A review of “A City on Mars” by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith – a possible one-way trip to Muskow?
Elon Musk tweeted, “The woke mind virus will destroy civilization and prevent humanity from reaching Mars if it is not stopped.” This is a valid argument, although it does highlight the need for grammar lessons for the genius. Would the pioneers of the 18th century have been able to carry out the ethnic cleansing of Indigenous people, the eradication of buffalo, and the construction of a foolish dome in Las Vegas if they were easily offended and weak individuals? It’s worth considering.
The main point is that humanity will face a grim fate if we do not rekindle our pioneering spirit and continue to be limited to a planet that is becoming less and less useful. If we do not venture out boldly, we will surely become stagnant. As Carl Sagan once wrote, “Despite living in villages and cities for 400 generations, the call of the open road still lingers, like a faint memory of childhood.” We must toughen up and prepare ourselves for space exploration.
Kelly and Zach Weinersmith exclaim in this journey through the various compartments of a space adventure. “Abandoning a slightly warmer Earth for Mars is comparable to vacating a cluttered room just to reside in a hazardous waste site.”
Kelly and Zack Weinersmith, a biologist and cartoonist respectively, believe that Elon Musk’s goal of colonizing Mars by 2050 is now achievable due to the decrease in technology costs and the decrease in Musk’s egotistical behavior.
In my opinion, there is only one thing that could be worse than a six-month journey covering 140 million miles in a cramped capsule, surviving on unappetizing food and using bags for waste disposal. That would be enduring the trip with a bothersome fellow traveler, specifically Musk, constantly sharing plans for his new Martian settlement company, referred to as Muskow by the authors in a chilling manner.
However, if that is the most terrible scenario I can envision, then I must strive to come up with even worse possibilities. According to this comically literal and flawlessly scientific simulation, the unpleasantness will intensify upon arrival. The average temperature on the surface is -60C (-76F). There is no breathable air, but frequent dust storms that block out the sun for extended periods of time. On a positive note, there is an abundance of radiation. There is no soil, only regolith – essentially gravel – which is completely unsuitable for agriculture. If you have seen Matt Damon in The Martian, you may be familiar with the idea of developing a taste for space potatoes with a slightly unpleasant aftertaste. Essentially, it resembles Death Valley on another planet, with fewer amenities and no coffee shops – not even a Costa.
Additionally, our understanding of self-sustaining ecosystems that could sustain human life on Mars is minimal. While there have been attempts, such as the construction of Biosphere 2 in Arizona – a 3.14-acre sealed greenhouse – where wild chickens struggled to lay eggs and were frequently consumed by pigs. After one year, the human inhabitants emerged malnourished and emaciated, having survived on underripe bananas and unappetizing beans used for animal feed. However, neither Biosphere 2 nor the International Space Station provide enough insight into the challenges of living on Mars.
In all scenarios, the probable colonies on Mars will not consist of glass domes. Instead, they will be converted underground lava tunnels that have been equipped with breathable air and potable water. This would be perfect for individuals who desire to wake up to a view of volcanic rock walls.
Elton John warned us in his song “Rocket Man” that Mars is not a suitable place to raise children due to its harsh and freezing conditions. However, the Weinersmiths point out that it is also not conducive for conceiving children. The production of offspring on this toxic planet would be a risky endeavor. The low-gravity environment of Mars makes it difficult for bodily fluids to flow properly, hindering sexual activity. To combat this issue, a “pregnodrome” has been designed, resembling a birthing tilt-a-whirl, to simulate Earth’s gravity. Prospective mothers will have to be secured in this centrifuge in order to successfully reproduce. Additionally, the limited number of potential settlers would result in a small gene pool for future generations.
This alarming statement comes from a specialist in ethical considerations regarding extraterrestrial life, who proposes that the environment of a potential Martian colony would likely support a more lenient stance on abortion. This is due to the potential negative impact on the colony if a disabled child were to be born. It is concerning that discussions of space eugenics are already taking place before any human presence on Mars has even been established.
The book discusses the idea that exploration often comes at the expense of pioneers. For example, Laika, the first dog in space, was sent off without a way to come back to Earth, highlighting the cruelty of the Soviets. In 1962, astronaut John Glenn spent four hours orbiting in Friendship 7, with a probe (shown in a model in the book) placed in an uncomfortable location. It is unclear whether this was necessary for the mission or just a strange personal preference. Overall, we recognize and honor Laika for her sacrifice.
However, the cold war no longer serves as a motivation for national space programs. Instead, a group of private space leaders, including Bezos, Musk, and Branson, will likely dominate Martian property long before current superpowers establish a presence there – and even longer after Britain has gathered enough rubber bands to launch its Neasden Explorer.
In a surprising shift from traditional beliefs during the Cold War, the Weinersmiths, despite being American, express ideas that align more closely with communism. They reject John Locke’s concept that one who works on the land owns it, which has long been used to justify the aggressive accumulation of property, and instead support Elinor Ostrom’s view of the commons. Currently, outer space remains unclaimed and serves as a source of inspiration, as it is one of the few areas in the universe not designated for commercial development or high-end residences.
Unfortunately, when China and the US finally join the tech community on Mars, the authors predict that the possibility of a nuclear war in space to resolve interplanetary conflicts will be significantly high. However, there is a small silver lining: based on my understanding, those of us who remain on Earth will be able to relax and watch the spectacle of a light show while being protected by our magnetosphere. This is just another reason to stay on Earth.