David A. Weintraub


On his book Life on Mars: What to Know Before We Go

Cover Interview of May 06, 2018


NASA plans to send astronauts into orbit around Mars by the 2030s. Elon Musk wants to send colonists to land on Mars on a SpaceX rocket even sooner, by 2024. Jeff Bezos wants to use his Blue Origin rockets to put space adventurers into work in Earth orbit in the 2020s; he then plans to continue outward to the Moon and Mars. The folks at Mars One want to land permanent settlers on Mars in 2032. The ruler of Dubai has plans to build an entire city on Mars no later than 2117. Mars may well represent the future of humanity.

Readers should understand that the days of science fiction regarding Mars are over. No more War of the Worlds, no more Martian Chronicles, no more Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars. Humans setting foot on Mars, perhaps colonizing Mars and working to terraform Mars – all of these things could happen within a decade and almost certainly will happen within the lifetimes of many readers, unless very soon humanity collectively decides that we shouldn’t do any of these things.

As we gear up for missions like these, we have a responsibility to think deeply about what kinds of life, if any, may already inhabit the red planet; also, the potential impact of injecting terrestrial biota into a possible Martian biosphere. Do we have an inalienable right to invite ourselves in? I hope my readers will spend some time deeply pondering their own answers to this question.