There are ways to get Out There for a lot quicker and a lot less than the timid souls at NASA or the European Space Agency.
"Mars Direct," for example, is a concept that allows for a narrower safety margin than taxpayer-dependent NASA would
Moving To Mars
from the 'Mars Underground'
-This Is Rocket Science!
Our Next Closest Neighbor Offers Prime Real Estate
Earth's Cradle, But Will a Future 'Cosmic Ecology Movement' Spoil the Party?
by Kevin J. Walker, Science and Technology
Earth Day came about during the early years of the Ecology Movement in the late 1960s,
when Wisconsin Congressman Gaylord Nelson used the powers of his office to help organize the first in 1970 in the midst of the anti war struggles against Vietnam. The era was marked by wholesale reexamination of the nation's values regarding duty,
family, sexuality, our relationship to government, and the way we look at our fellow living beings and the habitat we share.
The linkage of space exploration, changing the face of another planet and the
ecology movement might seem a strange, mix, but I can show how they're entertwined and will become even more so in the future.
Science, and even space exploration played and will play a key part in the Ecology Movement especially as it moves off-world
in the decades ahead.
The environmental concerns of millions was galvanized by the first pictures
of a cloud-crossed bluish-green marble, our own Earth, our home. The astronauts of Apollo Mission 12 --the first one to leave
Earth orbit and loop around the Moon-- aimed their cameras back home to show the first photographs of our faraway planet looking
beautiful, alone and fragile. The nascent ecology movement now courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
had a visual icon.
From space this new view created a new vision that helped symbolize and crystallize
the meaning of the ecology movement to treat the earth with greater respect. The first Moon landing occurred in 1969, and
Humanity had finally put its footprints on another world. Some with pride saw intrepid exploration; but others only saw trespassing
and exporting conquest to new realms.
TERRA FIRMA TERRAFORMING
The topics of space exploration and ecology are apropos subjects as we celebrate
Earth Day 2000 because there are those who are of the opinion that humanity has no business whatsoever messing with the ecology
of another planet. But there are well advanced plans to make Mars habitable, and it would entail completely changing it from
an arid deserted world into one lush with life, and nurtured by plentiful seas until from space it would look much like the
The big budget feature film "Mission To Mars" has this idea at its core. In the epic
movie by Brian DePalma starring Don Cheadle, Gary Sinise, Elise Neal, Kim Delany, and Connie Nielsen, humanity learns of its
true heritage and destiny, a la repackaged 2001: A Space Odyssey" for the New Age generation. We will
treat other science fiction translations of ecological precepts in the accompanying articles. There is no shortage of examples.
Actually, we have been terraforming Terra Firma for as long as we've been around,
damming, slash and burning, clear-cutting and strip mining for millennia.
There were ambitious plans to do some large-scale terraforming on Earth first,
specifically Africa. In the 1970s there was a plan floated -- no pun intended-- to use nuclear explosions to blast a central
inland sea in the middle of Africa.
The several nations that would have been at least partially submerged said
"No Thanks," even when told of all of the fabulous advantages of shipping, increased trade and leisure activities on this
second Africentric Mediterranean Sea.
Weather control is another skill that could be better learned somewhere off-planet.
The excuse that "we only have one home" would no longer apply, and some large scale experiments on starting/stopping "Earth"
quakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes would be especially useful.
NOTES FROM THE 'MARS UNDERGROUND'
No new technology to altar Mars to our needs and to our liking would be required,
a mere extrapolation of our present day knowledge would be applied, possibly including such bold techniques as using steered
comets ripped off from Jupiter's ample collection.
Expecting that we're going to continue rattling around on this increasingly
crowded and depleted dustball of a planet while it's raining soup Out There is a thought unworthy of serious consideration.
However, there are those who are nevertheless uncomfortable of the very idea of space exploration by even robotic probes,
not to speak of colonization of the Moon and outer planets which is being discussed and planned for even as you read this.
The desire for sentient company plays a part with our fascination of the Red
Planet. Humanity has long dreamed that we had cousins there. Even after probes sent back pictures of a deserted, nearly airless,
cold and waterless world, we still are loathe to give up the idea that there are pockets of even microbial life beneath the
surface, or Martian oceanic lifeforms blissfully swimming around in humongous subterranean caverns. Again, in the movie "Mission
To Mars" the idea that we might at least discover Martian ruins of a civilization predating or related to ours found resonance.
The so-called discovery of a Mars meteor rock from Antarctica with ancient
traces of bacterial life found inside it was said by Conspiratorialists to be softening us up in preparation of the eventual
announcement that they have indeed found microbial life or ancient remnants thereof on Mars. The unreplicated discovery was
later said to be bogus science, and another fumbled play by NASA for increased funding. (The subject of just how ancient Martian
rocks ended up down in Antarctica will have to be revisited at another time).
