Before the decade is out, humans will be living on Mars. Or so claims Elon Musk. And in the next fifty years the vision is to populate Mars with more than a million people. It would be a laughable proposal if it were not for the fact that Musk seems to be actually making it happen, initiating a global race to plant the flag first. But is the very idea a fundamental mistake? Critics argue the human race is no safer on another planet that is barren, inhospitable and which will itself soon be a focus of competition and potential conflict.
Should we conclude that the desire to travel to an extraordinarily hostile location is not driven by a higher motive but simply because we might in principle be able to do it? If the real goal is a technological journey into the unknown, will we at some point decide that exploring a desolate dead rock is just not that exciting? Or is adventure, for no purpose and no end, one of the wonders of being human and being alive?
Philosopher of technology Nolen Gertz, investor and trained astronaut Esther Dyson and author, activist and journalist Cory Doctorow dissect our desire for space travel.