While traveling to Mars, and beyond, has long been the subject of science fiction novels and movies, the possibility of humans living their life on Mars is nearer than it has ever been. With such uncharted territory well within the realm of the possible, if not probable, future, how should the Catholic faithful feel about the notion of starting a population on the Red Planet?
A Catholic life on Mars
According to the curator of the meteorite collection at the Vatican Observatory, Jesuit Br Robert Macke, the development of SpaceX doesn’t change or impact the relationship the Catholic faith has with God. He suggests that, rather than fret over how life on Mars will affect Catholicism, it is important to concern ourselves with how the technology to get us there is being developed and employed.
“As with any new development in technology or the way things are done, the main question for persons of faith regards how it is to be used,” Macke told the Catholic News Agency. He went on to suggest that it is important new technology be used “in a way that is just, and compatible with moral theology”.
The Falcon Heavy rocket
The Falcon Heavy rocket is the most powerful of operational rockets. It outpaces NASA engineered rockets by a factor of two.
The rocket was launched from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on 6 February. The official time of lift-off was 3.45pm and the rocket has the capability to launch 64 metric tonnes of mass into orbit. As a point of reference, this means the Falcon Heavy rocket could propel a fully booked-out 737 jetliner into space.
The payload for Falcon Heavy's inaugural journey wasn’t a jetliner, however. Instead, it launched a Tesla Roadster with a mannequin driver named “Starman”, who was fully decked out in astronaut gear.
According to the SpaceX website, the Tesla Roadster, which is a $100,000 luxury sports car, exceeded its 58,000 km warranty more than 231 times over as it soared past the sun at more than 89,000 km/hr.
An unchanged relationship with God
When speaking to the Catholic News Agency, Br Macke wanted to stress that the heart of the Catholic faith is not dependent upon location, even if that location is literally out of this world.
“As more people are in space, they will not cease to be people. They will form a complex society with all of the good and bad aspects of any modern culture,” Br Macke said.
From a Catholic perspective, it is imperative that we not ignore the potential for humans to visit widespread devastation on the places we visit. It is necessary to be mindful of the potential for environmental deterioration as we explore and discover.
“As we have learned from the age of exploration on Earth, when we introduce invasive species in a new environment, they often take over and overwhelm the area. Microbes and bacteria that hitch a ride on spacecraft may become invasive on Mars or other planets, and if there is any native life, it may be overwhelmed and lost.”
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