NOW THIS IS ROCKET SCIENCE
It might seem like Science Fiction, but there are some serious people making
serious plans to create a sister companion and new address to Earth. One of the foremost publicly known advocates of Terraforming
Mars and other planets and moons of the outer solar system is James Oberg, who has worked for NASA as a contractor for over
a generation. Twenty years ago when off-the-shelf technology was a lot less promising than now, Oberg wrote:
"We can increase the number of life supporting worlds in the solar system from
one... to a dozen or more... We can make it happen in just a few centuries of deliberate human manipulation." Oberg thinks
big, and has advocated using even the moons of Jupiter and Saturn once they're made habitable for us.
Regarding desiccated Mars, Oberg wrote:
"...Cometary water would have to be imported. Biological activity could be
instigated, perhaps in miles-deep oasis valleys gouged out of the landscape by the ice melt. Additional heating could be provided
by giant space mirrors, a thousand kilometers on a side, concentrating sunlight onto the planet.
"As the Martian air thickens to breathable levels, and as temperatures rise
to above the freezing point of water, a new climate could be formed that would approximate that of the Andes or the Caucusus
or Kasmir" here on Earth, Oberg theorized in 1980.
In the year 2000 Oberg still is an advocate of terraforming, as well as the
mining of the two Martian moons, which are lumpy, spaceborn mountain-sized ore carriers. Recently, he was a guest on the Art
Bell radio program, which in addition to the UFO aficionados and abductees often features scientists, engineers and physicists.
Art Bell: So you're in favour of sending manned missions to Mars?"
James Oberg: "People to Mars, yes... as soon as possible, in 10-15 years if
we can get it, and not just to Mars. There's a wonderful little side trip we could stop at, the moons of Mars, Deimos and
Phobos. They're stepping stones not just to Mars, but to the whole Solar System because of their mineral composition. These
can be used as a launching point to the entire solar system. You could set up little mining colonies on them.
"If you really wanted to take a geologist's hammer to Mars, there's a spot
that the guys are just drooling to get to," he said of the two moonlets. The two, probably captured from the nearby Asteroid
Belt, have suspected goo-gobs of iron, nickel, cobalt, and what-have-you just waiting to be plucked by Terran explorers and
Mars has all the traces of having once had abundant water, with smooth, eroded features,
sculpted valleys, and fanlike alluvial plains where silt-like deposits were piled up, strikingly similar to those on Earth
as seen by LANDSAT and aerial photos over the decades. Whatever surface water Mars had certainly isn't there now and seems
to have left in a hurry along with most of the atmosphere. There are hopes that there is sub-terranean water H2O that we can
extract (I meant "sub-Martian;" we'll be needing a whole new vocabulary to speak of things such as
"Marsquakes," "salt of the Mars," et cetera).
They're not being real overt about it, but all the probes and missions sent up the
U.S.A and the Russians (and there are those that I hear the Japanese and Chinese governments are planning) aren't just to
find out if there was ever life on the Red Planet. They're making sure that life can be put there. We. Us, and our goats,
grasses, farms, families, cars and cities filled with our grandchildren.
TERRAFORMING TO THE RESCUE!
If Mars is to be made habitable, that something has to be done to it in a big, big
way. We're talking about intercession with the Martian ecology in a supremely radical sense if human beings are to be able
to live there except in domed communities, always under the threat of de pressurization from an errant meteor strike from
the nearby asteroid belt, teeming with flying mountains of metal.
Or some other mishap, maybe even planned by exported terrorism from "Earth Firsters," the descendants of those who weep at every felled
tree, even to extract life-saving compounds to treat cervical cancer, as in the case of some revered stands of trees in the
Pacific Northwest where both logging and ecology/conservation are taken very seriously.
If harvested Old Growth trees get the EcoGreens' dander up, then the plans to make
the desert planet Mars habitable for shirtsleeve wear under blues skies with green meadows and valleys will send their blood
pressure straight to the Moon. Or Deimos or Phobos as it were.
To make Mars a place for living instead of just a free range science explorers' zone for a few dozen as ended up happening to the Moon, in order to make it a home for millions we'd
have to alter its ecology. The easiest way to do that is by guiding a comet into it. We'd need one
of the icy ones, not a rocky or metal one, those might come later instead of having to mine Martian metals out of the soil. The idea is to make an ocean, or a series of Great Lakes on Mars and give it a more comfortable
climate and atmosphere for eventual human habitation.
