The good news, there seems to be a... well if not serious then at least serious-esque movement to establish real human colonies on Mars. The bad news is that our first extra-terrestrial colonies will consist entirely of reality show winners.
At least that's the vision of Mars One, a effort made by a company out of the Netherlands. The gist of it is to send four colonists every two years to live on the planet for the rest of their lives and turn the whole event into a inter-planetary Truman Show. Think the Real World Mars: What happens when people stop getting their radiation protection from the magnetosphere... and start being real. Real dead. Because of radiation poisoning. Because Derek doesn't want to do dishes. Oh Derek, he's such a rebel, but you don't go walking outside without a space suit!
Leading up to the departure, it seems that the colonists, instead of being picked for scientific knowledge, flight training, survival skills or... anything useful. No, they will be voted for on television.
That's right, we are going to pick our future astronauts in the exact same way we pick our failed pop stars.
I don't know how I feel about this. The idea of colonizing another planet in my lifetime, it's one of those things that I feel absolutely must happen. I missed the height of human space exploration and it would be nice to see something happen, really happen on that front. To capture the future that we were suppose to have. Maybe flying cars are a pipe dream but permanent colonies on Mars shouldn't. But to have the whole thing be one giant reality show? It's like someone giving me my own brewery but telling me that the bar is being turned into a giant dance club.
I suppose in my heart of hearts, I believe that it's a good thing. The colonization of the solar system should be something we do, not as nation-states, but as a species. In this environment, maybe this is what species-wide communication looks like. But...
But I can't help but wonder what people will do when they get bored of it. Sure there will probably be some controls as to who gets to go to Mars at first. They will be people who have proven themselves capable and able to get along well with others for extended periods of time. But what happens when people get bored and elect some off-the-wall wingnut who's favorite... and really only activity involves booze, a jackhammer and his environment; or some Paris Hilton look-alike with daddy issues. What happens when we, as a species start sending people up to Mars just to make the television better.
Because this is a thing we would do. Fuck scientific exploration, we wanna watch some privileged asshole have a princess tantrum one billion km away. And it would happen. And we would watch it, and watch it happily.