Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, recently announced his plan for putting humans on Mars. It has received mixed reactions from both academics and the public. Many people claim that this plan for colonizing Mars is too ambitious, while others are excited for a huge scientific breakthrough.
Musk is fully aware of the financial hurdle between his plan and its realization – he estimated the cost of a new rocket to be $10 billion. SpaceX is currently providing for the project development costs, investing tens of millions in the process per year. However, it has been said that funding will soon be outsourced to a public-private partnership.
If everything goes according to plan, the rocket will begin its flight to Mars as early as 2024. The first passengers will pay $500,000 for a ticket, with the cost rumored to decline as more and more people leave Earth. According to Musk, the rocket will transfer 100 passengers every 26 months when Earth and Mars are closest to each other. This consistent delivery of people to Mars is necessary to sustain life on the foreign planet.
Despite some hesitation from the public, Musk’s most recent speech on the project in July spurred a frenzy among the audience, igniting the excitement for another leap in scientific progress. The idea of spacefaring comes from the belief that Earth will inevitably become uninhabitable, either due to an asteroid strike or pollution from humans.
Some critics of Musk’s project maintained that it is too early to consider the idea of evacuating Earth and that the amount of funding required for the project is too enormous considering the multitude of issues that already exist on our planet.
Personally, these critics’ arguments are not convincing as they favor impeding scientific progress due to concerns surrounding current political and social issues. I understand that people have different priorities, but using concerns for current political events to override the potential for scientific advancement is not only irrelevant, but also harmful to human development in the long run. Pessimistic responses to Musk’s idea do not outweigh the meaningful impacts behind his proposal.
Musk himself was probably ready for negative feedback before presenting his project to the public. Scientific progress in human history has consistently encountered pushback of some kind. People who are afraid of changing and adapting to new lifestyles will certainly try to deny the necessity and significance of innovation. That being said, significant scientific breakthroughs have never stopped due to push-back or opposition of the public.
On the other hand, Musk’s plan was warmly welcomed by optimists who strongly believe in humans’ ability and a brighter future for everyone. I am an optimist who is confident in human creativity and intelligence. I have faith in Musk’s plan for developing an interplanetary lifestyle and sustaining a human presence on Mars.
If Musk’s idea becomes a reality, the human race will depart from its conventional scientific outlook and also from the Earth once and for all. Even if his plan fails, the idea still provides a strong springboard for future spacefaring aspirations. Musk should be respected not only for his bold ideas but also for his willingness to sacrifice his fortune for long-term human benefit.
NASA expressed its approval of Musk’s project, writing, “NASA applauds all those who want to take the next giant leap – and advance the journey to Mars. We are very pleased that the global community is working to meet the challenges of a sustainable human presence on Mars. This journey will require the best and the brightest minds from government and industry, and the fact that Mars is a major topic of discussion is very encouraging.”
The biggest question for SpaceX right now is how to fund the project and to make it a reality in approximately six years. Nevertheless, whether or not Musk’s rocket takes off in six years, his project’s potential encourages human aspiration for interplanetary life and establishes a launching point for future scientific breakthroughs.
Jenny Dao ’17 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Vung Tau, Vietnam. She majors in economics and political science.