Space Exploration To Whom Should We Listen? By Anton Komarov & Astroverbot Julia
To Whom Should We Listen ?
By Anton Komarov & Astroverbot Julia
Starting his long nomadic journey, Homo sapiens used the simplest mode of locomotion, his two feet, then he ventured into the unknown with the help of his domesticated animals. With time and geographical challenges, he had to invent new modes of transport from wooden galleons, locomotives or spacecraft. All these panoplies of elaborate instruments to help us explore the ocean abyss or the confines of deep space have always been built upon the same idea/needs. Conversely speaking, there is no difference between the mammoth garments of the early Palaeolithic era and the Apollo Lunar Module as they both provide protection and ensure survival. So far this combination of ingenuity between man, machine and animals has worked pretty well and here we are standing firmly (almost) on all the continents of this planet.
Space the final frontier however presents different challenges. To put it mildly, everything in space is out there to kill you and paradoxically, it may be the awareness of these terrific dangers which has helped make the manned space flight so sure that in the 60 years of manned space forays, mankind has had only a handful of deaths to deplore, 17 astronauts and 4 cosmonaut fatalities during spaceflight or during training for a space mission.Prehistoric Garments. Tragedy In Space
Do we stand?
Before we enter in the debate, let’s make a very approximate resume of where humanity stands in terms of Exploration. All the 8 major planets of the solar system have received a visit or flyby by from at least one space probe. The Gas giants Jupiter and Saturn have had long duration probes studying their atmosphere and moons (Galileo, Cassini & Juno) as well as flybys. However the ice giants Uranus and Neptune were not as lucky receiving only a rapid visit from the legendary space probe Voyager 2 in the eighties. Humanity has also probed and studied two Dwarf planets Pluto and Ceres. Lunar exploration kick started in the sixties and culminated with the landing of six US Apollo Astronauts on the moon’s surface, then marked a brutal pause in 1972, and seems now to have a revival with the Artemis program. Mars as a potential furthest constant outpost of mankind has received particular attention these past decades. The red planet has had both in orbit and on its soil, several robotic emissaries from different countries. Mankind took an interplanetary balloon trip amid the acid of Venus’s clouds with the Soviets and landed for a few minutes on the hellish world. A European probe hit the surface of Titan which is a moon of Saturn and for the space of a few minutes, it became the furthest outpost of Humankind in the Solar system (The probe Huygens from ESA piggy backed a ride on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft which was designed to study Saturn’s Rings and moons. She is still mankind’s furthest outpost, albeit not operational.Exploration Timeline
The new players
There are a constellation of satellites monitoring Earth, space telescopes trying to unveil the deepest cosmological secrets of the Universe, other spacecraft landing on comets and asteroids and space probes surfing near the sun while studying it. We come from far and have learned tremendous amounts but still know little in front of the amount of information to assimilate and the unknown in knowledge is well...to put it mildly, vast. But what does the conclusion of those hundreds of thousands of hours of space flight. man or unmanned teach us? Are we ready for manned space exploration or is the future astronaut as argued by Caroline Porco, an A1?. Today’s space is furthermore quite different to yesterdays. Billionaires have entered the game and have changed it radically. Despite all the CGI, the millions of dollars thrown into advertising and a battle of words, space today is less exciting than space of yesterday, even though the new actors’ promise that the future of space exploration will be spectacular mainly due to their visionary input and massive injection of funds. The public is invited to embrace the idea of the movement towards space. Space for all! But is there real ground to the narrative? The new Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne of this brave new world drive thousands of fans building an exponential lobby reservoir that some akin to worshiping. Sub orbital flight, training camps, promises of lunar tourism and the dream to colonize Mars by terraforming the red planet.Rosetta Mission Carolyn Porco