Not for quasi-militaristic
bases of scientists, but for large cities populated with thousands of diverse
people who'd know of Earth only
by reputation and fable, like we speak of ancient Egyptians or Grecians. Now, the atmosphere after the cometary impact will be churned up something fierce, and likely to stay that way for decades. This is a process that may take
the better part of a century even at the most optimistic projections. James Cameron's sequel to
Ridley Scott's "Alien" showed the original planet that the unfortunate Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley Terraformed by colonists.
The new planet, even with a breathable atmosphere from the plants
scattered all over the planet was
depicted as a Hellish place, (which was to be symbolic), with the acid drooling, marauding super-adaptoid
aliens as demons in this lowest circle of Hades.
Storms, high winds, cyclones, lightning and unending rain on a terraforming Mars
after the guided cometary strike will make tales of the Biblical Flood seem tame. Darkness would last for years, broken by
the strobing of tremendous thunderstorms with forked lightning stabbing cloud to cloud as new compounds are created, mimicking on a speeded up scale the evolution of our own Earth.
But after a century of this soil is being formed, transplanted bacteria are chomping
away on stone and forming topsoil, robots are landscaping, boring away at the earth. I mean the ground.
The last Burroughs or Sagan Ocean icebergs from the comet strike have melted away into small lakes -- one of which must be named Bradbury -- dotting the landscape as the once dry valleys
are filled in with water once again.
A few years ago the scientific community was treated to a spectacular show when comet Shoemaker-Levy was pulled apart into more than two dozen pieces and plunged into
Jupiter's mass, punching black, swirling holes into its thick soupy atmosphere. This celestial light show did more than cause
oohs! and ahhs! for professional and we amateur astronomers. The meteor's stirring of the Jovian soup-pot solidified theories
that there are complex organic compounds on Jupiter that can be scooped up, compressed, and used much as
we use fossil fuels here on Earth; except we’ve been launching wars at each other because of their scarcity.
Jupiter is now like a gigantic filling station for whatever fuels we might need,
with its own mini-solar system of worlds, mineral-bearing asteroids,
and most importantly, its own family
of comets of which the unfortunate and doomed Shoemaker-Levy once
was a member.
The diversion of the comet into Jupiter also offered a way to make the arid
surface of the Red Planet into another Earth. Out beyond the orbit of Mars, and between it and Jupiter's orbit is the Asteroid
Belt, a ring of planetary debris. Theories differ on what created it, from an unformed solar system cloud of "star stuff"
that failed to coalesce into a real planet like ours and the other nine (I count Luna, our "Moon" as a planet; our system
is actually classified as a Binary Planet system).
The other two theories of Mars' neighbor are scarier:
(1) The Belt was originally a planet minding its own business when it was either
finally pulled apart by being caught for millennia in the gravitational vise of Jupiter and Mars, or smacked down by whatever
it was that came into the solar system and caused all sorts of havoc, possibly including turning the weird planet Uranus on its side, detaching Pluto from Neptune and sending it careening the wrong way around
the sun and radically tilted. This is related to the "Death Star" or Nemesis Hypothesis, and is outside of the current discussion,
but will be revisited you may be sure!
(2) This last conjecture is something for the Art Bell Coast To Coast AM late night radio show crowd, and parts of these ideas formed the
basis of the film "Mission To Mars:" There was an advanced civilization
on Red Planet that discovered something
technologically devastating, but for all their scientific knowledge was foolish enough to test it
on their only home, such as the university professor's announced plan to create a "Mini Black Hole" in his
laboratory to prove the origins of the universe and an alternative to the Big Bang theory. Black holes only get bigger, as
far as we know, and if one was on this planet it would drop straight to the core and start eating, and Black Holes eat suns!
For starters, after which they begin snacking on whole galaxies!
The good professor was asked --and then told-- to delay his experiment.
PRIVATISATION OF COLONISATION
Private industry is finally starting to get into the act of space exploration/exploitation,
from such visionaries - -or even just greedy business people-- tired of the government's foot dragging when there are worlds
to be won for the taking. They are committing millions and perhaps soon billions to privately funded shuttle flights, space
fabrication, travel, hotels in space and possible colonization.
Oberg again, on the radio: "There has been an increasing level of private funding.....it's
private money that's keeping the MIR spaceship going." The Russians, strapped for cash, were going to let their station spiral
out of orbit and burn up in a year as NASA did SkyLab in the mid-1970s, but a private firm is paying to keep the space platform
in operation, planning to rent out MIR for such things as filming space sequences that require weightlessness.
