Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Plans for Future Space Survival and Colonization

Colonizing other planets is a new and interesting idea, but what really matters is the actual plans that are produced that state how colonization is to actually proceed. Although many organizations and groups claim to be planning a mission to Mars, or beyond, few of the plans proposed so far seem plausible. As to be expected from such an expensive operation, enough money and support is often hard to find. However, there have been some proposals that seem to have enough support to actually get somewhere.

Starting with probably the least likely proposal, Mars One is an eight-man project that is meant to start a lasting human civilization on Mars. The idea is popular so far, as evidenced by the over 200 thousand people that applied to be on the first crew. It has also received support from large businesses like Media Injection and Byte, such that money may become less of an issue. The first mission (unmanned) is currently scheduled to launch in 2020. No designs have been released yet, as Mars One is still in the “concept phase” of planning.

Influential millionaires such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have also developed plans to colonize faraway planets. Musk has yet to reveal any set plans, but continues to refine his ideas as more and more information and technologies are made available. His ultimate goal is to have a lasting, prospering colony on Mars. According to Musk, a key invention needed to advance his plans are reusable rockets and rocket fuel that can be made from materials already on Mars.

Stephen Hawking and a team of millionaires and billionaires have very recently proposed a new solution – tiny nanocraft that could be propelled into space. They would be propelled by lasers on Earth, and could possibly go as fast as 20 percent of the speed of light. These machines could actually get to Alpha Centauri in a reasonable amount of time (about 20 years), versus how long it would take a spaceship at current speeds (thousands of years). There are obviously many engineering and funding obstacles, but the team is confident that their plan provides a plausible solution for more distant space travel.

NASA's three-step plan in a picture.
Lastly, there is the established three-step plan published by NASA. The first step – “Earth Reliant” – is where research will be done aboard the space station to study how humans could survive on Mars. The second step – “Proving Ground” – will let crews practice operating in deep space, before returning to Earth in a few days. The final stage – “Earth Independent” – will be when the humans are finally placed on Mars, and ready for survival. NASA’s plan seems the most straightforward, but in this case a farfetched, new and creative plan could actually prove to be the most successful.

No matter the plan, the act of experimenting and discovering new possibilities for space colonization will never have a negative effect. Each time we find a method that will not work, we are one step closer to finding a future solution to a current problem.


- Mary Garrett