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Humankind would be better off saving Earth instead of colonizing Mars



Recently, in Boulder, Colorado, SpaceX held a top-secret " Mars Workshop" to discuss what it takes to colonize Mars. Although the reflection on the workshop was concealed, SpaceX founder Elon Musk and other celebrities, including renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, have in the past emphasized the importance of creating a sustainable outpost of human civilization on the Red Planet. "If there is a third world war, we want to make sure that there are enough seeds of human civilization to bring them back and shorten the duration of the Dark Ages," Musk said. Hawking believes that "[w] will make our own planet increasingly precarious with climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics, and population growth" and that we must colonize a new planet over the next 1

00 years. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin's "The Call of Mars" advocates a "comprehensive plan that would lead to permanent human habitation on Mars over the next 25 years". Tim Urban, the author behind the long blog Wait But Why, sums up the situation with the following metaphor: "[a] ll of our eggs are on a planet, let's get life insurance for the species."

The mission to colonize Mars has three major challenges. First, it's misleading to compare a colony on Mars to life insurance. If the earth overheats to the point where we all fry or are so polluted that we all suffocate, there will be no way to bring the world's population to Mars. Not even one child per family. Rather, the idea is to ensure the survival of human species; The elect who go to Mars will survive, reproduce, and gradually build a new population. Elon Musk's most optimistic estimate is that SpaceX will transport one million people to Mars over the next 100 years. The correct analogy is the United States Cold War Plan for Nuclear Warfare – to overthrow a few thousand "special" people in bunkers, causing most of humanity to be bombarded with nuclear weapons.

Second, when the colonization of Mars moves beyond the theme of workshops and cocktail party chitchat into a major project, it brings with it an inevitable subtext of desperation. Despite the fact that Musk, Hawking and others propose it as a backup plan, it suggests that we can not save Mother Earth and that it is time to look for another planetary home to save the species, though not even humanity. But what the droughts, the fires, the hot summers and the melting glaciers are calling for is not an escape from the earth, but a doubling of efforts to save them. Some consider the next decade to be a critical period as the window of opportunity for saving the earth rapidly diminishes. Others claim that we have more leeway. However, there is broad consensus that a mere restriction of economic activity is neither sufficient nor politically feasible. What is needed are major technological breakthroughs that will protect the earth while maintaining a healthy economy. The development of artificial leaves, which convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and can be mass produced much faster than their natural counterparts, is a good example of this. Achieving such breakthroughs requires large concentrations of research and development resources, talent and leaders, all of which are scarce. Therefore, any serious Mars endeavor will inevitably interfere with efforts to save Mother Earth.

Even Elon Musk admits that the colonization of Mars will require "enormous entrepreneurial resources." Musk and his team estimate that the mere dispatch of the first twelve astronauts to Mars will cost $ 10 billion per person. A rocket that could transport astronauts to Mars has yet to be invented. Once the astronauts arrive on Mars, they are confronted with an extremely hostile environment. The water that was discovered is buried a mile below the surface, the air is saturated with toxic chemicals called perchlorates, and the Martian atmosphere barely protects against harmful cosmic rays. Some consider the water could be made to give oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for fuel. However, one would first have to bring a drill from the earth, then pumps, then build a plant to process the water. The same goes for almost everything else.

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As Ellen Stofan, former NASA scientist, says, "There is no planet B." We protest against the mission to colonize Mars. We believe that this is an incomplete solution to an unlikely eventuality. The window of time in which we can work together to solve the planet's most pressing problems closes and we must act before it is completely closed.

Amitai Etzioni is a university professor at George Washington University and author, last of luck is the Wrong Metric.

Eli Etzioni is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College in 2018.

Image: Wikipedia.


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