Oct 5, 2017

It's not just rocket science

From our Expert Voices conversation on travel to Mars.

For four months in 2013, I lived and worked as if I were an astronaut on Mars, thanks to the NASA-funded HI-SEAS project. My crewmates and I produced data on the social challenges inherent in long-duration space exploration, because a breakdown in human systems can be just as catastrophic as a rocket failure.

While Elon Musk's Mars plan highlights reusable rockets and in-orbit fueling schemes, it appears thin on details of the people who would fly. We do know he intends his first crews to be wealthy: recent estimates put a ticket for a would-be Mars colonizer at $500,000.

How will these crews of high rollers divvy up the work necessary to build a city on Mars? Which of the paying customers will clean the toilets, collect the trash, or restock the food supply? Or, will a service crew be sent along, perhaps on a free ride? And if so, what might be their path into a society that presumptively belongs to those who bought their way in?

The bottom line: As we know from history, colonization isn't simply about building better ships to take bold adventurers to new and exotic shores.

Other voices in the conversation:

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Former Vice President Joe Biden became the formal Democratic presidential nominee on Friday evening, per AP.

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Scoop: German foreign minister to travel to Israel with warning on annexation

Heiko Maas. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to travel to Israel next week to warn that there will be consequences if Israeli leaders move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Israeli officials and European diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli and European officials agree that if Israel goes ahead with unilateral annexation, the EU will respond with sanctions.