If You Ever Doubt the Human Spirit : 200,000 People Volunteer for One Way Trip to Mars


We live in a cynical age, and much of that cynicism is valid but not all of it. You can doubt our elected (and unelected) leaders, you question greed in the face of epidemic poverty, you can doubt the fairy tales that people make up to make themselves feel better about life and death but the human spirit remains intact.

The Curiosity Rover continues to make news but it is a robot, being driven around the surface of Mars by remote control. In just 10 years, Mars One plans to launch 24-40 people into space to start the first Mars colony and more than 200,000 people from 140 countries have volunteered according to Popular Science:
"The first of four selection rounds ended August 31. Now, the Mars One selection committee will spend the next several months narrowing down the applicants. There are even plans to launch a reality TV show to choose the final candidates. The goal is for 24 to 40 people to begin a seven-year training program in 2015. Then, working with the private space flight company SpaceX, Mars One hopes to send the prospective Martian settlers to the red planet in teams of four, beginning in 2023."

There is no guarantee that these people will even make it to Mars, there are still huge obstacles to overcome and if they arrive there there will be no help available to them and there are no plans to bring them back. If anything goes wrong on the way or after arrival the settlers could all die, even if nothing goes wrong and they survive it could take many generations to make the red planet comfortable.  However it appears to be the next step; the next frontier for humanity and there are people all over the planet willing to bet their lives on that future.

There was an episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor finds a space station positioned precariously near a black hole. His comment is
"...that is so human. "Where angels fear to tread." Even now, standing on the edge. It's that feeling you get, hm? Right on the back of your head. That impulse. That strange little impulse. That mad little voice saying, "Go on! Go on. Go on. Go over, go on!"

That is, fairly accurately, who we are and what we do. We keep going, we overcome obstacles and we always have to know what is next, what the limits are (then how to beat those limits) and we always have to know what is just beyond the next horizon.

So by cynical about the right things, but remember that there is a very good chance that we are in the very, very early stages of human history and 'humanity at its best' is, probably, still millions of years in the future.
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