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The Mars Underground (2007)

 -  Documentary  -  9 May 2007 (USA)
7.9
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Visionary rocket scientist, Robert Zubrin, has a plan for getting humans to Mars in the next ten years and ultimately turning the Red Planet blue. But can he win over the skeptics at NASA and the wider world?

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Visionary rocket scientist, Robert Zubrin, has a plan for getting humans to Mars in the next ten years and ultimately turning the Red Planet blue. But can he win over the skeptics at NASA and the wider world?

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Earth attacks
30 July 2014 | by (Romania) – See all my reviews

I've just watched Zubrin's movie, The Mars Underground, a film that is describing his obsession with colonizing Mars. I admired his drive, his goal oriented strategic thinking.

Many fascinating concepts were described, from technical to psychological to political. Some ideas were really brilliant and got me thinking.

As interesting as it was, though, there were a lot of parallels that did not seem to work. The much touted comparison with Columbus, for example. Spain sent some people there, but that was because it already had a powerful fleet of ships. The parallel to Mars can only apply only after Earth has a lot of different types of spaceships, private and politically free to roam the "seas". Also, half of the Americas is speaking Spanish, but Spain is not much better for it. Politicians don't forget that. Then I felt that the entire concept was based on the idea that nothing will break. If something does break you are witnessing not only technical failure and loss of life, but something more tragic - at least mediatically speaking: people slowly dying in a spaceship to nowhere, for example. That could go both ways: make people respect the sacrifice and try to do better, or make them so afraid that another half century will pass before we do anything.

One compelling argument that Zubrin made was that 30 years of doing nothing in space, measuring from the end of the Apollo program, wasted an entire generation of engineers and scientists. For me, that was more evil than the lack of vision. This could be applicable now. The space and aeronautical industry is getting back up. People will be hired more and more and trained in the fields necessary for it. The harm here would be to lose all that knowledge in another political hiccup.

Too bad that the film was filled with these humanist "let's do it" kind of philosophy that clearly doesn't motivate anyone. Otherwise we would have billion dollar missions to colonize Africa (making sure the self sustained colony pods have automated defences against the heavily armed thugs that rule those regions). Could it be that the most attractive characteristic of outer space is that there is no one there to oppose us? The attraction of the void, pulling and sucking anything into it.

Bottom line: a dedicated man is trying to do everything possible to make his vision happen. Unfortunately, his vision requires governments and/or private companies to pay billions of dollars with no immediate benefits. No one wants to finance a colonisation of Mars by other people and people with money on Earth certainly don't feel the need to change things. The humanistic philosophy therein also left me cold. I don't see "the American people" very enthusiastic about Chinese or even European missions in space. Until we challenge and overcome this nationalistic view of exploration, no great ideals will motivate anyone. Fruit of the poisonous tree and all.


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