According to SpaceX founder Elon Musk, space exploration is as urgent as easing poverty or disease. “It’s our insurance policy against extinction,” (1) says Musk.
Talking as if he was planning a company growth strategy, Musk spoke of diversifying humanity’s planetary portfolio. “We’ve got all our eggs in one basket, and that’s a terrible risk-management strategy,” Musk (2) said in an interview.
Musk’s sentiment sounds logical, but the problem is that getting to Mars isn’t easy to accomplish. Meanwhile, global warming, super earthquakes, super volcanoes, meteorites, amongst other things, are threatening the future of our planet, which poses the question: Will we get to Mars before Earth is destroyed?
SpaceX Mission to Put Humans on Mars by 2026
Elon Musk has long been an advocate of setting up a colony on Mars. Despite the announcement in 2012 that SpaceX could send a person on a round-trip to Mars for $500,000 yet to materialize, Musk remains optimistic he’ll put someone there before 2026.
To accomplish this mission, SpaceX is likely to use the Falcon Heavy Launch vehicle, which is essentially a version of the Falcon 9 but with two huge booster rockets attached to it.
NASA Will Attempt to Put a Human on Mars in 2035
Meanwhile NASA’s Mars mission considerably lags behind SpaceX’s in terms of time frames. NASA’s visit to Mars would use the Orion spacecraft, which isn’t quite yet ready for testing. It would also use the new Space Launch System, which again isn’t expected to be ready to use for another few years.
NASA’s Mars One mission is to establish a human settlement on Mars. As the Mars One (3) site states, human settlement of Mars is the “next giant leap for humankind”. Mars One believes a human settlement on Mars will aid our understanding of the origins of the solar system, the origins of life and our place in the universe.
So what’s stopping the Mars exploration ‘big boys’ actually getting to their destination?
The actual journey to get to Mars would only take around 200 days. The problem is there is a risk of radiation exposure. And, of course, the difficulty of landing on Mars, surviving whilst being there, and returning safely to Earth.
We have to admit NASA has a lot more experience than SpaceX in such issues. Not only has NASA landed and taken off from the Moon but it has also landed a gigantic rover on Mars. By contrast, SpaceX has little actual experience in space and shares very few plans about how it is attempting its Mars mission.
It could be argued both NASA and SpaceX have more pressing concerns in their race to reach Mars other than whose going to get there first.
Global Warming, Super Earthquakes and Tsunamis
As permafrost melts at alarming speed in the Arctic, huge stores of gas may be release in what scientists have (4) named a “methane time bomb”. As Esquire not so eloquently puts it, the methane time bomb could either happen gradually or in “one giant earth-fart”. Either way, it would mean global warming and climate change would rise at a rate that would cost the world economy $60 trillion in damage – putting a damper on our plans to get to Mars.
Global warming isn’t the only threat to hamper Mars mission plans.
Recent years have been rife with harsh seismic activity. Images of the death and destruction caused by the (5) 2011 Earthquake in Japan, which created a giant tsunami, are still harrowingly fresh in our minds. In the United States, a (6) report by the US Geology Survey concluded that 39 of its 50 states are in “moderate to high seismic risk”.
A giant earthquake and subsequent tsunami could potentially wipe out civilization before we’ve stepped foot on Mars.
And then there’s the risk that a super volcano could erupt and wipe out humanity. Again the prospect of earthlings being destroyed by a thick cloud of volcanic ash were brought too close for comfort when the volcano eruption in Iceland in 2010 grounded planes and caused mayhem for several weeks.
Asteroids hit Earth every year. Remember the Russian asteroid in 2013? It’s hard to forget it.
It was an asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, we think. The prospect that another six-mile long asteroid could hit Earth and destroy humanity is terrifyingly real.
The vision of an asteroid wiping out the human race has been brought even closer by researchers at NASA/JLP. The scientists have published the results of radar observations of Aphophis, a potentially hazardous asteroid.
According to the (7) National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Near Earth Object Program, when Apophis was discovered in 2004, it was estimated as having a 2.7% chance of impacting Earth in 2029.
SpaceX remains confident they will reach the Red Planet before the year Apophis is estimated to strike Earth. But with global warming and giant natural disasters gathering momentum, Elon Musk had better get moving in his plans to make space exploration and a colony on Mars “our insurance policy against extinction”.
References & Image Credits:
(1) Singularity Hub
(3) Mars One
(5) TSW: Bizarre Tsunami Ghost Stories Now Spreading Through Japan
(8) Zoriah via Compfight cc
(9) Toby Keller / Burnblue via Compfight cc