The Utopia Planitia shipyards above Mars in the 24th century.
According to this article, there is now definitive proof that Mars once contained flowing water. We’ve suspected for years that Mars once harbored liquid water on its surface, a good indication life may have once been found on our near planetary neighbor. Now we know for sure that it definitely did have liquid water. What does this mean for us? Might we, as the picture above, eventually terraform and colonize Mars and build something like a Starfleet Presidio-class space station in orbit over it? My question is whether we have the right to do so. I think the answer depends on whether there is any life on Mars today. If there is, we would more than likely destroy it by terraforming Mars’ environment to better suit ourselves. But then we run into a bit of a conundrum, because don’t we as a species have a right to propagate and ensure our survival? Right now we are confined to Earth, and as the saying goes, we’ve got all our eggs in one basket. What is the measure by which we determine how possible alien life on Mars compares to the billions of humans of Earth?
Perhaps if NASA develops its warp drive in the next few decades such a terraforming and colonization of Mars would be more likely, and such an academic question will become more existential.
It sounds like science fiction, but in fact NASA is working on a real-life warp drive. Theoretically, with this technology we could achieve interstellar travel with effective speeds of 10c! We would be able to travel to nearby stars and the planets that surround them all within a human lifetime. The possibilities are just endless. It fills me with such terrible hope for the future of humanity that we will be able to escape the womb of mother Earth and finally reach the stars! What wondrous opportunities for humanity will this herald?
Simultaneously I am filled with equal amounts of trepidation, for what terrible dangers will we discover? Aggressive species? Unforeseen space phenomena? Technical difficulties that lead to us being lost in space? Unknown killer viruses from alien worlds?
Perhaps we will discover less-advanced species nearby and instead of following our own history and taking advantage of them, we will, like the Vulcans in Star Trek, merely send something like a Vulcan Survey Ship to observe and perhaps help them on their way to the stars.
The Bajorans were first introduced into Star Trek as a species of refugees, their homeworld having been taken over by the reptilian-like Cardassians. What was the Federation, that all-inclusive beneficent civilization in part founded by enlightened human beings seeking to do no harm, doing while the Cardassians were strip-mining the Bajoran homeworld for decades and enslaving its people? Nothing. You see, the Federation has this policy of non-interference (called the Prime Directive) that forbids them from interfering in the affairs of other species, particularly if that species is less-technologically advanced. That seems reasonable, as otherwise we might have situations where we’d be equipping the Mongol warriors of 1000 A.D. with Abrams tanks, grenade launchers, and machine guns.
But in some ways, the Prime Directive seems like the ultimate coward’s way out. As Burke and some others said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” How often have we been guilty of just that? Standing by and letting something we know to be wrong go on? Why? Perhaps because we fear we are ourselves wrong.
Below is just one type of ship used by the beleaguered Bajorans.
The Vidiian Warship
The Vidiian Warship is a small, fast starship used by the Vidiians to harvest organs from other species. Check out the starships page for more Vidiian starships, as well as starships from throughout trek lore.
Not exactly the pretty boys of the Delta Quadrant.
The Vidiians are a tragic species in Star Trek. For millenia they were a peaceful people renowned for their art and philosophy. Then the plague-like disease, the Phage, began striking them. In short order, all the Vidiians would be afflicted with this disease, which besides slowly causing organ failure was also horribly disfiguring. In the historical blink of an eye, their culture transformed into one obsessed with reaching a cure for the Phage. Vidiians now explored the galaxy in ships like the Vidiian Battle Cruiser not to share their art and philosophy, but to harvest the healthy organs of those species compatible with their physiology, and always, always, searching for the ever elusive cure.
How would our own society react to a disease that was so terrible? Would we lose elements of our culture that make us who we are? The Vidiians eventually were cured, and their culture transformed back into what it was before the Phage struck. Would they ever really be able to forget the horrible things they did to reach that cure? Would we?
Iden, a Bajoran hologram created by the Hirogen.
Another update to the starships page with another Hirogen starship, this time the Hirogen Destroyer. The destroyer was used by Iden in the holographic rebellion against their Hirogen creators.
Star Trek has raised this issue several times, namely, what qualifies as “life”? In the case of Iden and these other holographic creations, is it really life if they are merely acting out their programming? Aren’t we biological creatures also programmed in our own way? Aren’t humans programmed from childhood to believe in certain things and act in certain ways?
An interesting facet of the character Iden is that he was programmed with the Bajoran belief in the Prophets. This begs the question, is his belief any less valid because it was programmed into him? Is religion something that many of us are programmed with? If a child is brought up in one church and knows only of the teachings of that one church, is that one child’s (now an adult) faith any less valid than someone that has discovered a religion as an adult?
So many questions, so few answers.
I’ve added the Hirogen Venatic-class warship to the starships page. Unlike the smaller Hirogen Hunter-class warship, the Venatic is only used by the Hirogen (aka Star Trek’s version of the Alien Predator) when they are hunting “worthy” prey. In this case, that worthy prey ends up being the Starship Voyager.
The above episode of Voyager is one of the more interesting ones, as it deals with the fallout of some of Captain Janeway’s meddling with other species, in this case through giving the Hirogen holographic technology. Perhaps those old fogies in Starfleet Command knew a thing or two when they created the Federation’s highest directive, to not interfere with the natural development of another civilization (aka the Prime Directive). Janeway effectively did the 24th century version of giving a knife to a kid that liked poking himself with a sharp stick.