WHITTINGTON: Bill Nye Is A Mars Settlement Denier

Mark Whittington | Contributor

Bill Nye, the former “science guy” and president of the Planetary Society, recently declared in an interview that settling Mars and terraforming it into a reasonable analogue of Earth is “science fiction.” Robert Zubrin, the president of the Mars Society who dreams of a Mars frontier as a second branch of humanity and SpaceX’s Elon Musk, who wants to build a city on the Red Planet, are apparently living and working in vain.

Nye had some curious reasons for suggesting that no one would want to live on Mars:

Nobody’s gonna go settle on Mars to raise a family and have generations of Martians, It’s not reasonable because it’s so cold. And there is hardly any water. There’s absolutely no food, and the big thing, I just remind these guys, there’s nothing to breathe.

Mars settlement advocates believe that “all of those conditions can be overcome with clever engineering and sound science. Water can be mined from Martian soil and then recycled. The CO2 in the Martian atmosphere can be extracted, processed into oxygen and recycled as well. Mars settlers would grow or manufacture their own food. They would live, at least initially, in temperature controlled habitats.

Nye is dismissive about living under a dome.

“When you leave your dome, you’re gonna put on another dome, and I think that will get old pretty quick, Especially the smell in the spacesuit — all the Febreze you can pack, I think it will really help you up there.”

On the other hand, people who live in places where winter is extreme have to put on their own “space suits” in the form of cold weather gear. The effort has not stopped humans from living in Alaska, Canada, or Scandinavia.

Many Mars settlement advocates dream of turning Mars into another Earth using a process called terraforming. Many scientists believe that Mars was very much like Earth, billions of years ago. However, the Red Planet’s magnetic field failed, causing solar wind to strip away its atmosphere, evaporating much of its surface water, and rendering the planet the cold, arid place it is today.

A piece in Next Big Future suggests that all humans would have to do would be to establish an artificial magnetic shield at the Mars Sun Lagrange 1 point, effectively blocking solar winds from hitting the Red Planet. The Martian atmosphere would gradually reestablish itself, allowing for the creation of a Mars environment much as existed billions of years ago.

Bill Nye snarks about terraforming as well. “This whole idea of terraforming Mars, as respectful as I can be, are you guys high? We can’t even take care of this planet where we live, and we’re perfectly suited for it, let alone another planet.”

One is tempted to ask, “Who is this ‘we’ you keep talking about?” Mars, if nothing else, would be a great laboratory for developing ways to take care of our planet through terraforming.

Nye’s pronouncement about settling Mars is reminiscent of how the British Astronomer Royal Richard van der Riet Wooley declared in 1956 that spaceflight was “utter bilge.” A year later, the Soviets launched Sputnik. Five years later, Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth. 13 years later, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. No doubt when people finally do live on Mars, they will do so despite Nye’s assertion to the contrary.

Why would anyone want to leave the comforts of Earth to face a life of challenge and danger on Mars? One great reason, it would seem, is that moving to Mars would place 100 million miles between the Martian pioneer and annoying scolds such as Bill Nye.

Mark Whittington (@MarkWhittington) is the author of Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? and The Moon, Mars and Beyond. He also operates his own blog, Curmudgeons Corner. 


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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