It should come as no surprise that Bill Maher, the HBO rant host, is against Mars colonies. With certain exceptions, Maher can be counted on to abhor anything that is good and beautiful, whether it is the free market, traditional family values, or space exploration.
Also, no one should be astonished about Maher’s excuse for forcing everyone to stay on one planet. He stated outright that, if people go to Mars to live, the Earth is going to be destroyed by climate change, and everyone left is going to die. Better to spend the money that would be needed to travel to Mars to instead fight climate change, presumably to pave the landscape with solar panels and plant forests of wind turbines.
In a way, Maher is being a retro liberal in his opposition to colonizing the Red Planet. Fifty years ago, as men were preparing to go to the moon, politicians like Sen. Walter Mondale and Sen. William Proxmire were inveighing against spending money on NASA since the country was still mired in poverty and oppression. The Reverend Ralph Abernathy, then a civil rights leader, actually led a protest march against the launch of the Apollo 11 moon mission on the theory that it was racist.
Maher brought something new to the anti-space exploration cause. He even denounced the efforts of commercial space buccaneers such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Sir Richard Branson to fly into space and settle Mars using their own money. Maher’s theory is that they should be forced to invest only in climate change technology. Musk, by the way, is no slouch in that regard, having founded both an electric car and a solar power company along with SpaceX.
Ironically, neither Neil deGrasse Tyson nor Bill Nye, frequent guests on Maher’s program, were present when Maher issued his anti-Mars rant. Tyson, a celebrity astrophysicist, and Nye, a former children’s science TV show host and currently head of the Planetary Society, have been known to say some pretty inane things, mainly by slapping the label ‘science’ on every pet liberal cause. But both are firm believers in the benefits of space exploration. Can either gentleman be counted on to denounce Maher for his slam on Mars colonies? We’ll see.
Mark Whittington, who writes frequently about space and politics, has just published a political study of space exploration entitled Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? He blogs at Curmudgeons Corner.