Space. Aliens. Colonisation. We still have very little knowledge about space; who knows what’s out there around this small planet of ours. But we are aware about how we live in this solar system with around 8 main planets. And now due to advanced technology such as rovers and satellites, astronomists and technology institutions are together leaning towards habitating planet Mars. In 2016, Elon Musk had stated he wanted to make a rocket capable of taking people to Mars and to support a permanent city on the planet.
About Planet Mars
Let’s first take a look at what Mars’ surface is like, and whether it is similar to our planet. Mars is primarily composed of Carbon Dioxide (96%) with little amounts of other gases such as nitrogen and argon. Mars has a very thin atmosphere, the atmospheric pressure is only 0.6% compared to that of the Earth’s. Many astronomers think Mars may have had a thicker atmosphere before, but as time passed solar wind has primarily caused the atmospheric loss of the planet. Mars is a lot colder than the Earth is, and the fact is humans need Oxygen to survive – which there isn’t a lot of in Mars. Evidence suggests it was a lot warmer in the past, and there may have been stable H2O on the surface of the planet for potentially thousands of years. In terms of vegetation, it is believed that tomatoes, garlic, spinach, basil, kale, lettuce, rocket, onion and radishes could be grown on the Martian surface. The quality of harvests has varied, but chief among the successes was kale, which actually grew better in the simulated Martian soil than in local soils.
Space X was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk to revolutionise space technology, with the ultimate mission of allowing humans to live on other planets. The following points relate to the SpaceX mission statement:
- Improving Lives. SpaceX is all about creating alternative habitats for people. It looks for the potential of people living outside the planet Earth when and if the need arises. Although SpaceX seems to only focus on improving lives outside the Earth, it does things to help improve lives locally on Earth too. The company is very sensitive about environmental conservation and sustainability, to help keep our planet at a good state too.
- Revolutionise space technology: space technology has been around for some time, although not many breakthroughs were recorded before the creation of SpaceX. SpaceX has shown it is a dependable addition with continued support to astronomy since 2002. In fact, it was awarded as the biggest and most revolutionary oriented company within the sector.
- Exceeding expectations : Most businesses are profit oriented. SpaceX however is about inducing a change in space exploration through technology. Taking a look at the business model of the company shows how the company spends the majority of its time finding the best designs for space exploration. It is one of the first and only companies with a dedicated goal to habituate other planets
So why specifically Mars?
- Mars is 140 million miles away from Earth, being one of Earth’s most habitable neighbours
- It has a good bit of sunlight from the sun, being not that far
- It is cold, although SpaceX claims they can potentially warm it up
- The atmosphere is primarily CO2 and nitrogen, which means the atmosphere can be compressed to grow vegetation
- Gravity on mars is 38% of that on the Earth, hence it would be much easier to lift heavy objects
- The day in Mars is remarkably close to that of the Earth
Which vehicle would be used to transport to Mars?
The SpaceX starship and super heavy rocket are collectively referred to as Starship. This is fully reusable and is able to carry both people and cargo to the Earth’s orbit, moon, mars and beyond potentially. SpaceX will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle to be created. It has a goal of carrying an excess of 100 metric tonnes to the Earth’s orbit.
Potential uses of satellites include delivering satellites further and at a lower cost than present. The payload compartments are meant to be higher than other satellites we have currently. They create the potential for new missions such as releasing massive telescopes in space, even larger than the James Webb telescope. Starship can deliver both cargo and people to and from the ISS. Its fairing provides significant capacity for in-space activities. Starship can also be used in moon missions. Future space exploration on the moon requires a large amount of cargo to be transported for research and human spaceflight development. Finally and most famously, Starship has a goal of interplanet transport. Building cities on Mars will require affordable delivery of significant quantities of cargo and people. The fully reusable Starship system uses in-space propellant transfer to achieve this and carry people on long-duration, interplanetary flights.
Timeline of the mission plan
As of 14/12/2021
- Elon Musk said he wanted SpaceX to head for the moon in 2 years:
“‘I think we can do a loop around the moon maybe as soon as 2023,’ he says, and land on the moon’s surface within three years.”
- Elon Musk also mentions he could land in Mars in 2026:
“‘I’ll be surprised if we’re not landing on Mars within five years,’ he finally says.”
2023 moon mission
This is predictably a reference to the “Dear Moon” trip outlined in 2018. This will be a 6 day voyage, taking 3 days to get to the moon and 3 days to come back again.
2024 moon’s surface
This is the Artemis mission of SpaceX where it will send the next man and possibly the first woman on the moon. It is said to transport the astronauts between the moon’s surface and the Ortemis space shuttle. NASA however believes 2025 is a more realistic goal for this.
2029 Mars Mission
In 2017 Elon Musk made a plan to send the first cargo ship off to Mars by 2022. This timeline was described as being ‘aspirational’. The first people are predicted to set off to Mars in 2026, which was changed to 2029 by Elon Musk himself last week on a tweet.
|Mars is the most accessible planet in the solar system, since it is the closest and conditions are more suitable than other planets in our solar system.||Costs – space missions are extremely costly. Even if Mars was colonised, how much of the Earth’s population would even afford to go there?|
|Exploring Mars may possibly answer origin and evolution of life questions, which will help biologists to try and understand this whole concept, which still remains a mystery up to today.||Radiation – radiation on Mars is reportedly 8 times higher than that of the earth. Cancer is a thing in human species. As a matter of fact, the earth does have an o-zone to protect us against harmful radiation. Mars doesn’t have any form of protection, which means we will be completely exposed to it.|
|Mars could someday be a destination for the survival of humankind. All you’ve heard about the doomsday clock and climate change may very well mean our planet is on the verge of destruction. It would be handy to keep a planet just in case, wouldn’t it?||Health and safety issues: space sickness, mental health and flu are only to name a few. We still have no idea how a human body would react when on the surface of Mars.|
|There is the possibility of discovering new life that could impact life on Earth; we’ve all been dreaming of aliens since a kid. Maybe it’s a path to their discovery!||Emergency situations: what happens if advanced care is needed? It would take months to get back to Earth. By this time, the person might even pass away.|
|The exploration and creation of a Mars colony demonstrates political and economic leadership for the United States, while at the same time creating a peaceful, international collaboration that eases political tensions. It could mean peace and negotiation between countries that have some tension.|
|Mars has all the raw materials required to support life including carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, water ice and permafrost.|
|Let’s be real – our knowledge on astronomy is still scarce. Maybe research on the planet Mars can help advance this research, and help us to know what else there is to discover in space!|
Colonising Mars clearly isn’t easy. When thinking about the procedures and how a human would even live without Oxygen, who knows when a person could form a habitat on Mars. It is a great aspiration, and there are certainly advantages to even having people land on the planet. SpaceX is being recognised as a unique company within the field so far – let’s wait and see when they can manage to complete their Mars mission!