As the human species continues to grow in number, utilizing more and more resources, degrading the state of our planet to near environmental collapse, a burning question arises: Does humanity need to become a multi-planetary species to survive? Seemingly ripped from the pages of a science fiction novel, the theory has gained incredible credence over the past few decades, with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden speaking at the Humans to Mars Summit in May 2015, saying that humans “are closer to getting [to Mars] today than we’ve ever been before in the history of human civilization” [PDF]. Pointing to the timetable that President Barack Obama set in 2010 to reach the Red Planet by 2030, he says that new consensus around this goal is not only attainable, but sustainable.
But why is this important at all? To help unpack the importance of deep space exploration, the idea beyond extraterrestrial colonization, and this 2030 Journey to Mars, will be Claude “Russ” Joyner II, a Fellow for Space Systems and Mission Analysis for Aerojet Rocketdyne and an Associate Fellow for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He will be joining the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium for its next Science on Tap event at O’Shea’s Irish Pub on Thursday, September 10 at 7 p.m.
The simple fact is our sun is dying. Its final supernova blast won’t happen for some 5 billion years or so, but it is a given. If humanity survives to those dark days (that’s a big if), earth will be swallowed up in a fiery blast unfathomable in scope. We need to get the heck out of dodge, right? Well, those first pioneering steps are Mars.
An artist concept depicts NASA’s Space Launch System, which will be the most powerful rocket ever built. It is designed to boost the agency’s Orion spacecraft on deep space missions, including to an asteroid and, ultimately, to Mars.
Photo: NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center
Sitting about 140 million miles away—roughly 200 times the distance of earth to the moon—Mars, in interstellar travel, is more like a leisurely walk—if your ship is equipped with some kind of warp drive. For the state of things now, that’s a distance still out of range. But the gap is closing, in part to the efforts of Joyner and his colleagues. An expert in analysis and design of propulsion systems, Joyner is currently in an engineering leadership role with Aerojet Rocketdyne’s space and air-breathing propulsion mission analysis, working on some of the very hurdles that need to be cleared before sending humans into the space for years. During Science of Tap, Joyner will discuss these challenges, what we hope to gain from exploration, and maybe even give attendees a little extraterrestrial insight that is sure to be cocktail party conversation fodder for months to come.
- Science on Tap: Mission to Mars will take place on Thursday, September 10 at O’Shea’s Irish Pub. Admission is free, and happy hour specials will be served. For more information, call 561-832-1988, or visit sfsciencecenter.org.
Graphics Courtesy of NASA