27 February 2014. Issue 68 of ESPI Perspective series focusses on the possibility of sending people on a one-way trip to another celestial body. Being a highly controversial idea, it initiated an intense and interesting theoretical discussion among ESPI staff. Therefore, it was decided that all views would be captured into two ESPI Perspectives: one arguing in support of and one against the idea. This edition captures the views and arguments that favour the concept of one-way tickets. Yet, it attempts to do so in a balanced way – using acknowledged practices, rights and terrestrial comparisons that exist today.
As a first step this Perspective outlines the context in which advocating for this venture is relevant and defendable. Subsequently, the boundary conditions that need to be met before such venture should be considered are assessed. This is necessary because the implications of sending people on a one-way trip are profound and irreversible, and thus they entail a great deal of responsibility for humanity. Finally, this Perspective explores the routes that point towards the ethical justification of such an undertaking. This includes several arguments that directly support the idea, and several additional arguments against the outright prohibition or restriction of one-way voyages to other celestial bodies in our solar system.
Although most concerns regarding the possibility of one-way tickets as a means for solar system exploration are genuine and should be considered with due regard, this Perspective reveals that concept itself is defendable when it is framed in the right perspective. Some arguments relate to the intrinsic right of human freedom of choice and the right to self-determination. In this group of arguments, there are many, less exotic, terrestrial examples with parallel characteristics. Other arguments are rather linked to the nature of human progress. As technology advances further into the domain of science fiction, society must decide how it will use this enabler in the following century. In space exploration, we can now reach and almost inhabit other celestial bodies and we can explore deeper into our solar system and universe; but as with all new technologies, the cost is at a premium. The need to explore is inherent in the nature of humanity, and it should be accepted as fact that in the coming future, humanity will extend beyond LEO permanently. The issue is how to make this inevitable striving a reality. This issue raises some practical questions. Should humanity wait for governments to fully develop space exploration and market it to its citizens with the promise of a return-ticket, or should citizens take the lead in space exploration on an already existing one-way ticket, creating a catalyst that will push governments in developing that same return technology at an accelerated rate? There are some that want to become that catalyst, and are willing to leave Earth behind in order to become a pioneer by expanding the human realm to another planet for the very first time in our history.