The old technology won't work for the next leap into space exploration.. Space Shuttles,
built to operate in Near Earth orbits of around 180 to 300 miles up, will be nowhere to be found. Instead, there is a whole
generation of reusable one-piece rockets that can hover for a proper landing spot. Afterwards they can take off again, with
no stages to be discarded. They're like motor homes, with everything in one place. And Jupiter can be the fuel depot instead of dragging weighty fuel and water from the bottom of the gravity well
of Terra which makes transportation costs of thousands of dollars per pound.
The trips from Earth to Mars would be especially long and arduous, but we don't have to
reinvent the space wheel either, some of that old stuff can be used but in new ways. Reusing the shuttle's throwaway liquid
external fuel tanks, which are called by NASA folk "the world's largest soft-drink cans," according to Oberg, is just one
way enterprising entrepreneurs who don't have government printing presses plan to shave colonizing costs to manageable levels.
A private firm has a plan to cut off the ends of the previously routinely discarded tanks,
join them end to end, and have ready- made and roomy stations larger than the cramped military barracks style designs of the
Russian MIR, or the old late SpaceLab which was the size of a mobile
THE IMPATIENCE OF THE MARS UNDERGROUND
Many of these private concerns' personnel are ex-NASA employes or contractors, scientists,
engineers, astronauts, rocket scientists and science journalists. Tired of the glacial pace of Deep Space exploration and
the clumsy, embarrassing serial blunders of unmanned craft that have either been lost or crashed into the planet's surface,
they have formed a loose confederation called the Mars Underground.
There are other concerns they have, among them a disdain for the costly International space
station, which they maintain is “a project in search of a mission designed”
more as a gesture of post-Cold War Terran brotherhood and public relations than
anything really useful.
The IST is worse than a boondoggle to many of them; it sucks up precious money
that would go to colonization. The more radical of the Mars Underground even see a Lunar Moonbase as a wasted
effort that would only push Mars colonies back for at least another generation. They want to head straight for the Red Planet,
Do Not Pass Go. This is called Mars Direct.
Their initiative is to forge an Independent Space Program with the goal of establishing
a base on Mars, setting the stage for eventual and continual permanent human habitation. Colonizing the
second home of humanity on the first of many other worlds.
In fact, the Biosphere experiment
in the Southwest (in addition
to the corporate theme park ambitions for it after the two year isolation was up) was also meant to supply
data for a long-term Mars mission. It takes a long time to get to Mars, about two and a half years, and it wouldn't make a
bit more sense to turn around and come right back than it would here on Earth after a trip from Chicago to Denver, Portland
to Sacramento, or St. Louis to Miami. May as well sit and stay awhile. What's your rush? Rest your feets.
This means a support mechanism in place. The colony supply rockets, as in "Mission To Mars,"
could be fired away a year or two beforehand, and loaded with enough robots, tools, freeze-dried food, seeds, birth control
devices (for the healthy young mixed sex crew), fertilizer, Tang and water, or the compressors to squeeze H2O out of the dry Martian atmosphere. Since it would make no sense to truck heavy stuff half a billion miles and
two years away, we'd be better off building and shipping some devices that would allow for their on-site manufacture,
such as bricks for shelter and the extraction and smelting of metals and ceramics from the Martian crust for more useful machinery.
The impact of our diverted Burroughs/Barsoom or Sagan comet could be accomplished by the
putt-putting of tireless but strong Ion Engines, the tugboats of space commerce and long range spacecraft. It would carve out the basin of a huge lake, inland sea or ocean. This would replenish the arid planet, as well as thicken
up the Martian atmosphere which has dribbled away over the millennia.
Once the ocean(s) are set up the seas and tidal basins can be stocked with organisms to
help speed the process along a bit, and shave some time off the century projection. I'm not making this stuff up, I've read
the papers and articles and seen the diagrams of Martian Excursion Vehicles and bacterial cloud seeders; where unmanned remote-controlled
hot air balloons would traverse the planet, dropping packets of organisms around that would turn the red Martian dust into
rich, loamy topsoil for future colonists and farmers.
WHO'S GOT A TICKET TO RIDE?
New Martians would have to live in makeshift domes at first while the atmosphere thickens.
In time, they could move away from the equatorial regions where the most hospitable changes started while the terraforming
of the planet starts to take on a Runaway Greening Effect.
True symbiosis now occurs when the oceans' plankton generates oxygen, the runoff of minerals from the land nourishes and replenishes the offshore fish and grasses, and the expirated carbon dioxide from multi-cellular
creatures --like us-- gets into the mix, and the cycle goes on and on,
Who would go? If it is to be a successful colony you'd have to have self-supporting units,
able to get along and practice self-government. Science Fiction stories for decades have naturally assumed the Navy would
be in charge of spearheading the long range exploration of space, because that institution has hundreds of years of experience
with self-supporting missions far from any central authority.
