The biggest disappointment of living in 2013 is that we are living in 2013. Twelve years after 2001, we are still stuck on this planet. Arthur C Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey way back in 1968. Stanley Kubrick brought it to life in beautiful technicolour in the same year. Since then humanity has come a long way. We stepped on the moon, built space stations, made powerful computers that can be carried around, we are even building augmented reality glasses that can be worn on our heads. But what we have not been able to do is become an interplanetary species.
You know whom I blame for not being an interplanetary species. The communists. If the communists did not fall apart like a house of cards, and in the process stopped the Cold War, maybe all that competition to one up each other would have taken us beyond the moon to far away planets like Mars. But fall apart they did, and two decades later we find ourselves in a position where our wonderful world economy cannot even support such things as space shuttles. We as a very advanced species are reduced to a couple of space stations stalking the outer space. Of those only one is manned and even with that we find ourselves moaning about the cost of putting up six astronauts in a space the size of an American football field.
What communism has wrecked, capitalism is finally trying to fix. I reported last year that many private companies like SpaceX and XCOR are trying to take us back to space by bringing capitalist market efficiencies to the industry which has traditionally been a government monopoly and so has been riddled by its inefficiencies and red tape. Greg Klerkx, the author of Lost in Space: The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age, calls these people ‘astropreneurs’. There is a new addition to the astropreneur community, and for once it is not concentrated on small goals like taking tourists into space for a few minutes’ journeys. Mars One, a Dutch non-profit founded by Bas Lansdorp who made his fortune as the founder of the wind energy company Ampyx Power, wants to send four people to Mars on a one-way trip.
If Mars One is to be believed, and if everything falls in place, the company will land four people on Mars in the year 2023. Those four will perform mundane tasks like building living quarters and developing gardens. They will be joined by four more people every two years. By sending two men and two women every two years, an independent community will be developed on Mars and humanity will finally become an interplanetary species. One of the biggest hurdles to putting men on Mars is technology. The people working on the Mars One project, which include former NASA scientists, contend that most of the technology that is needed to sustain life on Mars already exists, and they hope that the technology to shield humans from the dangerous levels of radiation on the red planet will be developed by the time the humans are ready to leave earth. The second biggest problem is money. Estimated to cost around $6 billion, the company plans to raise the money through donations, corporate backers and more interestingly through a decade-long reality show about the selection process. Since anyone above the age of 18 and in good health can apply, you can head over now to the company website to get a chance to go to Mars. Me? I am waiting till everything there gets comfortable. I will come and join you in 2083.
The writer is a tech geek.