Meet Generation I – The Interplanetary Generation

Valles Marineris Hemisphere Enhanced – Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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.*

The Rosetta probe – Image credit ESA

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.

Stunning Martian Landscapes

As you may be able to tell by the dearth of posts here over the past little while, my attention is focused elsewhere. I will soon be able to return to spicing up your lives in a most positive manner. In the meantime, I feel the incontrovertible urge to share this link with you. It will direct you to an article on The Verge titled “Alien frontier: see the haunting, beautiful weirdness of Mars.” They have curated some NASA photographs of martian landscapes that will help fire your imaginations to new levels.

Breathtaking inspiration for any science-fiction novelist. Source: TheVerge.com / NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

My son the astronaut (someday?)

My boy loves rocket ships.

One of his favorite activities before bedtime is to run around in circles yelling “Papa, rockay-ship. WHOOSH!” He punctuates the statement by thrusting his arm up into the air and smiling broadly.

We have a set of one-piece pajamas with classic cartoon rocket ships printed all over. The kind with the awesome foot-to-chin zippers that make life so easy. He loses his mind if he sees them lying clean in his closet, because he wants to wear them so badly, whether to go to bed, or simply run around the house in.

He is lunar lunatic. He will diligently point out the moon every time he sees it, day or night. Indeed, he points it out even when it is hidden behind an overcast sky, has fallen below the horizon, or is simply the reflection of a kitchen light in the window.

The excited stream of “Moon! Moon, MOON, MOON, MUH-MOON, papa!” is at once cute and oddly frustrating. Particularly after the fifteenth time it has been babbled in the span of a few heartbeats. However, it highlights the wonder that we should all have when we ponder the nature of the universe. The fact that we have a large, spherical lump of rock spinning close enough over our heads every day that we can make out major features with the naked eye humbles me to this very day.

I can understand why my toddler is fascinated. I have no doubt that like countless others, myself included, the nascent desire to be an astronaut is slowly taking shape in his mind.

The difference is that this generation may actually have a greater opportunity to reach for the stars than any of us have before. With commercial endeavors in asteroid mining and even a proposed Mars colony by 2023 (yes, I know, there are significant technical hurdles to be overcome, but where there’s a will, there’s often a way; never mind the debate on whether it is right to wreck another planet since we can’t handle our own), prospects for such opportunities are looking up.

Maybe my kid will end up being an astronaut after all.