When President JFK announced in September of 1962 that “we choose to go to the Moon…”, history has never quite been the same. Those were exciting times for the space industry, and while subsequent years were duller than a pile of rocks, that initial first step was important.
The modern space race has also evolved to the point where governments no longer compete for cosmic dominance, but private companies battle it out instead. SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and others have taken the idea of travelling in space and made it not only popular, but monetarily feasible to an extent as well.
Never before has a private citizen been able to pay a somewhat reasonable amount for the chance to look at Earth from the top side. And this is just the very beginning. As competition increases, so does demand. Prices will fall, innovations will emerge, and humanity will soon be on the fast track to deep space exploration.
Our next pit-stop is largely touted to be colonization of the planet Mars. In the scheme of things, it makes sense. Earth’s population isn’t getting any smaller, although habitable places to build cities certainly are. Mars is a logical “second-Earth”, even if it’s far away and seemingly barren. Steps are already being taken to consider Terraforming the planet’s surface, which would essentially turn it into Earth.
That process will take hundreds, if not thousands of years with current technological methods. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, or shouldn’t begin now. We as a species are fond of taking things for granted, as we currently take for granted the notion that we will always have the funds and the means to travel the universe. We are in a race with ourselves, even though we don’t know it.
Every four years, a new President is elected in the United States. Each leader has a different agenda, and not all support increased space exploration. President Obama has cut NASA’s budget by $1.5 Billion dollars, and is now sending them on a mission to visit an asteroid. It’s an ambitious plan, but it certainly isn’t Mars.
Its becoming increasingly clearer that our hope rests with the private industry. Companies like SpaceX and Planetary Resources represent our best chance of populating the stars in the distant future. However, it all begins with Mars. If we can achieve that first major step in the process of cosmic colonization, then we will achieve anything. Even now a company called Mars One is planning to send a team of humans to the red planet in early 2023.
Impossible as it may seem, it takes innovative thinking like that to accomplish anything worth doing. JFK shocked the world when he announced NASA’s plans to visit the Moon. The technology wasn’t even fully developed, yet their motivation drove them to triumph. If we are to achieve our long-term goal of visiting stars and planets, then we must first begin with Mars.