Mason Peck, PhD, is an adviser to Mars One, and a professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University. Peck served as NASA’s Chief Technologist from late 2011 through 2013, advising the head of NASA on technology issues. In addition to his doctorate in aerospace engineering, Peck has an academic background in humanities. He agreed to answer a group of questions surrounding the ethics of the Mars One mission.
Here, he answers: Is a one-way mission insane? Here’s how Mason Peck responded to the question:
“There are many motivations for becoming one of the first settlers on Mars, none of them insane in my opinion. These include:
- “A noble sense of self-sacrifice, if you believe that extending human presence into the solar system will help ensure the survival of the species.”
- “A desire for the immortality that comes with fame, despite the risk to life and limb. In some sense, putting yourself at risk helps ensure your influence on the history of humanity will outlive your physical being.”
- “A desire for personal accomplishment, or overcoming a challenge, the same sort of thing that drives people to join expeditions to the summit of Mount Everest.”
- “Self-interest, including the prospect of making money as a Mars entrepreneur, or helping your family and friends back on Earth do the same.”
“It will be essential for all involved to proceed with a clear understanding of the risks: that is, the probability of success (or failure) and the consequences. To me, that’s the key ethical concern: transparency. If people choose to undertake this risky activity will full knowledge of the risks, I see no ethical issues. In fact, I think we may be morally obligated to permit people the freedom to do so, and not impede their desire to realize their dreams by imposing our own fears or superstitions based on uninformed perspectives.”
“I also reject this Kobayashi Maru scenario on its face. [For readers unfamiliar with Kobayashi Maru, it’s a famous no-win test scenario used in several Star Trek films and novels.] One of the first things I would do upon landing is to begin building the tools, the equipment, and the economic structures to one day build an Earth return vehicle. Such a hope would not be irrational. In fact, it’s easier to lift off from Mars and enter Mars orbit than to do the same on Earth. I’m confident that the right group of engineers could pull this off over the course of a couple of decades, at least returning to cislunar space. And remember—they’ll likely have internet access. So, the folks back home can send them schematics, analyses, even test results, to help make that effort a success.”
That’s one view, straight from a Mars One adviser.
What do you think?
This blog originally appeared on the Mars One Exchange at www.community.mars-one.com/blog.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense