In an article proclaiming him as Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk has spoken of his ambition to populate Mars with plants and animals using a kind of “futuristic Noah’s Ark”.
After commenting that the Martian atmosphere could be turned into rocket fuel, the Tesla boss predicted: “The next really big thing is to build a self-sustaining city on Mars and bring the animals and creatures of Earth there.
“Sort of like a futuristic Noah's ark,” he added. “We'll bring more than two [of each animal] though – it's a little weird if there's only two.”
But experts say that Musk’s wildly ambitious dream could be hundreds of years from being realised.
The South-African-born billionaire has spoken many times of the importance of making humanity a “multi-planetary species”.
He has warned many times that one stray asteroid could bring the story of the human race to an abrupt end and that only by spreading our civilisation across the stars can we ensure that it continues.
“The goal overall has been to make life multi-planetary and enable humanity to become a spacefaring civilisation,” he said in the Time interview.
Brits on NASA mission to Antarctica to learn more about surviving on Mars
However planetary scientist Roger Wiens, who is project lead on two Mars rover research programmes, says Musk’s idea was little more than a “brilliant soundbite”.
“Mars, with its [carbon dioxide] atmosphere, might be a good place to grow plants if they are kept warm and watered,” he told the Daily Mail, “but it would be a terrible place to drop off animals, who need oxygen to breathe”.
He pointed out that while humans have the discipline to wear space suits and use breathing equipment when required, an animal wouldn’t know what do do if its oxygen supply failed or its mask fell off.
“We would end up with a lot of dead animals,” Wiens said. “Let's try botanical gardens first.'
One small smell for a man, one giant stink for mankind: Why farts in space can be deadly
Other experts agreed, saying that while Musk’s dream of a self-sustaining ecosystem on Mars was a great long-term goal, it would take “several centuries” before it could be put into practice.
There were a few scientific experts who agreed with Musk’s overall vision.
Christopher S. Edwards, an associate professor at Northern Arizona University's department of astronomy and planetary science, said he “didn’t think the idea of taking animals to Mars was a horrible idea”.
For the latest breaking news and stories from across the globe from the Daily Star, sign up for our newsletter by clicking here.
“Livestock were brought on sailing vessels crossing the ocean long ago,' Edwards said.
“More than two of each for sure, both for genetic diversity – but also because you'd probably be pretty disappointed if you had eggs for a long time, and then one chicken died and you would never get them again!”.
Professor Dave Brain, an assistant professor of astrophysics and planetary science at the University of Colorado at Boulder, added: “It's important to have big thinkers in society, and Elon Musk consistently thinks big”.
Source: Read Full Article