Recently, there has been much speculation surrounding the colonisation of other planets. From SpaceX to NASA, there have been an array of meetings, plans and discussions surrounding the future of Mars, and whether it should one day be colonised.
One argument for the colonisation of Mars is presented by futurist Michio Kaku, who points out that 99.9% of life forms on Earth have gone extinct. On this planet, he claims, we either adapt or die. With the multitude of problems facing our planet, and a growing private sector in space exploration, the frequent discussion of Mars is understandable. Issues such as global warming, antibiotic resistance, and nuclear disaster threaten the planet, as do the countless asteroids that may hit Earth at any given moment. In the case of our planet’s destruction, many argue that a ‘backup planet’ is a viable solution. Such an argument was also supported by the late Stephen Hawking, who conjectured that we needed to colonise the planet in the next 100 years to avoid extinction.
Although such a topic undoubtedly stirs excitement among the population, the reality is that the colonisation of Mars is highly impractical. Ideas such as home-building robots, genetically modified plants that can survive on Mars and other necessary technologies are, in many respects, a huge challenge to attain. Whilst easy to succumb to the fantasy of life on Mars, one must not forget the many dangers associated with space travel. Life on a planet with little gravity, high doses of radiation, and micrometeorites is hardly appealing.
Of course, with sufficient research and investment, these issues could be tackled. But why should the government and the taxpayer invest such large sums of money in another planet, as opposed to their own? Even in the event of large- scale disasters such as global warming, or an atomic bomb, the Earth would be far more habitable than Mars. Many have concerns over polluted water, and yet the only water on Mars is in the frozen ice caps. Many have concerns over the volume of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and yet the atmosphere of Mars is 96% carbon dioxide. It is certainly hard to envision a scenario in which Mars is more habitable than Earth. Then why spend so much money, time and resources fixing these problems, instead of focusing on rebuilding our own planet?
The issue of asteroids still remains. Many theorize that the potential for asteroids to destroy Earth is a valid reason to seek shelter elsewhere, and colonise another planet as potential backup. However, if an asteroid was on course to Earth, surely instead of relocating the population, it would be far simpler to build asteroid deflecting technology? In the unlikely case that no area on Earth was safe, one could invest in constructing deep sea colonies in bio domes. Although this sounds challenging, it is still more feasible than relocating a population to a planet nine months away.
To summarise, although the idea of travelling to Mars is both exciting and tempting, one needs to look at the practical implications of this. Spending billions on robots, housing, GMO food and all the necessary technology to achieve such a feat is far less reasonable than focusing on renewable technologies, and our own planet. In times of great uncertainty, we should not be focusing on the colonisation of space, but rather the current state of Earth, and tackling our climate crisis.
By Tatiana, 11L