How Realistic Is Elon Musk's Plan for a City on Mars?,  Bloomberg

A New Home For Us

Will We Become a Multi-planetary Species?

September 18, 2017, Bruno Jacobsen

Elon Musk has recently published a paper entitled, "Making Humans a Multi-planetary Species," where he argues for the necessity of colonizing Mars and how we could possibly get there. We may ask ourselves, "isn't this science fiction stuff?" The answer would be yes, it is. But it's also real-life stuff, and there are several companies pushing for a "space economy," which could spark new industries and, if successful, open up hundreds of billions of dollars into the "multi-world economy."

The first question to ask ourselves is why we'd want to go into space or Mars in the first place.

According to Musk, "there will be some doomsday event," so the only alternative is to find a new home before that happens. Stephen Hawking, too, says humans must leave Earth, having recently said we only have about 100 years on Earth, down from his earlier estimation of 1,000, just a year ago. And as technology gets better, it will be hard to find arguments against the progress that colonizing other planets seems to bring - at the very least, it will be hard to argue against going into space to explore new industries and businesses.

What are some of the driving factors? Besides finding a safe haven in case of a doomsday scenario, the cost of actually going to space has decreased significantly over the last few years. On the one hand, we have companies like SpaceX who have undercut competitors' prices by 40% by redesigning and using different materials from traditional rockets. This does not account for the savings that come from reusing the same rocket for several missions, something fundamental for making regular space travel a reality. (Check out this link for a video of a rocket landing, which can later be reused.)

Another driving factor revolves around the exploitation of raw materials from other planets and objects (such as asteroids) orbiting near Earth. As the resources on Earth continue to be depleted, some feel that the answer to this problem can be found in space. Despite its high risk, high cost, and long time until companies can see any revenues, some companies see it as a very promising endeavour. Among them, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries are two of the better known.

So will we go out to space any time soon and make Mars our new home? As the costs come down, the necessary technology emerges, and the financial incentives become more clear (UKSpace, a trade association, believes it can grow by almost £200 billion globally in the next 3 years), we can be forgiven for assuming that we are not too many decades away from finally beginning to colonize space. 

It will certainly be interesting to watch these developments unfold, as we attempt to fulfil humankind's dreams of venturing farther into space.

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