Will humans ever make it to the red planet? It’s a question that has been surfacing more and more lately and space technology advances, and both NASA and SpaceX seem excited about the idea given that it just might be possible.
Image Credit: Aynur_zakirov/Pixabay
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, has been quite vocal about his goals of putting mankind on Mars within just a few decades, and NASA puts the timeframe a little further out into the future, but we’re still in the middle of building a blueprint that not only ensures the safety of astronauts, but also helps to make Mars a sustainable place to live for long periods of time.
To start, it’s worth noting that Mars is really the only target in the Solar System that we might be able to build a second human habitat; other planets in the Solar System lack the right conditions. Mars isn’t quite perfect, but with enough engineering, it could be possible to fabricate our way to the red planet and create an artificial way of life there.
Musk recently published his own idea for colonizing Mars in the journal New Space that keeps a positive tone towards the entire venture. While many scientists have already been quick to say that becoming an interplanetary species is impossible, Musk disagrees, and believes that with enough hard work, anything is possible.
“I think there are really two fundamental paths, Elon Musk says in his pitch. “History is going to bifurcate along two directions. One path is we stay on Earth forever, and then there will be some eventual extinction event. I do not have an immediate doomsday prophecy, but eventually, history suggests, there will be some doomsday event.”
“The alternative is to become a space-bearing civilization and a multi-planetary species, which I hope you would agree is the right way to go,” he continued.
The real trouble is that going to Mars isn’t a cheap project, and astronauts that go need to either fork up their own money to go or stay here on Earth. The problem, of course, is that rick folk have better things to do here on Earth than to risk their lives going to another planet, so the less-wealthy that can’t afford to go, but want to, is a problem.
Musk says that we have to somehow bring the cost of Martian travel down so that even non-filthy-rich individuals would have the resources to go to Mars and start a new life if they truly wanted to. He wants to bring the cost down from $10 billion per person to closer to $200,000 per person, which would significantly improve the spiel’s reach.
While bringing the cost down this much is difficult, SpaceX’s reusable rocket technology is pioneering cost-efficient space travel, and this is only the beginning. There is still much more that could be done to reduce costs, whether or not we could actually reach these goals, such as in-space fuel refill stations.
Travel is another quandary that needs to be figured out, as we would need a spacecraft that could hold significantly more people than just three or four as we’re accustomed to with the International Space Station. Fortunately, SpaceX is working on a solution for this problem as well.
Musk details a new spacecraft could hold up to 100 occupants at a time and would ride on a new type of rocket powered by a Raptor engine with a massive thrust power exceeding a ground-shaking 13,000 tons.
Using new materials like carbon fiber instead of those used in the Falcon 9 rocket, this new rocket body could be much more fuel efficient and could last much longer, which is a necessity for a Mars landing.
We would also need a way to get those ships back to the Earth after sending them to Mars, and so it’s also imperative that we find a way to produce fuel on the red planet itself so that our used ships don’t just accumulate over there and can return home, potentially even with passengers who might want to venture back to Earth.
There are certainly a lot more issues that need to be resolved, like how we might live on the red planet, the health risks that are involved, and most importantly – can we ever come back? On the other hand, these are questions we can only answer once science has had a chance to study the red planet up close and in detail, which is something we’ve only scratched the surface on.
It should be interesting to see what kinds of answers will be provided once we start taking our first baby steps to another planet. After all, SpaceX is already planning unmanned Dragon landings on Mars in upcoming years that will serve as initial testing platforms for astronauts.
Source: The Guardian