All you need to know about life on Mars
Mars has been the focus of a dozen scientific studies about possible human colonization.
It all started before humans had even achieved space flight. The 50s of the 20th century were a golden age of the science fiction. The Sand of Mars by Arthur C. Clark and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury were perhaps the essential fiction stories, which had a noticeable impact on the further generation of writers and filmmakers. But what seemed to be just a fine-written novel now can be considered as a guideline.
Nowadays the true artists not only dream and cast beyond the moon, they materialize their visions. And go further.
The gigantic Falcon Heavy rocket with a cherry-red Tesla Roadster took off on February 6th, but a first attempt to reach the red planet seems to be unsuccessful.
The car was supposed to take a path around the Sun which would take it out into Mars' orbit.
The Telegraph reported, that the super-strong rocket overshot that trajectory.
The car is now apparently pushed into an orbit, which leads to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
But compared to the fear Musk had before the launch, everything went well.
"I had this image of a giant explosion on the pad, a wheel bouncing down the road and a Tesla logo landing somewhere,» ironically admitted the inventor. Now, the Tesla logo will probably end floating in the deep space.
Though this unexpected fail with the trajectory - that’s the other side of the coin when you build the most powerful rocket - a long-term project can be celebrated as a successful one.
The rocket didn’t collapse at the start and two of the three boosters on the rocket detached and landed upright, at the same time, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station about two and a half minutes after the launch. The Tesla’s journey certainly demonstrates the Falcon Heavy’s capabilities of putting objects into deep space.
While the Tesla car now has eternity for its trip (though the planetary scientists are concerned and want to know the exact orbit to calculate the odds of collision) Musk definitely won’t give up his schedule of Mars colonization.
Have you already imagined it, a life on Mars?
SpaceX CEO and lead designer Elon Musk initially had an intention to go further than his predecessors.
SpaceX was founded under belief that a future where humanity is out exploring the stars is fundamentally more exciting than one where we are not, as it’s written on the website.
Though even Musk was not confident of success.
When Musk founded the company in 2002, he wrote, "I thought we had maybe a 10 percent chance of doing anything — of even getting a rocket to orbit, let alone getting beyond that and taking Mars seriously."
But nevertheless, the choice of Mars is not random.
In 2016 he published the plan in the journal New Space, pointing out the remarkable similarity between Earth and Mars. While Mercury is too close to the sun, and Venus is a high-pressure-super-high-pressure acid bath, Mars indeed looks like the most reasonable option for us.
For example, the Mars day is 24.5 hours, it has decent sunlight, and there’s a possibility to have a thick atmosphere and liquid oceans if we could warm Mars up. Warming Mars up sounds a bit like a plot for another Illumination Entertainment production, but, hey, did you honestly believe when you heard about the space odyssey of a Tesla car? And now it’s cruising high above.
That’s what we should by now learn about Musk’s personality. He’s never joking (even when it sounds like a joke), he just unveils his plans.
Once again Musk was charmingly modest. «Just bear in mind that there is a good chance this monster rocket blows up,» warned he. This was one of the SpaceX’s difficult launches, which took over 5 years to plan.
The initial test flight was expected in 2013, but must be delayed.
«It actually ended up being way harder to do Falcon Heavy than we thought,» said Musk.
One could hardly imagine a better promo campaign for moving to Mars one day: the gigantic Falcon Heavy rocket with a cherry red Tesla Roadster on board are heading to Mars with the Bowie’s song «Life of Mars» playing on repeat in the background. The Roadster is one of Elon Musk's privately owned vehicles.
The brave driver is a spacesuit-wearing mannequin nicknamed Starman, which refers again to the David Bowie’s song of the same name.
The rocket has 27 engines and can generate more power than 18 747 jumbo jets. Though the SpaceX creation is not the first super heavy-lift launch vehicle.
The Saturn V, used by NASA between 1967 and 1973, actually placed 140,000 kg into low earth orbit. The Soviet Energia was capable of lifting 102,000 kg. The Space Shuttle has a capacity of 27,500 kg. All three projects are retired now, but it doesn’t mean that Musk is the only one, who dreams of deep space.
Currently there are several rockets in development, but of course, Musk’s projects are the most ambitious. SpaceX ITS launch vehicle should carry 550,000 kg as as expendable or 300,000 kg as reusable. The Space Launch System, a part of NASA’s deep space exploration, should be designed for the payload in a range from 70,000 kg to 130,000 kg.
Why did Musk send his car into space?
The purpose of launching the Roadster into this orbit is to show that the Falcon Heavy can launch payloads as far as the orbit of Mars. According to Musk, it could stay drifting in space for a billion years.
Why is everyone so desperate to build a monster rocket?
It’s all part of the Mars colonization plans. US and Russian governments are planning for a round trip manned landing on Mars in the 2030s, while Mars One (and SpaceX Dragon is a proposed vehicle for the mission) is aimed to launch a permanent manned Mars landing in 2032.
At the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Musk presented his plan to place a million people on Mars within the next 50 to 100 years.
