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The Colonization of Mars - Who’s Doing It, How and Why?

Autor:   •  February 9, 2019  •  2,995 Words (12 Pages)  •  63 Views

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services company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk. Musk wants to create a self sustainable a self-sustaining civilization on Mars of 1,000,000 people (Urban). His motivations are mostly very long term and for the good of all people: a civilization on Mars could help sustain the growing human population as available land will eventually run out; the colony would serve as an insurance policy, making extinction unlikely humanity unlikely; and finally, the effort requires and would therefore bring about great advances in science and technological (Wall).

SpaceX’s big idea to put people on Mars is to “revolutionize the cost of space travel.” Elon Musk thinks we already have the technology that would make colonizing Mars possible, just not feasible due to the immense cost (Urban). A study in 2009 predicted a manned mission to Mars would cost $500 billion (Anderson). Musk thinks cutting costs of a Mars trip down to $200,000 per person would allow an overlap in those who could afford to go to Mars and those who want to go to Mars of at least one million people, what Musk figures is enough for a self-sustainable Martian colony (Urban). Musk claims two reasons why costs currently are so high: aerospace companies are big and big companies are risk averse, and these companies aren’t vertically integrated. The risk aversion creates slows down progress immensely, and legacy items are used even when newer more efficient or more effective technology is available. Musk describes this phenomenon with Orbital Sciences, a competitor of SpaceX: “[they] use Russian rocket engines that were made in the ’60s. I don’t mean their design is from the ’60s—I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the ’60s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere.” Musk also stresses the importance of vertical integration in cutting costs, as aerospace companies, “outsource to subcontractors, and then the subcontractors outsource to sub-subcontractors, and so on. You have to go four or five layers down to find somebody actually doing something useful,” and this process amplifies the price. After all that, cost reduction requires innovation in technology, which SpaceX has been pioneering for 15 years. Many of these technologies are kept secret for business reasons, but Musk briefly described one such development that cuts the cost of rocket building by a factor of 10, making use of a process called stir welding to create stiffer lighter structures (Anderson).

SpaceX sells services to other companies and organizations to launch satellites or equipment, and in doing that, SpaceX gets to piggyback their technologies on those missions to test and demonstrate their new capabilities, allowing for quick development of technologies, and further reach towards their ultimate goal, Mars (Fernholz). On April 16th SpaceX successfully landed its second Falcon 9 (SpaceX’s current launch vehicle) on earth and this time, even landing on an autonomous drone ship in the ocean. This victory for SpaceX allows them to reuse rocket boosters, another vital step in their path for spaceflight cost reduction (Cofield). With other commercial missions, SpaceX has demonstrated capabilities of their Dragon spacecraft and SpaceX is has completed its successor, Dragon 2, with plans to first launch into LEO in late 2017. Afterwards, SpaceX will complete development for a variant of Dragon 2, with the express purpose of Landing on Mars, called Red Dragon. SpaceX plans to launch an uncrewed Red Dragon atop their currently developing launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy, to Mars in 2018 and in every consecutive Mars rendezvous launch window thereafter (about every two years). NASA has agreed to assist SpaceX with EDL for these early missions in exchange for flight data (Bergin). These Martian landings will aid in the research and development of later and larger Martian landers and will scout the surface of Mars for resource rich areas for potential colony sites. In the meantime, SpaceX has designed and recently began testing Raptor rocket engines, the most powerful rockets and the first to be powered by densified liquid methane fuel with liquid oxygen oxidizer. Fifty-one Raptor engines will be needed to finally send the launch vehicle and spacecraft of Musk’s dreams, the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS for short), into space. The envisioned ITS, sometimes called the BFR for Big Fucking Rocket, will have either an ITS tanker (for refueling spacecraft at or above LEO) or an Interplanetary Spaceship (for carrying people or cargo) fixed atop an ITS launch vehicle. The ITS will make its first launch in 2022 and attempt a landing on Mars. Two years later, SpaceX will send the first crewed ITS: the ITS launcher will carry an Interplanetary Spaceship full of 100 people to LEO then separate from the spacecraft and return to Earth to bring a few more spacecrafts then a tanker to refuel them, and finally, Musk’s “colonial fleet” will begin its trek to Mars (Bergin and Gebhardt).

So far, SpaceX has little envisioned or has elaborated little on ideas for when people actually land on Mars, but Musk said they will build small semi-underground housing and in the longer term, a big dome to house the settlement inside a hospitable environment (Urban).

Lastly, Mars One, a Netherlands based organization founded in 2012, also plans on putting people on Mars and creating a permanent settlement (“About Mars One”). Mars One states three main reasons to travel to Mars. The first is the adventure. Mankind has always been driven by a desire for adventure, be it charting seas or exploring islands, and with unexplored lands almost a thing of the past, Mars poses a new opportunity of adventure unlike any before. Secondly, curiosity. A colony on Mars can help us to answer thousands of questions, such as: where did Mars come from? Can it teach us about Earth’s history? Is there or was there life on Mars? Finally, progress. “Mars is the next giant leap for mankind.” It will usher new technologies and improvements to old, such as to food production, recycling, solar energy, and medicine ("Why Should We Go to Mars?").

Mars One has a much different plan from NASA and SpaceX for reaching Mars. After consulting various aerospace companies, Mars One has concluded that existing technology will be enough to reach Mars. Although a manned mission to Mars would be expensive, Mars One proposes that it could be done for a fraction of the usual price estimations by simply putting people on Mars with tools to make a permanent settlement but without any system for heading back to Earth. This idea of going to stay could dramatically reduce the cost by removing need for the development and production of vehicles capable of the trip back to Earth and the extra fuel or systems to create fuel necessary for that return trip ("Mission Feasibility"). Without


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