Billionaire Space Race Avoids Facing Consequences

Space colonization distracts from global warming crisis

On December 19th, 2021, the Falcon 9 rocket, a private vehicle owned by SpaceX, was launched, alleviating sustainability concerns regarding space exploration with the end goal of colonizing Mars. Suddenly, the idea of space exploration has become startlingly close, and less of a trope from a sci-fi movie.

However, the romanticism surrounding the terraformation of Mars, and the space tourism industry as a whole, is not only idealistic–it’s incredibly dangerous.    

Space capitalists like Elon Musk, owner and founder of SpaceX, have released concerning statements that acknowledge Mars as having “no Earth-based government” that carries “authority or sovereignty over Martian activities” and that ‘“SpaceX will move to impose our own legal regime” to provide authority over Mars. This capitalist trick to curtail government involvement is particularly concerning, as the US government has no agency to instill any pre-existing labor or human rights protections on the planet. SpaceX is known for prioritizing profit over the well-being of their workers– many infamous lawsuits have detailed a toxic work culture rampant with sexual harassment and lack of workplace safety regulations, all swept under the rug by the company. There is no doubt that they will enforce similar exploitative labor practices on Mars. Mars colonization and similar endeavors are simply a way for the bourgeoisie to maximize profit while escaping government regulations needed to maintain healthy working conditions. 

The reality of space travel is ugly in more ways than one. For one, space exploration propagates Western colonization and imperialism. Institutions of oppression are inevitably bound to seep into space endeavors, specifically when it comes to claims over natural resources. The entitlement American private enterprises possess when it comes to exploring the frontier of space skirts dangerously into Manifest Destiny ideology, that we have the obligation to colonize space despite the ruthless exploitation of land and minority groups that will inevitably follow. This harmful ideology, a main motivating factor for space exploration, spins stories of ultra-nationalistic white men justifying exploitation to secure existence for the future generations, a notable white nationalistic dogwhistle. Manifest Destiny during early American history did guarantee existence for future generations, however they were exclusively white generations. 

To make matters worse, the rise in space tourism–an industry that sends civilians to space for leisurely reasons–holds deadly consequences for the environment. Wildfires, record heat waves, increased floods, among other rapid shifts in weather conditions, are just a few of the many climate disasters currently endangering all life on Earth. As flights to space double and triple in numbers in the next decade, in addition to the rockets, so too will carbon emissions and burning fuels, advancing the destruction of the ozone layer. The irony is not lost on anyone; billionaires push space-age Manifest Destiny and utopian daydreams on Mars as a way to escape the climate change that they largely accelerated, while continuing to fund the destruction of the atmosphere. However, many climate scientists acknowledge that it is not too late to rectify the situation on Earth. 

The facts are simple: Mars colonization is a form of utopianism, providing an escape for the bourgeoisie rather than a haven for all people. Conversely, climate change is a very real and devastating threat that requires immediate attention. Instead of shuttling money and precious resources into inhospitable planets like Mars, billionaires should reinvest in the Earth to ensure the safety of future generations. As countless climate activists and organizations have echoed throughout the years, there is no Planet B.