Mars distracts

A few years ago, I wrote about how much I enjoyed the book Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Not everyone liked that book. A lot of people were put off by its structure, in which the dream of interstellar colonisation meets the harsh truth of reality and the book follows where that leads. It pours cold water over the very idea of humanity becoming interplanetary.

But our own solar system is doable, right? I mean, Kim Stanley Robinson is the guy who wrote the Mars trilogy and 2312, both of which depict solar system colonisation in just a few centuries.

I wonder if the author might regret the way that some have taken his Mars trilogy as a sort of manual, Torment Nexus style. Kim Stanley Robinson is very much concerned with this planet in this time period, but others use his work to do the opposite.

But the backlash to Mars has begun.

Maciej wrote Why Not Mars:

The goal of this essay is to persuade you that we shouldn’t send human beings to Mars, at least not anytime soon. Landing on Mars with existing technology would be a destructive, wasteful stunt whose only legacy would be to ruin the greatest natural history experiment in the Solar System. It would no more open a new era of spaceflight than a Phoenician sailor crossing the Atlantic in 500 B.C. would have opened up the New World. And it wouldn’t even be that much fun.

Manu Saadia is writing a book about humanity in space, and he has a corresponding newsletter called Against Mars: Space Colonization and its Discontents:

What if space colonization was merely science-fiction, a narrative, or rather a meta-narrative, a myth, an ideology like any other? And therefore, how and why did it catch on? What is so special and so urgent about space colonization that countless scientists, engineers, government officials, billionaire oligarchs and indeed, entire nations, have committed work, ingenuity and treasure to make it a reality.

What if, and hear me out, space colonization was all bullshit?

I mean that quite literally. No hyperbole. Once you peer under the hood, or the nose, of the rocket ship, you encounter a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ghoulish garbage.

Two years ago, Shannon Stirone went into the details of why Mars Is a Hellhole

The central thing about Mars is that it is not Earth, not even close. In fact, the only things our planet and Mars really have in common is that both are rocky planets with some water ice and both have robots (and Mars doesn’t even have that many).

Perhaps the most damning indictment of the case for Mars colonisation is that its most ardent advocate turns out to be an idiotic small-minded eugenicist who can’t even run a social media company, much less a crewed expedition to another planet.

But let’s be clear: we’re talking here about the proposition of sending humans to Mars—ugly bags of mostly water that probably wouldn’t survive. Robots and other uncrewed missions in our solar system …more of that, please!

Have you published a response to this? :



@adactio I’m really sympathetic to the argument that sending humans to Mars would disrupt a great natural history experiment. This is pretty much the ‘Red Mars’ faction position from Kim Stanley Robinson’s books. It’s also the case that the ‘Green Mars’ position in favor of teraforming is probably never going to be possible. Without a magnetic field strong enough to shield the atmosphere from Solar storms, creating a breathable atmosphere is a sisyphean fools’ errand.

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Previously on this day

3 years ago I wrote Indie Web Camp London 2020

Saturday, March 14th and Sunday, March 15th.

9 years ago I wrote Connections

Thinky, thinky, talky, talky.

11 years ago I wrote Audio Update

How I wish that conference audio were as widespread of conference video. Speaking of which, I’ve transcribed my talk from the Update conference.

13 years ago I wrote Trajectory

Da-da da-daaaa.

15 years ago I wrote Common people

The wisdom of crowds, congress and Flickr.

17 years ago I wrote Term extractor

There are a lot of little coding things I’d like to play around with. I have a whole Ta-da list of ideas to investigate and rummage through. Unfortunately, real life tends to get in the way, sucking away all my available time so that few, if any, of

18 years ago I wrote Portfolio piece

I’ve been tinkering with my portfolio. I decided that rather than having a long list of all the work I’ve done, it would be better to highlight just a few pieces that I’m particularly proud of.

21 years ago I wrote Jonathan Ive talks design

The Independent has a great interview with Jonathan Ive, the designer of the iMac, the iPod and the iBook.