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Space, colonisation and societies…

I have been obsessed with the universe for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, the excitement about space had died down, it was years since the moon was conquered and TV had grown tired of space news.

Learning about it was really hard work. Space was only part of the school curriculum for one semester, and no one seemed to be very excited about it (or about the Solar System Model assignment at the end of that semester). I spent countless hours sitting on the floor of my local library, surrounded by piles of books, trying to decide which 5 space-related titles to bring home each time.

For the last year or so though, space has been slowly creeping back into the headlines. There is a buzz in the science community, entrepreneurs are talking about it, and suddenly, discussing the universe and singularity over pints is cool.

“If you live long enough, you will see everything come back into fashion”. My grandmother might just be right about this too.

I don’t mean any disrespect to the science community, but Elon Musk and Richard Branson are responsible for the sudden resurrection of the space conversation in a broader context. Their excitement and ambition to expand their satellite businesses into space travel is refreshing. But this whole space travel business isn’t cheap, they need investors, and that is why Elon Musk puts such a spotlight into Space X and its achievements.

99% of the time, I am excited about space exploration, but reading about the future of Space X and Elon’s ambition to colonise Mars is part of the 1% of the time when I don’t know how to feel.

“I really think there are two fundamental paths [for humans]: One path is we stay on Earth forever, and some eventual extinction event wipes us out. The alternative is, become a spacefaring and multi-planetary species.” Elon Musk has a very good point. It is only a matter of time until something goes wrong again, and Earth gets hit by a meteor or something along those lines…

In biology, colonisation is simply the process by which a species spreads to new areas once a group has resisted extinction. But more often than not, colonisation brings a bitter feeling of exploitation, forceful cultural integration and imperialism. No colonisation to date succeeded in building structures around co-existence and respect.

When I try to think about what our society would look like on Mars I can’t help but feel afraid. Space X promises that once they manage to make space travel more cost effective, tickets to Mars will cost $200K, a massive drop in price from the current $10 billion. Although it is a step towards a more affordable way of travelling to Mars, this price point still excludes 98% of the population that will unlikely make $200K in their entire lifetime.

It seems to me the demographic in Mars would be very much white, middle-aged, male, 1%, blah blah blah…

The type of people that can afford to move to Mars, don’t strike me as the type of people that cook their own food and clean their own bathrooms and make their own beds. So, surely, minorities will start going to Mars as workers, and finally be able to access the “Martian Dream” and live in this brand-new old-fashioned elitist society.

Here we go again, replicating a broken social cycle where minorities are constantly playing catch-up… So much for “salvation of the human race”, hey?

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