Taming the God of War


It seems like every time I sit down to write one of these off-week articles, everyday life tosses a diversion my way. A few weeks back it was a plumbing incident. (Which was resolved by a couple hundred dollar visit from the plumber. Fun.) This week I happen to be fighting public wifi that isn’t exactly cooperating. It works. Sometimes…

Back to the subject at hand. Hope you guys have enjoyed reading After Moses so far. As I’ve talked about before, I’m aiming for After Moses to be as plausible a sci-fi as possible without wandering over into the territory of hard sci-fi. This has naturally led to an awful lot of reading and research.

It’s hard to talk about colonizing space without the subject of Mars coming up. If you follow science news, you’ll hear Elon Musk talking about his goal of putting humans on the red planet. You may even remember the ill-conceived Mars One project (Which has subsequently gone bankrupt, surprising exactly no one).

Named after the Roman god of war, Mars has long captured man’s imagination. H.G Well’s The War of the World’s is one of the earliest sci-fi stories depicting humanity in conflict with aliens. Naturally, they came from Mars. Even C.S. Lewis, far more famous for his children’s fantasy, wrote sci-fi about Mars with Out of the Silent Planet.

Unfortunately, it will be far more difficult for us to step foot on Mars than it was for Lewis’ Dr. Ransom. And living there will provide further challenges.

One of the hardest pills to swallow about our place in the universe is that humans are remarkably fragile. The range of habitable environments for us is exceptionally narrow. Our own planet is a shining jewel in the cosmos, unlike anything else we’ve observed. And not even all of our own world is livable without significant support from technology. Mars is the closest thing we’ve seen to habitable, and it is nothing short of hostile to humans.

Beyond lacking the necessary water and oxygen, Mars’ atmosphere is also very thin. In After Moses I describe how Moses brought cometary fragments (usually made of dirty ice) to sublimate into the thin air. Then there is the further problem of keeping that air. Mars’ lower gravity and lack of electromagnetic field to protect it from solar wind would cause it to lose that freshly made atmosphere. The colonists in After Moses may be able to raise the pressure enough to live without a pressure suit, but in a few short decades, the air will begin to thin again.

I suppose this plays in well with the long decline of man that I’ve described in After Moses.

There are other problems too. Higher radiation than earth, high chlorine content in the soil, the sheer distance from the earth; the engineering problems form a list a mile long.

I turned thirty-three last week, and I think I’ll live long enough to see humans step foot on the red planet. Mid 2030s are where I’d place my money, so long as there are no civilization-threatening events between now and then. I will not live long enough to see Mars have permanent residents. This is, of course, humbling. In a day and age of rapid technological advancement, something that the imagination of humanity has long dreamed about remains out of our reach, reminding us that the cosmos is not ours to bend to our will, despite having complete control over our social media feed. The god of war is not yet tamable, least of all by the hands of man. We are a little people, after all, in a very wide universe.

Michael KaneComment