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Academics Warn That Mars Probe Will Lead to 'Interplanetary Oppression'

Source - To most Americans, it’s a successful space mission. But to some academics, the newest Mars probe is politically problematic, a possible step on the path to interplanetary oppression.

On Monday, NASA successfully landed another robot, named InSight, on Mars. It’s an important step towards a better understanding of the red planet and perhaps to the first manned Mars colony. Not all of NASA is certain the agency should be trying to reach Mars in the first place. For them, the problem isn’t the daunting technological hurdles still to overcome. Instead, the issue is the colonization itself, which brings to mind–at least for some–the sufferings of indigenous peoples, race-based slavery, and continued (earthly) injustices.

“When we talk about terraforming, that’s a planetary-scale strip mining operation,” said Lucianne Walkowicz, who holds a joint NASA/Library of Congress chair in astrobiology, at a conference earlier this fall. …

“I want us to move away from the idea of “exploration” and “discovery” and toward understanding environments as ‘new to us,’” says Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, an assistant professor of physics at the University of New Hampshire, and another participant in the conference. In her view, Columbus wasn’t the first to “discover” or “explore” the Americas, but rather “just a European who didn’t understand a place that was new to him. …

“[O]ur language for developing understandings of environments that are new to us tends to still be colonial: “colonizing Mars” and “exploring” and “developing,” for example,” she told Gizmodo. “These are deeply fraught terms that have traditionally referred to problematic behaviors by imperialists with those that we would call “indigenous” and “people of color” often on the receiving end of violent activities.” …

“You could argue that the effort to colonize space is likely to involve new forms of inequality: shifts in tax revenues and administrative priorities devoted to that,” says Michael Ralph, a professor of anthropology at NYU.

This is one of those moments where you read the words of people much smarter than you and it makes you realize just how dumb and unenlightened you are. Stupid me. I watched a group of NASA engineers as they landed a rover on an alien world and I celebrated with them. I marveled at the ability of these geniuses to use math to launch a 1,500-pound piece of high tech equipment 300 million miles over seven months through the inhospitable vacuum of space and safely place it in its exactly landing spot in a hostile environment on a distant planet. I was awed by the technological miracles the human race is capable of and inspired by our ability to make  impossible dreams into realities.

But now I’ve been set straight, thanks to academia. I mean, read the job descriptions of these professors. An astrobiologist, a professor of physics and an anthropologist. These people aren’t teaching Liberal Arts or philosophy. These are scientists. Which makes them smart enough to know what’s really going on here. That we are only heading out into the reaches of the solar system to terraform, strip mine, enslave the indigenous peoples and create new forms of inequality.

So fuck you, nerds. Thanks for nothing. You’re not working miracles of engineering and astrophysics. You’re Columbus, oppressing the good people of Mars for their spices and gold. InSight has probably already found deposits of Unobtainium. And these lab-coated geeks are working on ways to send Selfridge and Col. Quaritch up there to tear down the Mother Tree so we can get at it.

So thank, professors, for reminding us all that humans suck. And we need to stay right where we are before we spread our strip mining, polluting, slave trading, bigoted, speciesist suckiness to the indigenous peoples of the solar system. I feel so much more informed now.