Humans were born to explore.
The desireto travel to the unknown forged in the back our minds. Not too long ago in humanhistory, explorers traveled to the so-called “new world”. Now in the modernday, to travel to the “new world” means something completely different. Ashumans, we have shifted our focus from what we see in front of us to what far,far above us. With this paradigm shift, it begs the question, is planetarycolonization both possible and necessary for humanity’s survival in the near futureSimilar to how colonist altered theenvironment of their new world, we would have to alter, or terraform, theenvironment of whichever planet we plan to colonize Terraforming can be described as, “transforminga hostile environment into one suitable for human life.” (“What is Terraforming” Martian Town Hall Polling Place).
In our case, terraforming would be used to describe the change of Mars oranother planet, to an environment similar to that of Earth. To say thatterraforming is large project would be an understatement as it takes many yearsto fully complete.Someare skeptical about the idea of changing a cold, rocky, dry planet into aplanet that is almost identical to Earth. As far out as terraforming seems, itis possible. In late 2015, NASA released a plan called “Journey to Mars” thatexplains how NASA will work to make Mars habitable.
In it they give out the stepsthey will take in hope of establishing a permanent colony. A couple of thingsmust be done in order for humans to be able to live on Mars (in an Earth-likeenvironment). First, we would need to fix the not-so-great atmosphere.
“Humansare pretty picky when it comes to atmospheric conditions. If the pressure’s toohigh or too low, we die. If we don’t get enough oxygen, we die. After all,we’ve evolved to live within a very specific layer of Earth’s gaseous outerlayer. Mars’ atmosphere is very thin and incredibly cold.
It lacks sufficientair pressure and contains way too much carbon dioxide.” (“Is it Possible toTerraform Mars?” ,Lamb, HowStuffWorks). Another thing that must be done is tomake sure that Mars has fully functioning electromagnetic field. According tothe same source (“Is it Possible to Terraform Mars?” ,Lamb, HowStuffWorks),”Earth has an electromagnetic field, generated by hydrodynamic convectionbetween its liquid outer core and solid inner core.
Without this shielding,we’d be exposed to a deadly stream of highly charged particles called the solarwind. For reasons we don’t entirely understand yet, Mars lacks this protectionand possesses only remnants of a magnetic field at its polar ice caps.” Itwould take a lot of effort to address these two problems and there are stillmany other things that would have to be done before we could call Mars our “secondhome”. Whileit most agree that it is possible to terraform Mars, there are varyingestimates on how long and what exactly needs to be done to complete theterraforming process. It is said that,”Scientists have made various proposalsto induce a greenhouse effect on Mars through the use of mirrors, atmospherefactories or asteroid impacts.
We could melt the polar ice caps to releasetrapped carbon dioxide or generate greenhouse gases in factories. In time, wecould theoretically start using widespread atmosphere factories to turn carbondioxide into oxygen in a manner similar to plants.” (“Is it Possible toTerraform Mars?” ,Lamb, HowStuffWorks).
It would take a lot of tinkering to perfect the planet which is whyRobert Lamb (“Is it Possible to Terraform Mars?” ,Lamb, HowStuffWorks) puts it,”Mars is quite the fixer-upper. Even the best-case scenarios entail centuriesof renovating, and the technology to induce or recreate electromagnetic fieldprotection may be centuries off as well.” Since terraforming will take a longtime, scientists want to start as soon as possible.Withall this talk about living on another planet, one may ask, “What would a spacecolony look like?” Although, we have been focusing on Mars, there are otherdestinations that could be potential homes. Obviously the first choice would beMars however, the other options are: Titan, the Moon, Venus, and Europa.According to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centerfor Astrophysics, “Titan’s probably the one after Mars” (O’Callaghan,Jonathan. “5 Worlds Elon Musk Could Colonize In The Solar System.” IFLScience,IFLScience, 26 Nov.
