The Martians

I’ve recently covered the the first human in space and then the the first humans to visit the Moon, but there’s so much more history to humanities’ journey into space, and without a doubt, humanities future will be a journey into depths of space we’ve only ever dreamed about. I’m convinced that beyond our lifetimes, we will achieve interstellar space travel, and to do this we will have to colonise somewhere outside of our atmosphere. There are plans to colonise the Moon, so humans and robotics can build, and launch vehicles that won’t need the tremendous force required to exit the Earth’s atmosphere.

Many countries now have a space program, including the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO, and the Russian Federation State Corporation for Space Activities (RosCosmos). This isn’t including the privately owned companies like Space X, Blue Origin, and Virgin Orbit, who are undoubtedly the most well known, but there are many relatively unknown companies working hard on figuring out ways to send astronauts into space.

The ambition of humans reaching Mars has been the subject of several Hollywood movies ( The Martian with Matt Damon being quite an interesting one), but NASA is of a firm belief that it’s going to happen within the next twenty years, or sooner. The plan is initially to visit, but it’s a future possibility of terraforming the planet to inhabit it and create a colony, and/or study its moons, Phobos and Deimos.

The Mars Curiosity Rover is part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) which arrived at Mars in 2012 after a 7 month journey. It’s purpose is a reconnaissance mission to study the geology, climate and preparation for the human journey to Mars, and the Mars 2020 Rover which will study the possibility of past life and search for biosignatures, which are molecular fossils left by life forms.

Elon Musk, and his Space X company are looking likely to be the first to get to Mars, with their ‘Starship‘ currently under construction and in the testing phase. The announced plans are as follows:

  • In 2022, at least 2 Starship cargo vehicles will land on Mars.

    • They will confirm water resources and identify hazards.

    • They will place power, mining and life support infrastructure for future missions.

  • In 2024, 2 Starship crew vehicles will take the first people to Mars.

    • 2 Starship cargo vehicles will bring more equipment and supplies.

    • They will place a propellant production plant.

    • They will build up a base to prepare for expansion.

Elon Musk’s ambition is to make make humans an interplanetary species, and his aim is to build a city on Mars, and massively populate it. To create a self-sustaining city on Mars, Musk believes that it’ll take a thousand Starships carrying cargo, over a twenty year period.

“The ships from these initial missions will also serve as the beginnings of the first Mars base, from which we can build a thriving city and eventually a self-sustaining civilization on Mars.” – Elon Musk

Jeffrey Preston Bezos, who was the founder and CEO of Amazon secretly founded the company Blue Origin in 2000. He is currently worth $114 billion, so finances certainly aren’t a problem. Blue Origin’s aim is to make space travel cheaper and reliable, and its main focus is to colonise space, build ships that rotate to create artificial gravity, and recreate Earth-like conditions on board. Just like Space X, Blue Origin has designed and built space craft capable of immense vertical thrust, speed and the ability to return to Earth and successfully perform a soft landing, meaning the vehicle is reusable.

Richard Branson’s sister company to Virgin Galactic is called Virgin Orbit, and they announced a few weeks ago that they were also going to embark on interplanetary Solar System exploration. The plan is to send their LauncherOne rockets to Mars for scientific purposes, to release satellites to study Mars, and its Moons from their orbits. If successful they believe it will be possible to do the same with Venus and the asteroid belt (Main Belt) which is situated between Mars and Jupiter and it contains the minor-planets (Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea). I’ve previously discussed the Main Belt in this article.

This may all seem over-ambitious to some, but I find it fascinating. Humanity needs pioneers like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson, who are extremely wealthy visionaries, who are passionate and ambitious enough about taking humans beyond our world. I’m confident that within our lifetimes we will have humans living on Mars, and within several generations we will have Martians.