James Webb Telescope, NASA/Flickr

How Could We Be So Wrong About Space, Mars, and Microplastics?

Ignorance always breaks at scale.

4 min readAug 15, 2022


Plastic is everywhere. It’s easy to find a study, a depressing study, that describes the microplastics in the water, in the soil, and in the food we eat. Now they’re finding tiny plastic particles in the air we breathe. We’re finding plastic in places we once thought pristine like the antarctic. There is no escaping them.

So take a deep breath.

Elon Musk has been telling us for years that we need to go to Mars to ensure the next evolution of humanity. If we can get past the plastic everywhere, we might have a chance to see a human land on Mars. My kids or their kids might visit Mars someday. But first, before we can colonize Mars, we’ll have to figure out how to grow food there. We’ll have to figure out how to make oxygen there.

There are no natural sources of oxygen on Mars. There is no life that we are familiar with there. No plants, no animals, just a harsh environment under a very thin atmosphere. All of that might be OK. We could figure out how to deal with that.

But I’m thinking of Matt Damon’s movie, The Martian. I recall how his character figured out how to grow potatoes in Martian soil. That’s neat except for one thing: there are perchlorate salts everywhere on Mars. Perchlorate chemicals of any kind are poisonous to human beings down to a few parts per billion.

That means they’ll be nearly impossible to filter out of the soil. Perchlorate salts can be a source of oxygen. but we’ll have to bake those salts out of the soil and that takes energy. Lots of energy. Life is already complicated here on earth. I don’t think we need to go to Mars to make life more complicated.

Elon Musk is incredibly wrong about Mars. And Mars won’t matter if there is no earth to go back to. There is nothing for us there. And going out farther into space it will only get colder and harder. What we have here on earth is incredible, and very temporary. It is a gift that we’re screwing up in a very big way.

But that’s not the only way we’re wrong about space. Or is it?

Remember that thing called The Big Bang? It didn’t happen. At least, not according to one Eric J. Lerner, going…