Let’s go to Mars! I’m all for it.
But let’s not make the mistake of pretending that a Martian colony represents some human lifeboat failsafe; that it could be a ‘offline humanity backup’ ready to return society to Earth in case of a total apocalyptic event. Let’s face it, the worst day on Earth will beat the best day on Mars — when it comes to survival — every time.
The likelihood that an ELE (extinction level event) will kill EVERY human on the planet, is pretty darn small. While the likelihood that an ‘uh-oh!’ moment on Mars will kill every Martian is much much higher.
Eukaryotic life has existed continuously on this planet for 2.5by. On Mars — never. Even through massive extinction level events, earth was livable within a few years to decades later. You screw up on Mars – game over! You crawl out of your cave on Earth after 20 years – hey fresh start. And look, O2 to breath for free and H2O to drink. And I don’t have to wear a spacesuit to go take a pee outside. (Not that you’d ever do that on Mars…)
Things that might go wrong on earth that would require a human society reboot:
- Bio-terrorist attack? Nuclear winter? Killing everyone? Extremely unlikely.
- Snowball earth would take centuries to develop, not much of a ELE there.
- Super volcano? Mega asteroid? Both would come with warnings, plenty of time to distribution billions of dollars of resources in underground locales around the globe (or on the moon).
- Sun death? What? In like 5b years? Like humanity is gonna even survive the next U.S. election cycle…
If Musk was sincere about saving humanity, and he was serious about doing it soon, then he should probably build an ark on the Moon and keep it stocked with a Svalbard Seed Vault and a couple of IBM Watsons full of all the information to rebuild society. Oh and maybe a few ten thousand embryos of a few hundred different species of animals, not to mention embryos of humans. Maybe get a couple of dozen caretakers up there too. Then, a generation or so after the planet gets wiped – send down a part of the Ark to kickstart society. If you ‘really’ wanted to protect the continuity of the human species — that’s the way to do it.
Probability speaking, the odds that a Martian colony will survive long enough, off or on its own, be able to package up every possible resource a new Earth based human colony will need, send it back successfully, to land successfully, in a location that is now “fit for humanity” is so astronomically small that to speak of it as one of the primary reasons to build a Martian colony is ludicrous.
Elon Musk’s scenario puts the “successful isolated backup drive” on Mars, out, realistically, to at least five generations. We could build the Lunar Ark in one.
Point is, you wanna create a backup drive? Either make one here where you’ve already got all the resources to do so. Or, if you’re drop-dead convinced that Earth will get clean-slated, then build a lunar back up system. The Lunar Ark system could work!