What are the conflicting camps and what do they argue about? As always, you have the radicals, on one side they argue that a huge amount of money is put in space which is worthless anyway considering the pressing problems that Humankind face here down on the planet. The other kind of radical is the over enthusiastic space fanatic and for those, nothing will ever suffice, so a massive effort globally should be undertaken to make us an interplanetary species. These camps will not decide the issue; at best they will help to shift the balance in one way or the other. Let’s concentrate on those who give valid arguments to support their claims. Branson is ‘only’ the 587 richest person in the world (dependng on whose rating)and he is the smallest player among the three contenders so before we come to serious space exploration and industrialisation, let’s see what he proposes. First, is his vaunted Spacecraft a technical revolution? Actually no. Rocket planes of this kind, notably the famous North American X-15 which was a hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft used by NASA and the US air force to gather data on spaceflight and validate spacecraft design, were around since the sixties. Some of the pilots participating on the program were granted their astronauts wings when effectively passing the 50 km altitude that NASA and the US air force recognize as being the beginning of outer space. Back on Earth, Branson spoke and answered the questions of elementary school kids. Before this he also said “Just imagine a world where people of all ages, all backgrounds, from anywhere, of any gender, of any ethnicity, have equal access to space” and added, “Welcome to the dawn of a new space age!” In the meantime some science justifications were thrown in to complete the show as Sirisha Bandla, who had conducted a science experiment involving handheld fixation tubes, was also present on the so called historical flight. The feat in itself is remarkable and no doubt it will open space travel to those able to afford the ticket price. Why do I note this while writing about space exploration? Simply because space exploration belongs to everyone. A successful exploration does not have to be necessarily achieved by a space probe at the confines of our solar system; it can be done by a man suddenly aware of his place among the stars performing a suborbital flight. Therefore let’s observe the two claims. Is this the Dawn of a new space age?Bezos First Steps  Insane X-15
As one can check on the internet there is a lot of opposition to Branson, always with the same rhetoric albeit at different levels of dislike or even hate. Proponents of the type of adventure that the billionaire publicist just gratified us with on board the hybrid powered rocket carrier craft EVE/UNITY, compare it to the early stages of aviation where the first seats were afforded only by the wealthiest and where their injection of financial fluid is ultimately one of the main factors that allowed investment in the nascent industry. This leads to today where flying is a very common practice and arguably easily affordable by a big percentage of the population. We will leave to the historians and economists the authority to check the validity of this argument but for the sake of conversation, we will take it for granted. At first view the reasoning is sound but aviation did not depend only on one category of clientele as business workers and commuters are a huge percentage using this mode of transportation. Aviation has furnished many applications, military and civilian as well as leisure. Simply said, a sub orbital trip or a longer stay in low earth orbit is more of a personal accomplishment as it is doubtful that you have urgent business to do in the heavens or that your granny lives in a cottage on the far side of the moon. How big will Virgin’s fleet of spacecraft be? How many concurrent companies will be aligned and how many seats will be available? According to Virgin, 600 people are already on the list having deposited 10,000 dollars on a ticket which costs a quarter of a million of US dollars. Even if you jump on the band wagon now, it is doubtful you could find a place earlier than two years hence if you are lucky. That being said Sir Richard also announced Space Lottery HLS Why Space X
that having teamed with omaze(A charity organization), Virgin’s team invite you to support them as this organisation will ensure that your donations will go to a chosen charity. Doing that means you will be entitled to enter a competition that could if you win, make you the first lambda citizen in space. Despite the fact that Branson says that the lottery should not be a one off, that is quite a weird way to ensure a healthy economic cycle that will send anyone to space at low cost. What about the science? Can we do effective science in 4 minutes or fifteen minutes of Zero G? Despite many mockeries online, the straight forward answer for that is yes and you can do a lot of training too. The spacecraft of Branson will deliver a lot of data on how people who are poorly trained react to the stress of enduring hypersonic speed, something that the space agency’s nowadays have only a faint clue about. But is the investment necessary to perform these experiments worth it? Can’t we achieve the same results on a parabolic flight like those used by different space administrations around the world to train their astronauts or perform scientific experiments? An astounding experience minus the many risks associated to Branson’s proposition, minus of course the panoramic view. There is another problem; the spacecraft of Branson is a dead end. It cannot offer a full orbital experience and cannot service a space station or a hypothetical space hotel. So is that the last word concerning Branson? Is it just a show? Something that at worst will cover its investment costs as long as the novelty lasts or only be a toy for rich people?Experience ESA 'Vomit Comet!
