We all want to see Nasa put someone on mars, but this is no easy task. I read a recent news article by Eric Berger that states that “it would take NASA 20 to 40 years to send humans to the surface of Mars at a staggering cost of approximately half a trillion dollars.” Naturally, the politicians who would have to pay that bill are unenthusiastic. After all, men on mars have no practical value. They do, however, have immense value to our innate sense of story.
Quite simply, the only way that humanity will walk on other planets is if we fully buy into the vision that our manifest destiny lies in the final frontier. That was the vision Star Trek offered in the years immediately preceding the moon landing, and it’s a vision that still captures the minds and imaginations of people today. Our desire to go to mars is continually inspired by Science fiction that shows us doing just that. C.S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet is set on the ethereal Malacandra—another name for Mars. Doctor Who places the first outpost on Mars in the year 2059 (as a fixed point in time, no less). And of course The Martian, both the book and the film, seized the popular imagination with visions of the first man on Mars.
The futuristic stories that science fiction gives us have the power to affect our real future because we also understand our real history, both past and future, as a narrative. Christianity teaches that the hope of our future lies in Christ’s return, but rather than negating the value of science fiction, this doctrine should empower us to eagerly embrace the future. After all, we know that no matter what heights we reach or depths we fall, our future is secure, and the human story ends well.