SpaceX is ruled by the genius entrepreneur Elon Musk who also happens to be the head of Tesla Motors. He is a true renaissance man in whose dictionary the word “impossible” doesn’t exist.
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Musk knows that space is the final frontier and that to go where no man has gone before is what all male adventurism is really all about. He has big plans for a massive colonization of the Red Planet. Mars is the ideal planet which will serve as a home away from home for earthlings.
Elon Musk hopes to take over a million people to Mars and settle them in that environment within the next century. It is a bold and daring plan yet it might work given the experiment in science and technology that is taking place currently in the world.
Science and Western Civilization have become almost universal and despite such issues as terrorism, poverty and environmental catastrophe, the overall status of human beings all over the globe is much better than the caveman who roamed the earth for 99% of our previous existence as a species.
Musk laid out his plans regarding the colonization of the Martian landscape at the IAC. He spoke of how the whole project will require a lot of downsizing in terms of costs and propellant fuel that will have to be used up in terms of many gallons.
Finally, Elon Musk spoke of how the spaceship which will be employed for this purpose will be called Heart of Gold which is taken from the famous novel Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, according to Bustle.
That this name comes from a work of science fiction just goes to show you that soon “science fiction” becomes “science fact”. This is similar to the comparison made between “reel life” and “real life” when the media and the world out there are taken into consideration.
After answering several poignant questions, Musk told the gathered audience the name of the vessel which will make the journey to Mars.
The “infinite improbability drive” mentioned by Douglas Adams (the author of the sci-fi book spoken of a paragraph back) was the inspirational source behind the naming of the ship.
Elon Musk did have the humility to accept that the whole endeavor would not be easy. In fact, it would be difficult and probably dangerous as well.
Five Major Hurdles
The following five hurdles are extant regarding the colonization of Mars:
1. Radiation: Cosmic radiation is a pretty huge obstacle in the way of a trip to Mars. While it is not the kind to cause instant damage to the biological systems of human beings, the chances of those in the spaceship developing cancer later on are high indeed.
Musk dismissed this issue with a wave of his hand. It is rather like the video game in the 80s named Oregon Trail. The hindrances along the way were such that death stalked the pioneers who travelled the path of migration at every step.
2. Cash: The funding of the whole project will not be a walk in the park. It requires a virtual begging bowl approach and total budgetary cuts not to mention seeking the favors of wealthy billionaires.
While current costs are $10 billion per passenger on the Mars Express, Musk promises to bring this astronomical sum down to $200,000, according to Inverse. This in itself will be a miracle if it occurs. Yet to go below this sum of money is a little tricky.
3. Water & Energy: By using the natural resources found on Mars, Musk plans to save up on the carrying of any extra cargo or equipment for sustenance purposes. The only problem with this is that the production of propellant on the surface of Mars will require tons of energy.
Solar panels may well be the answer, but they are extremely costly. Also the collection of water for drinking and domestic purposes from the poles of Mars will take a tremendous amount of effort. Will this be forthcoming when the decisive moment arrives? Your guess is as good as mine!
4. Communication in Deep Space: The contact that is to be maintained throughout the journey as well as the indefinite period of human settlement requires complex infrastructure that doesn’t exist at present. Musk has not given a solution to the issue of the communication gap between earthlings and human inhabitants on Mars. The distance is too much for the sort of simple contact we humans take for granted with other via a smartphone or Face Time.
5. Laws that Get in the Way: Planetary protection says that to sow the seeds of a settlement on Mars amounting to a million inhabitants will break the agreed-upon laws here on earth. The very decision to make mankind an interplanetary species is flawed since it is like spreading the disease instead of curing it.
How Will We Grow our Food?
There seems to be another problem that Elon Musk seems to have overlooked in his hurried enthusiasm. What will the new human inhabitants of the Red Planet eat.
Scenes from the film “The Martian” which came out about a year ago shows Matt Damon eating potatoes on Mars after straying from his spaceship. He has been shown growing these vegetables in his own waste products on the arid soil of Mars, according to Forbes.
The very scenario is nightmarish to say the least. Even contemplating it seems the height of absurdism. The conundrum we face is that in actuality even growing a single potato on Mars is very nearly impossible given the inhospitable conditions.
The soil, the climate and the extreme temperatures simply do not allow such an earthly process of plant growth to be replicated on the Martian surface. There has been talk of terraformation yet it is a nascent idea.
The reality is like Murphy’s Law which goes like this: “If anything can go wrong, it will!”
Thus there are a lot of hitches and glitches which must be taken into consideration before a Mars journey is undertaken. To think otherwise would be Pollyannish in its dimensions.
Such starry-eyed optimism may look good in fairy tales which end with “they all lived happily ever after” yet in reality much of the brainstorming goes to waste and only the 1% practical and nitty gritty stuff reaches fruition.
Some More Fundamental Questions
How will the living conditions on Mars be made suitable for human habitation?
Will the everyday survival of the denizens be a possibility?
Once they have landed on the planet, will they be able to return to earth if anything goes wrong?
What if they all get a bad case of homesickness and nostalgia for the facilities they enjoyed on earth?
How will the trips be made as easily as Musk makes them out to be?
Will NASA be ready to provide the necessary funding and resources?
These all are very important queries that bear a significant relevance to this big and bold plan to colonize Mars, according to The Verge and Popular Science. Remember, what looks good in theory may not work out in practical terms.
An ounce of practical is worth a ton of theory. So care must be taken lest humanity lose one million of its inhabitants due to a wild goose chase plan that was hatched in the mind of a lone genius who thinks he can do what is improbable at this stage in our history.
As the saying goes: it is good to keep an open mind yet that does not mean that one ought to get so scatter-brained that one’s grey matter starts spilling out of one’s skull. Such a hare-brained scheme would be downright self-destructive if not a wild fantasy of a feverish neocortex gone haywire.