SXSW Panel: Generation Mars

You're not going to make it to the Red Planet, but your kids might

It’s been a fantasy of science fiction fans and government agencies to boldly go to infinity and beyond, but how exactly does one get there? Dr. Deborah Barnhart, former NASA astronaut Don Thomas, microbiologist Monsi Roman, and screenwriter Mickey Fisher gathered to discuss the possibilities of what Mars space travel might look like.

(l-r): Deborah Barnhart, Don Thomas, Monsi Roman, Mickey Fisher (Photo by Mae Hamilton)

Though the notion of a permanent human colonization on Mars may seem like something that would happen in the distant future, all four panelists were in agreement that motions to begin such a project could be underway as early as 2030. But for that to happen, Barnhart argued that a mutual partnership between private sector space companies and government agencies needs to be achieved in order to reach the fulfillment of life on Mars.

“It doesn’t really matter if Elon [Musk] gets there first or if NASA gets there first,” Barnhart said. “It’s not us and them. It’s ‘we’ now. It’s going to take commercial, government, and international participation.”

The panelists also discussed how a Martian space age might shape the consciousness of pop culture.

“If you look at all of these dreams that are becoming reality, it’s the job of somebody like me to help foster that dream and inspire kids to say, ‘Hey, that could be me one day,’” Fisher said. “I want every kid around the world to look at media and feel a part of that.”

But don’t look to the stars to see where humanity might be going. All panelists agreed that the future of space travel lies a little bit closer to home with the proverbial future: children. Thomas emphasized that though he is now an accomplished astronaut who has spent a total of 44 days in orbit, his career in space began with a simple childhood interest that never quite died.

“Between our technology and this generation, we will definitely be heading to Mars in the near future,” Thomas said. “Our next generation of young astronauts, scientists, and engineers have the enthusiasm and the energy. They want to go to Mars.”

Here’s to hoping that the little dreamers of today will still have an interest in space oddities by 2030.

Generation Mars

Monday, March 12, Hilton Austin

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

SXSW Panel Recap: Does Satire Still Matter? Eh, Sure
Recap: Does Satire Still Matter? Eh, Sure
The Onion writers question what's left to mock

Mary Tuma, March 19, 2018

SXSW Panel Recap: Dungeons & Dragons in the Writer's Room
Recap: Dungeons & Dragons in the Writer's Room
Is playing role-playing games the best training for writers? Maybe.

Tucker Whatley, March 17, 2018

More by Mae Hamilton
<i>Skam Austin</i> Makes Our Social Media Part of the Story
Skam Austin Makes Our Social Media Part of the Story
Facebook Watch show follows teens, onscreen and IRL

July 27, 2018

Documentary Uses Virtual Reality to Explore East Austin Gentrification
Documentary Uses Virtual Reality to Explore East Austin Gentrification
Technology and social justice come together in Latinitas' film

May 25, 2018


SXSW Interactive 2018, Generation Mars, Deborah Barnhart, Monsi Roman, Mickey Fisher, Don Thomas

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle