Category Archives: Tool Box

Space Economy

With the advent of an era of the privatization of space exploration, we have seen a plethora of new startups over the last decade. These startups not only represent a new field of space but also new fields within space. The extent of the variety of the new actors in the new field is epitomized by such industries in space as asteroid mining, space tourism, space networking, space habitats to name a few. Many of the space projects that only the governments used to handle in the past are now under the public domain.

One such company in the field of space network is Audacy which aims to do similar job as NASA’s TDRS (Tracking and Data Relay Satellites). TDRS is a communications satellite and is one of the components of NASA’s Space Network Program. These satellites which are placed at geosynchronous orbit work in conjunction with two ground stations; thus relying less on ground stations and providing continuous coverage. According to the CEO of Audacy, Ralph Ewig, ‘In the simplest sense, you can think of us as a cell phone company for space. So we are literally like a cell phone network except that our users are people that own and operate objects in space rather than phones on the ground.’ The key difference between TDRS and Audacy is that the Audacy will be placed at medium Earth orbit while the TDRS operates at geosynchronous orbit. Thus it will enable to serve little satellites like cubesats and thousands of satellites simultaneously.

What fascinates me about space industries is the emergence of companies like these that can potentially alter the world economy. Imagine how much new business opportunities and job opportunities that lie in store for humanity to take advantage of. Suddenly with the opening of new doors in space we have resources not only here on Earth but the whole sky for exploitation. Not only does it have the potential to support the economy here on Earth but it is well on its course to develop a self-sustaining economy of its own. Take for example the plan of United Launch Alliance (ULA) in partnership with Bigelow Aerospace to build a self-sustaining space economy within the next 30 years. Dubbed ‘cislunar 1000’, the project forsees humans living and working between the Earth and the Moon. It envisions a number of milestones in space exploration like refuelling through propellants from the moon, mining the moon and asteroids and space tourism. The idea sounds fantastic! Doesn’t it?

In conclusion, it looks like we are heading towards three kinds of economies in the near future—the Earth economy, the Cislunar economy and the Mars economy! We in the 21st century must consider ourselves fortunate that our generation is being witness to this transition.

The New Moon Race

 

SpaceX’s announcement to send two humans to the moon by the end of 2018 has come about as a surprise to most. The company which had originally been established with the purpose of establishing a permanent base for humans on Mars is now also aiming to go to the moon. What might have caused this sudden change? Is the company responding to its competitors?

Well, as it turns out, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin does have similar ambitious plans as that of SpaceX. With the gradual development of their ambitious launch vehicles like New Shephard, New Glenn and now New Armstrong (though still in drawing board), Blue Origin is fast catching up with SpaceX. New Shephard, designed to make suborbital flight, is named after the late astronaut Allan Shephard who became the first American to make the suborbital flight. Similarly, New Glenn, designed to make orbital flight, is named after John Glenn who became the first American to make the orbital flight. With their third launch vehicle being named New Armstrong one can easily see where this is going.

Add to this NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot’s recent request to associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate Bill Gerstenmaier to initiate a study to assess the feasibility of adding a crew to exploration Mission-1. There is definitely a new moon race going on and this announcement by SpaceX is probably in response to this threat that they sense. The mission is supposed to be accomplished by the end of 2018 which is not a very long time period from now. However, is the technology good enough?

The company has plans to send their Dragon V2 capsule to international space station by the middle of 2018. Hopefully, this mission is successful otherwise the moon mission may be delayed as is so common in the space launches. Musk has stated that the mission will take a little more than one week which suggests that this will be a swing around the moon and return to Earth with no time to spend in the orbit. Moreover, unlike the Orion Space Capsule, the Dragon V2 does not have service module which further limits their extended stay around the moon orbit.

Analogous to the space race between USA and USSR in the 60s and 70s its going to be exciting how the current moon race between the private corporations is going to unfold in the coming years. Let’s hope this race continues further after Moon to Mars and other parts of the solar system.