Families would do the trick, as
in “Lost In Space.” The old African saying "It Takes a Village" would never be more appropriate. There is a sexual dimension of colonies
and the competition for mates, the "Seven Year Itch" and so forth that would have to be faced, and centering the colonies
around various and diverse intact families would take care of that.
What would happen when you get the first generation of hormonally supercharged MTV-ized
Martian teenagers is a crisis that would have to be faced eventually some years later!
REVOLT AGAINST A NEW KING GEORGE?
There are political considerations as well. Of all people, we Americans know what happens
when a faraway colony becomes estranged from its motherland. Why would we think Martian colonists would be any different?
Terran Taxation without Supreme
Council Representation!" might be a future protest slogan as the colony tires of sending back wealth and taxes “... to an ungrateful Earth, teeming with lazy mouths and do-nothing councils while we Martians are out here braving the
elements and breaking our backs. Why do we let them boss us around from millions of miles away? We don't have anything in
common with them except our origins, but they presume too much..."
It could happen. This might explain some of the reticence of the US government to place
large numbers of it's citizens in space. Who needs all that drama? Especially from scientifically skilled people
who would occupy the high ground! --KJW
Science Fiction, Ecology and
Will a Future 'Cosmic Ecology Movement'
Spoil the Mars Exploration Party?
Mars Colonization May Fail,
Or Be Severely Hampered By Earthly Eco Politics
by Kevin J. Walker, Science and Technology
As we ponder Earth Day, the export of an ecological frame of mind will frame
the debate over what to do, if anything, to the ecologies of other worlds.
There are some people, a significant number in fact, who would agitate against
their tax money "being shot out into space" --as if there were banks out in space, and as if the workers in the factories
employing those who fabricate the spacecraft, satellites, and habitats were truly aliens instead of only their neighbors!
Keeping in mind the World Trade conference and "Battle In Seattle" with the
tumultuous conflicts there and in Washington, D.C. with advocates for global trade against go-slowers and isolationists, we
can envision that some would feel the motivation to take a more direct action. In the movie "Cosmos" with Jodie Foster and
Matthew McConnaghey, when the discovery of a genuine message from technologically advanced aliens upsets our traditional world-view,
religious ands other sorts of fanatics emerged to sabotage the project to respond and send them an emissary from Earth.
People get very upset when you mess with their belief system, and the Ecology Movement,
like the anti-fishing, anti-milk drinking PETA crowd, have their fanatics and lunatic fringe-dwellers who would see nothing wrong in planting some explosives aboard a rocket to protect a pristine planet from the exploitative capitalististic
rapists from Earth.
GAIA: A NEW AGE 'ECOLOGICAL PRIME DIRECTIVE'
You may have heard of the GAIA Hypothesis, which like Native Americans, Australian
Aborigines and the Druids of the Emerald Isles anthropomorphized planet Earth into a semi-sentient Supreme Being, usually
female, which makes perfect sense. Don't we speak of the Motherland, and provide oceangoing ships
with female personas?
Gaia, the hypothesis goes, regulates her atmosphere, oceans, even her surface wildlife
which includes humans, culling our numbers with a few timely placed natural disasters. There was a late 1980s TV movie made from the hypothesis with "Star Trek's" William Shatner as a scientist who developed a device for translating
the messages as Gaia spoke to him.
The Environmental Racism and the new Ecology Movement is being used to argue
for people and even organisms who haven't really been asked, or who can't refuse the helpful energies of the activists.
Still don't believe there are some who would agitate, legislate and even fight to
"Keep Mars Free & Unspoiled!" ?
The second Star Trek movie "The Wrath of Khan" dealt with a sort of Ecological Prime
Directive of the 23rd century where a terraforming torpedo called
the Genesis Device -a nice Biblical
touch there!-- had to be tested on a world devoid of even a scintilla of life, not so much as even a germ could be present.
Science fiction writer and prophet Arthur C, Clarke's follow-up to his inspiration
of Stanley Kubrick's "2001," called "2010: Odyssey 2" dealt with the discovery of oceans and primordial life beneath the surface
of Europa, a moon of Jupiter. A "Prime Directive" of sorts was beamed to Earth to allow the upstarts a chance at life.
The super powered aliens from the Black Monolith warned humanity through a
message that was repeated over and over for decades:
"ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA.
ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE."
This was years before the NASA announced discovery of possible water beneath the
icy mantle of the Jovian moon, back when they weren't even sure what Europa had, mind you. An expedition is on the table for a submarine probe to take a look-see of Europa. If we encounter a black
monolith wouldn’t that be a blast?!
