Outside the box: Longing for Space

Text: Thomas Masuch - 02/09/2018

A significant number of researchers believe mankind’s future will be in space. NASA and ESA are among those who have already drawn up plans for the first colonies on Mars. And SpaceX founder Elon Musk has very clear ideas about how he will send a space shuttle with as many as 120 people on board to the planet in 2024.

From a technical point of view, the visions for space colonization are making rapid progress – thanks in part to additive manufacturing. If everything goes according to plan, raw materials such as titanium will soon be extracted on the moon or on asteroids and converted into components for rockets and space stations by 3D printers. The water that is assumed to exist on asteroids and Mars could even be used to produce fuel.

But if you’re not a scientist drilling the Martian rocks for traces of past life, it’s not entirely clear why you would want to go to Mars. It’s not as if Earth has nothing to offer. There’s something magical about the simple things like a walk in the woods or the mountains, or swimming in the sea – not to mention visits to wonderful places like Rome, Paris, and New York or the countless idyllic towns that reveal their distinctive charm only on closer inspection. Why would we give up all this to spend our life in a kind of greenhouse on Mars? (And why would we spend a fortune to get there?)

Not everything in the »green range«

Unfortunately, not everything on our planet is in the »green range«. Polluted seas, deforestation, seemingly never-ending global population growth, (anthropogenic) climate change, natural disasters, and disappearing species: The number of reasons for settling on Mars is on the rise. Though that’s not to say we should try to evade our responsibilities here on Earth. And then there was this year’s record summer in Germany and almost all of Europe, with no rain and with unrelenting tropical nights from June through August.

The protracted heatwave even put people off their otherwise much-loved barbecues. Instead, with the temperature at almost 30 degrees, they could look up into the late-evening sky and now and again glimpse the reddish shimmering form of Mars. There, 1.5 times farther away from the sun than our planet, the temperature is never more than a cool 20 degrees, even during the day. So maybe it’s worth taking that trip after all.