Mars is back in the news in recent weeks. NASA’s InSight lander has been snapping hi-res selfies and delighting the world with stunning views of the Martian landscape. Well, as stunning as a wasteland of red rocks under a dusty red sky can be. Still, it’s pretty amazing that a robot assembled here on Earth is now scooting along on another planet more than 33 million miles away and beaming back photos that are clearer than the pictures I take of my kids.
As with any Martian mission, speculation and curiosity are in abundance. Will this mission detect surface water? Will we finally find signs of life? Will we bring Matt Damon home? I noticed that Amazon Prime released the Tim Burton goof-fest Mars Attacks to coincide with the excitement. In that movie, Pierce Brosnan’s scientist character tells Sarah Jessica Parker’s ditzy journalist that the reason we hadn’t yet detected Martian life is because their civilization developed beneath the surface. With the InSight lander expected to drill a full five meters into the red dirt, who knows what wonders we will uncover?
Along with the scientific hoopla that accompanies all interplanetary missions, especially those to our red neighbor, the general public becomes enamored with the possibility of manned Mars missions looming on the not-so-distant horizon. When Silicon Valley demigods like Elon Musk turn their attention to Mars, it’s hard not to get carried away on a wave not unlike the one that swept pioneering wagon trains westward. A bright and vibrant future awaits those brave enough to take the leap into the unknown and forge a new world out of the cold rocks of a hostile planet.
The only problem is, we’re a long way for anything like this happening in any form or fashion. I’m quite cynical about space travel, considering how little progress we’ve made over the last 50 years after man first walked on the moon. I place a lot of the blame on Hollywood for making space travel seem a lot easier than it really is (along with hand-to-hand combat, shooting guns, surviving an apocalypse, and finding true love). Getting a human into geostationary orbit is a massive undertaking; sending one to Mars and keeping them alive is literally astronomical. Of course, with enough brains and resources, history has shown that the impossible can become possible, and I would only be moderately surprised to see a manned mission to Mars in my lifetime.
It’s not the concept of a manned Martian mission, or even a Martian colony, that I push back against. It’s the idea that things would somehow be better if we could just get off this crowded, polluted rock called Earth. How many times in history have people ventured out into unknown lands in search of a better life? There is hardly a patch of unexplored land in our world today, and what do we find in every one of these previously unknown places? Greed, lies, jealousy, laziness, corruption; every vice that afflicts the human condition. What makes anyone think that a colony on the moon or Mars or Europa would be any different?
The problem is sin. No matter where a human goes, there goes sin along with them. And no matter what humans try to do or build or conquer, it is all in vain unless their endeavors are blessed by God (Ps. 127:1). Sure, going to Mars might solve problems like overpopulation for the select few that journey there, but that isn’t the real problem, is it? Pollution, waste, pillaging of resources, etc. are merely symptoms of the evil nature that resides in the heart of every person that has ever lived. Unless God reaches into that heart and restores it through His divine favor and grace, there is no hope for us, no matter how far into the stars we go.