Not so quick! Scientists are the wrong people to ask this question as they only have part of the answer. Scientists do not make rockets and spaceships fly, engineers do. Scientist and engineers cannot alone determine what will be the final success of a prototype, to have a clear idea of where they are going, they need the economists to tell them if their model will survive the hard test of the markets in the future. It all depends on what Branson wants to do next. Do you remember the Space Shuttle? Of course you do. But I am not speaking of the same one. I am thinking about one which never left the drawing board. A fully reusable design which would have associated a very large winged manned booster which would carry a smaller winged manned orbiter. This proposition which would have put a payload in orbit which was equivalent to the space shuttle’s payload was rejected mainly due to the enormous cost of development and further studies which showed a huge booster was needed to lift an orbiter with the desired payload capability. But that was back in the early seventies when NASA was thinking of the post Apollo era. Such a vehicle with a mouldable cargo bay could fit passengers, satellites, freight, act as a shuttle to an orbital Hotel or be used as an emergency rescue vehicle. Such a vehicle could be a logical evolution to Branson’s sub-orbital space plane. Concerning Branson and the other contenders, one of the final judges will be the economic realities and we will know the answer quickly enough.Retro Space Age PDF
It will certainly astonish some neophytes that many space exploration enthusiasts and professionals are against this new vision championed by the billionaires. To understand that we will go deeper into the details and discuss more about the serious players Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Furthermore we will use a Ted talk of Caroline Porco to illustrate those details.  For those who do not know her, she is undeniably Miss Saturn and one of the caring parents of the billion dollar flagship mission, Cassini Huygens which orbited, Saturn for 13 years as from 2004. A star in the planetary science world, she started working on the imagery team of the legendary Voyager Planetary Grand Tour. She is a planetary ring specialist and depicts Enceladus, one moon of Saturn harbouring a subsurface ocean with such passion, that you almost think that you are there. A person who will be hard to accuse of being against space exploration or even against man’s presence in space. At 3:42 in the video which lasts almost 20 minutes, she made the most valid of her arguments that most of the problems that are plaguing us result from the fact, I quote “ In adopting new technologies we do not pause to evaluate the long term consequences, we rush into development and we do not do what is called systems engineering which is a comprehensive in depth, hand to hand design and analysis of a complex system of many interactive components over its entire life cycle”. It is quite hard to better describe the term system engineering and if someone had to simplify it more, it would be that we do not evaluate the whole impact (advantages or disadvantages) of a new technology or product which leads very often to unseen problems which could have been avoided. These problems can to a various degree have a durable negative impact on the ecosystem at a planetary level. In these days that environmental issues have cumulated in what we term climate change; one particular problem can illustrate well how deep the problem goes. In some cases we are well aware of the dangers of a technology but cannot get rid of it due to our dependence on it which is the case of the infamous greenhouse gases produced by our industries which are accused of contributing massively to the rise in temperature around the planet. Some countries argue that it is unfair to ask them to reduce their gas emissions as it denies their population the rise to modernity and easy access to products which comes with the flow of production. Other countries will say that reducing their production is impossible as long as there is no alternative as doing so would reduce their competitive abilities and disturb their growth, impacting distribution of health and essential services to their population.Porco No Planet B!
Carolyn Porco also goes on to explain that the main cause is how our society is built and the constant exigencies of growth. It would seem that the nature of the problem is so deeply rooted in the fabric of our society that the only solution to get rid of it would be to rethink society. Unfortunately, such solutions are impossible to apply. Humankind does not accept radical changes benignly and will wait for extreme events to change their comfortable habits. These shifts come with upheaval, natural or manmade, it can be war or a global pandemic much more catastrophic than the covid episode we are now living. Furthermore politics and decision makers often listen to scientific advice when it is alas, far too late. A lot of people remember the terrible tsunami of 2004 where nearly 230,000 people died. It is impossible for us to stop such a force of nature but we can predict with great precision where it will hit once the process has started and years before the tsunami, oceanographers and scientist warned about an impending catastrophe and urged the installation of early warning systems but they were not listened to with the result that we know. Today those systems are in place but not in every environment where it would be useful and in 2009 we had to deplore more deaths due to tsunamis and again in a place where an early warning system had not been installed.
