Netflix recently released season two of National Geographic’s sci-fi/documentary hybrid Mars. The first season was uneven but enjoyable, and the budget has been pumped up for the second go-around. The story moves at a brisk pace, starting the new season five years after the first season (spoiler alert: the Mars colony becomes sustainable) and even more years have elapsed by the time the season finale wraps up. Alas, the show is rumored to have been canceled by Nat Geo but the way the second season ended, it makes for a fairly satisfying series finale if this is indeed the case.
Two things characterize this show, particularly in the documentary footage and interviews spliced in between the fictional adventures of the Martian explorers: an unflappable belief that a human colony on Mars is an inevitability, and an equally unflappable optimism in humanity’s ability to make this dream come true. The over-eagerness is sometimes eye-roll worthy and the experts being interviewed talk about this endeavor as if it’s happening right now. The groundwork is certainly being laid out thanks in large part to mega-billionaires like Elon Musk bankrolling a number of spacefaring projects (and he makes frequent appearances in the show). My thoughts on self-sustaining space exploration are easy to ascertain from my articles on this website (short version: it’s never going to happen) and you can click here to check out my thoughts about the first season of Mars.
In my previous article, I pondered what part religion, and specifically Christianity, would play in space travel and colonization. It’s obvious that no matter where we go in the universe, God is omnipresent and omnipotent, and as Jonah figured out a bit too late, there is nowhere we can go where God is not. The question is would we acknowledge Him when we got there? In our society, science is increasingly atheistic and it stands to reason that the gatekeepers to the stars would do their best to keep God out, in essence making themselves gods of what they perceive as uncharted territory.
I would like to delve into the flip side of this equation, and my thought process on this issue was sparked by something an expert said in an interview in one of the latter episodes of season two. To paraphrase, she said that colonizing Mars would let us start over, to correct the mistakes we’ve made on Earth, to have a clean slate and do things better this time. Her naivete would be adorable if it weren’t so tragically misguided. There have been numerous instances in history when intrepid explorers struck out to start new colonies and societies, and sometimes the “new” world has surpassed the “ol” (‘Merica!). Yet this greatness is only achieved at great cost in terms of human lives and environmental impacts. Newt Gingrich appeared on the show and he outlined the tension between progress and preservation, with progress always winning in the end.
But wait, one might say, there are no people on Mars to enslave or forests to topple. This perceived emptiness makes it even more enticing for profitable exploitation, a key source of conflict in the second season of Mars. Greed leads people to make costly errors but also propels them to new discoveries. The terrestrial experts agree that there will be countless challenges on Mars but they can be overcome by cooperation and the realization that we are all in this together.
There’s just one problem. No matter where people go in this universe, they bring along an unwanted passenger: their own sin natures. Mankind had a glorious utopia and ruined it; why would we “do things better” if we somehow made it to a ruthless wasteland like Mars? The people eagerly awaiting the opportunity for a fresh start are ignorant of the corruption rooted deep within their hearts, and this corruption naturally bleeds out onto anything sinful humans touch. In fact, Mars itself groans because of man’s sin on an entirely different planet. Our world, despite being fallen, still exhibits tremendous beauty, and there is a stark beauty in Martian landscapes as well, but it is at one’s own peril to think humanity could have a second chance and somehow get it right this time.
Of course, without the Holy Spirit regenerating these corrupt hearts, there is no way to convince those eager to go that they would be bringing their innate sin natures with them. Most of these explorers would likely dismiss the concept of sin as archaic and perhaps even flat out false. Let’s hope they don’t get the chance to prove themselves wrong.