Can We Do This?

The old man dog in the house decided he needed an early start today. Apparently he had a lot to do today. With a grumble and an expletive I fed him, checked email while he ate, and took for a pre-dawn walk.

It did allow me to see a beautiful early morning sky. Just below Leo in the Southern sky was a very bright Venus. Straight up over my head was a (barely) gibbous waning moon. And to the East was the brightest Mars I’ve ever seen. It was unmistakable as the brightest and reddest object in the sky.

Mars is the closest it will be in for the next 15 years and I think it is the closest we will ever get in my lifetime, and possibly ever. We’re not going to Mars. This saddens me because I’m a fan of the whole idea of space travel, both real and fiction.

It saddens me to conclude, however, there may not be any reason to go to Mars beyond the technological achievement of going to Mars. Of course, with both science and engineering, one doesn’t know what unexpected discovery will come from scientific exploration, nor what unintended invention will result from another technological feat. But, that might be the only reason.

As much as the science fiction aficionado in me wants it to be so, I don’t think we’ll ever live anywhere but on this planet. I’m not sure we can. For short periods I’m sure we can survive off-world, but I don’t know that we can biological thrive. We are inextricably linked to this place. Three and a half billion years of evolution make it so. Every microbe, every plant, every animal, every geochemical cycle belong as a part of our existence. They make us who we are. The intricacy of that system cannot be brought with us beyond our atmosphere.

This is our identity. This is it. This is home.

We can continue to rip ourselves apart over stupid things, like the color of our hats, the wording of slogans, or form of protest simply asking for acknowledgement and equality, the color of our skin, and money, or we can work on what really matters. We get to choose though. We make it work or we perish. If we can send a man to the moon, or a woman to Mars, then we can do this.

Can we do this?

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