Before we can colonize Mars, we must ensure we don’t decolonize Earth first, warns Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in an interview with GQ.
Musk notes there is a window of opportunity when the technology necessary to send astronauts to Mars becomes available; however, it could rapidly be shut down because of religious extremism, anti-technology movements or the eruption of a third World War.
He plans to release a detailed outline for a mission to colonize Mars, known as the Mars Colonisation Transport programme, next year. And earlier this year, NASA has also released a budget plan to launch a SpaceX capsule to Mars in 2020 and return with samples left by the next land rover.
“I think it’s gonna seem pretty crazy, no matter what. It’s really big. There’s not been any architecture like this described that I’m aware of,” he said.(1)
Colonizing Mars is our moral duty, argues Musk
Musk sees the colonization of Mars as a moral duty to ensure the survival of mankind the same way a USB drive is meant to preserve data in case a computer crashes. A Martian colony could guarantee humanity survives in the event of a debacle that destroys life on Earth. “You back up your hard drive. Maybe we should back up life, too?” he asked.(1)
Global catastrophes take on many forms, but Musk believes a third World War is the most imminent threat on the horizon.
“You know, in 1912 they were proclaiming a new age of peace and prosperity, saying that it was a golden age, war was over. And then you had World War I, followed by World War II, followed by the Cold War. So I think we need to acknowledge that there’s certainly a possibility of a third World War, and if that does occur it could be far worse than anything that’s happened before,” he told sources.(2)
Despite the toils and fumbles of humanity, mankind has had a history of making steady progress. Nevertheless, this progress may be stymied in the near future, warns Musk. Chances are high that humanity could regress back to the dark ages as a corollary of religious extremism, especially with the recent rise of ISIS.
A history of scientific progress and regress
This wouldn’t be the first time scientific progress would be corroded because of religious belief. Although the 17th century Enlightenment is heralded as a golden age of scientific discovery, during Europe’s dark ages between the 9th Century and the middle of the 13th Century, Islamic scholars were making great strides in mathematics, medicine and physics.(2)
Unfortunately, scientific progress in the Islamic world came to a grinding halt. Most historians reject the facile hypothesis that religion is the foremost reason Islam is no longer at the forefront of scientific discovery. Nevertheless, many agree religious extremism did contribute to the end of science’s golden age in the Muslim world, in part because many people saw science as corrosive of religious belief.
Unlike scientific regresses of the past, however, humanity wasn’t flirting with nuclear weapons.
“Let’s say nuclear weapons are used. I mean, there could be a very powerful social movement that’s anti-technology. There’s also growth in religious extremism. Like, I mean, does ISIS grow?” he said.(1)
Mars would be a safe haven for human civilization, according to Musk. All the planet needs is a little warming. Ironically, Musk’s remarks about the dangers of nuclear weaponry brought up previous remarks he made during a television appearance about nuking Mars.
Musk claims his previous remarks had been taken out of context. In actuality, Musk says what he really wanted to do was create aerial explosions on the planet’s surface in an effort to warm its poles.(1)
During the interview, Musk also revealed that SpaceX is currently designing a new space suit, which feels and looks better than previous designs. The space agency is also in the process of developing a version of its Dragon cargo spacecraft, which will be capable of carrying crew in the future.