Human colony on Mars: SpaceX’s backup plan for humanity

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An artist's conception of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander on the surface of Mars in this undated photograph from NASA. NASA officials have declared the end of mission for the Phoenix Mars Lander November 10, 2008. The spacecraft has been operating on Mars for more than five months since its landing May 25, 2008. REUTERS/NASA/Handout (UNITED STATES)

Space journalist and NASASpaceFlight Managing Director Chris Bergin’s latest tweet on SpaceX’s “most exciting thing ever” has set social media ablaze in anticipation of a big announcement, promised earlier in 2015 by Elon Musk in a Reddit AMA. Now, the SpaceX CEO may be unveiling his plan for the next big step in space travel – a human colony on Mars.

SpaceX’s stellar record in space transport services and aerospace manufacturing may soon get a shot in the arm with an announcement of the Mars Colonial Transporter, or MCT, reports TechTimes. A human settlement on Mars doesn’t seem too far away, with many estimates having put the years between 2025 and 2030 probable for the launch of the first human mission to Mars.

Musk has time and again emphasised the need for establishing a Mars colony. “The ultimate objective is to make humanity a multi-planet species; 30 years from now, there'll be a base on the moon and on Mars, and people will be going back and forth on SpaceX rockets,” he said in an interview with Wired Magazine.  

The MCT is being developed to carry not just a handful, but a million people to Mars by the end of the century. This involves a fleet of cargo and human transportation vehicles, such as Falcon 9 and Dragon. But the key challenge is to reduce the astronomical costs, which SpaceX plans to accomplish by using rockets that are 100 percent reusable, WaitButWhy explains specifics of the plan.

However, Elon Musk is not alone in this endeavour. MarsOne, a not-for-profit foundation that aims to establish a “permanent human settlement” on the red planet by sending its first human missions in 2026, joins SpaceX in the Mars race.

But what lies behind this interest in leaving home base?  The fear of a sixth mass extinction. Apocalyptic disasters such as devastating volcanic eruptions and giant asteroids have caused five mass extinctions on the planet. With global warming beginning to show effects and average temperatures estimated at rising up to 6 degree C by the end of century, it’s probably a good time to start house hunting.

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