So you wanna colonize Mars, huh kid?
Author Kim Stanley Robinson has got some words for you. Mind you, he should know quite a bit about it–he wrote an entire trilogy about the Red Planet.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Robinson explained that while seeing more people (like Elon Musk and President Obama) getting serious about Mars-travel was heartwarming, the plans outlined so far were a bit too old school for what would truly be required:
Mars will never be a single-person or single-company effort. It will be multi-national and take lots of money and lots of years.
Musk’s plan is sort of the 1920s science-fiction cliché of the boy who builds a rocket to the moon in his backyard, combined with the Wernher von Braun plan, as described in the Disney TV programs of the 1950s. A fun, new story.
He went on to describe a more ideal scenario–one in which the participants would be selected the way astronauts traditionally have been in the past, rather than having deep pockets. Robinson went into more detail about who would be involved with the project, even what the colonists would wear:
Indoors, people would wear what they wanted for comfort. Outside, they’d be in special Mars suits that are not like spacesuits. They would resemble diving drysuits in some respects. Getting in and out of the clothing and the shelters would be a big effort, and keeping the dust out of the shelters would be really hard but necessary.
He also pointed out that the group would have to live underground to reduce their radiation exposure and risk of cancer. But Robinson also stressed that he believed that the moon would likely overtake Mars as a more viable option for occupation once people really started putting their heads together and realizing how long colonization would take. The decades of development required at the outset would probably make the moon a more attractive prospect in the short term.
For more of Robinson’s musing on the subject, head over to Bloomberg for the full interview.