It isn’t just space agencies like NASA, but also private companies like SpaceX that want to send humans to Mars at some point in the future, with the 2030s often mentioned as a likely date for such a milestone to be reached. With all that time remaining before the possible colonization of the Red Planet, there are still a lot of moving parts and a lot of questions that might not be answered just yet. However, famed physicist and futurist Michio Kaku has an idea of what might happen if and when humans make their way to Mars.
Speaking to Here and Now’s Jeremy Hobson in an interview hosted by WBUR, Kaku explained that there are a lot of potential challenges that humans might encounter when traveling to Mars, but acknowledged that there are “real plans” to send humans to the Red Planet “perhaps around the 2030s,” and possibly mining the asteroid belt in between Mars and Jupiter afterward. Kaku also offered a blow-by-blow list of expectations and things that must be done in order to properly colonize Mars.
“First we want to begin the process of terraforming Mars. If you could somehow in the future raise the temperature of Mars by 6 degrees, you could induce an artificial greenhouse effect and it would take off all by itself. Some people think that if we have satellites, solar satellites that orbit Mars and reflect sunlight down to the polar ice caps, then you could melt the polar ice caps and then rivers and seas could once again flow freely on the surface of Mars like they did about 3.5 billion years ago.”
According to Michio Kaku, the above steps could result in bioengineered plants thriving in the Martian atmosphere, and could also make it possible to make genetical modifications to algae and plants grown on the planet. He added that humans can then start mining for resources, with ice being the first priority, as it could be used to extract drinking water once purified, and be broken up into oxygen and hydrogen to help people breathe and to be used as rocket fuel.
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Kaku added that it’s important that humans colonize Mars in a self-sustaining way, in such a manner that doesn’t serve as a “drain” on the United States economy. He did, however, stress that his expectations are of a long-term nature and that a trip to Mars likely won’t be happening in the near future, even if the “groundwork is being laid,” as he noted.
Considering how NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin have plans to launch manned Mars missions in the coming years, Michio Kaku did not directly answer the question of which would be first — a government space agency or a private company — in sending humans to Mars. He did, however, commend the respective heads of SpaceX and Blue Origin, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, citing the former for his plans to make Martian travel a far more affordable endeavor, and the latter for wanting to send polluting industries to outer space, thereby making Earth a “garden” and a “testament to clean environment.”