The View from Mars and the Copernican Perspective (Part III)

January 31, 2016 at 4:20 am by Frank White

In my previous post, I said that the early Martian settlers might become frustrated as they experienced the Copernican Perspective and gazed at their former home (Earth) hanging like a star in the night sky of Mars.

Why would they be frustrated, do you think?

One simple answer is that life on Mars is going to be very difficult for the first settlers. There isn’t much of an atmosphere on Mars, it is cold, and the gravity is only 38 percent of what it is on Earth.

Of course, we could see some immediate benefits in the low gravity. Moving large objects around and building shelters, for example, will be easier. When the Apollo missions traveled to the moon, we watched the astronauts bounding around on the lunar surface in ways that would have been impossible on Earth. And the astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) find zero-G to be a delightful experience.

Overall, however, the challenges will outweigh the benefits because human beings evolved over a long period of time to live on Earth, with its unique gravity, atmosphere, and weather. Mars is going to be very, very different and the first settlers will be millions of miles from the home planet.

Like the early explorers of the New World on Earth, these “Martians” are going to feel dependent on the organizers of the mission back home, but they are going to quickly realize that they need to be as self-sufficient as possible. They are also going to realize that Earth can’t be much help to them, and might prove a hindrance.

There is a time lag for communications between Earth and Mars that will make it even more difficult to have a good relationship between the settlers and those back home.

Imagine a crisis on Mars, such as a habitation dome collapsing, or a medical emergency, and the Martians need quick answers from the Earthlings. Waiting for the response, they gaze up into the night sky and see that tiny spot of light they once called home, unblinking and so far away, and the answer takes far too long.

They will be…frustrated…

(To be continued)