Elon Musk has published a lengthy dissertation detailing his vision for making humans a multi-planetary species in the online publishing house Liebert Pub.
Musk notes that the first step to accomplishing life outside of Earth, which he envisions to be Mars, is to establish reliable space transportation to and from the red planet. Once that building block is in place, work to establish a colony on the planet can commence.
To understand the process, we have to rewind the tape back to the underlying motivation behind Mars. Why do we need a colony of humans living on Mars? Musk believes, as does the greater scientific community, that if humanity remains on Earth, it will inevitably face extinction at the hands of an asteroid or other catastrophic event. Even with technology at our disposal, humanity would suffer a similar fate as the dinosaurs if a comparable asteroid was intent on meeting up with Earth.
Musk doesn’t want humanity to die off and believes that establishing a colony on Mars is the best backup plan for that eventuality. The red planet has an atmosphere and receives enough sunshine that it would be able to sustain life if we put a bit of planning and work into it. Gravity is less than Earth so our bodies and lifestyles would naturally have to evolve to the lower gravity. Much like Asa Butterfield who played a boy born on Mars in the movie “The Space Between Us“, we do not know what impact lower gravity would have or could have over long periods of time.
Plants could be cultivated on the planet and facts we’ve learned of Mars leads us to believe that establishing a colony there is possible. Musk believes that the we would need a significant number of people living on Mars for it to be self-sustaining. He specifically notes that “the threshold for a self-sustaining city on Mars or a civilization would be a million people,” which requires a reliable transportation system between Earth and Mars, a lot of money, and ultimately time. Enough time for Earth to host civilization until Mars became humanity’s new home.
Manufacturing, fuel production, food production, atmospheric conditioning, heating, clothing and the like would all need to be created from scratch on the planet. Until that is possible, those supplies would have to be shipped from Earth to the red planet which mandates that cost of travel needs to be affordable. “You cannot create a self-sustaining civilization if the ticket price is $10 billion per person,” Musk shared.
Mars has been the focus of SpaceX from day-1 with every other task the company has taken acting as a mere stepping stone for the greater journey to come. Locking in contracts to supply the ISS funds rocket development. Rocket development tails into stage 1 booster reuse which is a massive step along the way towards cutting the cost of space travel. Reusing stage 1 lets the company focus on reusing fairings, stage 2 boosters and Dragon Capsules. Those cost efficiencies allow the company to increase the number of flights per year which is yet another advantage over its competition. This enables SpaceX to generate more revenue and accelerate the pace of development on new products like the Falcon Heavy rocket which is said to have 2.5x the capacity of Falcon 9.
A successful Falcon Heavy will lead to SpaceX’s Mars Vehicle which is expected to have 10x the capacity of Falcon Heavy.
While Mars is a bold enough vision for most, Musk is already looking beyond the planet, tempting the imaginations of those young and old with ideas straight out of science fiction. Musk envisions fueling depots scattered across planets that would enable humanity to truly become a spacefaring civilization. Let your imaginations soar, kiddos. The future is looking bright!
Source: Liebert Pub