This only fuels speculation by the Art Bell of Coast To Coast AM radio show crowd that there might have already been a vigourous and clandestine space program of outer planet exploration with perhaps even some bases set up, which is why NASA and the government isn't so keen
on us pushing outwards and stumbling over their outposts, or has even sabotaged their own probes, only too willing to seem like incompetent bumblers. This is at the same end of the spectrum of those who feel that there were never any moon landings and the whole show was filmed out in the Arizona desert, ala the OJ Simpson movie Capricorn
As we know of our own experience, lower forms evolve into more complex ones.
It's not hard to envision a movement where citizens would adopt a new extra solar species for protection, as they have done
on Earth with snail darters, dolphins, kangaroo rats, pandas, and whooping cranes.
"Not content to defile one world," they would argue, "these Frankenstein Physicists
and the Capitalists who hold their laboratory leashes would have us spend billions, perhaps trillions of New Dollars that
could have been better spent on alleviating the problems of poor and oppressed people right here on Earth, rather than to
expand and conquer new territory.
"We of the Earth First! and Friends of Man And The Earth (FROMATE) Coalition for
Cosmic Justice hereby say that WE WILL NOT stand idly by while the Robber Barons of the New World Order and their Global Federation
lackeys in the League of Nations II wring the last resources of an exploited and abandoned Earth
while they go traipsing about the solar system for new worlds to
defile. Here is a list of our demands...."
Their manifesto, sent out over the Internet II from a hidden location, could very well read something like that.
Larry Niven is author and co-author of such mind-stretching works such as "Ringworld"
and "The Integral Trees" and has dealt with topics such as the disaster of messing around with an alien ecology and Cosmic
Engineering by Type II Civilizations (we're not even a Type I yet!).
Niven, a Southern Californian and former journalist, has foreseen just this development
of ecological mishaps and activists' backlash in several books such as "The Legacy of Heorot" and "A Gift From Earth." (See the accompanying bibliography for some his other works).
ECO-RACISM AND INTERPLANETARY IMPERIALISM
Niven and Stephen Barnes' "The Descent of Anansi," from which I drew inspiration
for my own examples of the FROMATE Coalition Manifesto specifically dealt with the backlash of space exploration. The title
comes from an African children's fable of the spider Anansi who wove a thread to save herself.
In the 1980s novel the private Japanese-American space consortium are trying
to establish a permanent orbiting station for such things as the manufacture of computer chips, lightweight girders, pharmaceutical
wonder drugs and useful compounds which cannot be made in Earth's gravity, such as a superstrong monofilament fibre.
In "The Descent of Anansi" the station is attacked by a missile fired from below
by eco-dissidents, and the inhabitants use the example of Anansi to save themselves as their damaged station is falling out
of orbit. The idea of the terrorists --those whom the Space Capitalists would call "terrorists," as opposed to them being
considered "Freedom Fighters" by the Earth's teeming masses yearning to breathe free-- is they have everything to gain by
impeding a space effort so the increasingly Black/Brown/Asian global population isn't left behind with the Avian Flu Pandemic and AIDS ravaged, polluted, irradiated and discarded toxic husk of a planet.
Of course, the obverse would work too from their perspective: who are we to try and play God with a world's ecology?
We've had our shot; these world's are not our to tamper with; one to a customer and all that. After all, if God had meant us to live on places other than Terra she'd have placed us there herself, et cetera...
Listening to Niven and his "Footfall" and "The Mote In God's Eye" collaborator Larry
Pournelle have to say and read pays rich dividends. Their ideas on a Space Based defense system was picked
up by a retired general and fashioned into a influential position
paper called the High Frontier,
which was later refined and picked up by members of the Reagan administration and put forth as the Strategic Defense Initiative,
later dubbed "Star Wars" by a cynical media.
Whatever its name, this paper inspired by Niven, Pournelle, et al was said to be
one of the main things that set into motion the scientific arms race which drove the Soviet Union into dissolution as their
economy wasn't able to keep up with technological New Age Arms Race that they themselves started. Niven
and Pournelle are to be listened to, especially since they are passing along ideas couched in Science Fiction terms having to do with racial conflict and genocide, as well as the ecological backlash against space exploration and especially
colonization as delineated above.
But the Nervous Nellie-ism is to be expected; there were probably naysayers
telling the African explorers as they stood upright and prepared to leave the veldt:
"Don't go! What's wrong with this Rift Valley? We have plenty to eat, and it’s mostly safe here." The designers of the 70 or so pyramids in Northeast Africa were probably all told it was
a fool's project, piling blocks atop each other to act as calendars and monuments.
