The Best of All Worlds #4: Mars
Mars. The Red Planet. Where men are from.
Mars has long captured the imagination of the human race, much as men have long captured the imagination of human women. Ever since some dude in ancient times noticed a red star wandering aimlessly across the celestial sphere, humanity has wondered: when will Mars get a real job and settle down? The answer is, like, never. Mars is content to putz around with the surveyor robots we keep sending it, and it has no inclination to start its own family of life forms anytime soon.
Oh, sure, we could assign a few astronauts to Mars to whip the planet into shape. In fact, a team of malcontent Earthlings is already assembling a madcap expedition to Mars, a one-way ticket to colonize our next-door neighbour. When they arrive, however, they may find their new home a little less accomodating than they expected.
You see, because NASA is kind enough to share the photos they’re taking with their wacky RC dune buggies, we often assume that Mars is merely a dusty red desert, like a rusty version of Arizona. But when our migrant workers show up on Mars, they’re going to wish for a border patrol to ship them across the Solar System, back to Earth. The God-forsaken plains of Mars make the driest Earth desert seem like the Garden of Eden.
How did Mars turn out so crappy? Well, it hasn’t bothered to generate a magnetic field like its overachieving older sister, Earth. Troops of Martian Boy Scouts will find themselves lost in its howling wastes, their compasses twirling uselessly in their fingers. Also, they will be dead, because without a magnetic field, Mars is unable to retain a thick and rich atmosphere like Earth’s. Like a screaming drill sergeant with a tenuous grasp of oral hygiene, our Sun is continually blasting its planets with charged particles that Earth’s magnetic field successfully deflects. But Mars got lazy, so the solar radiation has stripped away nearly all of its atmosphere and supplied an electrostatic charge to the Martian dust. This means that not only is Mars practically enveloped in vacuum, but its dust sticks to everything. And it’s nasty, corrosive stuff. If you’re the kind of person who hates the feeling of sand in your swimsuit, don’t go to Mars. The Mars dust will slowly eat away your swimsuit until it disintegrates in the most awkward fashion imaginable at the office pool party.
So maybe Mars isn’t such a great place to live. And maybe it’s no wonder that the Martians of H. G. Wells lore were so eager to escape their planet and take over our own. But when you consider some of its delinquent siblings, maybe Mars isn’t all that bad. The Red Planet would be a worse place to live than anywhere on Earth, but at least you could live there someday for a while without melting into a puddle of molten slag. And in the meantime, we can send our little robot toys to our neighbouring world to poke at rocks and look for water and stuff. Mars even got off the couch long enough to score a couple dinky moons for itself. So you know, maybe this layabout planet will amount to something after all.
Our rankings so far:
What would motivate you to move out of your parents’ basement and travel to Mars? Let us all know in the comments below, then scroll back up and vote for the BEST planet and the WORST planet in our Solar System!