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Why You Won’t See a Parent on the Mission to Colonize Mars

I recently read an article about the non-profit company Mars One and their desire to send a team (maybe multiple teams) to a colony they will create on Mars.  This article and the premise of a colony on Mars fascinated me.  To think that there is an initiative underway to actually send a team to Mars, and that the team will be comprised by candidates submitting a 1 minute video is an amazing concept.  While I don’t think they’re going to pick unqualified “prospective colonists” a la the blockbuster movie Armageddon and the drilling-crew astronauts, this is the first time, that I’m aware, an ordinary person will have a chance to go to space.  And not just space, but be the first to embark to the red planet – part of a mission that has never been attempted before – part of history that to this point is unrivaled.

But at what cost?

The headline of the article already gives away one of the biggest deterrents for most people.  It’s a one way trip!  Despite seeming to have a 10 year plan laid out, they have made no plans for a return trip.  You’re potentially signing up for a guaranteed history making expedition that will result in you being part of the first group of humans to ever die on Mars.   Kinda morbid, but that’s the reality of it.  There’s no chance of a rescue mission should something go wrong and require immediate assistance from a very distant Earth.  The trip to Mars alone is scales on mars trip or parentingestimated at 7 months.  7 months!  Without ample and frequent supplies, alerting Earthlings of your shortage or impending emergency is unlikely to provide much help.  Even if they were to eventually have a way to land a ship that could then bring the astronauts home, the time they spent there will not be short and cannot be made up later after a decade+ of time away from your kids.  

Another drawback for most is the intense training and preparation required for the “lucky” (having flashbacks to when I watched the Hunger Games to identify someone as lucky going into certain peril) few that are selected.   7 years of training that will include 3-month stints in a mock colony.   And didn’t we already try to create a self-sustaining “colony” already here on Earth at the Biosphere 2?  With the overwhelming success of that, what could go wrong in an environment we have no control over? 

So if you can get past the fact that you won’t come back to Earth, you still have a training plan that rivals the commitments made by Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, and other advanced degrees.   You’re literally offering your life as an experiment and exhibit for the world to watch.  Keep in mind that they plan on funding this mostly from a reality TV series.  But unlike reality TV shows now, this one requires you to sign over your life.  Not by way of a disclaimer that I’m sure all shows do (although I imagine the disclaimer for this experiment will rival most novels), but by signing on to a “show” from which you cannot end your contract once you’ve left the planet.  You could very well be signing up for people to watch you suffer as you also make history.

Why you won’t see a Parent on this team

When I refer to parent, I speak in terms of an active participant in a child’s life, young or old.  I discuss that more in my post on a Parent’s Definition of Parenting, but one of the main distinctions is that I’m not referring to a person with a biological offspring.  I mean moms and dads that actively care for and raise their children.  (And if your children are grown and out of the house, chances are you will be too old for the mission).

As a parent of 2 years now, it’s unthinkable to imagine leaving this life behind.  mars colony for parentsThe journey of parenthood in no way involves a trip to Mars.  Maybe many, many years from now this won’t seem so farfetched, but the journey of parenthood needs to stay on Earth for now.  It will be impossible to live the life necessary for a parent if you go on this mission.  You cannot raise your children or be the support system that they will likely need to help them succeed.   What are you gonna do, threaten to ground them if they break a rule?  How can you possibly change a diaper? Walk them down the aisle? Hug them?  You can’t!  Parent’s do these things.  Astronauts on Mars being exploited exhibited for the entertainment of others or to actually attempt a colony on a naturally unlivable planet cannot.  Mommies on a computer monitor cannot.  And though the company claims to be non-profit, I have little doubt that everyone involved, should this be successful, will make a pretty penny from non-company related perks, speaking events, book deals, etc., etc., etc.  Even if the person is to get a paycheck for their contribution, I don’t think any little Martians will care about it. (photo above adapted from Bryan Versteeg’s artist depiction of the colony.)

The fact is that a parent’s job is rooted in their children, and until facilities exist to provide adequate care for children elsewhere, parent’s will be rooted down here on Earth.  This mission will require people without the roots which parenting requires.    I will certainly watch as this story and mission develops over the next 10 years, but I will happily watch from my couch, in my house, in my city, in my country, on planet Earth, with my family.

Questions, Comments, Smart Remarks?

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