Time to Get Out of Here: SpaceX Leading Charge in Human Relocation

Art Courtesy of Gwen Bowdish

Art Courtesy of Gwen Bowdish

Art Courtesy of Gwen Bowdish

Tommy Pratt, Staff Writer

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In 2011, President Obama cut funding for NASA’s already-underfunded Project Constellation amid budget concerns. He left vague objectives in its place for the organization to complete with their now-limited funding. Adjusted for inflation, government spending on space travel and research dropped by $3 billion from 2010 to 2011. Since then, NASA has mostly been performing quiet, low-value research. At the time, it was thought that this would remove America from its position at the forefront of spacefaring technology, but, in 2012, the reins of space travel were taken by a private company, SpaceX, headed by entrepreneur Elon Musk.

In that year, SpaceX launched the world’s first private spacecraft, the Dragon C2. Since then, SpaceX has attempted to launch many more rockets. Several of these launches were unsuccessful, including the famous explosion-before-takeoff of the 29th Falcon 9 rocket and its payload, the Israeli Amos-6 satellite, in early 2016.
It is clear that space travel is still unreliable, but SpaceX seems determined to instill confidence that it is moving in the right direction. The launch of the Falcon Heavy on February 6, 2018 made headlines around the world, not only as one of the most powerful rockets ever built but also as an eccentric and expensive flourish, characteristic of Musk: the payload for the rocket was a Tesla Roadster with a spacesuit-clad mannequin driving it. The pictures of the car in space became instantly recognizable. This was a huge success for SpaceX, not only for its own marketing, but also for the future of space travel.
Space travel is an important avenue for mankind to pursue right now. In November, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking stated that he believes humans have less than 600 years left on Earth before we destroy it or ourselves. That leaves us with roughly 599 years and eight months to find a way off the planet for good. With the global warming situation now tied to politics, Earth may become uninhabitable even sooner if we continue to neglect it. The end goal of human space travel is to get us to another planet where we can live.
Given the rapid technological progress we’ve made in the field during the last sixty years, it seems like this could happen naturally. But the numbers that space travel organizations and companies are dealing with right now are unimaginable.
The closest potentially-habitable planet, Gliese 667Cc, is over 22 light-years away. Even with experimental plasma-fueled rocket technology, which is able to reach Mars in five months, this would mean a travel time of 1.6 million years. For any significant portion of the human population to travel for that amount of time, we would need a Death Star-sized spaceship with sustainable agriculture, industry, and economy, not to mention that we would go through biological evolution in isolation during that time period. Humans have only been trying to live in places outside their natural environment for about 10,000 years, and space was not in that list of places until about sixty years ago. As it stands, nobody has ever spent more than sixteen consecutive months in space.
All this means is that large-scale space travel is practically impossible right now. It will require consistent funding and research if we want to give our species a chance of long-term survival. The more practical option is to maximize our damage control of the Earth before it’s irreparable, but many of the world’s leaders seem to be a long way from that foresight.

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