Long gone are the days of dreaming about space travel and seemingly impossible inventions, thanks to science and geniuses such as Elon Musk, fantastical goals are turning into everyday realities. In fact, Musk — the founder of PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX — recently unveiled a 15-page paper that goes into great depth explaining how humans will successfully colonize Mars in the near future. Published in the journal New Space, the paper details the realistic costs per person, possible engineering challenges and even a timeline of transferring humanity to the Red Planet — which includes sending the first unmanned payload into space within two years.
The paper, entitled “Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species,” follows on the heels of Musk’s hour-long presentation last year in which he outlined his ambitious plan to transport humans to Mars. Though it is lacking in some specifics it is a compelling read and is available to the public for free until early July.
As The Guardian reports, the founder of SpaceX is ambitious to colonize Mars in the potential likelihood of a nuclear war or natural disasters which cause Earth to become uninhabitable. To Musk, Mars is a “backup drive” for the planet we all live on now. “So how do we figure out how to take you to Mars and create a self-sustaining city,” Musk asks in the paper, in ”a city that is not merely an outpost but which can become a planet in its own right, allowing us to become a truly multi-planetary species.”
His long-term goal is to create a self-sustained civilization of about one million people which, admittedly, will take about 40-100 years. Before full colonization can take place, however, much work needs to be done. After sending supplies to Mars beforehand, Musk envisions blasting off a gigantic spacecraft that can carry the first 100 passengers. “The thrust level is enormous,” Musk says in the paper. “We are talking about a lift-off thrust of 13,000 tons, so it will be quite tectonic when it takes off.”
Regarding the timeline, Musk wrote, “We are going to try to send something to Mars on every Mars rendezvous from this point on. We plan to send Dragon 2, which is a propulsive lander, to Mars in a couple of years, and then probably do another Dragon mission in 2020.”
Colonizing the Red Planet might seem like a grand ambition — and it is, but Musk isn’t ready to stop there. He wants humans to be able to explore even more of the galaxy. As NewsAtlas reports, “He envisions a series of in situ propellant depots, from the asteroid belt to Europa or Titan, allowing humanity full access to the greater Solar System.” The engineer fails to mention where on Mars new settlements will be founded — a detail that is vital yet will likely be determined in the near future.
Whether or not this vision will be made a reality in this century remains to be seen. What is clear is that Musk is one of the more extraordinary minds in our time who has played a big role in advancing humanity.
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