A worse situation could be waiting for us, nature has no conception of justice but sometimes it sends us a wakeup call. On the 15 February 2013 at about 09:20 Yekaterinburg Time, The Chelyabinsk meteor, a superbolid tore through the skies over the town of the same name and exploded in a thundering airburst causing more than 1500 injuries and millions of dollars in damages. That was the latest warning to date. Asteroid impacts have the potential to totally disrupt the life of a country or be a continent breaker so triggering extinction on a large scale. And among all the existential risks that the cosmos can throw at us, it is the only one we have the technology (or at least we know the how to) to avoid this situation. But not a lot has been done since. All of that to explain the extreme difficulty of implementing change. The planetary scientist then enumerated the promises of the billionaire businessmen which are space mining, saving humanity from an impeding catastrophe, terraforming Mars, colonies etc. She rapidly opposed their rhetoric but did not give sufficient details of her counter points due mainly to the time constraints. We will have to go into this more deeply to enable the reader to understand the more complex issues.Rethinking Society Deep Impact
Mining the Moon
Most of the commentators when speaking about manned space exploration do not categorize this exploration, we will argue that different solutions are workable for different targets. Despite all the noise made around ‘space for all’ and terraforming Mars, the main reason attracting industrialists in space is big money and our moon offers more possibilities of return on investment than Mars will ever do (at least in the short term). It is absolutely certain that we will soon return to the moon and for several reasons. First the Moon is not far, it is our immediate neighbourhood, you can find Ice water buried in craters situated on its poles. Water can be used directly by the occupants of a hypothetical moon base for their day to day needs. It can also be separated into oxygen and hydrogen, two key elements for life support systems and rocket fuel. The low gravity of the moon allows rocket launches with low requirements in rocket fuel thus making our natural satellite, an ideal spring board to explore the whole system. The long lunar nights and the far side are ideal for astronomical observation. We also have the chance of having one of the biggest satellites of the solar system orbiting Earth and it is a vast territory where, science, exploration and training can be undertaken. We must note the opportunity of space tourism on the moon’s surface. As for Planet Mars, lava tubes can be used as underground habitation sheltering the astronauts against radiation hazards. There is something else on the moon, Helium 3 and that could really be a game changer, an element which arguably could help solve our energy problems on earth and by the same token, solve our environmental problems. This ‘unobtanium’ will even according to many, really open the solar system. What is Helium 3? Having proved that he could unleash the energy that powered the stars by detonating hydrogen bombs in the 1950’s, humanity has since tried to tame this energy in a reactor. Despite that, every student in nuclear physics has at least once heard the story that fusion energy is round the corner. Physicists in EuropeUS, Russia, Japan, Germany and elsewhere have made tremendous progress and it is a technology that we can hope to master in a foreseeable future.Fusion How Far?
Fusion appears magical to us as it produces zero carbon emissions. Just 1 kg of fusion fuel can power 10,000 homes for one year and replace 55,000 barrels of oil, 6 million kgs of natural gas, or 10 million kgs of coal. Fusion does not produce greenhouse gas emissions, emitting only helium as exhaust emissions. Using a fuel derived from sea water, fusion plants can be installed almost everywhere. Concerning space travel, the perspectives are just stunning. Most concepts have a theoretical thrust ranging from 150 km/s to 300 km/s and the concept Fusion Ship II, utilizes ion rocket thrusters for an output of 343 km/s exhaust velocity. At those speeds, it would take a bit more than 13 hrs. to cross the moon’s orbit and it’s beyond doubt that such technologies will change the equation completely. But problems do exist first with Helium 3 itself. This element which has the potential to be the most expensive element in the solar system is present on the moon’s surface trapped in lunar regolith. It is considered to be the best candidate to achieve fusion as its atoms release large amounts of energy without causing the surrounding material to become radioactive. However this is also rather speculative as noted in Wikipedia, the temperatures required to achieve helium-3 fusion reactions are much higher than in traditional fusion reactions and the process may unavoidably create other reactions that themselves would cause the surrounding material to become radioactiveSource WikipediaHelium 3 wikipedia
The extraction of the element from the lunar surface will be understood as tricky. Over billions of years, helium three has been accumulating in the upper layers of the moon’s regolith by action of the solar wind. On earth the element is very rare accounting for 0.0001% of the helium present on the planet. Artificially it can be produced at very high cost by the radioactive decay of tritium. The problem being the concentration of the material in the rock, the estimates point to between 1.4 to 15 ppb, it could also go as high as 50 ppb in deep craters and permanently shadowed regions.It has been calculated that 150 tonnes of regolith is needed to be processed to obtain one gram of Helium 3. Due to the extreme potential of the material, it would be worth at least piggybacking its extraction on a larger development operation. Every space agency are one way or another, taking very seriously the possibility of mining helium 3, however as we noted its role is speculative. The Wikipedia site about helium3 notes that Dwayne Day, writing in The Space Review in 2015, characterises helium-3 extraction from the moon for use in fusion, as magical/religious thinking, and questions the feasibility of lunar extraction when compared to production on Earth. A very interesting article that we will advise you strongly and despite the palpable irritation of the author regarding the subject, his objections are valid and will help anyone forge an opinion in the matter. An article of 2015 demonstrates how perspective and policies on space exploration can change radically in a matter of years. Carolyn Porco concludes on the matter of space resources that there are almost limitless amounts of energy down here if only we could avail ourselves of them. That is dramatically true but we saw higher how refractory people, nations or societies are to change.Moon Mines Helium 3 Religion
Does all that make a case for a return to the moon? For some yes but not enough yet to convince governments completely. There is one reason though that explains the precipitation and the eagerness for the new honeymoon with the natural satellite of Earth and that reason is Chinese space ambitions. Flying from success to success, the Chinese are giving a lesson in exponential growth to all the space agencies. Only 18 years separate us from the successful flight of Yang Liwei's flight aboard Shenzhou in 2003 and in an amount of time barely sufficient to make an adult of someone, China has orbited and put two rovers on the Moon’s surface, achieved social parity by launching a female astronaut, made a rather complex and successful lunar sample return mission and in an incredible hat trick that the connoisseur will appreciate, they scored a triple win by despatching a trio orbiter lander and rover on Mars in 2021. NASA and its partners have taken note of the accomplishment and take very seriously the lunar ambitions of China. The National aeronautics and space administration announced recently that Elon Musk’s company space X was awarded the juicy contract of 2.9 billion dollars to build the company’s HLS human landing system for use from lunar orbit and back. The main aim of the US space administration from the beginning was to associate with private companies to reduce costs and free its hands for forays further into the solar system by both man and robotic missions. It seemed that such a win combination would ensure NASA would land an American on the surface of the red planet before any nation or private company could venture attempting the same expedition. Things have changed slightly recently, last month in our editorial we were deploring the poor state of cooperation in space and the deterioration has since continued. According to all probabilities, the Russian space agency will part ways with NASA after decades of cooperation and without entering in the disputes or the politics; we can say that the assessment of NASA to be the first to land a manned mission on the red planet could be problematic. Carolyn Porco said that she saw and still sees human exploration of the system being undertaken by a consortium of nations which a lot of people around the planet have long considered as a symbol of peace. From the first hand shake in orbit by Leonov and Stafford passing by the Mir and ISS joint missions, we got used to friendship in space and many of us have this unofficial equation that even when things were bad on Earth between the superpowers, up there above our heads they worked, ate and supported each other. Space was giving us reason to hope. Most probably it will be groups of nations in two different camps, some said that the Apollo program was not powered by rocket liquid fuel but by the cold war, will it be the case again? As for Space X and lunar tourism even though it is hard to see more than a small scale excursion, it is absolutely reasonable that Elon Musk could sustain some well advertised activities maintaining the illusion of space for all. To end with the Earth Moon system, we could resume by saying that the moon being a strategic, cultural, scientific an economic asset, we can be confident that the human race will soon proceed to occupy, exploit and explore the Moon. This industrial occupation will be on an appreciable scale if the scientific predictions about of the Moon’s resources are confirmed and a human population will be present to man and service the facilities.China Advances China first 2033? Honeymoon's End?
And Mars? The terraforming Musk is promising and the true colonization, will that happen? That is where things become more complicated. Historically colonization is not triggered by adventurers or dreamers wishing to discover new horizons. Colonization was brought about by migration caused by hunger, upheaval, percussions and wars of all kinds and words which denote nothing other than trouble. To cut a long story short. No it is not possible to terraform Mars with the actual state of our technology. Terraforming or terraformation is the earth shaping process to make an alien planet earth like and habitable by modifying its initial atmosphere, temperature or even surface topography.First let’s give a few characteristics about Mars even though if you have arrived this far in the article, I am pretty sure that you already know what will follow. Despite apparent similitudes, Mars is an alien planet which is lethal to most kinds of terrestrial life forms. If the temperature can rise up to 20 degrees in a bright summer at the equator, it will drop to minus 100 during the night but the minimal temperature could drop as low as minus 120 degrees Celsius. The surface pressure is about 610 Pascals (0.088 psi) which is less than 1% of the Earth's value. The atmosphere is itself 100 times less dense than Earth and at its highest atmospheric density, is only equal to the density found 35 km above the Earth's surface. All these conditions would contribute to make the life of potential colonists stern, miserable, dangerous and none the less to add, stressful. Gravity on Mars being about 38 percent of Earth’s gravity, the colonists will also have to deal with the effects of low gravity on their health. A problem far from solved and which will for a long time plague the prospects of long duration space flight. If it is difficult to keep the moral of trained professionals high under those conditions, it will be a nightmare to do so with hundreds if not thousands of colonists condemned to live in a closed hermetic environment. Underlining those problems, some authors of science fiction and then scientists have proposed to terraform Mars so that it is at least more suitable for humans and some other higher life forms, an idea championed by Elon Musk and which comes out continuously from those who support the sometimes outlandish ideas of the billionaire. The reasoning is that Mars has an important reservoir of CO2 frozen in its poles, if we could somehow liberate this powerful greenhouse gas effect into the atmosphere, it would warm it and increase the surface pressure. In the Ted video, Carolyn Porco dismisses the idea by revealing that the most recent data implies that there is not sufficient carbon dioxide in reserves in the poles or rocks to achieve the values required. The website of NASA squarely put it down in a release of July 2018 “Mars Terraforming Not Possible Using Present-Day Technology” *adding that Although studies investigating the possibility of terraforming Mars have been made before, the new result takes advantage of about 20 years of additional spacecraft observations of Mars. However there are other ways to provide substance to the moribund atmosphere of Mars. Quite interesting to note that Elon Musk wanted to achieve this result by nuking the poles of Mars, a quite radical approach but there are even more aggressive ones. One solution would be to divert small bodies of the outer solar system (by small we mean bodies a few kilometres in diameter) rich in ammonia and redirect these objects to crash on Mars. A solution which comes with its own problems and uncertainties.NASA's Release
If the values required are achieved and consequently surface pressure and temperature rise, there will still be the problem of retaining this atmosphere. The same process which depleted the original atmosphere will have the same effect on the one reconstructed. Back in the past, Mars had a dense atmosphere and the scientists suspect that one of the main reasons that it lost the capacity to retain one comparable to Earth’s, is that Mars lost her magnetic field. The equation is fairly simple for a successful terraforming of the planet; you need to both reconstruct the atmosphere and the magnetic field. Another proposed method is to strip hydrocarbons and methane from Titan’s atmosphere and surface and then to vent it afterwards into the atmosphere of Mars. A solution that some argue is as pointless as the ammonia one as they point out that both gases would be short lived in the atmosphere of Mars. Methane for example has the estimated life range from 0.6 to 4 years. We find the same problem with ammonia. A less aggressive solution than nuking the poles but using the same carbon resources locked in the poles, would consist of an orbital mirror hovering over the poles to concentrate solar radiation towards the poles to increase the surface temperatures. The mirror will have to be only 125 kilometres in radius. The other problem is for this giant mirror to stay in a stationary position, it has to proceed to a gravitational hypothetical manoeuvre that is still to be tested. * A statite (from the words static and satellite) is a hypothetical type of artificial satellite that employs a solar sail to continuously modify its orbit in ways that gravity alone would not allow. Typically, a statite would use the solar sail to "hover" in a location that would not otherwise be available as a stable geosynchronous orbit.(Source Wikipedia)  We are still assuming that there is sufficient carbon to trigger the rise in temperature which apparently is not the case.Terraformation of Mars
