Colonize or die out: why do we need so Mars?

Some believe that we stay on Earth - people will cease to exist. In an article published in June, Elon Musk warned of space inevitable: life on Earth will disappear if we do not mnogoplanetnym views. There are two ways Musk wrote: "One way - to stay on Earth forever, until an event occurs that carries the end of all living things. I'm not trying to make an apocalyptic prophecy, not just the story lets us know that the end is inevitable. The alternative - to become a fascinating space civilization and mnogoplanetnym view, and this will agree, right. "

Colonize or die out: why do we need so Mars?

The survival of the dual fear, remains the primary instinct of mankind, which will cause him to become mnogoplanetnym views. Although hypothetical mass extinction events, such as asteroid or nuclear war, can put us before the fact, we have advanced technology - or a good theory on how to make these technologies - to protect the future of mankind. What, then, makes us think of the colonization of Mars?

Powerful solar flares

Increasingly, scientists and futurologists are worried about possible solar superflare (CERs). Conventional solar flare - this is a normal part of the cycle of sunspots our star, causing bursts of cosmic radiation. But CERs - is a powerful solar flare. Star releases energy equivalent to 475 billion atomic bombs, in just a few hours or even seconds, said Scott Fleming, astronomer and archivist MAST. Their energy is released in the form of X-rays, gamma rays, radio waves, visible light and ultraviolet radiation.

For a long time scientists did not believe that such a possibility worth considering, but new discoveries have changed their views. Over the past few years, the Kepler space telescope has found that the distant sun-like stars often exhibit flare activity. Scientists began to wonder what would happen if the CERs will happen to our sun that has given rise to new research. If CERs occurs, the first thing to suffer electrical infrastructure. Cell phones, computers, automobiles, artificial lighting - technology, which is completely dependent on our society - no longer function that sends the global civilization into a spin and into a new dark age.

CERs can also affect the environment. It can destroy the remnants of the ozone layer, which cause damage to the ecosystem and cause mass extinction. First, warm gases leave the atmosphere of the planet cooled. But later the Earth will remain defenseless against the constant bombardment of ultraviolet rays, allowing them to reach the surface and empty it.

At the poles, where the ozone hole grow 1970s, cold sea quickly absorb carbon dioxide, reducing the amount of available oxygen in the ocean water, and making the Earth more acidic. This kind of change threaten the phytoplankton, which forms the basis of the food chain. Its deficit is put this whole chain of domino.

Colonize or die out: why do we need so Mars?

But the real danger lies in the remote possibility of a second followed by a major outbreak that happens before our ozone layer to recover fully from the first. Without the ozone layer, which could protect us, the ultraviolet radiation of the second CER will cause a radical mutation of DNA that cause irreparable damage to fertility and alter physiological functions. Even extremophiles may disappear (although this scenario is quite unlikely).

Until now, people have not yet seen our Sun CERs. Partly because they do not happen very often; partly because our civilization is too young. But unstable atoms caught in the tree rings show that moderate NNE struck Earth before.

Despite all these fears, scientists have not yet decided how often there are such catastrophic events. However, Kepler telescope data on the frequency of flares on other stars in the last 400 000 years have helped researchers to evaluate how often CERs occurs in stars similar to our sun. According to them, the Sun gives CERs every 20 million years. If the last of CERs took place in 775, will have to wait a very long time. So, if people like Musk, seeking justification for colonizing another world, CERs will not be the most compelling motive.

Colonize or die out: why do we need so Mars?

But the story does not end. Although full-scale CER will not be deployed in the near future, a weak but devastating solar flare, it is likely to occur in this millennium, according to the paper published in the Astrophysical Journal. "We suggest that total losses may exceed the current world GDP in the case of certain superflares," the study authors write. Such an event may not bring an end to our species, but it certainly will destroy our society and destroy the economy and limit the access to the resources needed for survival.

However, to understand the nature of CERs, astrophysicists need to know exactly how they are produced in stars. Not knowing our solar interior, scientists can not predict the CER before this week. Perhaps CER represents more risk than we think.

Other threats to the Earth?

