Destination Mars: Elon Musk’s plan to colonize space begins with test flight this month



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Is bringing humanity to Mars necessary or realistic in our lifetime?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is adamant about it, and he and two other billionaires are pushing the boundaries of how far private companies have come in the stratosphere and beyond.

The concept of this artist represents astronauts and human habitats on Mars. But that’s years away, after multiple missions to the moon, NASA spokeswoman Cheryl Warner said. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

But some experts are worried about expensive and advertising aeronautics.

“Space does not forgive. It’s a plot to kill you every minute, ”said Madhu Thangavelu, a professor at the University of Southern California and an expert in designing complex space projects, including space stations and exploratory missions. “And we have this innate desire to go out and be among the stars… but we are not biologically able to do that.”

Despite these intimidating obstacles, Thangavelu, who discussed space travel with Musk, finds the early efforts promising.

In May, SpaceX successfully launched and landed a Starship rocket for the first time without exploding. The completion of the high altitude flight test by the SN15 spacecraft marked a milestone in Musk’s ambitions to send humans to Mars.

SpaceX intends to launch Starship’s first orbital flight this month. The spacecraft (the Super Heavy spacecraft and rocket collectively) is meant to be like a commercial aircraft that will take passengers and cargo into Earth orbit and eventually to the moon, Mars, and beyond. Also in May, SpaceX announced its plan for the July flight, which will launch from the company’s facilities in Texas and land in the ocean off Hawaii.
SpaceX estimates that it would take six months to get to Mars. Thangavelu said he has repeatedly questioned Musk about the logistics of passengers living in a rocket for so long. Musk told him he would arrange people where they want to go, but it’s their business what they do in the time it takes to get there.

“Not only am I impressed with Elon for his focus on this technology, but I am also absolutely impressed with the work in progress,” Thangavelu said. “You know, there was a time in the history of technology programs in the United States when we were in awe of the rest of the world because of the progress we made very quickly. “

SpaceX’s website says Mars is 140 million kilometers away, making it “one of Earth’s closest habitable neighbors.” Mars is about half as far from the sun as Earth, so it still has decent sunshine. It’s a little cold, but we can warm it up, ”the website says.

NASA’s Mars exploration program includes two active rovers and three active orbiters. Concept studies have started for a potential future Mars Orbiter mission. (Credit: NASA)

Theoretically, SpaceX would warm Mars by detonating the planet’s two poles with pulsed nuclear missiles to create tiny artificial suns that would heat the planet and induce an Earth-like atmosphere, Musk said at an event in 2015, according to the Rod. Musk said terraforming (the hypothetical process of making a planet or Earth-like body) of Mars would be possible by bombarding it with 10,000 missiles, but that would use up almost the entire supply of Mars. nuclear weapons of mankind.

“No problem,” Musk said in May 2020.

NASA said it was not possible to terraform Mars with current technology. Mars does not retain enough carbon dioxide that could practically be released into the atmosphere to warm the planet, researchers said in a 2018 study published by Nature.

In 2020, Musk told the Sway podcast that becoming an interplanetary species might be humanity’s only chance for survival once Earth becomes uninhabitable. SpaceX declined to comment for this article.

Hannes Bernhard, a postdoctoral researcher at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, said colonization of Mars is logistically possible and what SpaceX has presented so far looks promising.

However, Bernhardt does not believe that climate change will force humanity to leave Earth.

“No matter how much we spoil the Earth, it will always be more habitable (than Mars),” he said. “The incentive for people to go or to go to space is the reason people have come to a place like Arizona. This is the opportunity.

As Musk pushes a more fatalistic view, other billionaires are seizing the opportunity to cash in on the appetite for space tourism. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, managed to reach the outer edge of the Earth’s stratosphere on Sunday in his Virgin Galactic vehicle.

Branson is the first billionaire to travel this far with private funds. After two more test flights, Virgin Galactic could start carrying the first paying passengers next year.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also said he will be heading to space on July 20 for his company’s first manned space flight, Blue Origin.

Like Branson, Bezos will only fly at the edge of space (about 50 miles above Earth) and then return. In the future, these suborbital flights will carry revenue passengers. So far, over 600 people have booked seats with Virgin Galactic at $ 250,000 each.

Musk has no intention of making quick trips back and forth to the edge of space; its capsules will go into orbit then to Mars. He said Starship could be fully operational by 2023 if development and testing goes well. Musk said on Twitter last year that he plans to build up to 100 spaceships each year to colonize the solar system.

Some critics fear that the spending of these billionaires on otherworldly adventures will make no difference to earthlings. A ProPublica report last month revealed that Bezos and Musk have paid no federal income taxes for a few years, legally avoiding payments to the IRS as their fortunes grow.

Musk responded Monday night by tweeting:

With the talks about the three billionaires attempting space exploration – and for Musk, space colonization – it makes sense to wonder what NASA has planned. Although the federal agency has sent rovers and probes to the Red Planet, inhabiting Mars is not on the immediate agenda.

NASA spokeswoman Cheryl Warner told Cronkite News the agency would establish capabilities for increasingly long human missions on and around the moon, and send crews on missions to the moon for about one. times a year, but would always bring the crew home.

“On the Moon, we will test the abilities and gain the experiences we need to send the first humans to Mars, once again, bringing our crew home,” Warner said.

The current concept for NASA’s first human mission to Mars includes a ship that will remain in Martian orbit while the crew boards a lander for its descent to the surface.

“Mars remains our horizon focus,” Warner said.

Musk’s space travel project is comparable to NASA’s Apollo program in the 1960s and 1970s, which cost more than $ 280 billion. In some years, NASA has monopolized more than 4% of the entire national budget. It has not been specified how much SpaceX’s Mars project will cost, but taxpayer dollars will not be used.

During an awards webcast in December, Musk said he was very confident SpaceX would land humans on Mars by 2026, and that the most important aspect was to establish Mars as a civilization. autonomous.

“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great – and that’s what a space civilization is,” Musk reportedly said on SpaceX’s website. “It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.

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