Why there’s so much ado about SpaceX rockets?
The ITS' reusability is key to making Mars colonization affordable. This reusability — combined with other measures, such as fueling the spaceships in Earth orbit and making propellant on Mars — could bring the price of a Red Planet trip down to $200,000 or so per person, from an estimated $10 billion using conventional spaceflight systems, Musk explained.
This reusability is a big advantage for other space missions as well.
SpaceX lands used rockets via controlled burns down to a fine art, cutting the cost of space flight significantly. The Falcon Heavy launch is said to cost $90m, while Nasa’s planned SLS rocket, a comparable system, is expected to cost about $1 billion per flight.
ITS will be powered by SpaceX's Raptor engine, still in development, which Musk said will be about three times stronger than the Merlin engines that power the company's Falcon 9 rocket. The rockets will be designed to fly about 1,000 times each.
How is it, for God's sake, possible to live on Mars?
Looking at the Curiosity pictures from Mars it’s really hard to believe that this planet could be suitable for a human.
Nonetheless, Mars's similarities to Earth are more compelling when considering colonization. Of course, there’s a lot of disadvantages for human health, such as thin atmosphere, which give no protection from ultraviolet sunlight, lack of oxygen, low gravity, which can lead to muscle loss and bone demineralization. But in general, The Martian scenario is real.
The colonization should take place in two stages. First, the robotics begin setting up power, mining and life support infrastructure while confirming water resources and potential hazards. Then two ships will carry humans to the surface for the first time, who will build a propellant production plant and begin preparing the base for expansion.
With a bioregenerative life support capabilities, it should be possible to provide an opportunity for humans to live on Mars.
The idea behind it is to collect a human crew's breath, liquid waste, and solid waste — then use plants and other life forms to recycle it into food, water, and air.
In a similar way, it works at the space station, where a chemical-mechanical system recycles an astronaut’s urine and evaporated sweat into drinking water.
"Biological systems are really resilient," commented D. Marshall Porterfield, the former director of NASA’s Space Life, who is currently a professor at Purdue University. "They tend to be self-healing, self-repairing, so that's one of the advantages of a bioregenerative life support capability.»
How does a journey to Mars work?
Last year Musk presented the following timeline: a first transport ship should land in 2022, and first crewed ship should take off in 2024.
ITS rockets will launch the spaceships to Earth orbit, then come back down. The launched ships and fuel tankers will hang out in orbit, and then depart en masse when Earth and Mars align favorably, which happens once every 26 months. Each ship would probably be able to make 12 to 15 deep-space journeys during its operational life, according to Musk, and each fuel tanker could fly to Earth orbit approximately 100 times.
The journey itself should be «really fun and exciting» for the colonist, as Musk described it.
“There will be movies, lecture halls, cabins and a restaurant. It will be really fun to go. You are going to have a great time, ” he added.
Musk also plans to establish a special base on Moon, named after the 70s sci-fi TV series Moon Base Alpha. It should help to support an exploration and colonization further out in the solar system, including on Mars. The base would help to optimize a process as a transportation gateway.
Additionally, Musk pointed out, that Jupiter's moon Europa could act as a refueling stop for journeys further into the Solar System.
And don’t be afraid, that you have to sacrifice a half of your life for this journey. Musk estimated that it will take as little as 30 days in the future.
How does a Mars colony look like?
According to Musk, a colony will be a nice place you’ll fall in love with.
“It would be quite fun to be on Mars because you would have gravity that is about 37 percent of that of Earth, so you would be able to lift heavy things and bound around,” wrote he in his colonization plan. Is this not a reason to book your ticket?
Jokes apart, the colony has a good chance to evolve into a vibrant metropolitan city.
Musk has a provision for building methane plants on Mars to fuel ships for the trip back to Earth.
Transport lines between plants would be probably as lively as London tube.
Musk sees a perspective for a Martian city to become not only a scientific outpost but a but a fully functioning society with ‘iron foundries and pizza joints.’
To assure he can keep on writing his own martian chronicles (yet on Earth) Musk is aimed to launch up to 30 rockets in 2018—roughly half the world's missions.
“If we are successful, it’s game over for other operators of heavy-lift rockets. It’s like where one aircraft company has reusable aircraft and all the other aircraft companies had aircraft that were single-use, and you’d sort of parachute out at your destination and the plane would crash land somewhere. Crazy at it sounds, that’s how the rocket business works,” said Musk to The Guardian.
Besides, SpaceX plans to pioneered the use of the rockets to transport cargo around the world. Just imagine, the companies will get deliveries faster, than you get your box from the next door Chinese restaurant. According to SpaceX estimations it will take just 10 minutes to transport goods from New York to Tokyo.
A message “Don’t panic!” stamped on the dashboard of the Roadster, which is along with the Starman drifting to the unknown now, should be a spirit-stirring and inspirational appeal to the human race.
The good old days of We will always have Paris are gone. Now we are heading toward a new era when we will have Mars.