The extraterrestrial economy

With the advent of an era of the privatization of space exploration, we have seen a plethora of new startups over the last decade. These startups not only represent a new field of space but also new fields within space. The extent of the variety of the new actors in the new field is epitomized by such industries in space such as asteroid mining, space tourism, space networking, space habitats to name a few. Many of the space projects that only the governments used to handle in the past are now under the public domain.

One such company in the field of space network is Audacy which aims to do similar job as NASA’s TDRS (Tracking and Data Relay Satellites). TDRS is a communications satellite and is one of the components of NASA’s Space Network Program. These satellites which are placed at geosynchronous orbit work in conjunction with two ground stations; thus relying less on ground stations and providing continuous coverage. According to the CEO of Audacy, Ralph Ewig, ‘In the simplest sense, you can think of us as a cell phone company for space. So we are literally like a cell phone network except that our users are people that own and operate objects in space rather than phones on the ground.’ The key difference between TDRS and Audacy is that the Audacy will be placed at medium Earth orbit while the TDRS operates at geosynchronous orbit. Thus it will enable to serve little satellites like cubesats and thousands of satellites simultaneously.

What fascinates me about space industries is the emergence of companies like these that can potentially alter the world economy. Imagine how much new business opportunities and job opportunities that lie in store for humanity to take advantage of. Suddenly with the opening of new doors in space we have resources not only here on Earth but the whole sky for exploitation. Not only does it have the potential to support the economy here on Earth but it is well on its course to develop a self-sustaining economy of its own. Take for example the plan of United Launch Alliance (ULA) in partnership with Bigelow Aerospace to build a self-sustaining space economy within the next 30 years. Dubbed ‘cislunar 1000’, the project forsees humans living and working between the Earth and the Moon. It envisions a number of milestones in space exploration like refuelling through propellants from the moon, mining the moon and asteroids and space tourism. The idea sounds fantastic! Doesn’t it?

In conclusion, it looks like we are heading towards three kinds of economies in the near future—the Earth economy, the Cislunar economy and the Mars economy! We in the 21st century must consider ourselves fortunate that our generation is being witness to this transition.

The Google LunarX Prize

There is something about the competition—a competition so intense that its outcome promises to be a game changer for humanity. A competition so huge in its very nature that its winner will claim to be the first to have brought humanities lost interest in space exploration back on track. Indeed, the Lunar X Prize competition is the competition of our generation and we are privileged to be its witness. Analogous to the spirit of St Louis when Charles Lindberg became the first person to travel across the Atlantic ocean and revolutionize the way we travel by air, the Lunar X Prize will certainly do the same for us in space.

The moon has been conquered 48 years ago; so what’s special about it? You may ask. Well, the special thing about this competition is that the final competitors—SpaceIL, Indus Team, Moon Express, Synergy Moon and Team Hakuto—are all private companies and there is minimal government involvement.

The rules have been laid out and the companies have geared up to confront the final frontier. What the winning company needs to do is simple—be the first to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 meters and transmit back high definition video and images. With the best of the best teams trying to edge out the other, who will emerge victorious in the end is a million dollar question.

Let’s look at the individual companies and try to figure out how their performance might be:

With the budget of US$ 36 million funded mainly by philanthropists, SpaceIL aims to launch the lightest and smallest vehicle ever to the surface of the moon. Their endeavour among the competitors is unique in that they plan to meet the travel requirement of 500 meters by having the lander hop from its site of landing to a site 500 meters away.

Moon express is an American company established with the aim of competing in the google LunarX prize and ultimately mining the moon. It has had a number of associations with NASA when it was selected for US$ 30 million dollar innovative Lunar Demonstration Data Program (ILDD) in 2010, conducted several free flight tests of its flight software utilizing NASA mighty eagle lander test vehicle and lunar CATALYST initiative program in 2014. Notable also is its work with the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) to put a shoebox-sized astronomical telescope on the Moon and flight tests of its “MTV-1X” lander test vehicle at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility.

