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A manned mission to Mars — and beyond

Are we ready to travel to Mars and beyond? And just what compels us to look to space as a new home? These are some of the questions we’re now starting to ask ourselves seriously as we edge further into the twenty-first century…

Are we ready to travel to Mars and beyond? And just what compels us to look to space as a new home? These are some of the questions we’re now starting to ask ourselves seriously as we edge further into the twenty-first century…

In the first installment, I expanded upon my answers to a series of questions by Mehmet Yildiz, an Executive IT Architect for IBM, discussing the very real challenges the future pioneers of Mars are likely to face. In this installment, I’ll be looking at what it’s going to take for the human race to transform a tentative foothold into a firm grip of Mars, space and beyond.

“Do you believe that we will be ready by 2030/40 to send human to Mars?”

We have all of the technology and the engineering know-how right now. What we lack is the will, the finance (and we all know about the lack of will when it comes of investing in innovation) and more complete international co-operation.

Also, and probably more fundamental to any such mission, are the relational issues raised in the previous question, in the first installment.

Personally, the most important aspect is getting such a huge project like a mission to Mars complete, even if that means missing a key deadline. That said, there are only so many windows of opportunity open to us when traveling to Mars; it’s proximity to the Earth varies based on the respective orbits of the both Earth and Mars.

“How important for us to visit other planets? What are the driving forces?”

The underlying motivation is always our inflexible thirst for knowledge. As a species, our eternal quest to answer the many “What if?” questions we pose is as admiral as it is an annoyance, at times.

And a close second will be the mineral rights. If we’re going to spread out and colonize other planets — not just within our own star system, but within others, around more distant stars — we will need the assistance of the business sector across the whole of the international community. Be in no doubt that the US simply cannot afford to do this alone.

NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency, ESA and all of the other national and international space agencies will need to work together on and at an unprecedented level with Europe, Russia, Asia and the USA to help build a comprehensive business case, to sell the idea of space exploration to the business sector, whose involvement will be essential.

In the years hence, as we begin to colonize those far-off worlds, expect the current crop of aerospace businesses like Boeing and Airbus to cover passenger space travel, with conglomerates like Daewoo turning their supertanker ship building skills towards space freight, with the co-operation of NASA et al.

Initially, the cost of entry into the new space industries sector will be prohibitive to all but the worlds largest corporations. However, as planets are terraformed and colonized, more businesses will be involved, such as civil engineering and construction companies, as well as power and general utilities providers, not to mention adventurous farmers!

The destiny of the human race is amongst the stars, of which I have no doubts, and neither does Professor Stephen Hawking, who asks the simple yet profoundly worrying and nuanced question: how can the human race survive the next hundred years?

“I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space,… It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next 100 years, let alone next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let’s hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load.”

I recently wrote a three part commentary on the future of mankind, detailing many of the things we can expect to see in the coming decades, as we begin our inexorable migration into the stars.

And in a related theme, I wrote a two part exploration of the question: is there alien life in the universe? Where in the second part, I explore the various phases that I imagine life will have to pass through as it progresses further and closer to intelligence.

“What sort of thoughts, emotions, feelings are raising in you when you think of a planet that far and it is only a small point in the spectrum of multi-verse(s)?”

Given the size of the universe — which is something I really don’t think most people fully appreciate, or ignore because of their inhibiting, antiquated faiths — it’s my firm belief that life is an inevitable byproduct of a functioning universe. As vital and as real a part as the moons, the planets, stars and their parent galaxies, and their respective motions included.

As for the actual shape of the universe? Well, the jury is still out…

Recommended reading about mankind, space and alien life

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.