Kim Stanley Robinson, whose seminal Mars trilogy (coming soon to TV?) changed the way we talk about our neighboring planet, says that Musk's Mars colonization plan "is sort of the 1920s science-fiction cliché of the boy who builds a rocket to the moon in his back yard."
Robinson, who has previously warned that space exploration can be used as an excuse to trash our own planet, has written convincingly about the difficulties of sustaining life away from Earth (his novel Aurora is brilliant on this score).
He says that Musk's vision "is not believable, which makes it a hard exercise to think about further" -- rather than being colonized by a single leader from a single company, Mars colonization "ill be multi-national and take lots of money and lots of years."
What needs to happen for the Mars colony to live sustainably and give humanity the lifeboat Musk envisions?
It’s important to say that the idea of Mars as a lifeboat is wrong, in both a practical and a moral sense.
There is no Planet B, and it’s very likely that we require the conditions here on earth for our long-term health. When you don’t take these new biological discoveries into your imagined future, you are doing bad science fiction.
In a culture so rife with scientism and wish fulfillment, a culture that's still coming to grips with the massive crisis of climate change, a culture that's inflicting a sixth mass-extinction event on earth and itself, it’s important to try to pull your science fiction into the present, to make it a useful tool of human thought, a matter of serious planning as well as thrilling entertainment.
This is why Musk’s science fiction story needs some updating, some real imagination using current findings from biology and ecology.
Why Elon Musk's Mars Vision Needs 'Some Real Imagination' [Eric Roston/Bloomberg]