MyScienceWork: With the technology uprising such as SpaceX rocketship, Is a Martian Humanity a possibility on our time scale?
Phillipe Henarejos: Sending humans on Mars is a possibility on a time margin that does not have changed since the middle 70’: in approximately 30 years. Technologies recently developed by SpaceX does not change the status quo, and I’m talking about actual technologies, not the one in project. The fact that it’s still 30 years to go is due to the demand for such a project. The engagement is tremendous financially, industrially and humanly. Such commitment can only be political on the highest level of a powerful nation, or group of nations. This is not the case nowadays. There are technological challenge to solve to reach Mars, but they need this type of commitment. Without it, we will still be 30 years from sending people on Mars. It’s not one company that can change it alone. Speaking of Humanity on the red planet, an autonomous human colony is not thinkable on a few decades scale.
MSW: What are the major restraints on such a migration?
PH: They are technicals, politicals, and philosophical.
Technicals because for a population to establish durably on Mars, it needs gigantic infrastructures. People won’t be living on boxes on a lifetime, so we will need enormous living places, which no one can currently build, and would demand a tremendous development. Terraformation, which consist of modifying Mars soil and atmosphere to be welcoming for human population. This is for me a total utopia.
Politicals, because what state, private company would invest on a planet more hostile than Antarctica, which we don’t know the resources it contains? Do countries or companies actually have what it takes to jump into the process? Elon Musk seems to agree with. For now, nothing confirms he is right, obstacles seem to be bigger than the reasons to believe in it.
Philosophical because settling Humanity on Mars asks several questions. Does Mars belong to all Humanity? Is it reasonable to think it can become a backup humanity in case of an Earth problem? In that case, who will be the chosen ones? How will the choice made? Is it relevant to migrate on a dead and hostile world? No Humanity settled in Antarctica… Yet it is a paradisiac place compared to Mars. There are no cities, no economy, no country, only scientific stations. Scientific exploration of Mars is possible and should happen. But this will not be a colonisation. For it, we would need a welcoming world at spatial spaceship reach, and we are way far from it. Mars is hostile. Is colonizing it a wish we want to make?
MSW: If space is not a backup solution, does it offers collateral opportunities such as resources?
PH: Space is not a backup solution. The only world capable to sustain the human population is Earth. For this reason, we should be wary of it. In terms of resources, space can offer some opportunities. Not for it to be sent to earth, but directly for spatial exploration. Ground and space exchanges are still difficult to create due to gravity and atmosphere. Impossible for example to import massive amounts of minerals from asteroids. Resources can allow economical gains on some project by providing material directly on the place of the mission, and which could be way too costly to produce here on Earth.
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