Mars is still an environment

And an environment that should be protected. 

With growing interest of terraforming other planets, like Mars, and these opportunities becoming more realistic for companies worldwide, we still need to think about the implications of reshaping environments that could host human life. According the European Space Agency there may be over 120 million objects orbiting the Earth. This is waste over the course of 60 years. However, it is possible that these estimates are skewed against the rapid growth of rocket technology in the last twenty years. We can therefore expect that the rate at which space debris increases in volume will correlate with advances in technology and ambition to send more materials into space. 

The key issue here is about the infrastructure on Mars and the legislation over how human waste is managed. But it is also about the impact of the human presence; are we ready to take responsibility?

Space debris already places risks for manned and unmanned space equipment, like telecommunication satellites or space stations, constantly orbiting Earth. Imagine a thousand broken bottles and metal tins elevated in the air and you moving towards this cloud of broken glass and sharp metal edges at 150 times the speed limit. But space debris is only half the story. It begins to show how little prioritisation has been given to minimising waste left behind by ambition. It is no surprise here, considering that we have exercised this exact behaviour on Earth with very little change going forward. There is a choice that companies that want to terraform other plants need to make now. Are we really interested in developing other planets to sustain life or do we simply want to show that it is possible and achieve it the way we see it being achievable? 

If we want to make new worlds flourish, and are pumping millions into these schemes, these should be developed in a sustainable manner to support life. If we are developing Mars with our current understanding of the environment, then that will be a problem, perhaps not now, but a few hundred years into the future. We can’t even pledge to a united reform to protect the Earth, how could we make decisions to protect another environment, more so, an environment which we have very little connection to. There have already been suggestions to how to make a more breathable atmosphere, like the thought-provoking infamous statement to ‘nuke Mars’, by a loose-tongued, egocentric billionaire personality. Though statements like these probably get more attention that they deserve, but nonetheless, that is the picture that is being painted to the public. In a way, encouraging this type of so-called “problem-solving”.

The key issue here is about the infrastructure on Mars and the legislation over how human waste is managed. But it is also about the impact of the human presence; are we ready to take responsibility? Here’s a tip, first take responsibility for the damage that has been done to Earth and find ways to minimise our impact for the world we have now that sustains us, then we can talk about Mars and its future.

About the Author
Emmanuel G Escobar

Emmanuel is a plant biochemist looking for ways to improve global crop productivity and reduce resources such as water and nitrogen fertilisers. His is conscious about our impacts in the plant to product pipeline and is interested in ways to minimise the carbon footprint of food production.

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