Ever thought of visiting your parents on vacations who live on some neighbouring “planet”. Seems unimaginable! We humans, who have barely travelled beyond moon ponder upon the idea of becoming a multi-planetary species. This may seem exciting, adventurous as well as frightening at the same time as we do have the least knowledge whether a planet, identical to earth is present somewhere in the universe. However, astronomers have discovered many look-alike planets, blue in colour, white and green spots in them, calling them with fascinating names like “The Aquarius”, “The Trappist”, some being planets and some satellites.
I was born at the culmination of the 20th century and have experienced unforeseen technological advancements in this short span of 20 years. The drift from landline comm to the Nokia and Motorola mobile cellular and now to iPhone 10, proves how humans have evolved enormously in such a short span. There are many such examples in the fields of manufacturing, construction, automation, rocket propulsion, material science, electronics and artificial intelligence. We are proud of our innovative and productive skills. But let me introduce my readers to a Soviet astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev who devised a scale to classify a civilization based on the energy it consumes, which we know as Kardashev scale. According to him, there are three types of civilizations stated as, type 1: the civilizations that can use all the energy present on its host planet (Earth), type 2: the civilizations that can harness all the energy contained in its parent star (Sun), and type 3: the civilizations that can harness all the energy contained in their respective galaxy (Milky Way). He also formulated an equation to find whether a civilization is Type 1,2, or 3 using the present energy consumption. On his scale, humans are found to be a Type 0.724, and it is estimated that in the next 150-200 years humans will achieve Type 1. So, this is where we stand!
Franklin D. Roosevelt the 32nd President of United States once quoted “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” The ambitious, well-known engineer, investor, business magnate, Futurist and philanthropist, Elon Musk, has got a plan, really an astonishing plan that has left scientists all over the world, bewildered. The plan is to colonize Mars by early 2024. It’s hard to believe at once but the guy is seriously sending people to the red planet about which he spoke at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia. Space X, a private American aerospace manufacturer, and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California led by CEO Elon Musk has started building and testing the spaceships and boosters for his upcoming Mars mission. Space X has been successful in sending satellites to orbits using reusable boosters with its latest expedition, schlepping Merah Putih, the Indonesian Communication Satellite (Telkom-4) to the outer Earth orbit. The prime inventions of the firm are, the Falcon rockets that carry the payload to the orbit and return to the landing sites to stand back upright ready to launch for the next trip, the Falcon Heavy which is presently Earth’s most powerful operational rocket with the ability to boost upto 63.8 metric tons to the orbit and the Dragon which is a reusable cargo spacecraft hefted by the Falcons. The company in its tenure of 16 years (since May 2002) has progressed remarkably and is no doubt the world’s leading space transportation organization.
Just beheld that I have gone more into Space X, but why not, at last, it is the one who has got the big plan. Space X plans to build a city on Mars with a population of about one million in the next 50 years seems unsustainable! They have released the rendering of the Big Fucking Rocket (BFR) which is not operational now but might replace the Falcon, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon by 2020. The maximum payload it can lift to the Earth’s lower orbit is approximately 153 metric tons which is more than double the payload that can be carried by the Falcon Heavy.
By 2022 the company plans to send two cargo ships to mars whose mission will be to confirm water resources, spot hazards, and to find an ideal place for power, mining and life support systems to support future missions. The cargo ships will contain 51 raptor engines (Space X’s indigenous engines) 42 for the rockets and 9 for the ship. By 2024 four more ships will launch to conquer the red planet, two being cargo ships and other two crewed ships.
The two years tenure is picked up as it takes twenty-six months for every Earth-Mars synchronization which is a period when Mars is closest to the earth at about 57.6 million kilometres. The ships will have a team of 12 erudite passengers, the most learned and genius of all. The aim of the second troop is to set up a propellant plant on the surface of Mars to refuel the spaceships for their return to Earth.
By 2024 there will be enough landed masses to build a massive array of solar panels to generate electricity that will support all the systems for setting up the city and a water production plant to support life. Carbon dioxide and water(ice) present on Mars will act as a source of creating and storing cryogenic methane and oxygen using Sabatier process [CO2(g) + 4H2(g) CH4(g) + 2H2O(g)]. Cryogen is a substance used to preserve gases at extremely low temperatures with its applications being preserving living cells, storing gases in liquid form in small shells, used as rocket fuels. According to Musk water and oxygen supply, a propellant plant and electricity is the base to build up a city and grow it to a bigger colony of million residents. What we can do now is sit and wait to see what his highly ambitious plans of becoming a multi-planetary species will lead to.
The thought of being a multi-planetary species and hit the Type 1 civilization is really stirring. But are we ready for that or are we even this near to set foot on Mars and settle down? Do we have enough technical resources? What about the huge investments and where to get the financial aid for space exploration? Is our knowledge of cosmos enough to solve the mysteries of this underlying universe? What we know is derived based on the equations led by former scientists and analysts and the imaging by satellites and astronomical telescopes with a far view of the space. There are many questions still unturned.
Now let’s acquaint with the troubles that Musk and his company need to face. First, on reaching mars how do the human body will react to the whole new environment. The gravity is one-third than that of earth, atmospheric pressure (mere 600 Pa) would seize the human body to exist, human senses like vision and skin will get affected as soon as they come in vicinity of the unsuitable electromagnetic radiations and even the composition of the gases is quite different with almost nil count of breathable air. Second, the temperature on Mars varies from -195 degree Celsius to 20 degree Celsius which is way too cold for our species to survive and even if we do, we cannot bloom a single crop. Annihilation will comprehend human life by suffocation and starvation. We need a lot more time to solve the issues.
Stepping foot on Mars is indeed victorious but we have not got enough resources to settle on our neighbour planet. Who knows by the time we prepare ourselves to settle on Mars, we find a way to reach farther celestial bodies which may counterpart our very own earth. In my opinion, there is no better planet as suitable and mesmerizing as our earth. It is just …perfect! But we never know what’s outside, what we are a part of, why do we even exist in this infinite universe. Either you live a life sitting back satisfied with all that what you have got, or you wriggle to find the truths, and who knows maybe someday you find a way out.