I am happy to announce that there is a fair to good possibility that seeding life on Mars may be much more difficult than previously thought. In a recent study, an extensive analysis of the chemical elements present on the planet’s surface (particularly in the regolith^) has shown that Martian soil might very well be outright poisonous for life:
So why am I happy because of this “bad news”? Because it’s not bad at all. I believe that given the current state of our society and civilization, Mars is too costly and too early an investment to make. Mars is not going to be easy to colonize in the next decades. Before we go about colonizing Mars, I believe we should do our homework. And I’m not talking only about the technology to shield us from the radiation in space, but also about our own society. A species that is still governed by what I can only call “uncontrolled survivalistic behavior” is not ready for the responsibility of being the shepherd of a new ecosystem.
I can’t agree with this “let’s start colonizing other planets” fad. Eric Mack has a very good point when he says that “this notion that Mars or the Moon is our salvation because the end of the world is nigh is really silly”. If we’re so good at destroying ecosystems, perhaps we should consider fixing this problem before we go off trying to pollute other worlds.
The second page of the article above brings a very good point: “Let’s just run through the scenarios: rising sea levels, famine, epidemics, ecological collapse… If all those came to pass, even all at the same time, Earth would still be more habitable than anywhere else in our solar system. Really, you can’t undersell the value of a working magnetic field and an atmosphere, even one with a little too much carbon dioxide in it”:
As a child, I was eager to read anything there was available about Mars. It was “my favorite planet”. Perhaps two decades of increasingly boring news about “water found on Mars” made me a bit allergic to our obsessive interest in the planet.
Lately, things shifted into overdrive as various corporations started to jump on the “colonization” bandwagon. I guess it’s pretty good PR to say you’re going to build a colony on Mars or the Moon, but as the adage says “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.