[imagesource: NASA/Dave Mosher/Business Insider]
2020 has been the sort of year that makes living on another planet seem rather appealing.
When Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley successfully docked at the International Space Station, marking the first successful space mission on a commercial spacecraft, I was a touch envious.
Of course, travelling through space is not the same as inhabiting another planet, and Elon Musk has his sights set on Mars.
He recently spoke at the Mars Society’s annual conference, and said that projects to develop a Martian settlement were already underway.
Whilst there are many hurdles still to overcome, Musk says one issue, in particular, will define whether or not colonisation can be successful.
The Independent reports:
Establishing self sufficiency would therefore be the ultimate benchmark of success for any colonisation of Mars.
“It’s helpful to have as the objective the creation of a self-sustaining city on Mars… Not simply a few people or a base, but a self-sustaining city,” he said.
“The acid test really is, if the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?
“If it does, then we’re not in a secure place.”
Essentially, will a human settlement on Mars survive if new resources and people from Earth (including the Starman) eventually stop coming?
Some of the examples the entrepreneur gave for why that might happen, include World War III, a supervolcano, a comet hitting the earth, or nuclear armageddon.
Also, the shortest trip between Mars and Earth would be expected to take six months, and would have to be packed light in order to keep payloads feasible.
You really don’t want to the person who realises you forgot an essential item a few days in.
Musk has been scouting out potential landing sites on the Red Planet for a while now and says the Starship, which is being developed for this purpose, could go on a non-crewed mission as soon as 2024.
Despite that timeframe, he is realistic about the speed at which progress can be made:
…Musk also said it was unlikely that the creation of a self-sustaining city on Mars would happen in his lifetime.
“This is really about minimising existential risk for civilisation as a whole, and then having an exciting future that you can look forward to,” he said.
“A future where we are a space-faring civilisation and a multi-planetary species is far more exciting than one where we are not.”
Exciting, yes., but also only a matter of time until we wreck that planet, too.
In other news that seems unrelated to Musk, but isn’t, political proceedings in Bolivia have left with him with a little egg on his face.
It boils down to his business empire, which is reliant on cheap lithium, his past gloatings about overthrowing the Bolivian government, and an election that turned Musk into a punchline on Twitter.
You can read more on that here.