Humanity has gained interest in colonizing Mars over the last century. This interest began after Mariner 4 took pictures of the planet’s red, dusty, desolate surface. The first man to successfully land on the moon was Neil Armstrong, and it happened on July 20th, 1969. The fascination with Mars was fuelled by ideas of a new frontier for humanity. The human race has not stopped its efforts in exploring space. NASA is planning a human-crewed mission to Mars and exploring new methods in reaching this goal.
The most recent plan to colonize Mars is being made by Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, which plans to include a fleet of passenger ships that could transport up to 100 people at a time to their new homes on the Red Planet.
SpaceX has stated that their current plans are to start sending an uncrewed Dragon spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018.
Once SpaceX successfully lands the craft without any complications, the company will begin a series of planned missions to colonize Mars starting in 2025. NASA’s predicted timeline is slightly different. The space agency wants us on Mars by 2035. It has already started building hardware for this purpose, such as an upcoming super heavy-lift launch system and a new spacecraft called Orion, along with many other initiatives.
However, the biggest problem facing these efforts is funding which can make or break them. The ESA (European Space Agency) believes we could be successful right now without financial limitations. They believe private companies will play a big role in helping fund the red planet missions.
SpaceX is a private aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company with headquarters in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars.
The company has developed its Falcon launch vehicles family for both commercial and government use. SpaceX manufactures its own engines in-house, supplying the power for both their launch vehicles and spacecraft.
Elon Musk stated that he wanted to establish a human colony on Mars.
Humans could live on Mars if they had an asteroid mining operation and used 3D printing to produce building material from Martian regolith.
SpaceX‘s uncrewed Dragon capsule made a series of test flights culminating with a 22 April 2013 flight to the International Space Station, where successful docking was achieved. On 23 May 2014, the crewless SpaceX capsule successfully berthed at the ISS, marking the first time that a private company has sent an object to the space station. This achievement destroys one of NASA’s justifications for its massive spending on the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion. The SLS/Orion is now in jeopardy of being defunded in 2016 by Congress or killed outright by a veto from Obama.
In 2015, SpaceX announced its intent to launch a reusable rocket by 2017 using their Falcon 9 and conceptual Interplanetary Transport System as part of Musk’s plan to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars. Though sometimes characterized as well behind schedule, development efforts continue into 2015 to achieve the first-ever soft landing of a liquid-propellant rocket on an ocean platform.
In September 2016, SpaceX announced that all upcoming launches would be conducted from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 facilities and not at Space Launch Complex 40 to “maximize their efficiency.”
SpaceX has launched on behalf of NASA, ESA, and STSATIS (Taiwan) and commercial customers such as Orbcomm, Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS), and SES. Contracts have been signed with NASA for the resupply of ISS.
Other contracts include US Department of Defense, Eutelsat Communications for satellite launch constellation Star One D1 & D2; Iridium Satellite LLC (Nanosatellite); O3b Network Ltd. (Nanosatellite); Telesat (Nanosatellite); Spacecom Satellite Communications Ltd. (Satellite Network); Inmarsat Plc. (Satellite Network), and Asia Broadcast Satellite LLC, a consortium of SES Global Limited and China Telecom Global Limited.
Apparently it’s not all about colonizing Mars
There is even talk of mining on other planets such as the moon, Mercury, and asteroids for useful materials from these celestial bodies. It has also been suggested that we could use the sun to power spacecraft traveling at near-light speed on a long enough time frame if we could harness it for this purpose, which opens up the possibilities of faster than light travel. The closest star system to our own is Alpha Centauri, which takes 4 years to get there using conventional rocket propulsion technology.
By using solar power with enough efficiency, one day, perhaps hundreds or thousands of years into the future, humanity may be able to reach our neighboring star system and, if even possible, dozens of other systems not too far from it.
This technology may also aid the hunt for extraterrestrial life. Still, the ability to actually travel between stars would open up a whole new realm in space exploration that is both complicated and exciting at once. The only thing holding us back right now is money or perhaps resources, as 1 kilogram of antimatter costs about 50 million dollars.
So we either need more money or some other way of producing Antimatter which requires energy equal to that produced by the Large Hadron Collider per atom. This is another great example of how important funding is to space exploration and colonizing Mars. So with all these possibilities, it begs the question, “why haven’t we colonized Mars yet?”
The reasons for this are varied and include slow down in funding, political ideas that grab hold of countries, delays caused by scheduling problems with rocket launches such as the recent Falcon 9 launchpad explosion at NASA’s space center in Cape Canaveral, which had destroyed about 110 million dollars worth of hardware. Also, some political issues surrounding colonization may have kept us from landing on Mars sooner. Some people argue that we shouldn’t be doing it while others believe it is a great idea.
The main argument against the colonization of Mars is that it isn’t practical at this stage because there is no real way to make money from doing so. So until someone develops one or gets better funding, there will be no colonization of Mars for at least a few more decades. Another problem is that we need to figure out the best methods to sustain life on the red planet before sending settlers over to reduce health risks such as radiation that may harm them while they land on the planet’s surface.
There are also other political issues surrounding space exploration and colonizing Mars, such as how much countries would have to contribute financially or get to go first. Still, if these problems can be solved, then it’s possible to see human beings on another planet within our lifetime.
Well, perhaps not us, but at least our children. Many plans are being formed for missions to Mars now, including NASA’s “Destination Mars” plan, which involves launching a crewless spacecraft to the red planet in 2018 and a crewed mission by 2030. Elon Musk’s SpaceX plan also aims to launch a probe with equipment such as food, water, oxygen tanks, and more, while NASA plans on using nuclear power for their missions.
A U.S sponsored program called Space Migration aims at developing technology that will help humans colonize other planets within our solar system. So far, there is no set destination as to where or what this project would be used for, but it could lead to human beings on Mars sooner than we think if enough funding can be acquired along the way.
Another idea focused on space exploration would see humans traveling in wide circles from Earth instead of point-to-point travel like today – where a spacecraft would orbit the sun in larger and larger circles over time using solar sail technology. This could take humans to some of the nearest stars within our galaxy – although this idea is still quite far from becoming a reality.
There are many other ideas for places to colonize or missions that could be sent to, but these were mentioned at length here because they are related to Mars and space travel in general. It’s important to remember that this requires funding and proper research into how people can live off-planet.
We may need additional funding before any progress can be made on reaching Mars or other star systems using current means. Also, technologies such as nuclear fusion, which produces energy without damaging the environment, will have to develop further before a spacecraft could be designed to use this technology and make the trip to Mars without using other methods such as rockets which produce carbon emissions.
Colonizing Mars won’t happen anytime soon due to issues surrounding funding and political conflicts. Still, if these problems can be overcome, we will take our first step towards colonizing Mars within the next couple of decades. Further funding will be needed for the red planet, and researchers will have to figure out how we can live off-planet before any real progress is made in the mission to Mars.
Technology such as nuclear energy may also need to develop further before this dream of space travel can become a reality. However, small steps in space exploration could lead towards human beings on Mars within our life, which would revolutionize the way we live today – making traveling and science much easier and less expensive.