Synergy moon is a company formed with the purpose of competing in the google LunarX prize and involves members from 15 different countries. It is the only team involved in the competition which has membership from multiple countries. The company will be using a lunar-direct launch of an Interorbital Systems’ modular NEPTUNE rocket to carry a lunar lander and at least one rover to the surface of the Moon.

Team Indus led by Delhi-based IT professional Rahul Narayan is the only team to participate from India. It was awarded $ 1 million for successfully completing a test of their landing system. Its lunar lander will be launched by Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). The team has professionals from various backgrounds like science, technology, finance and media and it has raised US$ 35 million for the project.

Team Hakuto is a Japanese team led by Takeshi Hakamada in 2008 and it aims to finance the Google LunarX prize mission from advertising expenditure of large global companies. The team plans to launch its rover together with Team Indus through the PSLV launcher of ISRO. The team has also won a milestone prize: the mobility prize for a total of US$ 500000. The team is a global leader in space robotics and is developing a privately funded rover to explore the Moon.

If I had to choose a favourite from the above teams, it would certainly be the Moon Express. Having so much experience behind them and given their association with NASA in the past its difficult to rule them out as the favourite. However, it is a competition and one never knows who will emerge the victor. After all, history is filled with surprises where underdogs have outperformed.

Reusable rockets

Now let’s get this straight. If we (by we, I mean a common man with medium level income) are to travel to space it’s impossible with a single-use rocket. With a per launch cost of over 60 million dollars, a common man can only dream about going to space. It’s like flying by a 757 jet and destroying it at the end of the flight. Nobody would take the flight if they knew their planes would be destroyed in the end. The cost for rocket launch has to be drastically brought down and that is what a number of companies like Space X, Blue Origin, Masten Space Centre, Airbus and others have been trying to do. In fact Space X and Blue Origin have already been successful in bringing back the rockets and rocket boosters and landing them vertically.

At the moment, Space X’s ‘The SpaceX reusable launch system development program’ is far ahead of the other programs. It is a privately funded program. It’s aim is to develop a set of new technologies for an orbital launch system that may be reused many times in a manner similar to that of an aircraft. It’s long-term goal includes the redesigning of the launch vehicles of both the stages so as to relaunch within a few hours. Another company Blue Origin, has a rocket reusable program by the name of New Shephard reusable launch system which is a Vertical Take-off Vertical Landing (VTVL) suborbital rocket. In 2015, New Shephard booster successfully performed a powered vertical soft landing, the first time a booster rocket had returned from space to make a vertical soft landing. Similarly, DARPA XS-1 is a planned experimental reusable spaceplane/booster. It is designed to deliver small satellites into orbit for the US military.

There are so much of advantage to be had from rocket reusability. Along with saving money, time is saved across the board— time saved in terms of how fast you can get up and be flying again; you just have to make some spot checks just like an aeroplane, you don’t have to employ more people to check every little thing, you don’t have to have systems to check every little thing; If in case there is an issue, that issue can just be dealt with as opposed to taking the entire thing apart. There is no need to double check everything. It’s just a compound issue of time and money saved. With so many companies gearing up to make reusable rockets a reality, let’s hope space flight will be a reality for you and me in the near future.

Will the Chinese space program overtake NASA in the near future?

The 21st century has seen the rise of China in every aspect of influence—military, economic and political. Now will this trend of influence extend to space exploration is the obvious question. China is a relatively newcomer as a spacefaring country (the China National Space Agency just being established in 1993). However, it has risen as a major spacefaring country at a phenomenal speed. It already has all kinds of satellites –remote sensing satellites, satellite navigation system and communication satellites. To date it has already put 11 astronauts in space including two women. The Chinese space program has been achieving new milestones year after year.

