Humans haven’t visited the moon since the 1970s and the recent surge in public support for a manned Mars mission may not be enough to motivate explorers to leave the comfort of Earth and colonize the red planet.
Patriotism, profit, and science may not be enough to encourage thousands of people to leave Earth forever and settle on the cold desolate plains of Mars, but religion might.
Experts on space travel discussed religious motivation for space travel at the annual Mars Society Convention in Washington D.C. last week, Paul Levinson, a science fiction writer and Fordham University professor, told Space.com.
“Since we got to the moon and we’d already beaten the Soviets that motive was gone. Science continues to be a motivating factor, but it’s a weak motivation. NASA has tried, and it hasn’t ignited any real passion.”
Elon Musk recently unveiled his plans for a fleet of spaceships to carry thousands of settlers to the red planet to establish a Martian colony and make mankind a multiplanet species.
The Earth to Mars crossing will be difficult and dangerous, however, and Musk admits early settlers have a very real possibility of dying, so they will need to be highly motivated individuals.
Religion and the desire to spread the Word of God might be enough to encourage thousands of people to leave the comfort of Earth behind and go live in the harsh and dangerous climate of Mars, Levinson told Space.com.
“There’s a motivation every sentient being has. Every person … has wonder … We ask what is the meaning of our place in the universe. Science doesn’t even scratch the deepest parts of that question.”
Religion has an extensive history of motivating the exploration of distant lands and the colonization of far away places and monks are often found in seclusion. A personal belief in the Christian God and the truth of the Bible isn’t necessarily challenged by space travel, the idea of multiple habitable worlds, or even the existence of alien life.
In the late 19th century, the Catholic Church authorized Abbe Moigno, a French Jesuit priest and scientist, to decide whether the idea of multiple habitable worlds could coexist with Catholic religious belief, according to Gizmodo.
“[Multiple habitable worlds] in no way conflict with the doctrines of the Creation, Incarnation, and Redemption as taught by the Catholic Church.”
Even the existence of alien life isn’t prohibited by the Bible, according to the Catholic Church, Father Jose Gabriel Funes told Gizmodo.
“Not believing aliens could exist would be putting limits on the creative freedom of God.”
One religious leader is actively encouraging space travel as a way to spread Christianity to the stars. Jason Batt, group life director at Capital Christian Center in Sacramento, Calif., told a group of religious leaders at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, that the church should begin preparing for an off-planet ministry, according to Space.com.
“The church has the resources, funding and reach to garner support for an interstellar mission.”
Space travel does bring up some problems for religious practice, however, and not just for Christians. Which direction is Mecca in when you’re in space and how do you rest on the Sabbath when in orbit around the Earth and the sun rises and sets every 90 minutes?
These are questions some astronauts have already had to deal with and religious leaders have answered that the best idea is just for space travelers to do their best and that it’s the thought that counts.
Do you think religion would be enough to motivate thousands of people to leave Earth and colonize Mars?
[Featured Image by Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock]