The ultimate consumer society—use up one planet and move on to the next
It’s not space exploration that troubles me. It’s the belief that we have irrevocably fouled our own planet, so the best move is to look for another planetary home. Rather than make the sacrifices necessary to heal planet Earth, we have to audacity to look for another planet to destroy.
It’s the essence of American consumerism, the dream of attaining the new, improved model while mentally consigning the older model to the landfill. Before you chase too far down that consumer rat-hole, it’s time to study that glossy brochure more closely.
Elon Musk Dreams of Terra-forming Mars
ter·ra·form (verb) — (especially in science fiction) transform (a planet) so as to resemble the earth, especially so that it can support human life
Of course, this is something that has never been done before. At least not in a positive manner — we have almost succeeded in destroying our planet’s environment so that it no longer resembles Earth. That’s sort of the opposite of terraforming, the destruction of a planet’s environment.
Musk Has a Plan
· Launch 10,000 nuclear warheads into space, aimed at Mars
· Detonate the warheads on the polar ice caps to release the frozen carbon dioxide
· The release of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, will slowly warm the planet
There are 13,355 nuclear warheads available on Earth, 12,000 in the hands of the US and Russia. Granted, it would be a grand idea to send them all to another planet — better yet, the sun. I’m sure the governments involved will gladly hand their arsenal over the Elon, or as he would say — “No problem.”
So … just where would Musk get 10,000 nukes?
Then there is the radioactive fallout from such a detonation. Cesium-137 has a half-life of 30.17 years — sort of puts a crimp in any near-term exploration and habitat construction.
There is also a question of how much frozen CO2 is available on Mars? How much it would take to raise the Martian temperature and atmospheric pressure so that liquid water could exist on the planet?
The average Martian temperature is -81 degrees Fahrenheit compared to an average of 57 degrees here on Earth
Scientists investigated the question of available carbon dioxide on Mars, and the results were published in Nature. Using data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, the researchers found that there isn’t enough frozen CO2 in the Martian polar caps to change the Martian atmosphere enough to maintain liquid water on the surface. So any water vapor added to the atmosphere in a nuclear detonation would simply refreeze.
Terraforming involves raising the atmospheric pressure. The current atmospheric pressure on Earth is 1 bar — on the Martian surface, it’s only 6 millibars. The denser and heavier the atmosphere, the more heat retained — the essence of our current problems on Earth.
The destruction of the Earth is sort of reverse terraforming and we are experts at that.
If both Martian ice caps were thawed completely, only 9 millibars of pressure would be added to the Martian atmosphere, which is still only 15 millibars. That’s a long way from the 1,000 millibars (1 bar) needed.
The Earth’s magnetic field is not only handy for navigation. It protects us from cosmic rays and solar flares. Although solar flares are not particularly harmful to human life, they are damaging to electronics. Harsh cosmic rays from outer space are harmful humans. The Earth’s magnetic field protects organic life from these cosmic rays. Without Earth’s magnetic field, our atmosphere would be stripped away, as happened on Mars. Once Earth’s magnetic field is lost, solar winds would rip away the gasses from our planet’s atmosphere.
Mars lost its magnetic field 3.8 billion years ago. Colonists on Mars would have no protection from the harsh radiation from space. Solar flares wreak havoc with un-shielded electrical equipment. The loss of Mar’s magnetic field also caused its atmosphere to begin leaking into space, making the planet increasingly inhospitable.
“Solar flares and coronal mass ejections can affect Earth at any time. Scientists monitor the sun to study these events to try to predict when and where they will occur. NASA reported a large solar flare July 3, 2021, which caused radio blackouts.” — The Washington Post
SpaceX Wants to Send People to Mars to Establish Cities
This is a worthy goal, but not something that will be accomplished in time to save humanity from self-destruction. If you are considering this as an alternative to addressing the problems of our own planet— escape to Mars is not gonna happen in time.
“In terms of the vision that we’re moving toward, it’s really to enable cities on Mars and everything that comes with having a city, having a large and growing population,” Paul Wooster, principal Mars development engineer at SpaceX. “This obviously is a very significant endeavor, something that will take many years, many decades even, to really achieve,” he said. But the company is targeting a characteristically ambitious timeline of perhaps 2022 for the first unmanned mission to Mars.”
Wow, that’s next year! Can’t wait to see how that timeline holds up.
It will take many years, many decades even to really achieve (a city on Mars)
We have not so much as built a temporary out-house on the moon, yet a populated city on Mars is decades away? The moon is just a hop, skip and jump from Earth — 238,900 miles. Mars is 244,360,000 miles away.
Mars is only 1,023 times farther away, so it will only take about nine months to get there, what could possibly go wrong on a nine-month space voyage?
Of course, my generation grew up with Star Trek, so we are used to traveling around the galaxy at warp speed, but that would hardly be needed to get to Mars. Using just the impulse drive of the Starship Enterprise, at half-impulse (half the speed of light), we could zoom to Mars in 10 minutes.
But Elon Musk has not invented the impulse drive, nor is he likely to do so in his lifetime — so Earthlings are stuck with pedestrian speeds of travel for now.
I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel as though escape to Mars is a fools' errand. We need to focus all our scientific effort on solving the climate problems that will ensure our short-term survival. We can dream of Mars, but we had better focus on the problems of climate change right here and now — that might start with making these billionaires pay their taxes. We could use the money to address our most pressing problems.