As in other areas, China has not been much transparent of its space policy. But it has released three white papers akin to its wider space policy stating that it wants to conduct state exploration with purely scientific objectives and for peaceful purposes. These papers which were released in 2001, 2006 and 2011, envisage china’s growing space ambitions. In addition, China’s space policy can also be understood in the context of its grand strategy. Its grand strategy involves the pursuit of the ‘China dream’ which is an improvement of livelihoods, prosperity, construction of a better society and military strengthening. This dream resonates with what the Chinese leaders call as China’s rejuvenation. Throughout the last 2000 years, China had many times found itself at the centre of wealth and power. Its decline between the years 1839 and 1949 is blamed on the foreign subjugation. So the rejuvenation is about regaining China’s status as a great global power and one that has control over its own fate. As space is considered to be the frontier of technological advancement and thereby the benefits that it can provide to society, it’s not hard to understand where China’s policy on space stands in the context of this background.

The United States has always been wary of the growing influence of China in space. Owing to security reasons, the US federal law has banned NASA from conducting collaboration with the Chinese space program since 2011. This move however has been undeterred for china since it has found other partners such as ESA and Russia with whom it has collaborated and created avenues for technological transfer. China has shown little signs of restraint and its space power has been growing, so much so that by 2020, it aims to create space companies in par with such world class aerospace companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martins and Airbus group.

However, in a report, ‘Pathways to exploration: Rationales and approaches for a US program for human space exploration,’ published by The National Academies, it has been suggested that the exclusion of China could be counterproductive for the United States as it closes the door for future international partnerships and ‘substantially reduces the potential international capability that might be pooled to reach Mars.’

Meanwhile, China has made fruitful collaborations with other space agencies like ESA and Roscosmos. Currently, China and ESA have been working together in a space—weather observatory. There is also a long-term plan for a European astronaut to travel aboard a Shenzhou spacecraft to the Chinese space station which is due to be launched in 2018. Similarly, co-operations with Russia include but are not limited to the fields of engine technology, electronics, joint research of the universe, development of technologies and optimized use of space resources.

The annual budget of around $6 billion for the Chinese space program for 2016 is nowhere in comparison to the US annual budget of around $40 billion. Yet the pace at which it has caught up with the major spacefaring nations in the last two decades and the overall ascendency of its influence in international politics, militarization and economy in the same period is compelling enough for observers to predict the imminent Chinese leadership in space in the coming decade.

If the Chinese space achievements look like what the US and Russia have achieved decades ago, how about the recent launch of world’s first quantum satellite. Beijing claims this satellite will help to develop a hack proof communication system and will have implications on military and commercial applications. Yet another Chinese feat—plan to send probes to the dark side of the moon will be an engineering marvel involving a robot lander, unmanned lunar rover with sensors, cameras and an infrared spectrometer. This mission might as well search for helium-3, an element which can be used for nuclear fusion. Furthermore, for the first time, Chinese orbital missions have tied with that of the USA in 2016 with a total of 22 rocket launches.

Despite the obvious progress, China’s space program is still lagging far behind that of the US. The need for space exploration today is the international cooperation between various parties. As suggested by the National Academies’ report, mutual cooperation is the best way forward. The United States Congresses decision to refuse to cooperate may foil China’s ambitions for rapid progress, but it will not be able to stop it from becoming a major space super power. One thing that China has had to its advantage is the amount of ready made knowledge that it acquired through its co-operations with other space agencies, which otherwise would have taken decades to achieve on its own. As to the question of whether China will ever overtake the US as a space super power, or at least, be on equal footing, I think it is reasonable to assume that it will still take a decade.

International cooperation in space

Gone are the days when there used to be only two major spacefaring countries—United States and the USSR. The 21st century has seen the emergence of new players in the field of space exploration. These include the European Space Agency (ESA), China, Japan, India, South Korea, Iran, Israel and even private space companies. While this has made the field of space exploration ever more exciting, it has also added new challenges. The addition of more players means the increase in likelihood of yet another space race akin to the one between the former two superpowers; the difference this time being more multilateral and with wider repercussions. As such it becomes necessary that there be a healthy competition between the parties and enough transparency between them so as to ensure the peaceful use of outer space.

