Boldly going where no one has gone before (and never coming back)
August 4, 2006 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Who will volunteer to be our new Space Messiah? In these selfish times, maybe a little good old-fashioned self-sacrifice in the name of space exploration is just what the doctor ordered to restore humanity's faith in scientific truth and reason. On the other hand, could this bold proposal somehow be connected to recent revelations about the potential influence of mind-controlling parasites on human culture, as discussed in this MeFi thread on toxoplasmosis? Could it be that these little red guys from the sky are actually martian invaders who've been the secret puppet masters behind the world's recent troubles all along, as they carry out their fiendishly clever plot to drive humanity to the brink of self-destruction just so we'll be desperate enough to willingly offer up one of our own in a gesture of symbolic heroism? Will our new astronaut saviour ultimately end up as nothing more than a quick snack for the unnameable horror that awaits on the surface of the red planet?
posted by saulgoodman (17 comments total)
(from the first link" "Back home, genuine concern and sympathy for the new Martian would consume the interest of everyone. The world would follow his or her every move via TV, relish struggles for self-preservation, and celebrate innovations, coping, and of course the bravery necessary for such a mission. When most of the world tunes in to this dramatic life-or-death situation, international tensions will naturally defuse. All humanity will become acutely aware of their common bond as earthbound brothers and sisters, a bond transcending culture or religion. It is not too much to believe that this singular event could well usher in a new age of international cooperation and new respect for humanistic values."

Right, just like Survivor taught the world to uh...
I mean, just like American Idol showed us what real talent.. uh.

never mind.
posted by dubold at 10:13 AM on August 4, 2006

I don't understand. It doesn't seem very inspirational to send someone on a suicide mission that isn't even part of a coherent plan to colonize, it just seems stupid. What's the point?

If leaving Mars is the big problem, why not work toward developing a modular station that could develop into a two-way system? It would still be very risky, and doubtless would take longer, but at least if anyone died we might have something to show for it.

Besides, anyone who wants to know what it would be like to truck around on Mars can drive a rover around a nice simulation from the comfort of their browser.
posted by owhydididoit at 10:22 AM on August 4, 2006

I hadn't heard the "blood rains/alien cells" story, though it sure sounds dubious. Any followup to the CNN post?
posted by blahblahblah at 10:31 AM on August 4, 2006

bbb: there's more about it here in PopSci, but I've yet to find any new developments in the story being reported anywhere. mostly there are just lots and lots of articles with no new information that discuss how the initial findings have been greeted with a lot of skepticism (well, duh!).
posted by saulgoodman at 10:40 AM on August 4, 2006

Who will volunteer to be our new Space Messiah?
Lots of people would volunteer. How would we ever pick one? Why would an entire nation -- no, species -- rally behind one person? How could anyone in that situation ever possibly survive without going insane? NASA has funded extensive, extensive research into the psychological realities of multi-year spaceflight. The guy would turn into Tom Hanks in Castaway. We would get transmissions back from his capsule where he's naked and fucking his toilet gear, or maybe cutting himself with his tools. One day he'd open up the airlock and that would be that.

Anyway. That was a really long post for a really bad article.

Although I do think a one-way trip wouldn't be a bad idea, it will require the same number of people it took on one of the one-way colonization trips from Europe to America. i.e., a boatload.
posted by blacklite at 10:51 AM on August 4, 2006

blacklite: agreed. except for the part about it being a really long post for such a 'bad article', because that just seems like kind of a bitchy comment.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:13 AM on August 4, 2006

actually, no, wait a minute. this part's bunkum, too:

Lots of people would volunteer.

you really think so? would you take the mission? or would you decline it on the grounds that lots of people would volunteer, so it's a stupid idea? or would you decline it just because you think this is a badly written article?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:20 AM on August 4, 2006

I'd volunteer, just to see mars.
posted by little miss manners at 11:33 AM on August 4, 2006

Hell yes I'd volunteer. Dying on Mars would be millions of times more memorable than anything else I'm ever going to do with my life, period. If Neil Armstrong had died on the moon, you think his name would be any less recognizable? Dead or not, the first human to set foot on another planet is going still going to be the first.
posted by quite unimportant at 12:02 PM on August 4, 2006

I read that as "new MySpace Messiah?" and though "Is someone replacing tom"?

Does that mean something is wrong with me?
posted by delmoi at 12:31 PM on August 4, 2006

Space messiah?

I’d do it if I wasn’t married. But I’d rather see an effort towards a self-sustaining space station or moon base. That’d be an ongoing engagement instead of the Mars one-shot.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:34 PM on August 4, 2006

I thought this was a great article, and has some very interesting points.

Specifically, the comment about how many test pilots were killed to perfect modern air travel. This country used to have people that were smart enough and brave enough to realize that the benefits to humanity could be worth the risk of death. In fact, we still have people like this, it's just that there too many people that won't allow them to take these risks.
posted by tadellin at 12:39 PM on August 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

I’d do it if I wasn’t married. But I’d rather see an effort towards a self-sustaining space station or moon base. That’d be an ongoing engagement instead of the Mars one-shot.

Yeah, what this article seems to be suggesting feels a little more like immolation than space exploration (kind of has a 'must appease the war god Mars with a human sacrifice or war will rage forever' feel to it).

Wow, I'm genuinely surprised by how many people say they'd volunteer for something like this--but then sentiments like that often get lost on the route from saying to doing, so I'm reserving a little skepticism, if you don't mind.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:44 PM on August 4, 2006

Specifically, the comment about how many test pilots were killed to perfect modern air travel.

You're right, tadellin--I liked the points about how so many early explorers started their journeys fully expecting they would never return or personally profit from their adventures (although most of them probably thought they'd be the ones to beat the odds in their heart of hearts).
posted by saulgoodman at 12:48 PM on August 4, 2006

I dunno, to me the fun of sending someone to Mars is getting them back. That's the technical challenge, the promise for the future, the whole reason for going. This approach is maudlin, fatalistic, and lame. Captain Kirk must be rolling in his grave!
posted by condour75 at 3:36 PM on August 4, 2006

I'm raising my hand as high as I can to volunteer. But only because being the first dude on Mars is TOTALLY gonna get me laid.
posted by odasaku at 4:00 PM on August 4, 2006

An awesome idea. The person chosen will be a pioneer, a leader.

Who better than the current president?
posted by Wet Spot at 8:27 PM on August 4, 2006

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