Mars colonization. Just the mention of this topic can generate a lot of debate. Currently I am reading Robert Zubrin’s book, Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization. I developed the desire to read this particular book for a couple of reasons. The main reason is I want to understand the scientific and psychological difficulties that future colonists will face. Another reason includes my interest in space exploration. From the time I was introduced to my first Star Wars movie in 1976. From that moment, I became fascinated in space and science fiction. I developed a habit of watching bad science-fiction just for those spectacular space shots. I also played computer games and console games as a way to extend my imagination into what I thought could be possible.
Mars colonization? Why?
During a graduate school class, a question was asked that shaped my views of Mars colonization. The question is asked, what are the reasons people are willing to risk death to get to America? The early settlers to the North American continent were looking for many things. Many of those willing to challenge the odds wanted a fresh start in life. Others were hoping for better economic opportunities. There were those who came because of the call of the unknown. Some even came seeking greater personal liberties than offered in the nations of Europe.  I believe those who would leave Earth for the hostile environment of Mars will do so for similar reasons.
An insight into those who volunteer
Just as the Americas offered European settlers a new beginning once they arrived, so will Mars. A while back ago, there was a private company that offered people the chance to sign up to be Martian settlers. Within months, Mars One had 202,000 applicants willing to volunteer for a one-way mission to Mars. Out of the 202,000 applicants, 100 were selected.  I was one of those who signed up for Mars One and three other programs that have the purpose to colonize Mars. There’s no shortage of volunteers willing to risk everything for just the prospect of a new beginning. Time Magazine featured an editorial from one of the one hundred finalists.
Van Meter discusses the reality that it will be a one-way trip for her and the other ninety-nine other Mars One colonists.  She shared how she believes Mars colonization is the rightful continuation of the Apollo moon missions. She also shared how Star Trek influenced her decision to volunteer. Most noteworthy was the response by family and friends in accepting her decision to volunteer to be one of the one hundred first settlers to Mars.
Highlighting the old American West
Just as the Americas offered the opportunity for a new start, Mars does too. In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner presented his thesis on the American frontier.  At that time, he said, “So long as free land exists, the opportunity for a competency exists, and economic power secures political power.” Mars offers several things that the old American West offered: a chance for economic opportunities, a new beginning, and a place to escape the growing pressure to conform to a global culture. Beginning early in America’s history, the national government regarded the West as a pressure valve for the overcrowded East Coast cities and the discontented of an increased industrialized society. The Old American West simply benefited the national government and the citizen.
The Martian connection to the old American West
There were three main types of people who settled in the American West. There were the industrialists, including miners, who saw the deposits of gold and silver outweighing the dangers. Cattle ranchers realized the American West offered a simple but hard life on the cattle trail. And others moved West because of the romanticism associated with the life of the American cowboy and life on the frontier.
Already, there are Japanese, American, and a few European companies interested in mining near Earth asteroids.  If rare Earth metals were discovered on Mars, this alone would drive Martian colonization efforts. Made famous by the book and the movie, The Martian, NASA has even indicated it may be possible that the Martian environment could support agriculture.  The ability to grow its own food resources greatly increases the success of future Martian settlement. The ability to produce trade goods increases the likelihood that Earth-based national governments would see Mars as an opportunity for economic growth. The romanticism and appeal of Martin settlement means there will be no shortage of volunteers willing to go to Mars.
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