Ah yes, the “red planet,” the Earth’s sister, the fourth planet from the Sun, and Elon Musk’s obsession. The planet’s name was derived from the Roman god of war and agriculture of the same name. He was calm and level-headed when unprovoked. He strengthened the vitality of crops and plants which he tended to. Until one day, that all changed. The priesthood of the Arval Brothers called on Mars to drive off “rust,” with its double meaning of wheat fungus and the red oxides that affect metal, a threat to both iron farm implements and weaponry. In the surviving text of their hymn, the Arval Brothers invoked Mars as ferus, “savage” or “feral” like a wild animal. They summoned upon the power of the god and they felt his wrath. Mars’s potential for savagery is expressed in his obscure connections to the wild woodlands, and he may even have originated as a god of the wild, beyond the boundaries set by humans, and thus a force to be propitiated. In his book, Cato invokes the god for a ritual to be carried out in silva, in the woods, an uncultivated place that if not held within bounds can threaten to overtake the fields needed for crops. Mars’s character as an agricultural god may derive solely from his role as a defender and protector, or maybe inseparable from his warrior nature, as the leaping of his armed priests the Salii was meant to quicken the growth of crops. What once was an individual that had tranquil care over his domain, turned into someone that wouldn’t stop killing until the safety of his land was absolute. 

Mars the planet was theorized to be very much like the god. Aside from being a similar size to the Earth, there are more reasons that it’s called our sister planet. Approximately 4 billion years ago, there’s evidence that Mars was essentially Earth. The planet is said to have vast seas and oxygen-rich skies and as far as we know, all the conditions for life. But while Earth was beginning to see its first glimpse of life, Mars was losing its chance to be a habitable world. We don’t exactly know why, but roughly 4.2 billion years ago, the planet’s magnetic field disappeared. Why is this magnetic field so important? Well, like the one we have on Earth, that field served as protection from a constant barrage of solar winds emitted by the Sun. Once it was gone, Mars’ warmer and richer atmosphere was blown out the solar system. 

All that’s left now is a cold uninhabitable place we know today. It’s a place of desolation with no chance of ever hosting life ever again right? Let’s look at it this way. So you want to live on Mars, how could you do that? First things first, there are some things you’ll need to bring to the red planet. High tolerance for cold, loneliness, and radiation, will be essential. Other things you’ll need are a lifetime supply of oxygen, food, and a multi-billion dollar spacecraft. And lastly a desire to just get away from the stress of the Earth. That previous one was in jest. What you’ll actually need is water and a lot of it. Where would you like to live? How about a maze-like mansion in the Noctus Labrynthus or a hideaway in the Happy Face Crater. How about a fortress on the Face Mesa? Maybe you’d like a lake-side view. Oh wait, you’re approximately 4 billion years late. Over time, due to changing circumstances, all of the water froze beneath the surface or evaporated into space. But there is some water that is trapped in the seasonally expanding carbon dioxide ice caps though. For now, what we have is one giant dusty desert that’s very similar to ours here on Earth. For example, Martian dunes form and behave like our dunes. Though the Martian ones grow twice as large due to the much weaker gravity. Now, what do you get when you combine a planet-wide desert with an atmosphere that is subject to wind generating pressure differentials. Congrats! You’ve just formed dust storms that can last for several months at a time. The only way for human survival is to live underground and enjoy the scenery. Anytime you want to go outside you have to spend 45 minutes putting on a 280-pound suit. It’s less of an article of clothing, and more like a vehicle. Guess what, if ever that vehicle breaks down, you have a cool 60-second death. A death that literally causes your body to implode because of the sudden loss of oxygen and the vacuum of space. Who wouldn’t want that experience? 

Why colonize Mars in the first place? What’s so wrong with the Earth? For the second question, if you were a human born within the past hundred years or so, you’d hopefully know the answer. If not, you better reevaluate your life. This “modern” world in all its advancements is the most primitive. We claim to be smarter, more evolved individuals than the people in the past. Would the smarter, better individuals knowingly contribute to the environment whom we rely on the most? We create more problems from the “solutions” that we create. We wanted to go further and faster, so we tamed horses. We were not satisfied. Cars were eventually invented and look at where we are not. Greed consumes and we are consumed. It’s a polluted, overpopulated, and corrupt existence. Dreams of starting anew are present in all of us. With space travel, it seems that “second chance” may be within grasp. 

Now we get to tackle the first question. Why colonize Mars? There are four main reasons. Elon’s reasoning is more or less “in the vast expanse of the universe, we have not found any evidence of life outside our planet. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t life in other worlds. Instead of waiting for them to make contact with us, we’ll start to do so.” The logic seems reasonable. We here in the Philippines were unaware of the scope of the outside world until the colonization attempts from foreign countries. As well as the native Americans who were also ignorant to the progression of the human race until Christopher Columbus showed up. 

The second would be the simple exploration of space and the discoveries that come along with them. Some cancer cures for example were found due to experimentation with the harsh vacuum of space. When we traveled to the moon that was the mainstream proof of concept that humanity needed to kick us off into the “space-age.”That was the event that showed everyone who had doubts that with human tenacity, we can accomplish anything. 

The third is that we don’t know for certain that the home that we’re so desperately trying to save is a lost cause. Putting a ban-aid on a tumor won’t solve the problem. When clothes rip and tear, there are only so many times that you can stitch them back together. That may be the case for the Earth as well. What if we’ve already reached the tipping point and are ready to explode at any moment? It’s better to jump into an escape boat and escape a sinking ship than to drown trying to patch up the cracks. 

Lastly, which is definitely the most important, is that the Earth will die one day. And it’s not because of us. We are accelerating our impending demise by the massive load of our carbon emissions and destruction of the environment. But no, it’s something much more surreal. Something that was taught to us in kindergarten is that the Sun is a star. Stars are flaming hot balls of gases like hydrogen and helium. All stars experience a “life cycle” as well so to speak. They go through a natural cycle, much like any living being. This cycle begins with birth, expands through a lifespan characterized by change and growth, and ultimately leads to death. The time frame in the life cycle of stars is entirely different from the life cycle of a living being, lasting in the order of billions of years. The thing is, stars are basically bombs that are waiting to explode. They undergo what’s known as a “supernova.” It’s even theorized that a supernova is “the big bang,” the scientific progenitor of all life. Based on viewing the death of different stars, scientists have calculated when the Sun’s death will come. Though we don’t have an exact date yet, the Sun will go supernova in roughly 4.5 billion years. This is of course still far in the future, it just serves as a deadline or a warning telling us to eventually leave this solar system. Why wait? Why waste the time that we have to escape this inevitability? If we want to continue the human race, space travel is inevitable. 

However, in the end, it might all be for naught. Though this might sound like an excerpt from a sci-fi fantasy this is the reality we live in. The richest man in the world is manufacturing rockets to colonize an entire planet. Does this sound like the movement of a person that’s “simply trying to help out the human race,” or the exploits of a person that has nothing better to do with their money. You want to rule a whole planet? Is this the rumbling of a saint with a saint that has unlimited resources and the generosity of Jesus, or a person with a god complex that moves for his own benefit? Is he incarnate of a deity that wants to bless us mere mortals, or is this someone who has reached the human limits of success and wants more. Has he been consumed by greed like the Earth? 

We may never know. One thing that we do know is that with or without us, the exploration of space will continue. It’s up to us to plan on what to do with the given information. Will you sing its praises and hail Elon as the next messiah? Or will you take the other route? Will you say that it’s a meaningless exploit? Will you try to stop a meaningless struggle? What will you do?