If we cannot prevent the atmosphere from taking a ride, maybe we could constantly replenish it so as to keep the level of greenhouse gas at the desired levels? This solution consists of concentrating in the Martian atmosphere CFC’s chlorofluorocarbons as we know this gas produces a greenhouse effect thousands of times stronger than carbon dioxide. To make the effective changes, it has been calculated that you will have to add to the Martian atmosphere, 39 million tons of CFC’s which is 3 times the production of CFC’s produced between 1972 and 1992. And to maintain the levels of CFC’s that are destroyed by photolysis, you will annually have to pour 170 kilotons of optimal greenhouse compounds (CF3CF2CF3, CF3SCF2CF3, SF6, SF5CF3, SF4 (CF3)2) such as are required to generate an Earth life pressure. The production of this gas in situ will ask for a colossal industrial effort.It is not as if there were no solutions to the problem of the magnetic shield. Jim Green of NASA proposed to build a magnetic dipole field placed between Mars and the sun to act as a distant shield. Green himself says the idea is “fanciful,” but it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility. About fancy, Green does not have to be shy because the following suggestion is even better… “This could be done using an extremely large nuclear bomb which would be placed near the core of the planet. The bomb would have to release enough energy to liquefy the core” No matter how you look at it, we do not have the technology nor the material means to pull out this kind of mega project millions of kilometres from Earth and that is whether your name is Elon Musk or Houdini. Are all these talks of terraforming just wind in the Martian dessert? In 2015 NASA announced that they were looking into a project to terraform the Shackleton crater and transform it in an oasis of warm sunlight surrounded by a desert of freezing cold darkness' The crater is found at the southern pole of the moon and if the peaks received constant sunlight, the interior is perpetually in shadow and some measurements in orbit suggest the presence of ice water in the crater. Though the conclusions are not definitive, NASA chose this location. If Musk is to terraform a place and make a demonstration of feasibility, he could start on a smaller scale. Elon Musk said in January that he will send one million people to Mars by 2050 which involves building 1000 starships at a rate of 100 per year for three launches per day. In the meantime he hopes to have a crew mission to the red planet around 2026 though some more realistic projections give a date of 2029 or even 2031. If Musk lands on Mars first, space X will prove its mastery of interplanetary space travel but not the veracity of their narrative. But is this narrative of saving the planet by finding Earth B or terraforming Mars a dangerous one? Beware the man with half baked ideas! Britain's chief astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees goes as far as qualifying it as a dangerous delusion. “The idea of Elon Musk to have a million people settle on Mars is a dangerous delusion. Living on Mars is no better than living on the South Pole or the tip of Mount Everest “and even dubbed the idea unrealistic. Neil De Grass Tyson argued like Carolyn Porco that it is much easier to make Earth return to Earth again, rather than terraforming Mars.The Extreme. Dagerous Delusion? Although...
Why the narrative then? Why even Stephen Hawking famously said “humans need to leave the Earth in order to avoid annihilation. ... One way or another, I regard it as almost inevitable that either a nuclear confrontation or environmental catastrophe will cripple the Earth at some point in the next 1,000 years” Answering this question is not an easy task and in a way it is perhaps more easy to try to explain the reasoning of Hawking where perspective makes a big difference. Habitually scientists dealing with cosmology, geology or astrophysics do not rate things according to the human life span. Hawking said “as almost inevitable” he did not say inevitable. It is inevitable if the human race persist in taking irrational decisions concerning their environment. Anyway, do we teach our kids to run and not to face their responsibilities? As for the prophets of impending doom predicting the end of mankind in 50, a hundred or a 1000 years, they fail to notice that Homo Sapiens has been around anatomically identical to modern man for 300,000 years and that human populations with equal intellectual abilities comparable to ours, have roamed the earth for 120,000 years. During this time, we have survived floods of biblical proportions, some 76 000 years ago the human populations had been reduced to only 10,000 to 30,000 individuals. Humanity survived super volcanic eruptions whose after effects could be akin to a nuclear winter and in one of the worst day of humankind, an impactor (comet, meteorite etc.) probably stroked the planet 12,000 years ago. Humanity survived wars and pandemics all throughout its hundreds of thousands of years of history. And the populations who survived these Hollywood scenarios of end of the world were hunter gatherers without our technology, science or knowledge. We are still here! And it is probable that we will still be here in 1000 years. Annihilation is a very big word. It is quite clear today that nuclear war could sufficiently disrupt civilisation to cause its total collapse and cause the greatest genocide of all time. However, it is uncertain and even improbable that it will annihilate mankind. We will conclude saying that most probably we will see private space ventures flourishing but the scale and ambitions will have to be lowered. It is probable that human activities in low earth orbit and on the lunar surface will see man’s activities in space booming. As long as a new propulsion technology (We spoke about fusion but her little cousin fission is not a hypothetical concept but a proven and validated one which needs development) does not change the equation radically, the question of the massive transportation of humans to another planet will remain a pipe dream.They Survived Doomsday!