Apr 17, 2019 08:55 AM EDT
In the words of Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, "It's important that we attempt to extend the life beyond Earth now. It is the first time in the four-billion-year history of Earth that it's been possible, and that window could be open for a long time - hopefully, it is - or it could be open for a short time. We should err on the side of caution and do something now."
Given the state of our planet to date, some scientists believe humanity will eventually only have two courses. One is we stay here on Earth until we face the inevitable process of extinction, or we become space travelers and become multi-planetary species.
This then begs the question, where do we go? Venus is already out of the question given that there has been no evidence of water on it, it's surface temperature is extremely hot and its atmosphere is so thick that its air pressure on its surface is over 90 times that of earth, melting and crushing the spacecraft sent for exploration an hour after landing. Mercury is too close to the sun and everything else is too far out.
Mars, on the other hand, shows great promise. It is near Earth. It's similar to our planet in most ways except that there is 62% less gravity on it and that it is half as far from the sun as Earth is thus it's relatively colder, but that's workable. Mars, at this time, is the only viable candidate better suited for a self-sustaining civilization.
The question that comes after is, how do we get there? The advent of space travel in the private sector started with the founding of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation or SpaceX in 2002 marked a historic milestone. For years SpaceX has collaborated with NASA to ultimately build the massive Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy booster (formerly BFR or Big Falcon Rocket).
It is designed to be around 350 feet tall, with an incredible 10.8 million pounds of thrust, which is a lot more than any rocket NASA has created. As with other SpaceX rockets, it's designed to be reusable, with a docking and redeploying system that would theoretically allow the rocket to keep traveling back and forth from Mars.
At this point, all of these are theoretical. Very ambitious on SpaceX's part but year after year, they have passed several ambitious milestones. In fact last March 2, 2019, Crew Dragon Capsule Demo- 1 aced its first mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Furthermore, the preparation for the upcoming launch of the Crew Dragon Capsule Demo-2 in June or July 2019 is already underway, this time, carrying not only cargoes but astronauts as well. American astronauts haven't launched to orbit aboard a homegrown spacecraft since July 2011, when the space shuttle Atlantis lifted off on the final mission of the shuttle program.
Since then, the US and all other countries have been dependent on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft when transporting people to and from the ISS. The Soyuz sports three seats, each of which currently sells for about $80 million. If these tests are successful, we can expect a much more exciting orbital test in 2020 and potentially a Mars flight in 2022. With all these, a life outside earth is definitely in sight.
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