Humanity is a species of pioneers. We, as a whole, are so proficient in survival that we inevitably fill up every space we come into contact with, and when one pasture fills, a greener one beacons.
We are at a point in our history where every last corner of Earth, the world into which we were born, is filled to bursting and beyond and the question now looms: where does the next pasture lie?
Outer space, the organized chaotic conglomerate that makes up everything beyond our atmosphere, is a frightening place. It is natural to be afraid of the greatest of unknowns.
In 1942, humankind sent the first man-made object, a German rocket, past the stratosphere and into the black inkiness. After three fatal attempts, Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut, became the first man to survive a trip into space and return. Strapped down inside of a metal and plastic pod, alone and facing isolation induced insanity, Gagarin discovered what is now one of the most basic rules of space travel: never go alone.
Now, as we move forward into the most scientifically exploratory period in human history, our species sets its eyes on the grandest goal of all.
Human colonization of an alien world is a prospect that titillates idealists and dismays realists for obvious reasons. If humankind seeks to continuing its own expansion, it must eventually look to a new frontier; the patterns of the species demands room to grow, and in this time of global environmental damage there is likely no better way of ensuring the continuation of our race.
On the flipside of this coin is the unprecedented level of risk. All current plans for exploration are one way trips due to the enormous added expense the return vehicles would entail. Colonizers of the New World faced many of the same problems, in that risks were high, but had the benefit of having potential profit within a single lifetime. Would Spain and England have come to the Americas if the only potential benefit would be for their children’s great-grandchildren? Of course not.
Corporate missions, such as Mars One, have taken an approach that circumvents the capitalistic reasoning while ingeniously working within it.
Though there is no hope for gold or spices in the Red Planet they are aiming to colonize, the Mars One mission has established a way that all investors are assured immediate profits, by promising to create a reality television broadcast that will detail the harrowing adventure of the astronautical colonists.
It is a time for individuals with dreams of glory, and it is time for countries with scientific curiosity to transcend politics and religions and philosophies that keep us on this world.
Because when Earth finally goes belly-up, it would be nice if there were still any of us left to learn a lesson from it.