via radio. You don't have to be an astrophysics Ph.D to throw numbers into a program, anyway. I think it is highly unlikely that many problems requiring outside help would arise.
As to the time and expense of the International Space Station, it wasn't built with indentured servants.

( Posted by: The Recycled Avatar [Member] On: February 6, 2003 )

moon vs mars, redux
I'll rest on most of the points, because I get the feeling we could be discussing them for months!
However I still disagree with you on the Mars vs Moon colony point...

Even when Mars and Earth are at their closest (which interestingly enough they will be this August, for the first time in seventy-odd years), the time between sending a radio message and getting the reply takes a minimum of ten minutes. This of course goes up with distance (peaking at about 40 minutes), and if the sun is in the way, the signal may not even get through at all. All this means that for a colony to be able to function (especially in an emergency), the experts do need to be on site; a radio link back to Earth is not sufficient. On the Moon, signals take mere seconds, so while there is a noticable delay, you can have a real-time conversation.
Additionally, to set up and maintain a colony would, at the begining at least, require frequent trips to send supplies, equipment and new colonists. As I said before, the planetary alignment factor rules this out most of the time, meaning that you have to time everything to fit your windows of opportunity.
It also means that even if there were a dire emergency (which is highly likely, especially for a first colony) there would be no way to send immeditate help. When you also factor in the journey time to Mars, it seems likely that any dire emergency would probably wipe them out before help arrives.
The moon on the other hand is less than a week away, and there are no issues of alignment to hold up proceedings, so there is a good chance that an emergency situation would be salvageable.
Soil fertility is an issue on both Mars and Moon; both missions would need fully equipped hydroponics to get anywhere. Solar strength is a problem for both too, though for different reasons - on Mars, it is simply too weak; on the Moon, your days and nights are each a month long.
I don't think that building in the vacuum on the Moon is not as much of an issue as you think. The Martian atmosphere is thin and toxic in any case. And besides, if we can't build in a vacuum, how are we going to assemble the space-craft to get us to either destination?
I'm sure you'll be able to argue the point some more, but I think this will be the last I say on the subject - I don't really have the expertese to make my case any stronger than this. :-)

( Posted by: Spudley [Member] On: February 7, 2003 )

The moon
You may well be right about the moon, but it's fun to think about Mars. I'm actually surprised that you never brought up the sand storms; in my mind, these would be the biggest issue once a colony was firmly established. I would expect that you've heard of them, but just in case, they are 300 mph winds that last for months at a time. Building a structure that is to withstand intense sandblasting for months at a time over a long period of time is a daunting task, and would require extremely expensive and difficult measures, such as coating the external surface entirely in diamond. The solutions to this are currently either inhabit a polar region or colonize a moon. In all reality, a large-scale Mars colony is on the brink of impossibility, but it is for this reason that I believe that it must be undertaken. I see America as a country that is going the way that every other empire did when it achieved sole-superpower status. We are growing complacent. I really don't want to get into doom and gloom though.
About emergencies: I never imagined that experts could be totally absent from among the pioneers. Several will be with them, and they should be able to handle most situations.
A lunar colony is probably more feasable, but you have to admit that it would be really fun to say that the 51st state was Mars. And this program would also force the greatest amount of technological growth.

( Posted by: The Recycled Avatar [Member] On: February 7, 2003 )

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