Colonize or die out: why do we need so Mars?

the threat of a solar superflare may not be enough to save the world from us, but there are other apocalyptic scenarios, which can be more motivating. Brian Wilcox, a member of the JPL robotics and developer of space technology, as well as a member of the NASA Advisory Council on Planetary Defense (NACPD), reflects on the technical aspects prevent asteroids and comets to the Earth.

"My research has shown that the problem is really in the asteroid was not as serious as some people claim, because to a certain extent, we track all the major objects of the inner solar system," says Wilcox. "It is estimated that 98% odnokilometrovyh objects have already found a place in the inner solar system, and long before we found them." As soon as we confirm the position and trajectory of the asteroid, says Wilcox, the collision of these objects with the Earth, we can not prevent, becoming less likely. When scientists identify a possible threat in the form of an asteroid, they know that there is a seven-minute window before its collision with the Earth. In the past, scientists have assumed that everyone has an equal chance of asteroids on a collision course. "Either you will get or not," adds Wilcox. But after a number of observations, we have quantitative proof that the vast majority of asteroids, traveling through the inner solar system, is going to collide with Earth. "Long-period comets that fly because Neptune, still represent a reason for concern, because we can for a long time to think, but they are a hundred times less dangerous than the asteroids of the inner solar system," he says. Worry, like, nothing.

If the celestial object is on collision course with the Earth, we can stop it in several ways. This year, NASA initiated the development of the DART, a spacecraft designed to run a huge object in the asteroid with the aim of deviation from the course. Lasers could do something similar.

Wilcox himself is not concerned about asteroids. Supervolcanoes, however, is a different story. They are much, much more dangerous asteroids.

Supervolcano can produce devastating effects in just one eruption. He can throw enough dust and other particles into the atmosphere to block the light of the sun, suspend photosynthesis and lead to mass starvation. And to predict when a supervolcano erupt, we do not have any options.

We know that Yellowstone erupts every 620,000 years or so, but as with CERs, human civilization has not yet lasted long enough to witness such an event. Last known supervolcano erupted 75,000 years ago in Indonesia and, as shown by the evidence thrown out almost 100 billion tippers molten material into the atmosphere. But Wilcox said that none of these examples do not provide sufficient motivation to leave the Earth. In fact, even a pandemic does not justify the establishment of a colony on another planet like Mars.

Flight to Mars, he says, will not save our species as well as settling on a set of asteroids. "If a pandemic has been our main problem, the fastest way to self-defense would be the establishment of settlements in the asteroid terraformed asteroids that could provide habitat for up to 7,000 people," explained Wilcox. "We would have had many colonies on the asteroids instead of one of Mars."

Colonize or die out: why do we need so Mars?

Asteroids is not only easier and cheaper to learn than Mars; they are safer from a distance position. The flight from Earth to Mars takes from several months to several years. It will take even more time to get to the asteroid belt, or any near-Earth asteroid, which we could settle in the future. This is longer than the duration of the incubation period of any disease - the time when astronauts arrive in their new home, the most dangerous of the disease has already done its job. "The hope is that medicine is progressing enough so that we can develop tests and to prevent the sending of infected people in the space colonies," says Wilcox. You will need to make sure that no one carries a dangerous disease with them.

If we have to get away from the Earth, the Moon may be in part a viable option. We can produce rocket fuel on its surface, and get to it for long. Pipes from ancient lava flows offer people a safe place to build colonies that we could protect against solar radiation.

So Mars - Our best bet?

If we are concerned about CERs, Mars initially seems a promising option for colonization. The Red Planet is about two times farther from the Sun than the Earth, so less solar radiation will reach the surface. In fact, Mars would be far more dangerous to people in the case of CERs. Mars has no magnetosphere and its atmosphere was deflated by a solar flare 4 billion years ago. In the case of CERs in the world, at least we would be protected atmosphere, our "bulletproof vest" of radiation; on Mars, we would be naked and vulnerable.

In addition, the trip to Mars would be dangerous and without. Must be better alternatives, says Wilcox. "If humanity is going to live and work in space, we need to learn to live and work in space," he says. One good place to start is literally outside the door. "Before we go to Mars, it is possible to practice on the Moon." We must break in technology to colonize Mars before sending astronauts into one end, putting their lives at risk.

So, perhaps, Mars hides from us new knowledge and ability to meet our space ambitions. But to survive, perhaps we should adhere roots.