2017). The next option would be a little closer to home;the Moon. The most possible scenario is for the Moon to be used as a base orpit stop for you to refuel before traveling elsewhere. An interesting colonyproposal on the Moon, “…would utilize the Shackleton crater at the moon’s SouthPole, enclosing a domed city with a 5,000-foot ceiling and a diameter of 25miles.” (“Forget Mars.
Here’s Where We Should Build Our First Off-WorldColonies.” The Crux, 8 Sept. 2014). Another possible place to colonize isVenus. Venus’ temperatures are high enough to melt lead and the atmosphericpressure is 90 times that on Earth (O’Callaghan, Jonathan. “5 Worlds Elon MuskCould Colonize In The Solar System.” IFLScience, IFLScience, 26 Nov. 2017).
ForVenus, the most likely scenario, as wild as it seems, is floating cities. “…ithas been touted that we could create essentially giant floating blimps thatdrift around this region. From these, you could either try to repurpose theatmosphere into something more terrestrial, or use these floating cities toshade the ground, lowering its temperature.” (O’Callaghan, Jonathan. “5 WorldsElon Musk Could Colonize In The Solar System.
” IFLScience, IFLScience, 26 Nov.2017). The last place where colonization is possible is Jupiter’s moon, Europa.While we would want to be above ground on Venus, we would want to be belowground on Europa.
“Europa has a thick icy shell, beneath which we think thereis a vast ocean. This ocean may in turn be fed heat by hydrothermal vents atthe sea floor. This has led some to speculate whether there may be life underEuropa’s surface.” (O’Callaghan, Jonathan. “5 Worlds Elon Musk Could ColonizeIn The Solar System.
” IFLScience, IFLScience, 26 Nov. 2017). Inthe near future, the most likely destination for a colony seems to be Mars.NASA has even released a plan titled, “Journey to Mars” in which they detailhow they will establish permanent settlements on Mars. In this plan there isthree steps: Earth Reliant, Proving Ground, and Earth Independent. According toSarah Knapton of the Telegraph, “The final step will see human missions sentinto Mars’ orbit or one of its moons, before crews eventually land on theMartian surface and set up colonies using modular architecture and 3-Dprinting.
” (Knapton, Sarah. “Nasa planning ‘Earth Independent’ Mars colony by2030s.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 14 Mar. 2016). This is a fascinatingconcept and will be interesting to see if NASA will follow through with theirplan. Some believe that it is imperative that humansestablish colonies on a foreign planet. Renowned scientist Stephen Hawking wentas far to say, “humanity would likely not survive another 1,000 years ‘withoutescaping beyond our fragile planet'” (Editor, Tariq Malik Space.
com Managing.”Stephen Hawking: Humanity Must Colonize Space to Survive.” Space.com). TheEarth has been hit by an asteroid that killed most life on Earth before, andwho’s to say that it won’t happen again. It is only logical to think that inorder to protect the future of humanity that we should expand our home in theuniverse. Imagine that the Earth is a hard drive, with all of your files on it.Would you back it up? Or would you trust that nothing bad will happen to it (“ElonMusk: We Must Leave Earth For One Critical Reason.
” Futurism, 13 Sept. 2016)?The same could be said with Earth. Why wouldn’t we attempt to “back up” humans bycolonizing other planets instead of relying solely upon the survival of Earth? With all this there still remains people the think itbest that we focused on fixing problems at home instead of running away fromthem. There is many problems that Earth may face in the coming years. The listincludes, but is not limited to: rising sea levels, high levels of carbon dioxide,and a possible asteroid impact. While it is true that there is problems that needto be addressed here at home, what is preventing us from solving futureproblems on Earth while at the same time expanding our each in the Universe? Humansare advancing at a rate never seen before.
We are developing ways to alter theenvironment of planets, which at one time, not to long ago was thought of asstrictly science fiction. This is why it is only logical to believe that in thenear future, humans will colonize other planets.