Mars is not a back-up option

What can planetary science on the bone dry Mars teach us? What happened to its atmosphere? And, are there possible fall-back options for humankind on Earth? In context of the National Climateweek, we spoke with Sebastiaan de Vet, planetary scientist at TU Delft.

“If we look at planets and see how on planetary scale climate changes over sustained periods of time, we should be getting a feeling of urgency for the climate problems on Earth. The influence that humankind has had on the atmosphere and the climate has been indisputably proven. I understand why the ‘Elon Musk generation’ still believes in it, but Mars as an extension of Earth will not become a reality. There is no planet B and Mars is proven to be not a back-up option.” 

Interesting. Yet, also slightly terrifying. What should we do? 

“We should at the very least not put our trust in a technological breakthrough and hope that we can divert to another planet. We simply do not have time for that. We should focus on climate adaptation and mitigation.” 

Let’s talk more about that later. But first, where does your fascination for space come from?

“I have always been curious, especially when it comes to stargazing. I remember well that when I was fifteen years old, I bought my first telescope from the money I earned from my newspaper route. On a cold December night, I put up the telescope out of the window in my parents’ home, aiming it at Saturnus. Wow, what an extraordinary experience! Watching with my own telescope to a point in the sky. I saw a planet with rings around it, a completely different world at a billion kilometres away. Looking at Saturnus was literally an eyeopener.” 

Planetary geomorphologist Dr. Sebastiaan de Vet between ‘penitentes’ at the summit of a 5604 meter tall volcano in Chile.