SpaceX: Are humans destined to colonize Mars?
(Jack Peeples/ The Broadside)
On May 30, 2020, Crew Dragon Demo-2 launched a flight test into outer space. This is the first crewed spaceflight since the launch of the STS-135 in 2011. NASA originally funded the Russian spaceflight program, Soyuz, to send American astronauts to the International Space Station, but decided to invest in private companies for flights such as SpaceX. It is the start of a journey that could not only lead to the colonization of the moon, but potentially Mars.
“There could be some natural event or some manmade event that ends civilization as we know it and it is important that we try to become a multi-planet civilization” says SpaceX Founder, Elon Musk in his public announcement of the SpaceX Mission.
Musk has a duty to ensure that humans make it to the moon and use it as base to travel to Mars by 2024. There are some limitations that could set humans back from becoming the first species to inhabit another planet..
“Sending a robot to a place like Mars is one thing, but when you start sending humans, that’s a different deal,” says Central Oregon Community College Physics Professor Robert Grossfeld, “The biggest hurdle is getting the money available for the actual colonization.”
The actual process of going to Mars is a financial burden. There is a high risk involved in going to the moon, to mars, to the moon again and back to Earth.
“[Astronauts] have to spend 7 months in space, 18 months on the planet, just to come back 7 months later,” says Grossfeld.
When astronauts take more than half a year to get to Mars, another issue that must be faced is genetic engineering. Since Mars is primarily a CO2 based planet, it is impossible for humans to survive on the surface of the planet without radiation burning them alive. If humans want to survive on Mars without the restriction of a spacesuit, alterations in DNA can come from animals that are able to live in high radiation environments.
“Scientists have already inserted genes from tardigrades. Tardigrades are tiny, adorable and famously tough animals that can survive the vacuum of space into human cells in the laboratory,” According to an article by Mike Wall from space.com.
It might be taxing toward the animals, but it may give humans the chance to explore other planets. Not everyone will decide to go to Mars with Elon Musk, but those who do will have the ability to terraform Mars so it is comfortable for humans.
Even if there are some setbacks to colonizing Mars, it is not to say that it is impossible. A lot of people choose Mars because it is the planet that is closest to Earth and has potentially similar ecosystemic processes. With Musk’s technology, it is more likely that SpaceX could set up a base on the moon and use that as place to begin a mission to Mars.