Does The Future of Humanity Depend on Colonizing Mars?

It’s commonly known that our sun will die someday, but if you’re like me it’s of no concern. It’s not expected until about five billion years from now. My worries regard the humans in this century and whether the human race will survive not only climate disasters but the aftermath of shortages to water, food, and energy, which affects our very way of life.

Thus, when visionary entrepreneurs like Elon Musk talk about humans needing to find a home other than Earth and suggesting establishing life on Mars, I’ve rejected the idea as an infeasible solution to Earth’s decline in habitability due to climate change. In my thinking, colonization to any extent simply cannot happen fast enough if at all. I am now reading a book whose title is embedded in this blog’s title that made me realize the concern is over the very long term future.

I was surprised to learn how much thinking and research has gone into ways of making Mars habitable. There are ideas about how to melt ice a few feet under the surface and the ice caps for water for normal use, and for extracting oxygen to replace the atmosphere of carbon dioxide. Other plans exist to warm the planet from its bitter temperatures. Solar would provide energy. Further, rockets bringing cargo could be refueled for the return by fuel created via solar energy making room for more cargo. Eventually, they believe the soil could support agriculture using human waste as manure. All of this, not surprisingly, would take centuries. Scientists are considering having the enormous amount of work done or assisted by robots.

While Mars will also suffer if our sun dies, it is thought that humans might be able to hopscotch to outer planets in perpetuity using the technology developed to terraform Mars.

Besides climate disasters and a dying sun, there are other threats to our home. Eventually there will be an ice age—in tens of thousands of years as opposed to billions. A major collision by an asteroid could be disastrous. I’m glad scientists are paying attention. There is a project planned to nudge an asteroid out of its orbit to test the feasibility in case a large one is ever discovered heading toward us.

After the 2008 recession, interest in funding NASA waned, and President Obama asked private industry to take up the enterprise. Indeed, the amount of precious metal in asteroids if harvested could make space travel profitable. One of several TV series about colonies living on Mars provoked an interesting question regarding ownership. One colony was government funded, the other by industry whose goals of research and profit were in conflict. That’s a likely conflict in the future given our history.

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