first posted September 17, 2017 - estimated read time: 6 minutes and 47 seconds
Wednesday, July 16, 1969. That was the day the Apollo 11 launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Four days later on Sunday, July 20th, 1969, at 4:18 PM ET, the world watched in unison as Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the lunar module Eagle on the moon. Humanity has taken its first steps amongst the stars.
Born in 1988, I obviously never got to witness this monumental event myself and can only imagine what the average person must have felt watching the moon landing happen on their black-and-white tube televisions. The sense of wonder, the all-encompassing feelings of hope and pride – of a future filled with possibility. Humanity’s passion has been lit.
The scientific progress achieved through this venture is nothing to shirk, and the American pride sourced from beating the Russians to the moon!Especially since the Russians held pretty much every space record possible. was a needed boost for a nation who lost their President only 6 years previous, but I’d like to think that this was far more of a World victory than American. I say this as a Canadian born well after the titular event, but when I think about going to the moon, I think of it in terms of Humanity – as a golden beacon representing the power and curiosity of our species.
Where Is My Moon Landing?
Where is my global event that unites all people, if only for a few moments? I’m not talking about being united in fear of North Korean nukes, and I’m not talking about united in frustration at Trump – I’m talking about united together in hope, wonder, excitement, and progress. I’m talking about this generation’s moon landing.
The world has become an unrecognizable future of technology and communication since the 70s. Modern smartphones in conjunction with the internet have completely and utterly changed the way humans communicate, access information, and socialize. It changed the way society functions as a whole and brought us closer together than ever thought possible. And yet, even with this mass and instantaneous communication, the only events that have made the peoples of this world stop and share in their hopes and desires have been ones of tragedy.
911 and Fukushima are unfortunate examples of this. This world desperately needs something extraordinary to unite us and remind us that maybe we’re all on this planet together after all. Something to remind us that even though our planet literally means “dirt”, that we as a collective have the drive to rise above it and be something more.
What It Could Be
So what possible event in our near future could possibly achieve this goal? We have automation and artificial intelligence advancing at a rapid pace, we have a new space race and a planned colony on Mars, or maybe it will be some other unknown event or discovery in our futures. But which of these will happen first?
Personally, I’m putting my money on Mars.
This feels almost like a cop-out to me. Here I am lamenting about how we don’t have a new moon landing global event, so I decide to replace it with more of the same, just knocked up a notch.
But space, the final frontier, and planned missions to Mars will happen sooner than you may think.
It’s freaking expensive, but not for long
The last Apollo mission cost $450 million in 1972 – that’s over $2.5 billion in 2017 money. The good news is that space is becoming more accessible than ever, in large part to SpaceX and their reusable rockets. Before SpaceX, sending a rocket to space was a one-time deal. To put things into perspective, Elon Musk has likened that to scrapping a 747 jet after a single flight, which would make air travel impossibly expensive. By making more and more of the rockets and boosters reusable, SpaceX has been able to send satellites into LEO!LEO: Low Earth Orbit for only ~$60 million, something that competitors do for ~$380 million.
Don’t get me wrong, space is still freaking expensive, especially when put into the context of not just sending a man to the moon, but to Mars, but the price is rapidly going from “impossibly expensive” to “kind of doable”. The sooner we can get that dollar amount to a value where a good portion of funding comes from private investors instead of government, we’ll be good to go!!Although I personally hope that once we approach that value, Governments will fund majority amounts in order extend some influence and help uphold citizen rights as needed.
We have the technology
We can rebuild him. We have the technology, for the most part, to do this right now. There are of course various technologies that need to be improved, ideas fleshed out, and new systems created, but as a whole, humanity has the ability to get this done. Money is the main deterrent right now, but as I said above, that is becoming less of a concern with each passing month.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to build a million-person Martian city, and he is serious about it. It is absolutely not a stretch to say that the entire reason Musk started up X.com (eventually becoming PayPal), and Tesla was to finance SpaceX – and the entire purpose of SpaceX is to get humanity to Mars. Sending satellites into space and astronauts to the ISS are just stepping stones to test new SpaceX technology while making enough profits to keep the SpaceX dream alive.
Wait, why go to Mars?
Getting humanity to Mars would certainly be cool, but so are many other things. Why spend all of this money and time getting humans to a barren planet? One of the obvious reasons is that the scientific and technological advancements made in the pursuit of such a difficult mission would certainly go towards helping a multitude of other various fields and pursuits, but the most important reason is to help ensure humanity’s survival.
I’m not talking about some environmental global warming catastrophe or some dystopian future where humanity lives amongst the muck and filth that our factories have produced. I’m talking about a global extinction event. There have already been five mass extinctions in Earth’s history, and depending on what the cause of the next one is, we may not be able to survive it.
Ask any successful businessman the key to their success, and they will almost certainly speak some variation of “diversity”!sadly, I am not referring to a multicultural or otherwise diverse workforce. Putting all of your eggs in one basket is a bad idea, and currently, all of our eggs are on Earth. Just like you should always have backups of your important files and data, we need to have a backup copy of our species, and in order to do this, we need to become interplanetary. Mars is just a stepping stone for us, as to truly ensure our survival, we would need to colonize not just Mars, but several other planets as well.
Cool, so when will we get there?
According to SpaceX, a non-manned spacecraft will be sent to Mars in 2020. The mission dubbed “Red Dragon” will be used to first test out the technologies needed to land heavy equipment on the Martian surface ahead of any human contact. On September 27th, 2016, Musk announced SpaceX’s Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), which will be by far the most powerful rocket ever created. When combined with its crewed spaceship, the ITS will stand a full 400 feet!that’s just a little bit shorter than The Great Pyramid of Giza (122 m) high, will be able to carry over 300 tons, and most importantly, perhaps as many as 200 people.
The full trip to Mars will take about two and a half months to complete, and the goal is to send the first ITS!Musk wants to name the first ITS “Heart of Gold” after the ship in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with a crew and colonists to Mars in 2024. I personally think that is a very optimistic year, but even if we push it back to 2030, this would certainly be a shining testament to human achievement.
I look forward to looking up at the sky in the next decade and knowing that there are humans walking around on another planet.