There’s some pretty interesting human activity going on in outer space during this period. For example, NASA recently launched InSight, yet another probe heading for Mars (yes, I do believe we’ve spending a bit too much on Mars). Along with that, they also launched two cubesats, the world’s first interplanetary such (cheaper) satellites. “MarCO-A and MarCO-B are demonstrating a number of cubesat technologies during their nearly 7-month cruise to Mars, including a folding high-gain antenna and a cold-gas propulsion system.”
Scientists and aerospace engineers alike have long been worried about the consequences of junking Earth’s orbit. On this site the topic was first mentioned shortly after North Korea put an (apparently) useless satellite up there. This is a serious issue, as highlighted by this year’s conference on space debris, which was understandably worried about recent initiatives that consist of launching entire constellations of micro-satellites.
Should we expect the worst to happen? With SpaceX alone planning to plant about 3000 (yes, that’s three thousand) satellites in orbit during the next decade, I think it is a valid concern. Especially as this is done with little (if any) preparation to mitigate orbital pollution.
I am happy to announce that there is a fair to good possibility that seeding life on Mars may be much more difficult than previously thought. In a recent study, an extensive analysis of the chemical elements present on the planet’s surface (especially in the regolith^) has shown that Martian soil might very well be outright poisonous for life.
So why am I happy because of this “bad news”? Because it’s not bad at all. I believe that given the current state of our society and civilization, Mars is too costly and too early an investment to make. Mars is not going to be easy to colonize in the next decades. Before we go about colonizing Mars, I believe we should do our homework. And I’m not talking only about the technology to shield us from the radiation in space, but also about our own society. A species that is still governed by what I can only call “uncontrolled survivalistic behavior” is not ready for the responsibility of being the shepherd of a new ecosystem.
After months of reading the media coverage about the elections in the USA, the Tesla Motors chief has become seriously depressed. Fortunately, after a meeting with his secret team of advisers, Musk came up with a plan:
“We realized that there is a fantastic business opportunity here. There are very many Americans who, like me, would prefer to evacuate Earth after the election, regardless of who wins. Therefore, in the coming years, we intend to purchase several mining companies and strip-mine the planet, sending as many people as possible to Mars. For a modest price, of course.”
When we become aware of our planet’s fragility and beauty, a cognitive shift in awareness occurs. This short but emotional presentation shows what a few of those that went through the difficult training required to travel away from Earth have to say about The Overview Effect.
After several failed attempts, SpaceX made history when it managed to successfully land its reusable Falcon 9 rocket booster on a (robotic) ship stationed off the Florida coast.
The road towards efficient space exploration and development is, however, a long one. Let’s think bigger. Let’s think about large space stations, asteroid mining, colonies on the Moon and Mars. Many of these projects will need an initial investment originating from Earth, probably consisting of pre-manufactured goods. As a species, we have to think long-term.
As you might know, on the 7th of February 2016, North Korea launched an “Earth observation satellite”. Governments across the world were probably right in condemning the operation. The same type of rocket can also be used for nuclear warfare. What about the satellite? Well, apparently it’s tumbling in orbit, useless.
Fun fact: there are about 2000 satellites orbiting our planet and an estimated 300.000 pieces of space junk. On average, we’re losing one satellite per year. A collision between two satellites could have dire consequences.