If you’ve been watching the news lately, you might have heard about Elon Musk’s plan to take a million people to live on Mars by the year 2060. To some adventurous folks, the idea of living on a different planet might seem enticing. However, delving more deeply, I found that the reality of living on a different planet might not be so attractive.
First, let’s compare characteristics of the planet Mars with those on Earth. For starters, Mars’ atmosphere is made up of mostly carbon dioxide, whereas earth’s atmosphere is made up of mostly nitrogen and oxygen. This carbon dioxide in the atmosphere makes it too cold for humans to live on Mars without some sort of shield. Another factor is the gravity on Mars, which is 78% lower than that of the Earth’s. This would make the simple task of moving around much more difficult.
Changes in these two factors, which we take for granted here on earth, would cause many challenges in daily life, such as reducing our ability to walk as well as force us to constantly wear a protective shield due to the extremely cold climate.
Image source: geneticliteracyproject.org
Musk’s reasoning for sending humans to colonize Mars is apocalyptic, which makes this idea even more troubling. He states that due to the exponential population growth and climate change, there are only two options left for humans on earth, either we stay on earth and continue living until “eventual extinction” or we travel and colonize other planets. So, according to Musk, moving to Mars is necessary if humans want to survive.
Part of Musk’s reasoning is correct: we cannot continue living on earth by altering it for our benefit without negative consequences. But there must be a solution more simple and ambitious than inhabiting another planet, especially when colonizing that other planet will be like discovering earth from the beginning. Though scientists discuss the possibility of apocalyptic events, such as an asteroid hitting the earth or a gigantic volcanic eruption, such catastrophes might not occur until after a hundred million years from now.
Image source: anunexpectederror.blogspot.ca
This leads me to believe that Elon Musk’s reasoning for colonizing Mars might be, to him, a simple solution to a much larger problem. His reasoning should be taken seriously at the economic, political, and social level so that we can find ways to continue sustaining ourselves without depleting earth’s resources at an alarming rate. However, apocalyptic events aside, I believe that we still have time before resorting to moving millions of people to Mars.