Space X have revealed their plan for space travel to (and from) Mars. Current projections have them starting trips in the early 2020s. This isn't just a research trip, this is settlement. Elon Musk wants to make humanity a multiplanetary species within the next decade. It was the title of his talk today where this was announced:
(skip to 20:55 for the start)
Now granted, they've come up with the idea, but their funding plan includes the South Park Underpants Gnome meme. Still, Space X have been responsible for some really quite exciting progress in space technology in recent years, and part of me believes this is all possible. Musk's reason behind this vision is what he sees as stagnation in space technology, as we have no good reason to spend such a phenomenal amount of money when governments have enough problems to deal with. Space X is a commercial venture, so that doesn't apply in the same way.
I'm excited by the prospect of space exploration, so I probably have an overly hopeful view of this sort of thing, but after watching the US Presidential Debate this morning, a little bit of hope for the future is a welcome change.
And yes, the title of this thread is a reference to the opening sequence of Star Trek: Enterprise, because the Space X concept video reminds me of that montage. It feels like we're one shot closer to that crazy space future.
I really hope they succeed. The prospect of not only getting a human to Mars but creating a colony there - and in the next decade (!) - is incredible. The future of space exploration and development does seem to be commercial, which raises a few interesting / concerning long-term questions:
- If SpaceX land a person on Mars, can they claim the planet? - What laws will the colony be subject to? - If future Mars societies (and potentially colonies and societies on other planets) are founded by companies for commercial reasons, will they have the best interests of their people at heart?
While Elon Musk I'm certain has only the best intentions, it's not hard to imagine a distant, dystopian future in space where companies exploit the people living in their territories. I'm struggling to think of an historical example of a company claiming ownership or effective jurisdiction of territory on Earth - the East India Company, perhaps?
I dont think they'll manage it in the next ten years. What they have accomplished so far is incredible, especially for a company named after a 60's TV show that never existed but I feel he might be shooting a bit too soon. I really hope they manage it because maaaaan space is awesome and we need more stuff out there.
I am curious about laws regarding individuals claiming land on other planets. I imagine there simply aren't any. There are treaties prohibiting governments from claiming land on any other celestial body, and from placing weapons of mass destruction or testing them outside of Earth's atmosphere. Similarly, "outer space" cannot be claimed (it's all international waters, so to speak). When these laws were written, there weren't any private organisations able to reach orbit so their inclusion wasn't thought necessary.
I suspect this will be something that is at least partially resolved by the time anyone is actually able to land people on Mars.
It's good that 'stuff is happening' with Mars. I can see future generations in the 2400's (or whenever) harking back to contractual decisions made in the dawn of space travel (now) regarding legal rights.
Although, it's possible that hundreds of years from now Mars will just be seen as a place to explore and nothing else, similar to the Moon. There might end up being no real practical benefits to doing much with the planet.
I think it'll be interesting how an already established civilisation decides on how we effectively start from scratch. A vast number of problems here on Earth are down to territory disputes, claims over natural resources and lack of available land for expanding populations. This all stems from an obvious lack of organisation and communication over the course of the development of our species.
Well, now every single government can communicate in real time with one another. We have the ability to map the entire planet and establish boundaries without bloodshed, to plan ahead and try not to damage the planet as we have Earth (although, ironically, the greenhouse effect will be a necessary part of terraforming). How do we proceed?