In the journey to make the Red Planet a second home for humans in the National Geographic Channel series, “Mars,” the unforgiving terrain and unknown circumstances were what we, and the astronauts, feared most. Now that the Daedalus crew have successfully landed, found a habitable lava tube, created a thriving underground living camp with greenhouses and research facilities, the community of humans living on Mars has been able to expand.
The Mars Mission Corporation headed by Ed Gran (Olivier Martinez), has sent more astronauts and scientists to join the the once barely surviving Daedalus skeleton crew. Already far ahead of their scheduled research goals, common sense would suggest that with more hands on deck, they can accomplish even more, and at a greater speed.
Well, not so fast.
There’s one thing that can not only delay further progress, it has the power to absolutely destroy everything the MMC has worked so had to accomplish thus far. And that ladies and gentleman, is us.
Humans, with their varying opinions, inflated egos and see-sawing emotions can ultimately be the Death Planet’s undoing — not the assumed reverse. Earthlings’ propensity for power trips, little patience to consider opposing plans on the best way to colonize Mars can ruin everything. In episode four, aptly titled “Power,” the internal unraveling due to human discourse has already begun, and it’s beyond depressing.
Thus far, every minute spent watching “Mars” has been beautifully humbling. The unified goal of the docuseries, in which the entire planet joins hands in a shared mission, is a venture which finally makes things such as race, nationality, gender, etc., totally irrelevant. It’s awe-inducing. We are all the same: Earthlings. And we are all looking for ways to both preserve and improve human life.
Watching the people on “Mars” — each representing the most intelligent minds on Earth — spar with each other is infuriating. The matters in which they are pulling rank, and making decisions based on ego not science, could have catastrophic repercussions. Why even colonize Mars, if we’re only going to ravage it with things that are already ailing Earth?
We talked about this at length with Stephen Petranek, on whose book (“How We’ll Live on Mars”) the series is based: “We need to establish a governing system, decide who owns what land. Is it all free territory? There has to be some sort of governing system in place.”
As more people and privately owned space companies establish roots on Mars, these questions become exponentially more important. If these questions are left unanswered, Mars may see its first planetary war sooner rather than later.
Petranek quotes this little known fact from NASA’s website in his book: “The mineral wealth resident in the best of asteroids between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter would be equivalent to about 100 billion dollars for every person on Earth today.” Petranek dubs the colonization of Mars as “the next Gold Rush” — and there are roughly 8 million Earthlings who if they had any misgivings about traveling to Mars, upon learning this information, would jump on the next available spaceship.
But before anyone starts filling out their SpaceX application, it should be known that the rare metals which are easily mineable on Mars, like gold, silver, copper tin, etc., are only valuable once transported back to Earth. And that commute’s still incredibly expensive, time-consuming and possibly life-threatening. At the same time, these precious metals — which also include zinc, phosphorus and antimony, “common” stuff we just take for granted — are expected to be depleted on Earth within the next 100 years.
This sobering fact only furthers the importance of not only getting to Mars as soon as possible, but why it’s so critical to establish a legal structure for mining these asteroids. And if history serves as any reminder, as it most definitely does, for according to Petranek’s studies, colonizing Mars is not very different in cost and size than that of the Mayflower crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1620. Petrenek writes, “Humans have proven that they need laws to govern their behavior and enforcers as well.”
In a story like this, so full of hope and wonder and so imminently achievable, the old hobgoblins — of greed, of avarice, of the assumption that everything needs to have a loser and a winner — seem even more tawdry and unnecessary than they do back here on earth. While there are those who would say, “Get used to it, it’s human nature,” we want to give them the hug they desperately need and say, “Maybe. But it’s not all that we are.” There are as many different kinds of selfishness as there are people throughout history and every single one of them eventually grew up enough to find peace, or died trying. This story is about shining a light on the best parts of us, as a people — not meekly accepting the worst. We all deserve much, much more than that.
“Mars” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel.