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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Mars Colonization
Posted: August 3, 2020 at 6:20 am
Update (July 30, 8:40 a.m. ET): This piece has been updated to reflect the successful launch of the NASA rover mission to Mars.
The Martian Revolution pitting the human inhabitants of Mars against the Earthlings who stayed at home is coming. The only question is which side of it we should be on now, a century or two before it begins.
On Thursday, the United States launched a new rover to Mars. Last week, China sent its own spacecraft to Mars, and days before that a United Arab Emirates mission also set off for the Red Planet. Each one marks a dramatic step forward in the scientific exploration of our celestial neighbor and the day that human settlement there becomes a reality. The purpose of the missions range from unpacking the history of Mars' atmosphere to looking for signs of ancient life.
In building new outposts of human society, how do we keep from repeating all the injustices and broken power dynamics that have marked history on Earth?
While billionaire rocketeers like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and others aren't directly involved in these missions, they are very interested in Mars. And nation-sponsored endeavors like those launching this week will plant the seeds that they hope will eventually grow into a long-term, large-scale human presence on Mars and throughout the solar system. Commercial space companies, like Musk's SpaceX, have had remarkable success building powerful, reusable rockets that shave the cost of reaching orbit and would help drive that Martian settlement.
But the progress also brings new and equally remarkable questions about the ethics of populating Mars, particularly when we are so acutely aware of the failures and devastation caused by humanity's earlier acts of colonization. Answers to these new questions may not only determine our future in space, but they may also shape the human future for centuries.
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There are important questions about the legitimacy and wisdom of colonizing Mars in the first place. But even if these concerns are overcome or simply ignored in the enthusiasm for a human future in space, we must think seriously about how to do it in the best way. The global outrage at George Floyd's death and the societal shortcomings it spotlights tell us we must ask ourselves now and not later: In building new outposts of human society, how do we keep from repeating all the injustices and broken power dynamics that have marked history on Earth?
That's where the Martian Revolution comes in.
Martian liberation movements are a staple of science fiction. First, people from Earth build tiny settlements on Mars. Then, after a century or so, the settlements grow into vibrant planetwide civilizations. Eventually, these new "Martians" fight to throw off the yoke of Earth's tyranny. In these stories, space represents an opportunity to create social arrangements that look profoundly different from what we've been locked into on Earth. In space, maybe, we could be more free.
The question that must come next is: Whose idea of freedom are we talking about? The broad discussion of systematic racism happening now is a recognition of just how deep and persistent inequality has been in most modern societies. Add to this the oppression of different sexual and gender identities and it's clear that there are forms of expression and well-being that lots of humans don't fully enjoy here on Earth.
So, if we want something different, how can we get there?
One vehicle is the growth of commercial space enterprises, because their premise is so new and their activities are so vibrant. SpaceX, Blue Origin and others deserve a lot of credit for what they have and can achieve technologically. But it's unlikely that the owners, a group of hyper-rich white guys small enough to fit into an elevator, can build the best new society on their own even if they really did have the very best of intentions.
But the economic engines they're creating can help bring many different kinds of people into the process, including those who suffer now under what we've built on Earth. That's because thriving long-term human settlements on Mars can exist only once we've built a healthy space economy, and that's going to happen only through collaborations between governments and commercial enterprises (i.e., public-private partnerships). Right now, for example, the U.S. government is a principal client for SpaceX. So, in the future, the moon bases, asteroid-mining facilities and deep-space exploration platforms that will make up a space economy will likely be built by consortiums of nations working with private companies.
We everyday citizens who represent the public side of the partnerships can require those companies to break with the past to be more inclusive and innovative; we have leverage. If a company wants to be part of a big moon base contract, then the governments allowing them to be involved have to set up rules and standards that benefit all humans, regardless of their place on the socioeconomic ladder. Creating economic structures for workers that can't devolve into versions of indentured servitude (something Musk seemed to unwittingly imply was possible) is one example.
But we could go even further. My colleague Jacob Haqq-Misra of the Blue Marble Space Institute has come up with one of the coolest ideas ever when it comes to this question. He argues that we can liberate Mars now by declaring any settlement there to be definitively Martian. Humans who leave Earth to permanently settle on Mars would have to relinquish their planetary citizenship as Earthlings. These new Martians wouldn't be able to represent the interests of any group on Earth and couldn't acquire wealth on Earth.
Just as important, in keeping with space treaties formed under the auspices of the United Nations, the Martian Constitution outlining the society the planet's new citizens would be joining would spell out the use of land on the Red Planet. In particular, land rights would be determined only by Martians; Earthlings wouldn't be able to make any demands for resources like water (for making rocket fuel). (Note that this means you could still make money on Mars, but you would have to do it as a citizen of the new world, with its new, more just and equal social arrangements.
If we do decide to populate Mars (and you can probably tell I really want us to), then we can ensure a future in space that would be something much better than what we have now something those back on Earth could eventually learn from. In that way, the Martian Revolution can begin today. It can be fought and won without grievance and without a shot, fully completed by that fateful day when human beings first set foot on the red soil of their new home.
Adam Frank, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester, is the author of "Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth."
Originally posted here:
The NASA Mars rover launch raises the question of how best to settle other planets - NBC News
Posted: at 6:20 am
About 110 people would be needed to colonize Mars successfully, says a new report.
NASA just safely launched its robotic Mars 2020 mission, but when it finally does send people to the red planet how many humans would need to live on Mars to create a successful self-sustaining colony?
It could be one of the most important questions ever asked.
After all, humanity could be threatened with extinction due to some cataclysmic event; global warming, a deadlier pandemic, all-out war on Earth, or an asteroid strike.
If we ever becomeperhaps if we need to becomea multi-planet species, exactly how many settlers would be needed for survival on another planet?
The answer, according to a paper published inScientific Reports, is about 110 people.
The number of people that could be sent to another planet would be rather limited, says Jean-Marc Salotti at the Bordeaux Institut National Polytechnique, the author of The Minimum Number of Settlers for Survival on Another Planet.
A mathematical model can be used to determine the minimum number of settlers and the way of life for survival on another planet, writes Salotti. The minimum number of settlers has been calculated and the result is 110 individuals.
That figure is interesting. SpaceX is currently working on its Starship, something of a reusable interplanetary spaceship that would be capable of sending 100 passengers at a time to Mars. However, Salotti has doubts about reusability and thinks that developing a vehicle that can both land and relaunch from Mars could take several decades.
Developing a vehicle that can both land and relaunch from Mars could take several decades to ... [+] perfect.
Concepts of crewed Mars missions take about six months for between three and six astronauts to reach the planet, along with a few dozens of tons of consumables. Although it may be possible for some resources to be obtained from Marscarbon dioxide from the atmosphere, water ice from the soil to produce oxygen and organic compounds, hematite to produce iron, silicates to produce glasswere decades away from understanding if any of that would be practically possible.
Salottis calculations are based on the ability of a group of individuals to survive if cargo drops from Earth were stopped. That could perhaps be because a colony is becoming too expensive to send cargo to, because of war on Earth, or because the colonists decide to go it alone and declare an independent Martian republic.
It takes into account factors like how long the colonists would need to to spend mining, producing metal, ceramics and glass, chemicals and clothes, and recommends that colonists use three guiding principles:
If this relatively low number is confirmed, survival on another planet might be easier than expected, writes Salotti.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.
Posted: at 6:20 am
HONG KONGChina launched its most ambitious space mission last week, with a trio consisting of an orbiter, lander, and rover loaded onto a massive rocket that is heading to Mars. The mission is an impressive scientific feat, one that is entangled with Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinpings push to define China as a conquering superpower in space.
Called Tianwen-1, the Chinese Mars mission involves a seven-month journey to the red planet. When the rocket nears its destination after traveling 39 million miles, it will release the orbiter to scan and map Mars from above, while the lander will carry the rover to the planets surface. If everything goes according to plan and the rover maintains communication with ground control on Earth, China will be the second nation to successfully place an operational robot on Martian soila significant achievement for a country that is attempting to establish technological supremacy on a global and now interplanetary scale.
Yet that triumph comes loaded with CCP officials desire for space colonization. One senior aerospace engineer and the head of Chinas lunar exploration program, Ye Peijian, indicated two years ago that his countrys designs for space expedition mirror Beijings plan for the South China Seathat is, the party seeks to occupy the moon and Mars at any cost.
The universe is an ocean, the moon is the Diaoyu Islands, Mars is Huangyan Island, Ye said at the CCPs annual plenary session in Beijing two years ago, referencing geological formations that are also known as Senkaku and Scarborough Shoal, and are claimed by Japan, Taiwan, as well as the Philippines. If we do not go there now even though we can, then we will be blamed by our descendants, Ye also said. If others go there, then they will take over, and you will not be able to go even if you want to. This is reason enough.
The message was clear then: its a zero-sum game. The partys officials see space as a place to be conquered, so they are compelled to stake a claimfast.
China has designs to become an astral superpower. Details about state funding for space missions are opaque, but in 2018, Beijing earmarked at least $8 billion for the China National Space Administration, second only to the U.S. That amount has almost certainly increased every year since then, with Beijing hastening efforts to establish a permanent presence in space. China already has rovers on the moon. It will likely launch the core module of a space station to low Earth orbit next year. It is laying the groundwork for a crewed lunar mission in the 2030s, with plans to build a base near the lunar south pole.
And Mars? If we take Yes words at face value, then the plan is to seize, annex, and build on top of it.
NASAs Perseverance Mars rover is scheduled to launch this week, on July 30. Like Tianwen-1s as yet unnamed rover, it will hunt for carbon-containing molecules that may point to Martian life in the past, as well as collect dirt samples for scientific analysis.
After Tianwen-1 left its launchpad, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted out well wishes, welcoming China to a small, elite group of nations that are exploring Mars. Yet it is impossible to ignore that the current confrontations between China and the U.S. look more and more like a Cold War with each passing day, and the competing space programs resemble a page out of the ideological showdown between the U.S. and Soviet Union.
Beijing and Washington have locked horns on every front. The two largest economies in the world are trapped in a spiral of tariffs. Chinas military is looking to project its power in new places around the globe, grating against American spheres of influence, particularly in East Asia and the Middle East. And tech companies on either side of the Pacific Ocean are racing to one-up each other, fueled by bonfires of cash from venture capital funds that place bets on both coasts. The competition between China and the United States is multi-pronged, extending beyond the stratosphere too.
If Tianwen-1 is a success, Xi Jinping will score a major win within the partys hierarchy, and feed the justification of his decree to remain president for life. Space exploration in any form is an inspiration, and the pride shared by Chinese people while watching a rocket built by their country fly to Mars is pure. Many young people will no doubt heed the call to build careers in STEM fields, or even dream of becoming the first Chinese person to leave footprints on another planet. But the CCPs extra dimension of conquest taints this legacy, and even maps the potential for conflict beyond our world.
The Martian author Andy Weir & NASA agree: Colonize the moon first, then put people on Mars – SYFY WIRE
Posted: at 6:20 am
As badly as countless stargazers (including Elon Musk) want to get human beings to Mars as soon as humanly possible, even the guy who wrote The Martian believes that establishing a permanent lunar presence is too important a springboard step to skip.
In a fascinating convergence of sci-fi and real-life space science, author Andy Weir and NASA scientist C. Alex Young pretty much agreed: the moon has to come first for a whole host of reasons but at the end of the day, the biggest is because its just so darn close.
I would say that Mars is way easier to deal with if it werent for the distance, said Weir, whose followup novel to The Martian, 2017s Artemis, explores a fictional crime story once mankind hasput down permanent roots on the lunar surface. If Mars and the moon were the same distance from Earth, he explained, it would be way easier [to reach] than the moon.
Hosted by the Museum of Science Fiction as part of its Escape Velocity Extra webcast series, Weir and Young met on the eve of NASAs historic Mars Perseverance launch to talk about the agencys Artemis lunar program, which aims to return humans to the moon by 2024. The sci-fi fan in each of them came out when asked whether theyd like to bypass the moon altogether and shoot straight for the Red Planet. But their practical, patient sides emerged when talking about the incredible challenges a crewed trip to Mars actually poses.
Exposure to cosmic radiation, communication over vast distances, timing missions to sync with the Suns coronal mass ejections, and the sheer time involved in making the journey all present enormous challenges to humanitys Martian ambitions, said Young. Even if all the technology were in place, the distance; the time is a huge thing, he said. We can get to the moon in a relatively short period of timebut if youre on Mars, youre on your own and the time to communicate back and forth is incredibly long.
Thats a real shame, said Weir, because almost everything else about Mars makes it a much more hospitable target for back-and-forth travel. I would say that Mars is way easier to deal with, if it werent for the distance, since life on the actual surface would be shielded by an atmosphere, a stronger gravitational pull, and a more diverse matrix of planetary resources.
Both Weir and Young said humanity could soon reach a turning point in our understanding of space, as well as in developing the basic tools to reach farther without contending with Earths notoriously difficult atmospheric and gravitational challenges, by following through with NASAs Artemis program and making human colonization of the moon a permanent reality.
At least from a science point of view, the moon offers a unique platform to do science, said Young. This is one of the things that scientists like myself are super excited about the moon as a platform for doing science is really a game changer, a step that Young predicted would surpass the present age of Earthbound observatories and major uncrewed exploratory forays like the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope.
As the private sector gets more involved in helping lower the cost of setting up shop on the moon for good, humanity may also be entering an era in which real people will be willing (and, more importantly, able) to shell out real dollars for the chance to escape Earths confines and that, said Weir, will only accelerate the timeline for solving all the riddles that stand between the Earth and Mars.
Driving down the price to low Earth orbit is key. My entire book, Artemis, is based on kind of the presumption that [it] can be driven down substantially, said Weir, adding that he believes humanity is closer than ever before to reaching the tipping point as the aviation industry did in only a few decades time when that cost can get a lot lower than it is now.
Set in the late 2080s, Weirs sci-fi novel Artemis follows the life ofsmugglerJasmine "Jazz" Bashara as she gets caught up in a conspiracy for control of the eponymous lunar city.Artemis comes in the wake of Weirs debut 2011 novel The Martian, which Ridley Scott adapted into a 2015 feature film starring Matt Damon, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jessica Chastain.
Read more from the original source:
The Martian author Andy Weir & NASA agree: Colonize the moon first, then put people on Mars - SYFY WIRE
Posted: at 6:20 am
Nuclear power to be harnessed for future endeavors to Mars and the Moon. On Friday, the U.S Department of Energy put out a request to the private sector, on how this can be accomplished to help humans live for long periods in the harsh environment of space.
How it began?
Exploration of space has become a race for countries to excel at. It reached its peak during the Cold War where the USSR and USA battled to gain the upper hand with the best technology and equipment to conquer space, which is the only area left for humans to expand out territorially. During such times, the space race picked for the superpowers to show off their technological achievements.
There was a great revolution in the field of Aerospace and major improvements in the technological abilities of Man-Made Spacecraft and satellites. This was also the time where nuclear energy was wildly considered to be used for space exploration.
Nuclear energy seemed to be the best option due to its ability to create large amounts of energy from small distortions in the molecular level. However, due to negative reactions from the public because of the various accidents and its major effects on lives and environment. It has always been deemed not worth risking and projects of such systems have been shunt upon.
Is it better than solar?
Solar Energy was considered the best source of energy to power a spacecraft and is more commonly used. However, Nuclear Power offers advantages in few areas that Solar energy cannot comply with. Solar cells are efficient but can supply the energy sufficiently high only during a solar flux, meaning the closer it is to the sun the better energy can be supplied. But space is dark, cold and non-resourceful. Most of the explorations dive into deep space where there is minimal to no light available. And Mars being further away from the sun makes it receive lesser solar energy from the sun, making it all the more difficult to power systems using solar panels.
This is where nuclear-based systems are handy, where it has less mass than solar cells of equivalent power and is independent in its power production. It can also provide with both life support and propulsion to the system and may reduce both cost and flight time.
Why has the usage of Nuclear Power in Space revived?
Nuclear power systems have been launched several times to reach space. One of the earliest and first satellites launched into earths orbit was Transit-4A in 1961 which used 238 Pu (Plutonium-238) as fuel in the RTG SNAP-3B Technology.
So, the usage of nuclear power in space has always been lingered and been used to launch satellites but now NASA has accelerated it plans to send astronauts to the moon by 2024 and by 2028 they plan to establish a sustainable lunar exploration. As is the case, NASA wants to accomplish all of this in the most efficient process and nuclear energy has proven itself over time. Now, to further explore alternatives, it is common for NASA to keep competitions or send request to other private sectors.
Because of this approach and the closing of the moon landing. It has increased the interest of millions to know how NASA plans to accomplish yet another small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.
How do they plan on using nuclear power?
The plan can be devised into two phases. First, the design of a reactor is to be developed. Second, a test reactor is to be build and a second reactor to be sent to the moon. Also, development of a flight system and lander to transport the reactor to the moon will be underway.
Request has been sent to the private sector by the Energy Department and NASA on the development of nuclear power systems. The ideas will be evaluated by the Idaho National Laboratory, a nuclear research facility in eastern Idaho. They all plan to have webcast technical meeting in August concerning the programs expectations.
As of now, the reactor to be used must be able to generate uninterrupted electricity output of at least 10 Kilowatts. Compared to an average residential home in U.S.A, where 11,000 Kilowatts-hour per year is consumed. Additionally, the reactor should not weigh more than 3,500 kg and function autonomously in space for at least 10 years.
Exploration has been supported to revolve around the south polar region of the moon while the exploration for the Martian surface has not been identified.
How will it work?
Nuclear power in space has been around since the 1950s as mentioned earlier. Now, it can be segregated in the form of systems such as, small fission systems or radioactive decay for electricity or heat. Several space probes and crewed lunar missions have most commonly used the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator(RTG).
To generate power, a power-conversion unit consisting of two Stirling engines will be made to sit opposite each other. The set up for the testing was at NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center. Electricity was generated when the pumped liquid metal transfers heat from the reactor to the engine.
Researchers have tested the performance of the Stirling alternator in a radiation environment at Sandia national laboratories in Albuquerque, NM. The main aim was to test the performance of the motor without degradation of the materials. The alternator was tested by subjecting it to radiations 20 times than what it could expect in its lifetime. It survived the whole test without any significant problems.
So far, the reports have pointed that one of the concepts in technology of testing a power source for missions to the moon and mars could be deployed by 2020. But has been slowed down due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Fission systems have been effective in reducing cost compared to the RTGs, where it can be utilized to power the spacecrafts heating or propulsion systems. Several fission reactors have been proposed over decades, which makes fission reactors the closest choice for the next nuclear power system advancement.
Why use nuclear systems?
As discussed previously, why nuclear systems would fare better than solar panels. There are countless other reasons to why humanity can lend its trust in nuclear technology to help boost the accomplishment in colonizing the moon and mars.
Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) has been the basic generator device used in most of the space missions. It is prominently well protected and can sustain even during malfunctions. When the Nimbus B (a meteorological satellite) was launched, it malfunctioned in the booster guidance system and never reached the orbit. The spacecraft was destroyed but the SNAP-19 RTG was salvaged from the water, refurbished and later flown on Nimbus 3, which was a success.
This comes to show that not only can they sustain damages but are capable of being used again for future endeavor, making them more reliable than other sources of power.
Space is unforgiving and requires the upmost advantage while traversing through space. For that, the following reasons prove why nuclear power in space is beneficial:
Nuclear energy benefits the few, not the many. This is true when considering the fact that the nuclear power system will demand lots of expenses and have large risks every step of the way.
Especially, when huge power is generated, the nuclear power system produces comparatively more nuclear waste that could harm and cause hazardous effects for the people involved. Even though researchers have stated that the nuclear waste will be buried far away from the designated sites of the astronauts. The data however, gives an unsettling reminder of how nuclear waste has been dangerously hazardous and still can be potentially deadly with its radiation for thousands of years.
The Chernobyl incident is estimated to have caused around 10,000 deaths and also has left a long-term effect of radiation in the area. With such concerns, it is quietly nature to object the use of nuclear power systems. What good can it be when it could potentially radiate the surrounding with harmful radiation and make it even more uninhabitable than it already is.
Humans have conquered every inch of this earth one step at a time. By conquering the land with vehicles on roads and railways, with ships and submarines in/on water, the air with aircraftsand drones and now the space with satellites and spacecrafts, to soon be able to create colonies and settle in other worlds. These technological achievements of man are what drives them to be better and evolves them to do better than before.
Nuclear technology has its pros and cons, but overall every technology faces that. If NASA is capable of accomplishing the next big leap for human space exploration and nuclear is one way that can help them. Then, finding the best and most effective ways to carry it out without the risk of endangering the planet or other life forms is crucial.
Posted: at 6:19 am
We live in an age of wonder when the boundaries of the earth seem to be more porous than ever before. Our reach extends beyond the atmosphere. We speak of earth as the ground we trod but also as a planet, a specific place in the heavens. What does it mean for us to fill the earth when we walk on another planet?
This morning NASA launched a new mission to Mars with a launch period. It has me thinking about our place in the world, our place among the worlds, and our neighbors in space.
The Mars 2020 mission will place a new rover on the surface of Mars by Feb. 18, 2021, if all goes according to plan. This mission takes the next step in searching for life and preparing for human space travel. The car-sized rover, named Perseverance, will resemble Curiosity, the rover that landed on Mars in 2012 and still remains active. It will have a whole new suite of instruments, however, and will land in an exciting new location: near the Jezero Crater, on the edge of Isidis Basin, which contains the remains of an ancient river delta. It will collect and package samples that can be returned to Earth by a future mission.
I believe that God calls us to explore space, to see what God has made, to share our love and wisdom, and to care for creation. But we cannot go alone. We travel with a host of other creaturesthe animals, plants, and even bacteria that live with us daily and keep us alive. God calls them as well, and we cannot understand our call until we understand theirs. Questions about the journey, where and when and how we go, involve other species. We cannot go alone, technically or morally. We take others with us. And that requires understanding our interdependence.
The exploration of Mars pushes us to the very limits of our technology as we attempt to discover new life, while keeping it separate from Earth life. NASA has detailed protocols for return samples, making sure that alien organisms, no matter how improbable, could not escape to harass us or our environment. NASA has already brought back samples from the Moon (Apollo 1117, 19691972), solar wind (Genesis, 2004) and comet Wild 2 (Stardust, 2006), as have Soviet missions (Luna 16, 20, and 24, 19701976). The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) returned samples of asteroid Itokawa (Hayabusa, 2016). Both agencies have plans for future missions.
Lisa Pratt, a specialist in extreme biology, has the odd title of planetary protection officer (PPO). She certifies sample-return missions, making sure they meet national and international standards for safety. She ensures that scientists think through the details of contamination, plan properly, and install redundant safety measures. Mars sample return will get extra scrutiny because Mars has a better chance of harboring life than the Moon, comets, or asteroids. The principle remains the same: protect Earth from alien life.
Pratt has another responsibility. She protects Mars from Earth life. What if we found life on another planet only to discover we had brought it with us? Or, what if we destroyed the locals before we knew they existed? It would be a horrible lost opportunity. We would lose out scientifically, unable to study a new kind of life. We would lose out relationally, never knowing our neighbor. Space scientists care deeply about Mars and about learning all we can there.
Planetary protection involves protocols for sterilizing spacecraft before they leave Earth. Each of us walks around in a cloud of microbes, countless tiny organisms living around, on, and in us. These symbiotes live by the billions on every surface we touch. Like good neighbors, they rarely bother us. Often, they help us by digesting our food, keeping us healthy, and protecting us from other organisms. But what is good for us may not be good for Mars. Space engineers construct special clean rooms, where air and surfaces have been sterilized. They use heat, chemicals, and radiation to scrub away as much biology as they can while assembling spacecraft. They seal them in shells then launch those shells through the atmosphere to burn away any life that remains.
The PPO does not make these decisions alone. Planetary Protection was first established by the Outer Space Treaty in 1967. An international committee of scientists designs and reviews the policies that Pratt implements.
Even with all this caution, thousands of extreme organisms can survive the process. Adapted to survive decades of drought and famine on Earth, they can harden their surfaces and slow their metabolism, waiting for a warm, damp environment in which to grow. Even these organisms are unlikely to survive the cold, dry, radiation of space. And yet, just to be sure, we keep Earth robots away from Martian locales where liquid water may still flow. Ironically, we cannot search for life in the most promising places, places where we might destroy it.
Most space scientists agree that protecting Mars will become far more difficult, perhaps impossible, with a human mission. Millions of miles of void separate us from Mars. Our ingenuity is starting to bridge the gap, but we cannot neglect the ingenuity of our microbes. Bacteria have colonized Earth from the upper atmosphere to the deep subsurface. It seems inevitable that microbes will accompany us to Mars along with any plants and animals we bring intentionally.
The exploration of Mars pushes us to the edges of our theology as well. It brings us face to face with Gods command in Genesis 1:28 (NRSV): Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it. The first time I read this in the context of space exploration, I thought, Excellent. Mission accomplished. Humans have been fruitful and multiplied; we have filled the Earth. We are nearing eight billion people worldwide, 800 times as many as in the time of Jesus, much less Moses or Adam and Eve. Hardly a species has not been changed by our presence. We have domesticated many plants and animals, exiling countless more to nature reserves. We have changed the chemistry of sea and air so much that creatures in the farthest, deepest, widest wild have had to change their way of life. Truly, we cover the face of the Earth. Truly we have subdued it.
And then, a thought occurred to me. Are earth and Earth really the same? For most of Christian history, earth referred to the dirt below our feet, the land we inhabit, and the extent of humanity. It did not become a planet until the 16th century, when Copernicus named it one of the wandering stars. Earth became a proper noun. Which earth was God talking about? Shall we fill the heavens, with dominion over every rock in space, every patch of dirt? Or have we already achieved our goal?
On the fifth day, God made the creatures of sea and sky. God commanded them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth. (Gen. 1:22) Is our earth their earth? Perhaps they were meant to fill the waters above as well as the waters below. The two commands come only six verses apart. Should they not be interpreted the same way? Job reminds us that God has plans for many species; and not all of them relate to humanity.
For me, space ethics is love of neighbor writ large. It seems abstract, though it becomes more concrete as we explore the solar system. It also provides context for decisions we make daily about other species on Earth. They are not just scenery, but fellow actorsif not equals then wards. The stage is surprisingly small, and the parts intertwine.
Some have argued that we should stay home for precisely this reason. In Religion and Rocketry, C. S. Lewis argued against space travel. We know we are fallen; why would we bring our fallenness to the stars? More recently, Christian and secular ethicists alike have urged us to wait, asking us to put our own house in order before heading out. Margaret McLean emphasizes our ecological responsibilities here on earth, while Lucianne Walkowicz highlights social responsibilities. De Witt Douglas Kilgore and Gabrielle Cornish explore the ways that nationalism, colonialism, and race shape our hopes for life in space. I share their caution, but I also have hope for the journey.
I believe in self-reflection and contemplation and changing myself before trying to change others. But I also know that I cannot make the change on my own. I need to help others, and I need others to help me. This applies to me personally, to my family, my nation, and even to the planet Earth. God calls us to seek and serve the other, even the alien other. And God calls us not just as individuals, but as members of a larger body. So, I think there is something to be said for space travel. Our wanderlust must be balanced by stewardship, but it will never go away. There is a come and see beyond our atmosphere, and we will not know what we went out to see until we see it. It may be alien life. It may only be a new appreciation for the life we bring with us.
Space science provides insights here as well. Since the Apollo missions, NASA has researched environmental control and life support systemscreating bubbles of Earth life beyond the Earth. On long-term missions, such as a human mission to Mars, it is impossible to imagine bringing enough food, air, and water for the journey. It would have too much mass to launch into space. It would take up too much volume in the spacecraft. That means we need to bring other organisms with us: bacteria, plants, and animals. Abiological systems have proven less efficient at recycling waste and maintaining the environment. Early work focused on plants like yams and lotus flowers to clean the air and water as well as provide calories for astronauts. Later researchers began to consider the role of insects and fish. More recently, we have learned to appreciate the efficiency and flexibility of bacteria. In addition to caring for our bodily symbionts, we can grow colonies that turn carbon dioxide and waste into clean air, clean water, and edible food.
Every pilgrimage reveals something about home. Thinking about systems in space helps us understand similar systems on Earth, how we depend on other species, and how they depend on us. It shows us that we are part of a larger whole and that God has a plan for all of it. Space travel reminds us of Gods care for the lily and the sparrow. It brings us face to face with a plan for salvation that does not end at humanity. Our final destination will be reached in community, one species among many amid worlds without end.
Lucas Mix studies the intersection of biology, philosophy, and theology. A writer, speaker, professor, and Episcopalian priest, he has affiliations at Harvard, the Ronin Institute, and the Society of Ordained Scientists. He is currently project coordinator at Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science, supporting churches and Christian leaders using the best of science and theology. He blogson faith, science, and popular culture.
