Those of you who follow my Twitter stream will remember a while back that I published a few comments about Generation I.
It seems particularly topical to expand on the idea with the news today that the Mars One project has announced its shortlist of 100 candidates for the program. This is one of the final steps remaining before they announce the final 24 participants. Despite the many technical challenges that still remain to be overcome for the endeavor to succeed, this is exciting news indeed.
The Telegraph also reports that one of the participants is looking forward to having a baby on Mars. This raises a number of deep questions in the light of a situation that has not taken place in a very long time: humans will set foot on a new land, not in the service of a national interest, but rather as part of a private commercial venture.
I’ll save discussing those questions for a later time.
Instead, I want to turn my attention to the importance that this moment could represent for humankind. The possibility that a member of the human lays his or her roots down on a different planet during our lifetimes is very real. Indeed, this could make our children, those born between the year 2000 and today, prime candidates for the early participants in the flow of colonists to this new world. This marks the first time in the history of our species that our kind would span worlds. We would become an interplanetary life form.
This new generation should thus be rightfully called Generation I, or Generation: Interplanetary. Quite appropriately, it could also be read as “Generation One” as the first generation to set sail away from the cradle of humanity.
There are few parallels in history that carry as much significance. Our ancestors venturing out of Africa, the exploration and settlement of the Pacific, the discovery of North America, are some notable comparables. Certainly, each of these were fraught with danger, and none were guaranteed success. Yet, they led to great things. The same could be said of plans to colonize Mars.*
When taken in conjunction with the heightened efforts being placed on unmanned research projects like the Rosetta probe, one could believe that we are entering a new golden era of space exploration. Ventures like setting up permanent settlements on the Moon and Mars would certainly frame well in such a situation.
Someone asked me whether I would be supportive of my child wanting to immigrate to another planet. I answered unequivocally “yes.” I would certainly miss my child, and I imagine Skype conversations are a little tough to get around with the asynchronous communications resulting from the time it takes to beam a message to and from such vast distances. And yet, as we stand on the verge of a new era, it seems slightly selfish (although completely understandable) to want to hold on tight to the precious gift that we send out into the void.
Here’s to Generation I. May great things await.
*Note: There is much room for an expanded role in unmanned exploration, and it should not be relegated to a backburner with the advent of manned exploration.