November 1971. Mars 3 lander became the first spacecraft to achieve a soft landing on Mars. Even though its transmission was interrupted after 14.5 seconds, this feat in the arena of space paved the way for hundreds of others. It raised a new hope. It made it clear that no distance is distant enough for the man to travel.
It is well known that one of the major environmental concerns in current times is the increase in the consumption of the resources of Earth. Reports have mentioned that we can develop some medical problems by microgravity and the high levels of radiation to which we would be exposed to once we leave the Earth’s blanket of air. We would mine the Moon and other alien planets and discover energy sources that could replace power plants at Earth. We could take advantage of the raw materials, vacuum, solar power and lots of other things to create lots of others which we are incapable to do currently because of the shell of Earth’s atmosphere and gravity. It could also refine our knowledge of Earth’s ecology. From finding another territory to getting there, being self-sufficient, forming a government and finally expanding and perpetuating the establishments, the journey would be long but perhaps, possible.
We have explored everything we never even dreamt of previously. Across the globe, on the ground, below the sea, in the air, amongst the stars to the moon, we all bask in the glory of our progress. But are we going too far, ethically if not exactly physically, when we think of establishing another home for humans in the outer space?
Let us leave aside the ethics at first and begin from a very basic metric. Would it be profitable? There is no binary answer to this question because no one actually knows. It is extremely difficult to quantify the result. Maybe now, maybe not in the future? If we want this to be profitable, it has to generate enough employment for all sects of people, rich and poor alike. The industry must create enough jobs on earth right now and on Mars in the future. This again is only one out of the many questions like these.
The next big question stands in context with the society and undermined societal hierarchy. Say we decide to establish a colony on Mars. All the questions that the global economy still faces remain the same: Who, what and for whom to produce? Who gets to decide the rights? Who gets to decide who stays and who does not? Who deals with the consequences? Of every option like suitability, diversity, lucky draw, or affordability, there exist several follow-up questions.
What follows is our obligation towards alien planets. We are not even sure if life exists anywhere other than Earth but it doesn’t validate the fact that it’s actually the case or even if it’s not, there is still potential for life to develop. It might be the case that all the conditions are ideal, life just hasn’t come to fruition yet. In such a case, it poses a question that whether our presence would affect life on alien planets? We would probably be a burden on other life forms and planets. We have already caused huge harm to Earth despite all the milestones that we’ve successfully achieved. Would space colonization be another beginning like this?
These are some of the questions that have been argued upon. We may and we can have the answers to these, answers driven by our own moral compass.
However, the big question still stands as a constant- Whose ethics are we to consider? All of us are brought up in different backgrounds, influenced by our own different cultures, follow varied religions, live in countries that are diverse which in turn implicitly defines who we are or at least, sets the tone for it.
Something as huge as space colonization would require a universally accepted ethical code. There might be problems with regards if it would be completely driven by capitalism. It would bring fame and gaining wealth would be an achievement in itself. We can’t go on and colonize Mars or any other planet as singular entities. It would therefore be imperative to have global agreements in place.
Do we deserve to be multi-planetary? Our future generations would probably look back and question that why we didn’t make more conscious choices on Earth, about Earth. Even if we go ahead and actually colonize any other planet, will it completely solve all the problems on Earth right now? Because only if we succeed saving our own planet in the desire of keeping what Musk says is the “light of consciousness” alive, shall we be able to keep the “light of life” alive.