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Mars Mission: Filling the Earth and Beyond - ChristianityToday.com
Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk rivalry: A history of their 15-year feud – Business Insider – Business Insider
Posted: at 6:19 am
Over the last 15 years, two of the world's most high-profile CEOs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, have been engaged in a simmering rivalry.
The two execs have sparred over their respective space ambitions Musk runs SpaceX, while Bezos owns Blue Origin but it hasn't stopped there: Musk has called out Bezos for running what he deemed a monopoly, and has called Bezos a copycat for his self-driving car interests.
Musk and Bezos are two of the most powerful CEOs in the world. Bezos is currently the wealthiest living person and runs Amazon's sprawling empire while also involving himself in Blue Origin's quest to send people to the moon. Musk is a dual CEO, manning the ship at both Tesla and SpaceX. Over the years, their not-so-subtle rivalry has even given way to Twitter spats and name-calling.
Here's how Musk's and Bezos' rivalry began and everything that's happened since.
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Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk rivalry: A history of their 15-year feud - Business Insider - Business Insider
Elon Musk calls Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin too old and ‘too slow’ – Business Insider – Business Insider
Posted: at 6:19 am
Elon Musk has made another jab at Jeff Bezos, the latest escalation of a years-long feud between the two billionaires over their competing space ambitions.
Over the weekend, The New York Times' Maureen Dowd published a wide-ranging interview with Musk that touched on everything from his girlfriend, Grimes, and their new baby, X, to the coronavirus and Musk's wealth.
When discussing SpaceX, the space exploration company Musk leads that recently helped send astronauts into space, Bezos' name came up. Musk took the opportunity to make a dig at the Amazon CEO, who founded a reusable rocket company called Blue Origin, which hopes to send people to the moon.
Musk appeared to call Bezos too old and Blue Origin too slow to ever accomplish that goal.
"The rate of progress is too slow and the amount of years he has left is not enough, but I'm still glad he's doing what he's doing with Blue Origin," Musk said.
While Musk and Bezos mostly operate in different industries on Earth, the two moguls have been feuding over space for over 15 years. Bezos founded Blue Origin, in 2000, while Musk founded SpaceX in 2002. Things heated up two years later, when the pair met for dinner to discuss their space ambitions.
"I actually did my best to give good advice, which he largely ignored," Musk said after the meeting.
Things escalated in 2013, when SpaceX tried to get exclusive use of a NASA launch pad and Blue Origin (along with SpaceX rival United Launch Alliance) filed a formal protest with the government. Musk called it a "phony blocking tactic" and SpaceX eventually won the right to take over the pad. Months later, the two companies got into a patent battle, and soon after, Bezos and Musk took their feud public,trading barbson Twitter.
Bezos has frequently criticized the idea of colonizing Mars a main goal of SpaceX describing the idea as "un-motivating." Once, when the BBC asked Musk about Bezos, he responded, "Jeff who?"
More recently, Musk has called Amazon a monopoly and tweeted that it should be broken up. He's also called Bezos a copycat for Amazon's plan to launch internet-beaming satellites and for acquiring self-driving-taxi company Zoox, as both are industries Musk currently operates in.
Posted: at 6:19 am
In the car business, it's often said that brands are grand, but products pay the bills. In other words, you can capture or retain customers with what your company stands for, but long-term, if you don't have great vehicles, you're going to have a problem.
For almost its entire history, more than 15 years, Tesla has inverted that wisdom. A few years ago, the carmaker was barely selling any vehicles relative to its global competitors. Last year, Tesla delivered only about 250,000 vehicles, while General Motors sold almost 8 million.
Investors have decided that this means Tesla should be worth $300 billion in market capitalization, more valuable than GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles combined and topping Volkswagen and Toyota, the two biggest automakers on Earth.
Vehicle sales obviously don't add up to $300 billion in value; Tesla's quarterly revenue remains far below a Detroit Big Three car company. It's a bet on the future, and a prediction that Tesla should be able to expand its near-monopoly of the EV market as that market grows from a currently tiny basis, merely 1-2% of worldwide sales.
Investor optimism is that Tesla will maintain a dominant share, increase it scale, and notch enviable profit margins, perhaps more than 10% (high-volume luxury carmakers operate at that level, while mass-market companies run in the single-digit range).
But for now, the Tesla brand is mighty. Here's how that happened: