As reported by the Associated Press, it was announced yesterday that the SpaceX return to flight – following the explosion that took place during its last launch – will be in January, 2017, instead of this month. Previously, the fledgling aerospace company had been hopeful that it would launch again in December, but has made the decision to err on the side of safety. The question is, will these ongoing delays interfere with the plans that Elon Musk has for sending spacecraft and human beings to Mars?
Elon Musk and Mars
As noted by the India Times, Elon Musk has made no secret of the fact that his ultimate goal for SpaceX is to use it as a means for colonizing other worlds – specifically Mars. While 10 years ago when Musk first started talking about this kind of thing, it sounded insane – the success he’s enjoyed over the last few years has made critics less skeptical.
Only this year, Musk and NASA reached an agreement to send a vehicle SpaceX has designated “Red Dragon” to Mars. This will be an unmanned variant of its manned Dragon 2 spacecraft, which is designed to carry human beings into orbit and beyond.
In September of this year, Musk gave a presentation in Mexico where he described his plans for an interplanetary transport system that would allow hundreds of people at a time to travel to and from Mars. He also suggested that the same vehicles could be used for carrying human beings to other worlds in our solar system.
This visionary’s goal is to have human beings standing on the surface of Mars sometime in the late 2020s. He hopes to have fully realized cities containing thousands of people by 2050. Ultimately, he sees Mars having a population of millions.
The Advantages of Going to Mars
From Musk’s perspective, there are several advantages to carrying out such an ambitious undertaking. One is that it provides the human race with a safe haven and a backup plan if anything should ever happen to the Earth. And as the dinosaurs could tell as if they were here, global disasters aren’t exactly unprecedented.
This colony would also give the human race access to resources and new lands, allowing for the physical, technological and economic development of the human race in ways it hasn’t enjoyed since the original Age of Exploration. Moreover, this new Age of Exploration wouldn’t involve the extermination of entire peoples or species, since most scientists think Mars is dead.
There is also – as Musk himself has pointed out on numerous occasions – the expansion of the human spirit itself through the adventure of exploration. In short, going to Mars and living there could be a lot of fun. It could be liberating not only in a physical, technological, and political sense, but also in the areas of art and literature.
It’s no coincidence that the last Age of Exploration coincided with the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. People living in a narrow, limited world – which is what Europe was at the time – suddenly found themselves thrust onto a much larger stage, and the result was a revolution.
Yes, not all the cultural interactions were positive. In fact, many of these interactions can be described as genocidal. But there were many benefits for European society, from the development of new technologies and art forms, to the introduction of new foods and medicines.
Musk, of course, hopes to achieve all of these benefits without any of the negatives when SpaceX goes to Mars. But the original question is whether he will allow the major setback he suffered late this year with the explosion of a Falcon Nine rocket to interfere with his long-term plans. The answer is almost certainly a resounding no.
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]