In a classic Sesame Street sketch, Ernie sings a song called “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon.” “I’d like to visit the moon,” he sings, “but I don’t think I’d like to live there.”
Bill Nye feels much the same way about Mars.
In an interview with USA Today, the famed Science Guy and head of The Planetary Society offers a very convincing list of reasons why colonizing Mars would be deeply uncool, quality-of-life-wise.
“Nobody’s gonna go settle on Mars to raise a family and have generations of Martians,” Nye told the paper. “It’s not reasonable because it’s so cold. And there is hardly any water. There’s absolutely no food, and the big thing, I just remind these guys, there’s nothing to breathe.”
Sounds bad all right! And there’s more: Every time you go outside on Mars, you’d have to put on a dumb old spacesuit. “When you leave your dome, you’re gonna put on another dome, and I think that will get old pretty quick,” Nye told USA Today. “Especially the smell in the spacesuit—all the Febreze you can pack, I think it will really help you up there.”
Just picture that. You left your friends and family and your favorite burrito stand behind and traveled nine months to get all the way to Mars, and now you’re cold, you’re hungry, and your daily life is just schlepping around in your smelly old spacesuit all the time, taking it on, taking it off. Most people don’t even like putting on pants to leave the house.
Nye’s practical nay-saying offers a counterpoint to the rosier vision of life on Mars espoused by people like SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, who’s often said that Mars colonization is necessary to provide mankind with a backup plan for civilization in case things on Earth really hit the skids. While Musk acknowledges that living on Mars would come with certain challenges, he’s also frequently attempted to make it sound like a neat little adventure, much as parents might try to convince their kids that, say, missing a friend’s pool party in order to go to the dentist is going to be a laugh riot.
“It would be quite fun to be on Mars because you would have gravity that is about 37% of that of Earth, so you would be able to lift heavy things and bound around,” Musk wrote in a paper published in the journal New Space last year. “Mars is about half as far again from the sun as Earth is, so it still has decent sunlight. It is a little cold, but we can warm it up.”
You’re not fooling anyone, Elon! The Red Planet is a dumb place to live. Still, Nye is all for paying it a visit. ”We would send people there to make discoveries. To explore, that’s the big idea,” he said. Then the astronauts get to go home and watch some Netflix and hug their dogs, which sounds much nicer. Perhaps Ernie put it best: “There’s so many places I’d like to be / But none of them permanently.”