 

The good news is that there hasn’t been any direct conflict between competing nations in space thus far. This is impressive given that history is filled with wars and battles that have taken place for land territories over oceans and air. However, will the countries be able to maintain peace as more and more players enter the arena? This is a question that needs greater attention before countries become distrustful of each other due to militarization of space.

 

Owing to security concerns and the Chinese ambition to dominate space, the United States congress has banned NASA from any cooperation with the Chinese Space Agency. Though the Chinese space program is still in its infancy and way behind, the United States nevertheless, perceives a formidable opponent. However, as China grows more and more dominating in space, it will become increasingly difficult for the US to sequester itself from a partnership.

Considering the current pace of progress, the Chinese space program outstripping that of ESA and Russia in the coming years is likely. As such, the US space program which has been running short of budget and thus looking for international partners, may not be able avoid China anymore. Moreover, the US government might experience mounting pressure from the private sector to partner with China.

 

One area of a shared challenge that makes it imperative for both the countries to work together is orbital debris control. Orbital debris are objects floating in space that can cause significant damage to satellites and space crafts. While this has become a topic for international concern and one that the US has taken keen interest on, it cannot be solved without the inclusion of China.

Speaking of orbital debris control, this has also been one of the areas where there has been significant progress in international cooperation. United States, Russia, Japan and ESA came to an agreement to the formation of Inter-agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) in 1993. It has called upon states to take necessary steps to keep space clean and safe. IADC eventually coordinated with Committee on Peaceful Use of Outer Space (COPUOS) to craft the space debris mitigation guidelines.

Looking back in history, there have been co-operations in space with political implications. The international space station (ISS) which is a co-operation between five nations or parties—USA, ESA, Russia, Canada and Japan—embodies their willingness to put aside their political differences and work together where humans share a common interest for space exploration. NASA’s ISS project, which initially started with the goals of interplanetary exploration in 1984, later was transformed into an international space co-operation, in order to ‘link’ their allies into the program. However, after the breakup of the former Russian federation, fearing the proliferation of the ballistic missile technology from Russia to rogue nations, the US felt it necessary to cooperate with Russia. Thus a truly international cooperation in space began symbolising an end to the Cold War era.

Similar co-operation had also taken place earlier in mid 1970s when Apollo-18 had coupled with Soyuz. While the technical merits associated with the event was significant, the political ones at the time of the transition period of the cold war was more significant.

The international cooperation in space is most pressing when it comes to the issue of its weaponization. Though there has not been any weaponization of space to date the problem is that virtually anything can be used as a weapon in space. Even the deployed satellites that are deemed to be ‘peaceful,’ are used by military to direct bombing raids or to orchestrate a “prompt global strike” capability. Moreover, if a number of satellites were destroyed during the course of a war, it would create so much debris that it would make impossible for future satellites to be placed in space and limit space access.

Though there have been a number of treaties like Partial Test Ban Treaty, Outer Space Treaty, Launch Registration Convention, the Moon Treaty and the likes, they only ban the placement weapons of mass destruction in space. They do not prohibit countries from placing other kinds of weapons. For this reason, Conference for Disarmament (CD) established an ad hoc committee to identify and examine the issues relevant to Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS). The United States resolutely opposed this due to its large missile defense program and technical advantage in potential space weaponry.

While competition has always acted as a catalyst for states to venture into space, the need for international cooperation cannot be overstated. Especially, due to the possibility of the deployment of weapons of mass destruction, treaties such as PAROS have to come to fruition. For this to happen there has to be a trust build-up between the major spacefaring countries. There is a precedent for such an agreement in history when the US and Russian Federation joined hands to sign the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty at the height of the cold war. There is no cold war today and the relationship between China and US though complex, is nowhere as hostile as between US and Russia back then. Cooperation in space exploration needs a leadership today and thus presents a good opportunity for the US. Refraining from such cooperation will only aggravate the situation as those countries will find their own ways to develop technologies and result in a new and a potentially more dangerous arms race. Whereas joining hands will set an example for future generations and serve as a moral guidance in times of crisis.

Arkwright

The Plot:

Nathan Arkwright is a science fiction writer ranked among such classic authors as Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. After the death of his wife, he becomes cantankerous and recluses himself from the public. He rarely comes in contact even with his estranged daughter and granddaughter. At his death, he passes on a will to establish a foundation by the name of Arkwright whose aim is space exploration and ultimately space colonisation. His three old and entrusted friends convince Kate (granddaughter) to take on the project and it is now up to her and future generations to achieve the goal.

Through Arkwright, Steele argues exactly why humans need to explore and why space-colonization is the next logical step for mankind. Beautifully written and explained, the writer is able to maintain suspense until the very end. There are parts in the novel where the reader has no idea and even frustrated about what the heck is going on until the writer clarifies everything. The novel can basically be divided into two parts with each part having its distinctive plot. The first part (as described above) deals with the frustrations of a science fiction writer about the pace at which the exploration of the outer space is taking place and his initiation to establish a foundation responsible to migrate humans to the exoplanets. The second part deals with the unforeseen situation one might have to encounter after having reached the exoplanet. However, apart from one incidence when an eosian (name given to the exoplanet) receives a message from a little girl on Earth which was sent centuries ago, there is no real connection between the two plots. Besides being a science fiction, the novel (specially the second part) can also be seen as a satire to the creationists. A number of conversations and arguments that take place between the inhabitants of the two states of the exoplanet Eos (Providence and Purgatory) are analogous to the crux of the debate that take place between the non-religious and creationists. The fictional characters of Providence, however, turnout to be more prudent than the creationists.

Apart from the big ideas of space colonisation and terraforming, the portrayal of relationship between a father and his estranged daughter, grandfather and his estranged granddaughter, the romantic narratives make the novel interesting to read. Towards the end of the novel, when the inhabitants of Providence discover their kinship with earth and the drama that ensues is moving.

No doubt Steele has got most of the science right, however, has failed to go into details many of the accomplishments. Besides planetary exploration, he has ignored the developments that might take place in other areas of technology. Moreover, the conclusion did not have to be so dry.

All in all, despite some of its shortcomings, a good book to read and I definitely recommend it.

Solomons Arrow–A book review

Two themes form the basis for this novel. One is that the speed of light is the speed limit and the faster one can travel, the slower will the time be for him. The other theme is that the space-time can be folded and thus one can travel from one part of the universe to another part in a fraction of a second.

It is the middle of the twenty-first century and Dr Solomon Chavez, the CEO of CIMRAD and a trillionaire is sending the first humans (along with himself) to a planet in another solar system known as Epsilon Eridani. Despite a terrorist organization known as the CRA, trying to foil the plan, the space shuttle, known as Solomon’s Arrow is successfully launched. Traveling at almost the speed of light for ten years, the crew is finally successful in reaching its destination. However, to their astonishment, they find that the planet (EE-4) they have arrived at is already inhabited by humans. The humans had arrived there thousands of years ago by a space-folding technology known as foldway.

Here is where Einstein’s theory of relativity kicks in. In the ten years that they had travelled at almost the speed of light, thousands of years had already passed on Earth. In this duration, the Earthlings were successful in building the space-folding technology otherwise known as foldway. So forms yet another plan to travel to another planet, this time using the foldway technology. However, blowing the Yellowstone caldera and causing an eruption, the aftermath of which resulted in the annihilation almost all the inhabitants of Earth, this time the CRA is successful not only in thwarting the plan but also replacing themselves in place of the original crew of Burnhams and traversing through the space and thus arriving at this planet. This is where the novel gets interesting.

However, the author is not able to maintain the same amount of interest throughout the novel. In the jumble of events that Jennings has infused it is easy for oneself to lose the thrust of the plot. Too much effort is placed in describing the details of the events and thus unnecessarily elongating the novel, which make it boring at times. The ending is quite surprising and, I would say, distressing as the first travellers to the Epsilon Eridani decide to return to Earth and never make any journey to the outer space in the future. While the ideas of population control, protection of environment and sustainable development are indisputable, the idea that the human race should never aspire to go beyond Earth and reach for the stars is by no means a logical conclusion. Besides, the author fails to explain the ideals of the terrorist organization CRA. Simply assuming that their goal is to create terror is grossly superficial. Perhaps the CRA had the same objective that Jennings concludes at the ending. If so, it is a manifestation of his confusion. All in all Solomon’s Arrow is a mediocre novel.

Terraforming Venus

 

Have you ever wondered how wonderful would it be to have another earth-like planet. How wonderful would it be to migrate to that planet or at least to go on a vacation to the planet? You may be thinking that I may be talking about some other exoplanet which may be a few light years away from the Earth. No, I am not talking about any exoplanet, neither am I talking about Mars. With almost the same gravitational force as of Earth and given its proximity to Earth, Venus is not a bad place to be (well, at least after it has been terraformed). ‘Terraforming Venus! But its way too hard.’ You may think. And I agree. It is hard; And that’s what makes it so exciting.

Venus has long been neglected as a potential second Earth as opposed to Mars and has failed to capture the imagination of scientists and visionaries alike. While it’s true that Mars is a much easier place for humans to consider a settlement and should therefore be given the first priority, it turns out that the idea of terraforming Venus is not that farfetched as well.

Terraforming Venus requires the overcoming of four major obstacles. Decrease the temperature, decrease the atmospheric pressure, create a breathable air and create liquid water. However, these problems are interconnected and scientists do have solutions for these, at least, theoretically.

 

Putting aside all the challenges of Venus for a while and assuming that mankind is able to terraform both Mars and Venus, which planets would the humans prefer to settle in? I guess the answer would be Venus. The one advantage that stands out in favour of Venus is its similarity of gravitational force (90% of Earth’s gravity) with Earth. Having the same gravitational force as Earth, its not required to have any artificial gravity, which is created by spinning wheels, to maintain weight. Moreover, unlike Mars, it is more likely to hold on to its atmosphere. Gravity is really important as evolutionary scientists have found out it’s role in the formation of physical structure of every living being. The height, the muscular structure, the agility and the lightness of body of all the plants and animals owe to the gravity of Earth. Living in Venus for generations has less chances of altering any living being in any significant way and thus will maintain its affinity with Earthlings.

With visionaries like Elon Musks and the likes set to colonize Mars, it is only a question of time that the mission is accomplished. After having human settlement on Mars, the next inevitable question that is bound to be asked is where next? Well, with no solid surface to land on and with a distance of almost five times that of the sun from earth, Jupiter does not offer the best option given our current technological advancement. The same goes to the other gas giants like Saturn, Neptune and Uranus; neither are the moons of these planets which are too small in size. So the only realistic option that remains is Venus.

Over the decades, concerns have been expressed over the human space exploration and with such ambitious projects as terraforming Mars or Venus there will be a few eyebrows raised. While the ethical concerns over the suffering of a vast majority of people cannot be downplayed and need to be resolved, it is also equally important that humans do not confine themselves until these problems have been resolved. I mean, consider the Columbus discovery of America. Spain did have problems back then and it still has problems. On the contrary I think those voices should be sympathetic as becoming multi planetary also means the insurance of human survival over a longer period of time. The Earth’s history is filled with a number of asteroid impacts which have wiped out almost all life forms.

My enticement with Venus is due to the prospect of being able to stand on a solid ground without any protective suit and walk without the fear of being hit by a deadly cosmic radiation. Shining brightly over the western sky just after dusk Venus has always fascinated dreamers like me. Described as the goddess of love and beauty in the ancient Roman mythology, Venus however, has turned out to be a hellish land with sweltering temperature. Though its present condition does not resemble the title, I believe Venus is destined to justify this title one day in the future.