Posting in Design
Establishing on other planets the organisms that evolved on Earth is as big and important as any of the major transitions that life has yet experienced, argues billionaire libertarian Elon Musk.
Elon Musk, billionaire founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and NASA-contracted heavy lift rocket maker SpaceX thinks that establishing on other planets the organisms that evolved on Earth is as big and important as any of the major transitions that life has yet experienced.
Multicellular life, the move onto land, the evolution of mammals, the invention of consciousness -- these are the events in life's history that Musk puts on par with spraying nearby planets with our interplanetary panspermic seed.
Musk told reporters at the National Press Club today:
"I would argue also on that scale should fit life becoming multiplanetary. And in fact I think, [after] consciousness, it's the next step. You really kind of need consciousness to design vehicles that can transport life over hundreds of millions of miles of irradiated space to an environment that they did not evolve to exist in."
That will require sending along all the support systems life requires, he notes, since there is nothing in our solar system that is as habitable to life as Earth, and the nearest extrasolar planet, which is 4 light years away, would take 10,000 years to reach with today's rockets.
"I think that if someone could make a reasonable argument that something is important enough to fit on the scale of evolution, then it's important, and maybe worth a little bit of our resources. If it were something like a quarter of a percent of the GDP, that would be OK. I think most people woulds say, OK, that's not too bad."
With a U.S. GDP of around $14.5 trillion, 0.25 percent of our GDP would give Musk a "modest" sum of $36.5 billion a year to play with in his quest to get us to Mars.
More sciencey awesomeness on SmartPlanet from Mims:
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- Why putting anti-depressants in our water supply is perfectly reasonable
- Can soldiers be trained to not become war criminals?
- Two million year old tartar will crack secret of “cave man” diet
- The Science of Food Porn
Dec 14, 2011
For a fun piece of fiction featuring Space X and Tesla read: God Shuffled his Feet-a Novel By Mark Elllenbogen Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble e-book store. Fast paced, well researched fiction-science fiction. Musk and friends use technology to help save humanity from destruction. Page-turner takes the reader across the globe and into space to settle a new world. Have fun
On the face of it, sure, on a 1:1 basis, sending a human off of this planet is not worth doing. If you dig a little deeper and consider the impetus it gave us to advance our own technology - that was a significant add-on. Yes, we can do that without sending someone off the planet - but then consider the knowledge we've gleaned by persisting a presence off of Terra - THAT has resulted in increases in knowledge about many other things we cannot do on Earth, directly. The big picture indicates that is is definitely worth it - not in a monetary, "how I can profit from this" sense - but there is absolutely a benefit to investment for us as a race - which is what Elon Musk is indicating, in the original article - since it boosts us to the next evolutionary level.
I'm pretty sure NASA has already proven that humans aren't worth the fuel it takes to boost them out of the gravity well. On top of that we're just not suited for life off this planet. Beyond that I don't think we have the time, or the will to develop the technology before we run out of time. We'd be far better served by just trying to make a better go of it right where we are now. The most inhospitable place we could find in the most horrible corner of this planet is infinitely better than the best place we know of off this planet.
The discoveries/inventions during our quest to the moon is evidence that the investment was worth it. And, at that time, no one knew it would reap such rewards. It would be a crime against humanity if we stuck our "head in the sand", as you suggest. I agree we have many improvements to make here on earth, but, I want to move forward.
An oft-repeated argument is that the tech that was developed as a by-product of some project justifies the money spent on said project although the the reason for the project itself is questionable. At best, this is a political issue. There aren't mechanisms to provide public sector funding for most R&D that will benefit the private sector, so the easiest way to do that is to funnel the money through a project that can be justified as for the general welfare. (Research that takes place at universities is often privately funded)