Sunday, 27 March 2011

Travel to Mars ?

Have you ever thought about travelling into space ? Lately I have. I spoke about this to some people. Apparently all the technology to travel to Mars is there. There is even talk about  sending a manned mission to the moon and found a colony there in the 2020's as a stepping stone to Mars. There have already been tests about growing our own food in space. Sending equipment to Mars has already been done as there are about a dozen Rovers on the surface. So all that is needed is to build a spacecraft and some people willing to travel there. According to very rough calculations, it would take at least, at the very least 60 days to get there if everything runs smoothly. There certainly are risks to a mission such as this, but wouldn't it be an inspiring thing if man could finally travel to Mars, a planet featured in so many movies, tv-shows, documentaries, books,... Wouldn't it just be amazing ?

Well, now we come to the practical side of things. A mission like this has many disadvantages, risks, costs and so on.

The first thing we would need to think about  is the astronauts' safety. Would they be able to get there safely ? Would they be able to come back safely ? Apparently all of this has been thought and discussed by NASA and probably other space agencies in the world too. One controversial idea that has been floated around by ex-employees of NASA is sending out astronauts on a one-way trip. This would reduce the risk of the mission tremendously, but would in essence mean that the astronauts would be stuck on a planet far, far away for the rest of their lives or until the technology becomes good enough to get them back easily.
All the other risks of space travel would still exist though, such as radiation on Mars' atmosphere and the demineralization of the bones of the astronauts.

A project like this would cost billions of dollars, pounds, euros and trillions of yens or nairas. There would be need for several missions. One to send equipment to Mars before the astronauts get there so they can start building their colony there. Another missions would be to build a spaceship fast enough to actually keep a consistent fast speed to actually get the astronauts there in 60 days. All of these things would demand the work of thousands of engineers for years to design, develop and assemble all the parts.

Ethics ?
There would outrage from some people to actually send people with no hope for return to a planet so far away. For some people this might mark the pinnacle of human achievement and maybe the entering of the space age, but for others this would just be considered a suicide mission. If only this were simple.

On the other hand
Would it be possible for this to be achieved if it were done as a partnership between all of today's space nations, which include the US, Russia, China, India, Japan and the EU ? Would this help keep the costs down per nation to an acceptable level ? Would it maybe get the world to start working together to a common goal ? It would also reduce the chance of a Space (Weapon) Race... Maybe going to Mars might actually help the world for once. Instead of rivalry and war, maybe this would actually help unite the world ? *sigh* I'm probably too optimistic and this might result in many weapon satellites being sent into orbit instead.

However, even if just one country gets to send astronauts to Mars and establish a real self-sustaining colony. This might finally result in a new abundance of resources and space. New companies would establish mining facilities on Mars and the moon. People would start relocating there, and really a whole new age formed.

Technology ?
Now you might ask me... Are you crazy ? We're at least 50 years behind on the technology  required to colonize a planet! But we aren't. We went on the moon in 1969 and yes at the time we were actually just experimenting with space travel. Now however, the capabilities of Earth's technology surpasses what we had 40 years ago by a massive amount. New super-light alloys can be used to build spaceships, better calculations can be performed using regular computers now than some of the supercomputers in the 60's.
We can build spaceships that can go to Mars. We can build spaceships to send equipment there.

I am very skeptical of the prospects. Official estimates put a colony on the moon in the next decade. On mars in two or three decades. At the rate we are going, I don't think we would see a colony on the moon until 2030. This means we would have to add another two decades to that before we reach Mars for full-on colonization. By then unfortunately I would be too old to travel there myself.

Well, have you ever thought about this ?

No comments:

Post a Comment