Copyright © 2011 by Martin C. Fowler. Published by the Mars Society with permission.
A One-Way Ticket to Mars: Four Assumptions about Belonging
Martin C. Fowler
Elon University, Dept. of Philosophy
In the debate about whether human exploration and settlement of Mars is justified, both advocates and skeptics make four assumptions:
1. Belonging is geocentric.
2. Belonging is modeled on inertia.
3. The dark is dangerous.
4. Mars is inhospitable.
These four assumptions are unjustified, and a one-way voyage of settlers to Mars is more credible and compelling when these assumptions are abandoned.
1. Geocentric belonging assumes that authentic belonging must be earthbound, and that anyone leaving Earth cannot genuinely belong elsewhere. Just as geocentrism obstructed astronomy, geocentric belonging obstructs space exploration.
2. The second shared assumption is that belonging is modeled on inertia. Humanity belongs either by remaining at rest and staying on Earth, or else expanding, exploring, and pushing outwards like an object in motion which must continue in motion. As an alternative to inertia, belonging can be modeled on restless expectancy: Humanity is no longer at rest, but not yet in motion. Humanity is “waiting for the second shoe to drop.” The second shoe is a one-way ticket to Mars, whereby Spaceship Earth becomes Homeport Earth.
3. The third shared assumption is that the darkness is dangerous. This is an emotional fallacy based upon fear of the dark. Outer space (better termed “Higher Darkness”) can be a place of belonging, and not a place to fear with specific risks to be surmounted.
4. The fourth shared assumption is that Mars is essentially inhospitable. Skeptics appeal to this as a reason to stay home. Mars enthusiasts brandish it as a challenge to meet with boldness and ingenuity. Inhospitality is not about temperature or atmosphere. It is about welcome. When those whom the settlers on Mars send supplies to Mars ahead of the settlers, they not only provide essential supplies but also hospitality and welcome which are part of belonging.