Elon Musk has had some bold ideas over the years, but his latest one might be his boldest yet. During the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia last month, Musk unveiled his vision to colonize Mars and make humans an interplanetary species by sending at least 100,000 people to the Red Planet in a series of massive space ships designed to carry hundreds of passengers each.
This would all need to be accomplished about 20 years from now using technology that doesn’t exist yet, and he gave himself only 10 years to pull it off before we lose Earth forever.
The SpaceX rocket plan can’t support cargo
The first problem is that the SpaceX rocket can’t support enough cargo to make a Mars colonization timeline of 2022 realistic. Even if you sent a million people to Mars in one go, it would take 100,000 rockets to get them all there—and that’s assuming the rockets were 100% efficient (they’re not). So why does Elon Musk want to go to Mars? Scientists think it might have something to do with his ego.
Scientists also don’t think that humans can colonize Mars with the present technology. Sending a few people to live on Mars for a short time is one thing, but creating an infrastructure for any kind of sustainable colony is very different. A lot of things need to go right in order for these types of projects to work, from transporting enough food and water (and air), dealing with vast temperature differences between day and night, setting up power stations and dealing with cosmic radiation from space—to name just a few. Scientists are interested in sending people to explore other planets like Mars and Venus, but full-blown colonization is far beyond current levels of technology.
Besides, there are plenty of other places we could colonize if that was really what we wanted. There are an estimated two trillion Earth-like planets in our Milky Way galaxy alone, and scientists think many of them could be habitable with present technology. Why not build a sustainable colony on another planet or moon instead? In fact, there’s already one just 4.3 light years away—Proxima b—that has all the right ingredients for life to evolve. Creating a sustainable colony there would be much easier because it is so close to Earth. Scientists have sent a probe into space, headed towards Proxima b to study its atmosphere more closely.
SpaceX doesn’t have enough room for all the life support supplies
A successful mission to Mars would require a lot of money, and SpaceX doesn’t have the budget for it. The company also doesn’t have enough room on its rockets to carry all the life support supplies that would be needed for a long-term stay on the red planet. And even if they could get to Mars, there’s no guarantee that they would be able to find a suitable place to land and set up camp.
Scientists also think that Elon Musk’s timeline for colonizing Mars is way too optimistic. He wants to send people to Mars in 2022, but most experts believe that it will take at least a decade longer than that before we’re ready to send humans to Mars.
Getting to Mars isn’t easy. The red planet is more than 35 million miles away from Earth, and it takes at least six months to get there using current rocket technology. And even if astronauts did manage to travel so far, they would have to land on a planet with extremely low gravity and live in an environment that has extreme temperature changes and no oxygen. Scientists don’t know yet how humans will react when exposed to these kinds of conditions for such long periods of time. With no way to get home immediately, astronauts could also die from health complications or accidents before their mission was complete. Many researchers think that we need more information about conditions on Mars before anyone should consider living there permanently.
Even though it’s highly unlikely that Elon Musk will be able to get humans to Mars by 2022, he does want to send rockets and other supplies before then. And if there’s a delay with those flights, scientists may not be able to get everything they need for their experiments in time. With SpaceX still trying to achieve spaceflight milestones, such as landing rockets back on Earth after launching them into space, there are bound to be further delays. Until SpaceX can actually get a rocket all the way into orbit without failing, scientists have no choice but to wait and see what happens.
Sending people with no training into space is dangerous
Scientists have strong views about Elon Musk’s plans to send people to Mars in 2022. One of the main dangers is that these people will have no training and will be completely reliant on SpaceX for their safety. This could lead to disaster if something goes wrong. Another issue is that Musk’s timeline for colonization is too ambitious and there is no way that everything will be ready in time. This could lead to people being sent to Mars before the infrastructure is in place, which would be very dangerous. Overall, scientists think that Elon Musk’s plans are rushed and dangerous, and they are not sure why he is so determined to go to Mars.
A potential solution to some of these problems is to have people spend time on Earth before being sent to Mars. This would allow them to be trained in safe living in space, and it would also give SpaceX more time to get everything ready. Space scientists think that these training periods could last as long as 18 months, which means that people wouldn’t arrive on Mars until 2024 or 2025 at least. If a decade-long preparation period is added to Musk’s 2022 target date, then we won’t see humans land on Mars until 2032 or 2033 at best.
However, there are doubts about whether it is even possible to safely train astronauts for such a long period of time. Astronauts’ immune systems and bone density are known to be affected by time spent in space, and without regular exercise, it is likely that their muscle mass will decrease. NASA currently runs a 17-day isolation experiment that aims to see how three crew members cope with being confined to small spaces with each other for a long period of time. But sending someone away for 18 months would be much more difficult and could cause further problems if they were then forced into cramped living quarters on a spaceship.
People don’t know how to behave in space
Scientists have some serious concerns about Elon Musk’s plans to colonize Mars. One of the biggest problems is that people don’t know how to behave in space. We’ve only been in space for a few hundred years, and in that time we’ve managed to create a lot of problems for ourselves. Scientists think that it will take a lot longer than Musk thinks to figure out how to live on Mars, and by the time we do, there will be much better ways to get there.
Beyond behaviour, scientists think that life on Mars won’t be any easier than life on Earth. It might not even be possible to grow food there because of its low gravity. And it will take at least ten years to get people and supplies there, which means that if something breaks in space or people get sick, they will have a very hard time getting help from Earth. For example, if an astronaut breaks his leg and needs help immediately, he or she will have to wait for rescue for years!
Colonizing a planet isn’t realistic right now
There are a lot of reasons why scientists think Elon Musk’s plans to colonize Mars are horrible. For one, the timeline is way too ambitious. He wants to send people to Mars in 2022, but we’re not even close to being ready. Plus, there are a lot of unknowns about Mars that make it a risky proposition. Scientists have only begun to scratch the surface of understanding this planet, and there’s a lot we still don’t know. It would be foolish to try and colonize it without a better understanding of what we’re getting into. Finally, the whole idea is just too expensive. Sending people to Mars would cost billions of dollars, and there’s no guarantee that it would be successful.
Instead of focusing on colonizing Mars, it would be better to work towards establishing a permanent presence on our own planet. Technology is making it easier and cheaper to get into space every day, so one day we may have affordable space tourism. We also need to focus on improving our technology here before we try going anywhere else. Colonizing another planet is a wildly ambitious goal that simply isn’t realistic at this point in time. We don’t know enough about Mars or what it takes to make humans survive there for an extended period of time, and there are far more pressing problems that deserve our attention first.
We do not need scientists’ support: It’s true that very few scientists believe sending people to Mars is a good idea right now. Some say that humans can’t survive on Mars because of radiation exposure, lack of atmosphere, and difficult terrain. Others feel like his goal is too unambitious and the plan has been unveiled prematurely. Still, others agree with him but feel he should wait until scientists have learned more about what living conditions might be like on Mars. But most experts say any colonization efforts should happen after we’ve solved some major issues here on Earth—like global warming, environmental degradation, or social inequalities—so we won’t create any new ones in other parts of the universe.