Many Are Cold, but Few Are Frozen

David Lawrence's personal blog

Why I Would Suck at Being a Space Colonist

I say No to colonizing other planets

I say No to colonizing other planets

I'm an adaptable guy. I've lived in a lot of wild places, among people from vastly different cultures. In some places, I lived without heat, water, or electricity. So you'd think I'd be an ideal candidate for colonizing new planets, where conditions would be vastly different from those on Earth. But Mongolia has taught me a lesson: I would actually suck at being a space colonist.

Mongolia is the closest I'll ever be to living on an alien planet. Conditions here are extreme. This morning, it was a body-numbing -27ºC, so cold that your sinuses crack when you inhale. In winter, the air in Ulaanbaatar is toxic, not unlike the atmosphere of Jupiter. And it's either light or dark most of the time, depending on the time of year: right now we only get about eight or nine hours of daylight.

I am not adapting well to these conditions. I don't sleep well in summer, when it's light from 4am to 11pm, and in winter I hardly dare to breathe. I have to wear so many layers of clothing that I can't find my cell phone before the caller gives up. I just hate that.

Conditions on other planets would probably be more extreme. What if there were two suns, and it never got dark? Or if the sky was the wrong color? Of if there were a whole bunch of moons, orbiting irregularly? I don't think I could handle it.

So I've had to readjust my entire sense of identity. I am not adaptable. I dream of living within 1000 km of the equator, where it gets light and dark at the same time all year round, and the temperature almost never changes. Heat? Humidity? Bring it on! Your skin never dries out and you don't need a jacket. Or Chapstick. Ever.

Space colonization? No thanks! Good thing I never had the choice.