Capitalistic companies should not be our ‘vehicle’ for space travel

Res SteckerLate last month, a Netherlands based organization began accepting applications for sending people to Mars. Exciting right?

Well actually, it’s more of a mixed bag. Especially when one considers what the future of humanity has in store for it by allowing capitalistic based interests be our representatives in space exploration.

Certainly there is great excitement over the potential landing and subsequent colonization of Mars, which the organization wants to achieve in 2023. With no risk of overstating it, it would be the single greatest accomplishment in human history, and something our generation would be an integral part of.

Unfortunately, such a great feat comes with some pretty big strings attached, the kicker here being the estimated $6 billion dollar price tag that comes with attempting to send astronauts and establish a base on Mars. Such a mighty sum may be small potatoes to a government, but seeing as how our country seems to have little interest in manned space exploration; the mantle has fallen to private companies to take up the sending of our species to another planet.

However, most companies simply do not have billions of dollars to just throw around, so this Netherlands group has come up with a sort of out of this world idea. They want to create a contest that will last several years, allowing anyone to apply and train to be on “Mars One,” and the contest will be decided in a reality show type format. Allowing people around the world to vote on who out of this group of random people will be the colonizers of a new planet.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. After the four people are selected out of a group of 50, these lucky winners will be continuing out the reality show for the entirety of the mission (forever). That’s right, we’ll be able to see and hear these people every week going about the exploration of Mars. It may seem kind of cool right? Well, I think there are actually several major problems with this plan.

First of all, letting the people of the world choose the four pioneers is an extremely bad idea. If American Idol-esque shows have taught us anything, it’s that we are really fallible voters. I can just see the final four now.

There will be the beautiful woman who gets in on her looks and looks alone. The other woman who gets in by pretending to know a lot, but actually ends up falling apart on the big stage. Then there will be the heartthrob guy who wins hearts and teen girls flock to vote for him. And finally a tagalong guy that no one really knows anything about but he gets on just because he is grouped with the other three.

If you think my above scenario is silly, consider some of the artists that our country randomly popularizes. Rebecca Black and Psy, really? Furthermore, consider the absurdity of the scenario. Humanity will send people to Mars only because they want it to be a reality show and see who is really screwy. Which is what seems to make every reality show successful, having the one character that’s always spacing out. That’s not the kind of person that you want doing 25 percent of a $6 billion dollar mission.

The worst thing about all of this is that it is actually likely to take place, and this is humanity’s best hope for space travel. Truth be told, it is probably better than nothing at all, but I sure hope this doesn’t fail due to some Chumlee type character up in the ship screwing around. Or perhaps even worse, it establishes a precedent where we use capitalistic means to send manned crews throughout the galaxy one day.

Think of a situation like in the film Avatar. Humanity explores space for the sole purpose of extracting and defecating on the universe. What if they encountered some aliens and provoked them? Is it just going to hurt the company? No, we would have to fight off that alien race as a united human species. Thus it is irresponsible of humanity to allow companies to be our envoys into outer space.

It may seem far fetched and small potatoes compared to the other myriad of issues we face on a daily basis, but do not be disillusioned. Space travel is the future of humanity; don’t leave it up to non-human interests.

Res Stecker is a junior international studies major. His columns appear Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.