Obsession with Safety = No Adventure

The obsession with 100% safety and the absolute intolerance for any fatalities is, as far as I'm concerned, one of the main reasons we've have no Age of Space Discovery (1492-17th century) losses were very high. One would think that it would be easy to find data on just how dangerous it was but after spending a half hour in futility I can't give any detailed information. But suffice to say that many ships went down, more than one expedition disappeared entirely. Columbus, during his first voyage, lost one of his three ships and barely made it home after hitting a severe storm on his way home.

If people of the Age of Discovery had the same intolerance for risk that investors, scientists, government, etc. have today, I'd be living somewhere in Europe with no clue that the Americas even exist.

I've written on the Mars One program in the past -- the planned one-way trip to Mars to explore and establish a colony -- and this week I saw an article on that program that piqued my interest. It features yet another wet-blanket researched railing against the idea of such an expedition because there are (gasp) risks of death: Mars One plan has potentially deadly flaws, scientists say.

No kidding. Well, the Santa Maria had potentially deadly flaws too, being a  Renaissance carrack, and ran aground. It was the best technology they had at the time, though, and Columbus didn't feel like waiting 400 years for maritime technology to advance to the safety of a modern ship. But would modern ships have ever been developed if no one took to the sea because older vessels had "potentially deadly flaws?"

Dr. Sydney Doe, of the MIT kill-joy research team, says: "Someone has to ask themselves: Am I ready to rely on this technology which has been tested for two years to operate for an extra 50 years, since my life is dependent on it?" Well, the Canadians on the Mars One short list, at least, are ready to rely on the technology.

Tyler Reyno, from Nova Scotia, said "Obviously, keeping humans alive on Mars is extremely difficult. You just have to understand there's a lot of uncertainty and a lot of unknowns and those who are passionate and inspired will understand that and do it anyway."

Exploration of any kind just can't happen without risk. I suspect that the modern aversion to deadly risk is at least in part due to the widespread lack of belief in the afterlife. If this is all you've got, then you want to live as long as possible. Maybe it's also part of a life filled with too much comfort.


Sophia's Favorite said...

Part of it is that, with medicine and sanitation what they were in 16th- and 17th-century Europe, your odds were only slightly worse going to the New World than staying in the Old. Plus, a European's odds of surviving conflict with Indians were almost never worse than his odds in the newly-invented continent-spanning nationalist wars in Europe.

But the worst of the dangers experienced by explorers on Earth is nothing to Mars. The big issue is the weather—temperatures vary by the difference between ice and steam, just in the course of a day, with atmospheric effects to match—and, relatedly, the rusty dirt that makes it "the Red Planet". Not only are Mars' dust-storms so severe, they cover most of the planet and have been known to circumvent seasons, but the dust itself is a strong oxidizer—like lye. We're only barely beginning to get a handle on how to build habitats that can survive that. The dust is also magnetic, which means it plays hell with instruments.

The comparison to New World colonization is unfair. If all the New World had been hurricane-country, and the rain accompanying hurricanes had lye dissolved in it, and losing buildings to hurricanes (or having them dissolved in the lye rain) meant losing your air...then it would be a fair comparison. Well, if the lye in the hurricanes was also cursed by witch-doctors to seek out and cling to every gun, compass, or torch the colonists brought, because that's what Mars' magnetic dust does with electronics.

Anonymous said...

Well I would think the other aspect would be, we are not allowed to put lives in danger without sufficient cause. The biggest difference between the two that I see is food. In the New World, you could have hunted, fished, had clean water. On Mars, you are completely dependent on the space agency. Add to this the fact that the smallest error, can result in your being lost in space literally. Lastly, I don't know if the have a return plan, on Earth you need the huge rockets to lift off, how would they return? Returning to the first point, does any gain satisfy this condition?
May God bless you and our Lady keep you!!!

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