Everyone and their mother wants to send people to Mars these days. Dutch spaceflight nonprofits, President Obama, and even Buzz Aldrin have seriously discussed plans to put humans on the inhospitable planet in the next few decades. But what happens when they get there?
The aforementioned nonprofit, Mars One, hopes to turn the first human colonization of another planet into a reality TV show, allowing people on Earth to watch the settlers’ every move. As the Guardian points out, though, the first few permanent Mars colonists will face more than just a freezing, dust-ridden environment. They’re also likely to careen over the edge of psychological instability as everyone back home watches.
The combination of utter social isolation, eternal confinement in a tiny Mars-One-constructed habitat, the 24-hour surveillance of reality TV, and a lack of mental health services will converge to drive the few dozen people selected to die on the red planet completely bonkers. Even astronauts who know they’re coming home eventually can become depressed and anxious in the lonely vacuum of space. Imagine being stuck in a tiny survival pod with only a few people, with transmission delays impeding your ability to keep in touch with people on Earth, unable to travel freely outside on the freezing, barren dustball that is the Martian surface. Forever. Until you die, going down in history as one of the first boldly idiotic explorers of a new world.
“Mars One is either ignoring the psychological consequences of colonisation or failing to disclose them,” the Guardian notes. “Either way, if their plan goes ahead – and for the sake of the colonists we might hope that it doesn’t – then Nasa’s manned mission in the 2030s may well be dubbed Mars Rescue.” Until they send a team of psychotherapists, best to explore from home, for now.
Read more on the psychological ramifications of a permanent Mars colony here.