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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently announced his plans to get people to Mars in six years, with the goal of one day settling there. Musk states that becoming a “multi-planetary species” is the only way to ensure survival of the human race, as Earth’s resources are slowly being depleted. Is his plan viable? Should we focus on preserving Earth’s resources, instead of trying to build colonies? Or is interplanetary exploration our only hope? Readers debate.

Unnecessary
Let’s focus on Earth instead

In my opinion, space exploration is an unnecessary expenditure. At the moment, we should focus our ideas and spending on ways to protect Earth and sustain life on our planet instead. Other planets, Mars included, cannot support life systems naturally. Moving to these planets will be limited to the few who have financial resources and health factors permitting the shift.

As for Musk’s statement on being a multi-planetary species to ensure survival, it seems like an entrepreneur’s way of acquiring funding using pseudo-concerns for the human race. Moving to another planet does not ensure protection from extinction of the human and animal species. We cannot keep exploiting planets and moving on. If this is so, the cycle never ends. Wasting resources here, then looking for it on other planets to continue our existence seems irrational. Unless humans learn to respect the value of Earth’s resources, no amount of space exploration will guarantee sustainability of life.

In the current scenario of global warming, climate change, epidemics, super bugs and wars, stability and unity are the needs of the hour to sustain healthy human existence. Earth is a beautiful planet, and its natural resources allow it to support the species living here. With that in mind, a lot is required to conserve its natural resources. So rather than space exploration, efforts and funding should be directed towards saving our Mother Earth, the planet that is our home.

From Ms Mahnaaz Shaikh
Homemaker, based in Dubai

Resources
We must explore all options

Our planet’s resources are under tremendous strain. The global population, which is now over 7 billion, is estimated to cross 9 billion by 2050. Based on our current consumption patterns, researchers estimate that by 2050, we will need three “Earths” to sustain or feed the population. This clearly indicates that we have only two options: Change our current consumption patterns to reduce wastage and make them more sustainable, or explore alternate providers for our basic resources. I firmly believe that time is not on our side, and we do not have the luxury of choosing between the two options. We must explore both pathways, which means that we must adopt a lifestyle which has sustainable consumption at its core, and at the same time use technology to explore the feasibility of establishing multi-planetary existence. While we still do not have the capability of ‘living’, per se, on a different planet, such as Mars, we can definitely start to look at mining Mars’ natural resources to feed our industries. At the current rate of consumption, we will soon run out of conventional energy sources and we must develop alternate supply channels, which may be from surrounding planets. Mars’ crust is extremely rich in minerals which could supplement those which are running out on Earth due to overconsumption. This kind of extraction has to be funded and subsidised by governments until the costs stabilise. There will, of course, be unknown challenges of transportation, but science can develop solutions to address these.

The energy needs of our planet continue to grow exponentially. We must look beyond our Earth’s boundaries for the sources which will provide the fodder for our growth. As for multi-planetary existence, humans could start off as one colony, then establish many more depending on resource availability. It is time to work towards making ‘Avatar’ a reality.

From Ms Kehkashan Basu
Founder of youth sustainability organization, based in Dubai

Technology
Multi-planetary existence is possible

When I was a child, I remember tuning in to the TV show Star Trek and being entertained as Captain Kirk and crew went from planet to planet to have many adventures. I always thought when given the chance, I would definitely explore multi-planetary existence.

Today, space exploration to another planet, like Mars, is nothing new. Technology has made it possible for missiles, satellites, cameras and probes to reach and capture evidence of surfaces, environment and water. About a year ago, scientists believed they found water on Mars. I thought, if there is water, then maybe humans can exist there too. I do believe technology exists where a dome can be built to replicate our environment here on Earth. Like an Earth greenhouse, shall we say.

I strongly agree that we should consider multi-planetary existence as an alternative. Scientists have confirmed that global warming exists. This means as the years go on, the Earth’s surface will become so hot that we can’t walk on it, let alone grow plants or live comfortably. Currently there are many natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods and forest fires, which strongly suggest climate change. This will lead to parts of the Earth being uninhabitable for living creatures. When it comes to considerations for the move, there will be pioneers who will be willing to face the dangers. We will be the first migrants to Mars, and just like Earth, we will slowly bring our relatives to come live with us.

Space exploration has always been viable. Man has explored space since the beginning of time, studying our position and relativity to the universe. I believe there is concrete interest in multi-planetary existence.

From Ms Marcheta G. Hightower
Special needs consultant, based in Dubai

Impossible
Mars colonization is not viable yet

How many times have you heard someone utter the following expression, “We put a man on the moon, why can’t we...”, followed by any number of complaints, from curing cancer to having fast food delivered that does not arrive cold. Space exploration brings out the best in people and is something the human race should be deeply proud of. Like everything concerning the human race, however, there is a positive and a negative side. The idea that we can just ruin the place we live, and go and live somewhere else, is indicative of our time and culture. It is naive and foolish to assume that is a viable option.

What about Elon Musk’s plan to make “humans a multi-planetary species”? Well, perhaps one day, in the not-too-distant future, we will have a small outpost on the Red Planet, but to think there will be some sort of mass exodus is absurd.

Musk’s plan is lacking in two key areas: Details and funding. Setting aside the issue of how he will raise the estimated $10b (Dh36.8b) needed for the initial mission, Musk and SpaceX have presented a comprehensive technical plan of how to get to Mars, but provided very few details about what will happen once people arrive there. First of all, the radiation experienced on the journey will be seven times the level astronauts get over six months on the International Space Station - well above NASA’s limits. Next, it hasn’t rained on Mars in three billion years, and as soon as you open your front door, you’ll notice that you can’t breathe. Not to mention Martian dust, which are like tiny shards of glass that damage equipment and can be fatal to an astronaut if inhaled.

Musk’s ideas may inspire a sense of wonder, but we must focus on home. Earth is our home, and there’s no place like it. It is simply impossible for seven billion people (and growing) to leave, so we must plant our feet firmly on this pale blue dot, and work hard to reverse the damage we have done, because Earth’s all we’ve got.

Mr Ed Clowes
Writer, based in Dubai