Monday, November 29, 2010

If Martians Existed, NASA Would Be The Sixth Branch Of The U.S. Armed Forces



On the train ride to work this morning, I was going over the idea of how much more advanced our space exploration technology would be if Mars was a viable planet with a diverse ecosystem and life on a general parallel with our own. If Martians existed, and at roughly the same time and level of technological development as how we've progressed over the millennia . . . could you imagine the possibilities? Just think how much of human history would have been changed by this one premise.

Would the first astronomers to use optical instruments have been surprised to find Martian telescopes winking back at them? What would this have done for religion? For communications technology? I think we would have developed radio much, much sooner if we knew there were other species out there in the great beyond to talk with. I know radio waves would not be the ideal way to communicate with Mars, but it's where the technology would have started, just as it did in our present timeline. Or perhaps we would have developed a light-based communication system with the Martians -- something akin to semaphore, or a laser-based version of Morse Code. But this could have all started much earlier in our history, like during the Middle Ages or slightly earlier.

When Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, would European merchants already be focusing their efforts on plotting the quickest route to Mars? Given enough greed and determination -- not to mention a clear and obvious goal staring down at them from the night sky -- might we not have figured out rocket propulsion and space flight sooner? After all, we did have Leonardo Da Vinci back then. I'm sure his crackpot ideas would have been given a whole lot more credence by the ruling European elite of the time had Martians been a part of the picture.

So, yes, we would have had space flight a lot sooner. Not only that, but our space program would not be the under-funded, curiously neutered thing it is today. No. It would probably be the most important government agency of them all. We probably would've been traveling to Mars and back since the 19th century, especially during those moments when the orbits of both planets are closest to one another. I have to wonder if other star systems with two or more habitable planets might not already be benefiting from this set-up. When not suffering from the pig-headed and illogical belief that your race is the only intelligent species out there in the whole cosmos, what is it that a race of intelligent thinkers cannot accomplish?

So for a while there I started to bemoan the fact that our solar system is devoid of life similar to ours. We would probably be a far more advanced people if we had a sister world to reach out toward.

But then, of course, my cynical side takes over. Humans being humans, more likely we would have advanced rapidly to outer space only so that we could conquer Mars and absorb all of its resources. Moreover, without even the veil of human decency to curb our actions (after all, do Martians even have souls?), wholesale genocide of the Martians would probably not even generate a batted eyelid from the general public back home on Earth. Imagine the monsters we would have become as a race of Martian baby killers?

Or, an even worse scenario: what if the reverse happened? After all, who's to say the Martians didn't get a jump start on us? For that matter, maybe in that hypothetical star system that does have more than one habitable planet sustaining life, the species of those worlds battled each other to extinction. And maybe that's why we don't see them venturing out to our corner of the Milky Way?

Hmm, on second thought, maybe it's a good thing that our solar system only has one Earth-like planet with intelligent life on it. Any accelerated technological advantages we might have enjoyed as a result of our sister planet being habitable and inhabited might have come at too steep a price. If both our planets aren't destroyed outright in the War of Worlds that would have surely ensued, at the very least the victor would emerge as a cruel, despotic explorer, using the advanced weapons of war to seek out and destroy other cosmic civilizations located outside our solar system.

Maybe it's best, then, that Earth figures out its own troubles in isolation, and how to treat its fellow human beings better before we develop the technology to leave our sandbox and seek out other company. Perhaps a Gene Rodenberry-esque future is not so improbable. After all, the way things look now, we won't be getting off this rock any time soon until we figure out how to get along and stop trying to solve everything by hurling penis-shaped projectiles at one another.

By the time we're ready for true space exploration, perhaps we will have had the time to evolve better sense. Something I don't think would happen if we had Martians to contend with.

Still, it's an intriguing concept, this idea of a sister world so close to our own that our ancestors might have reached out and touched someone . . . green!

1 comment:

Kim Kasch said...

I love Leo

DiVinci don't cha know... :)

And, I always think God would have had to do more than simply create humans. Just because we haven't figured it out - that doesn't mean they aren't out there :)

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