Space exploration and innovation has made some great advantages over the past decade or so. With more intergalactic discoveries being made, we are also beginning to see names like Elon Musk, the billionaire of Tesla and SpaceX fame, take on some bold challenges in the realm of space tech. Musk recently revealed plans to colonize Mars at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico. His plans include making humans a “multi-planetary species” by creating a self-sustaining city on the planet with the use of reusable rockets. More shockingly, he wants to start this out-of-this-world project within as little as the next 10-15 years. Since founding SpaceX in 2002, Musk has sought out more innovative space travel opportunities. Although the program has resulted in a series of rocket failures, including one that destroyed a Facebook satellite worth $200 million, it has also led us into a new era. According to Marco Caceres, an analyst for the Teal Group, “This era where NASA is the only or the dominant player, we’re transitioning away from that.”
What’s The Plan to Colonize Mars?
The idea that we can begin to colonize the Red Planet within the next few years sounds like an unrealistic dream at first, but according to Musk, it’s completely possible. He wants to get people to the planet by using his company’s 70-meter-tall Falcon 9 rockets to begin the journey to our potential “Second Earth.” The Falcon 9 will travel 62,000 miles per hour through space, generating 200 kilowatts of energy (almost double that of the International Space Station’s current rockets). Once the ship reaches Mars’s orbit, it heats up to 1,700°C (3,092°F) and uses its rockets to lower itself onto the planet. After successfully landing on Mars, SpaceX plans to add humans to the mix. Musk has alluded to the possibility of sending dozens of ships within each launch window (about every 26 months), each carrying 100 to 200 people.
In addition to creating a way for interplanetary residents to travel, Musk has also suggested releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to warm the planet and bring back liquid water, thus terraforming Mars. “If we could warm Mars up, we would once again have a thick atmosphere and warm oceans,” he said. This, along with the possibility of powering the planet using solar panels, will help create a habitable place for people to live and thrive as they already do one Earth. By using technology we already have to create habitats – most likely dome structures with a controlled environment inside (think of the movie Biodome, but much more awesome!), and using the new atmosphere to grow food as well as bring food from Earth, the newly settled colony will be able to begin sustaining itself.
What Will It Take To Make Mars Living a Reality?
While the idea and plans that Musk and SpaceX have laid out for us are not far-fetched, there is a lot of work ahead to make this project a reality. The current price tag for a person to travel to Mars is around $10 billion dollars according to Musk, but he is aiming to bring that cost down to the price of an average home –approximately $250,000. This cost cut will come partially from reusing rockets instead of scrapping them for new ones after every mission. The living structures needed on Mars will most likely come from companies other than SpaceX, but I think they’ve contributed quite enough at this point anyway. Producing an Earth-like atmosphere and bringing power to the planet will take a lot of time and resources as well, but these can be accomplished with foreseeable technology.
As we get closer to turning this other-worldly idea into reality, we should all start thinking about how this will impact our lives. What does this mean for future interplanetary travel or colonization? Could this lead to other space projects we haven’t even thought of yet?