Matthew Henson, Columbus, Magellan and Marco Polo and the first North Africans
who struck out for the Straits of Gibraltar, or the Asiatics who waded across the Bering strait into the Alaskan wilderness
all had their detractors and impediments. It won't be any different when a push is made to finally cut the strings to Earth
and bring on Childhood's End, as Humanity's heirs prepare to take their birthrightful place in the Cosmos.
The time will come when at the end of a Martian day as a significantly smaller Sun
sinks on the horizon, the kids would once again gather around. Listening with rapt attention to the old timers these children, who have never lived anywhere other than Mars, hear tales and talk about living back on the
Old Planet with its teeming cities, air pollution, and crime. But there were five --five!-- big
oceans. The children gasp. Some of them think the old man is pulling
their legs about such tales. Cities with millions people? Giant oceans half a planet wide? Who is he trying to kid! Those
pictures in the library could be faked!
Travel packages to Earth would be big sellers to the Martian Descended, who would consider Terra a nice place to visit but they wouldn't want to live there. The air would seem too thick, the day too bright, the temperature much too hot, and the gravity
too oppressive for their tastes. And what’s with the weird blue sky? It should be a pleasant pinkish red, with the Sun
a nice half-size and lots dimmer, the way nature intended for people to live!
As I said, there are serious
people working on this planetary colonization stuff night and day. Efficient
electric Ion Engines, solar sails to pull metal ice and asteroids into different orbits, suspended animation for crews, or
colonists of packed frozen embryos by the thousands to be thawed after a Mars planetfall to save weight on a colony ship.
The Mars Underground isn’t just playing with ideas, they are serious about winning another world. Just like Spain’s
Queen was serious when she funded Columbus’ expedition.
Some of them serve by advocating and writing articles for mass consumption to let people know that there are some out there
in whom the spirit of exploration that has guided Humanity still is strong. The Mars Underground never
rests; we can't afford to. There's
a whole new world Out There to be won. Onward,
and Upward! --KJW [m.u.p.r. div]
A Martian Filmography:
• "Total Recall" -- Arnold Schwarzenegger
is an agent on a colonized fascist corporate Mars battling a corrupt Martian Governor in Ronnie Cox and his wife, played by
Sharon Stone. Features the remnants of an ancient Martian civilization and a water producing technology.
• "Mission To Mars" -- The so-called
monuments and the Face on Mars gets the Hollywood megabudget treatment in the ambitious picture about a "2001" type expedition
to unearth the mysteries on Mars and Humanity's true origins and destiny. The film also shows the hazards of space travel
when two crews investigating the momentous find of non-Terran artifacts and monuments on Mars are met with catastrophes such
as meteor strikes and ship de-pressurization.
• "Robinson Crusoe On Mars" -- A
1960s repackaged retelling of the 1800s "Swiss Family Robinson,"
(which was also done three times,
once as the TV series "Lost In Space" and
the most excellent film.). A crash-landed
astronaut learns to survive alone on the Red Planet until he frees Friday, an escaped extraterrestrial who'd been enslaved.
Among the first of the modern big budget productions after the Science Fiction Renaissance of the 1950s.
• "The Martian Chronicles" an NBC TV miniseries made from the book of short stories by Waukegan Illinois
native Ray Bradbury. "Gargoyles"
star Bernie Casey is Mars explorer Spender, who identifies strongly with the all but extinct Martians and their glorious dead
civilization. Spender is increasingly unhinged when he tries to stop the exploitation of Mars by his callous and disrespectful
There is the undertone of racial identification by the lone African descended Spender of
the all-male expeditionary force when he sees yet another civilization about to be exploited and defiled by some of the boorish
swaggering team. Rock Hudson star as the sensitive but determined captain.
Books On Mars, Terraforming,
& Private Space Ventures:
There are many books that have been done about the subjects of space exploration since the
shock to the American system of the Soviet successes in placing the first humans into orbit, the first far side of the moon
photos, first Venus probes, and first long term space station. Isaac
Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke themselves, in addition to their fine fiction work, have the shelves of used
book stores groaning under the weight of their ruminations on space
Here are some other authors, organizations and works that I've found useful.
• Gerard K. O'Neill of the privately
funded Space Studies Institute has been the proponent of orbiting space colonies so much they're generically called O'Neill Colonies. He's appeared on the morning talk shows with his team's conceptual drawings of the miles-long
inside-out cities, with lakes and farmland on the insides of the spinning
cylinders that could be strung
along like pearls around the Earth. O'Neill's expertise is being used by those planning to build a Near Earth orbiting hotel,
such as the Double Big Wheel Hilton seen in "2001."
• "The Martian Chronicles" by Ray
Bradbury (See above).
