[Edited: The original title of this was “Why North America won’t colonize Mars” I regret changing the title now, as I feel l like the points I’ve made about “we” in general are too vague. The original premise was that “we” in America only like easy, with upside.]

The subject of colonizing Mars comes up often in my office. First, the Mars One project has been discussed at length – mostly the idea of giving people a one way ticket off of Earth. If something goes wrong and we can’t do anything about it, will we watch, unable to look away or turn it off in horror? When thinking about a television show based on colonizing another planet, it’s hard not to think of aliens, but I assume the more likely scenario for failure is starvation or weather exposure, pretty much extremely depressing viewing.


Second, Elon Musk’s recent statements of establishing a Mars colony (he further clarified, that’s 80,000 people per year, millions would be needed to create a sustainable colony on Mars) have me again pondering why we would want to colonize Mars.

Here are the things I’m struggling with:

When Europeans colonized America, sure, it was rough, but the land provided everything humans needed to survive.  Humans can’t colonize Mars without trucking in a metric butt ton of supplies (that’s a scientific term). 

There is no reason to colonize Mars. Mars isn’t the goal of humans being a multi-planet species, it is a highway rest stop. If we don’t have an emergent need to be on Mars, why would we be? Populating other planets as a means to control overcrowding isn’t practical (for further reading on how wrong people have been on this topic, DC pointed me in the direction of the book, The Population Bomb, by Paul Ehlrich, holy wtf). Are we considering it as a survivalist measure (I don’t know the answer to this)?

There is no reward. There are no untold riches to bring back from Mars. Even if there were, there is currently no projected way back from Mars, there are only one-way trips to Mars. Can you think of anything on Mars that it could be so valuable that you would become rich within the colony? Hard to believe as people struggle to survive. 

There is no better future. No matter what your reason for finding the colonization of Mars interesting, you will not go if there is no hope for the future. Your life would have to be pretty horrible here to want to sign up for the hard work and poor living conditions that you’ll be going to on Mars. If your life is that bad, I seriously doubt you’ll have the 500K needed to go to Mars. 

Is colonization a thing of the past, or can it be the way to our future?