12. Humanity on Mars

This page contains the current draft of the full text of Chapter 12 of RAFT 2035. All content is subject to change.

To offer comments and suggestions on the following material, please use this shared Google document.

12. Humanity on Mars

Goal 12 of RAFT 2035 is that the UK will be part of an organisation that maintains a continuous human presence on Mars.


A continuous human presence on Mars will help transform humanity’s perspective, from being inward-looking and Earth-bound, to being outward-looking and cosmos-embracing.

As an alternative, robot exploration of Mars could carry out many useful scientific experiments, but having humans present there too will provide a significant additional perspective. A round trip visit to Mars by robots can act as an important prelude to a round trip visit by humans.

Journeys to Mars can also provide useful information and experience that will assist subsequent trips to the asteroid belt, with the possibility of mining the asteroids, as mentioned in Goal 10.

Raising consciousness

When astronauts reached the Moon in the late 1960s, it raised the consciousness of people all over the Earth who avidly watched the adventure on TV screens. Conflicts between different nations were forgotten, for a while at least. The astronauts carried an American flag, but could also be seen as representatives of the entire planet.

The “earthrise” photograph, taken by astronaut Bill Anders while orbiting the moon in Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve 1968, helped ignite a worldwide grassroots “whole earth” movement. Anders observed, “We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth”.

Reflecting on the perspective provided from the windows of Apollo 8, American poet Archibald MacLeish wrote these words in the New York Times:

To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold – brothers who know now they are truly brothers.

Rusty Schweickart, an astronaut on the next flight in the same series, Apollo 9, undertook a space walk as part of that trip. For five minutes he simply stared at the Earth below him. He later summarised his thoughts as follows:

You look down there and you can’t imagine how many borders and boundaries you cross, again and again and again, and you don’t even see them. There you are – hundreds of people in the Middle East killing each other over some imaginary line that you’re not even aware of, that you can’t see. And from where you see it, the thing is a whole, the earth is a whole, and it’s so beautiful. You wish you could take a person in each hand, one from each side in the various conflicts, and say, “Look. Look at it from this perspective. Look at that. What’s important?”

Changes in focus

Back in the 1970s, it was widely assumed that humans would visit Mars before the end of the century. However, in the years that followed, Nasa’s interest was diverted instead onto an international space station, which produced its own line of benefits – including learning how astronauts can spend ever longer periods of time away from the Earth.

It has been independent entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos that have, more recently, rekindled the idea of interplanetary travel, making impressive progress with their companies SpaceX and Blue Origin.

What is needed now is productive collaboration between the best elements of public and private initiatives. Moreover, the project will benefit significantly from input from around the world, including resources in the UK.

One important field of innovation could be in new types of rocket, that would reduce the amount of time required to travel between the Earth and Mars. As summarised by a BBC review article “New engine tech that could get us to Mars faster”, alternative engine mechanisms potentially include:

  • Solar electric propulsion
  • Nuclear thermal electric propulsion
  • Electric ion propulsion.

Interim targets

To accelerate progress with Goal 12, two interim targets for 2025 are proposed:

  1. Humans will walk on the Moon again, helping humanity to rediscover a sense of cosmic delight. These new visitors to our nearest cosmic neighbour should include women as well as men, and people from many different nationalities.
  2. A round trip mission to Mars will be underway, using robots, to collect rock samples and then return them to Earth.

Expertise from the United Kingdom can assist both of these projects.

Moving forwards

Humanity’s journey into the wider cosmos involves, not just physical movement, but gradual mastery of the most powerful energy sources of the cosmos. This includes taming the enormous energy of nuclear fusion – the subject of the next chapter.

For more information

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RAFT 2035 – a new initiative for a new decade

The need for a better politics is more pressing than ever.

Since its formation, Transpolitica has run a number of different projects aimed at building momentum behind a technoprogressive vision for a better politics. For a new decade, it’s time to take a different approach, to build on previous initiatives.

The planned new vehicle has the name “RAFT 2035”.

RAFT is an acronym:

  • Roadmap (‘R’) – not just a lofty aspiration, but specific steps and interim targets
  • towards Abundance (‘A’) for all – beyond a world of scarcity and conflict
  • enabling Flourishing (‘F’) as never before – with life containing not just possessions, but enriched experiences, creativity, and meaning
  • via Transcendence (‘T’) – since we won’t be able to make progress by staying as we are.

RAFT is also a metaphor. Here’s a copy of the explanation:

When turbulent waters are bearing down fast, it’s very helpful to have a sturdy raft at hand.

The fifteen years from 2020 to 2035 could be the most turbulent of human history. Revolutions are gathering pace in four overlapping fields of technology: nanotech, biotech, infotech, and cognotech, or NBIC for short. In combination, these NBIC revolutions offer enormous new possibilities – enormous opportunities and enormous risks:…

Rapid technological change tends to provoke a turbulent social reaction. Old certainties fade. New winners arrive on the scene, flaunting their power, and upturning previous networks of relationships. Within the general public, a sense of alienation and disruption mingles with a sense of profound possibility. Fear and hope jostle each other. Whilst some social metrics indicate major progress, others indicate major setbacks. The claim “You’ve never had it so good” coexists with the counterclaim “It’s going to be worse than ever”. To add to the bewilderment, there seems to be lots of evidence confirming both views.

The greater the pace of change, the more intense the dislocation. Due to the increased scale, speed, and global nature of the ongoing NBIC revolutions, the disruptions that followed in the wake of previous industrial revolutions – seismic though they were – are likely to be dwarfed in comparison to what lies ahead.

Turbulent times require a space for shelter and reflection, clear navigational vision despite the mists of uncertainty, and a powerful engine for us to pursue our own direction, rather than just being carried along by forces outside our control. In short, turbulent times require a powerful “raft” – a roadmap to a future in which the extraordinary powers latent in NBIC technologies are used to raise humanity to new levels of flourishing, rather than driving us over some dreadful precipice.

The words just quoted come from the opening page of a short book that is envisioned to be published in January 2020. The chapters of this book are reworked versions of the scripts used in the recent “Technoprogressive roadmap” series of videos.

Over the next couple of weeks, all the chapters of this proposed book will be made available for review and comment:

  • As pages on the Transpolitica website, starting here
  • As shared Google documents, starting here, where comments and suggestions are welcome.

RAFT Cover 21

All being well, RAFT 2035 will also become a conference, held sometime around the middle of 2020.

You may note that, in that way that RAFT 2035 is presented to the world,

  • The word “transhumanist” has moved into the background – since that word tends to provoke many hostile reactions
  • The word “technoprogressive” also takes a backseat – since, again, that word has negative connotations in at least some circles.

If you like the basic idea of what’s being proposed, here’s how you can help:

  • Read some of the content that is already available, and provide comments
    • If you notice something that seems mistaken, or difficult to understand
    • If you think there is a gap that should be addressed
    • If you think there’s a better way to express something.

Thanks in anticipation!

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