As technology advances, so does space exploration. NASA’s Mars rover, Perseverance, landed on the red planet in February and is on the quest to find signs of life as the main component of a $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission.
NASA is not the only company fixated on the development of Mars. Elon Musk, the mind behind Tesla and SpaceX, wants to see humans living as a multi-planet species with the resources to live on Mars and the Earth’s moon.
Musk founded SpaceX, a private aerospace manufacturer and transportation service, in 2002. His company uses recycled space materials to reduce costs with the goal of colonizing Mars. Musk claims that he could eventually fly human passengers to Mars for a cost upwards of $500,000.
But Salt Lake Community College students are not so sure.
“The amount of technology, money, time and energy needed to make this possible surpasses what 99.9% of the world can afford,” said Korelle Dickson, an SLCC engineering major.
With the thought of climate change becoming an increasingly larger issue, Dickson wonders what would happen to the Earth, and if living on other planets would be an option to escape.
“This will not be a sustainable solution to climate and other Earth problems,” she said. “Musk is capable of putting people on Mars, but it will never be the end all be all.”
But what would life in space look like? Kent Barry, a rocket scientist and engineer planner for Boeing 787, had some insights.
“It takes a lot of thrust to escape Earth’s atmosphere, and we have the technology to do it. The International Space Station has taught us how to live in space,” Barry said, noting a more likely space-living scenario would be an upgraded space station. “Most resources are recycled and reused if possible. For example, urine is purified and used for fresh water.”
Dr. Nick Safai, an SLCC engineering professor, said another earnest consideration is thinking about how living in space would affect the human species.
“It is a possibility for us to be a multi-planet species,” Safai said. “But it will have various implications on our lives and sociological, psychological, human relations, character, interactions, behavior, as well as political.”
Still, Musk’s vision is inspiring, said Allen Tanner, SLCC associate engineering professor.
“I believe in what Elon Musk is doing, but I doubt the feasibility and don’t personally believe in it economically,” Tanner said. “He is an extremely rare genius. It’s wacky to build a new car company but he did it. It’s wacky to build reusable rockets but he did it. Don’t bet against him.”