• “Moving Mars” by great “hard Science Fiction” writer
Greg Bear is about a planetfull of resentful and oppressed Martians who discover a potentially dangerous weapon, which makes
the vise from Earth even stronger. It has lots of politics about how a colony moves away from its parent culture, as well
as lots of quantum theory speculations that were also found in his “Anvil Of Stars,” a follow-up to his “Forge
pair of novels is based on another, sinister one of the curious reasons why there are no alien races being contacted in a
galaxy that should be teeming with them: they are continually being wiped out, their civilizations murdered by homicidal and
genocidal races of aliens who want to be the only ones around, instead of having to deal with other competing spacefaring
first “Species” movie was based on this of long-range remote premise, with the alien assassins instead beaming
instructions on fashioning alien DNA. which they expected the curious suckers on the other end to make, dooming them. This
was also in the enjoyable film “Virus,” with Leigh as part of a scavenger team fighting the downloaded virus hosted
on an abandoned communications ship. As bemoaned by SF cinema stalwart Virginia Cartwright in the remake of 50s classic Invasion Of The Body Snatchers"
do we always expect metal ships?"
(There have been indications that some scientists and historians have told NASA
and the European Space Agency that maybe it’s not such a good idea to send probes such as the Voyager out with such
detailed information about our biology and our planetary address, since we’re already sending out FM radio and TV signals
broadcasting our presence, as well as our weaknesses). But this diversion is a part of another article I’ve written
on the “Galactic Assassin Theory,” combining my interests on science and genocidal moves by societies and civilizations.
Read them at your leisure at
OMNI Magazine's books through Kensington Publishing in the 1980s had separate books on the Zebra label in a series
on Space, Robots, and Computers detailing the early years of the computer revolution, advances in cybernetics, and private
space exploration, including the financially sabotaged European OTRAG enterprise in central Africa.
The OTRAG base was located down near the Equator where it's easier to launch rockets into
orbit (that's why America's launch facilities are in Southern Florida and California). What happened to them chilled private
space efforts for years.
They were ran out of business when smeared with allegations that because it was backed by
German financiers, it's launch facility might be used to develop missile-carrying capability to Muslim nations to launch strikes
against the Jewish nation of Israel. This was before Saddam Hussein started launching old SCUD missiles
at Tel Aviv he'd bought on sale from the Soviet Union, and before
Pakistan and perhaps now Iran became nuclear nations with delivery systems of their own.
• "The Legacy Of Heorot" (1987,
Pocket Books) by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes is a novel about a band of colonists who entirely misread
their new planet's ecological cues and are besieged by powerful superfast Komodo-dragon sized creatures called Grendels.
Mssrs. Niven et al seem to have recast the Zulu Uprising in Science Fiction form in "Heorot,"
as they often cloak present day or historical Earth racial conflicts in Sci Fi trappings. This makes the trio favourite reads
The Niven novel "A Gift From Earth" for example, was a thinly disguised analog of the South
African apartheid caste system, where the resentful crewmates of a colony ship usurped
the authority on their new colony planet by waking the suspended
and valuable skilled passengers
from their deep sleep in suspended animation one by one.
They enforced a fascist separatist state where Passenger organs were harvested for the privileged
and elite Crew caste, until a revolt
by the numerically superior Passengers.
nation is now once again embroiled in another of the never ending debates on whether we should fund more space exploration,
and whether it should be by machines or humans. There has apparently been a decision to let the famous workhorse but aging
Hubble telescope die after a forced de-orbit and sent to die a fiery death until quenched by the deep waters of the Pacific.
there is talk of another of X Prize, this for the crew who makes it to Mars. Richard Branson is preparing to launch a private
sub orbital space tourism business, while web gazillionaires are ante-ing up either for million dollar trips or to start their
own space ventures.
is no shortage of those who have the spirit of a Magellan, a Columbus, or those unnamed explorers who stood on the tips of
the coasts off Gibraltar, Vineland or the Bering Straits and despite the unknown dangers gave the words that have catapulted
us ever since we only grunted to each other: “We’ll push onward!” --KJW
KEVIN J. WALKER is a science/technology writer and political commentator who was a past
Lecturer and Adjunct Professor of Journalism at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
He has been inside the Great Barringer Crater in northern Arizona,
the world's first proven meteor crater; as well as inside the Great
Pyramid on Egypt’s Gizeh Plateau as part of his worldwide science expeditions. (The 1908 Tunguska Event
site in the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula is on his list).
Walker was preparing to be just
research scientist during his Pre-Med biology studies at MU until he was seduced away by Journalism.
His website on science matters can be found at
He can be written via email at walkerworld_2000@yahoo dot com Milwaukee, WI. USA