Ever since the confirmed discovery of water on Mars, and the preceding hi-res images of Pluto, there has become a resurgence in space exploration not seen since my youth – when an astronaut still seemed like a career possibility.
There has even been talks of terraforming, and perhaps, colonizing our favorite red planet – Mars! There are several scientific reasons for colonizing another planet (beyond our inclination for discovery). The main argument is that single-planet species don’t survive.|1|
Perhaps, if dinosaurs had a colony on either Mars or the Moon, they would’ve survived as a species 65 million years ago when the asteroid collided with Earth.|2| Sadly, the non-prescient velociraptors never developed aerospace technologies, but these dinosaurs taught us a valuable lesson: humans are on a ticking-clock to migrate to another planet before the sun turns into a red giant (roughly) 8 billion years from today.
Elon Musk is often credited for being a technological savant, but he should be more revered for his financial acumen. Indeed, Musk has a more diversified portfolio than Warren Buffett. One of his companies, Tesla, is attempting to save the Earth from the excessive exploitation of fossil fuels; while his other company, SpaceX, proclaims the Earth is destined to a fiery demise by these same exploitations. Elon Musk is part engineer, part fire & brimstone preacher – prophesying the Earth to eternal damnation and demanding an urgency to colonize the galaxy for the survival of our species.|3|
However, if humans are colonizing planets, engineers shouldn’t be solely responsible for designing these structures. Sure, if an architect was responsible for detailing the structures the roofs would inevitably leak, but it’d be a lonely existence living within an engineer’s windowless abode.
That is why I was initially enthusiastic that an architecture firm, Kieran Timberlake, recently aided in the completion of a Building Information Model (BIM) for a virtual base on Mars. The virtual MARS CITY base, initially conceived by NASA and Total Learning Research Institute (TLRI), was designed to provide STEM field engagement for High School students.
Originally conceptualized by Dr. Kerry Joels, president of the TLRI, the MARS CITY Research Base is an outpost facility on Mars where student participants simulate living and working in the inhospitable Martian environment. However, TRLI (seemingly) only teamed with an architect to leverage their skills to produce a BIM model, and not for their expertise in designing habitable spaces. Kieran Timberlake’s BIM model has everything a human would need to live on Mars: sleeping pods, a recreational space, something called an Astro-Lab, and even a circular Mission Control area – centrally located. Who wouldn’t want to be indefinitely cooped up inside a sterile pod? If you become bored with your day job sitting in a circle around Mission Control, you could migrate to the Retreat Pod and sit around a circular table.
I highly doubt Mars has a good Wi-Fi network, or a DirectTV signal. Therefore, I wouldn’t care about the extravagant costs of transporting heavy books to outer space, because a library would become a necessity.|4|
Sadly, architects were once regarded for their creative acumen and were actively sought out to envision the ideal future. Now, technology mavens, like Elon Musk, are envisioning future environments devoid of humane spaces. Scientists might view the term environment as any biological environment. But I view the term environment as any man-made structure or habitable space, even Mars – because a terraformed Mars would be a man-made constructed environment.
Terraforming, in the technical sense, is to modify an environment to support human life. However, optimists believe that we can pseudo-terraform Mars by raising the temperature of the devastatingly cold planet to support some plant life (but not an oxygen-rich atmosphere to allow for humans to exist self-sufficiently). Then, even more optimistic people believe, after a few million millennia of plant-life there would be enough oxygen in the atmosphere to allow humans to temporarily traverse outside their pods.
However, there are ethical discussions that need to be discussed, beyond the incorporation of architects, of whether we should even attempt to terraform Mars. The recently discovered water on Mars, and signs of underground methane production, further support that Mars may already harbor life. If there is existing alien life already present on Mars (even microscopic), should humans radically destroy the existing environment to (perhaps) support human life in inconceivable future?
Perhaps, Elon Musk is just a present day Hernán Cortés, recklessly conquering planets in an endless pursuit of riches. More likely, colonizing Mars would be an expensive lesson in the endeavors of futility.
Regardless, architects need to become further incorporated in creating all of our future environments, but don’t sign me up for SpaceX’s next mission to colonize Mars. I already lived for two years on a planet inhospitable to human life – Americans call it Alaska. Like Mars, it was depressingly cold, but at least I didn’t instantly die from asphyxiation through my leaky roof.
Would you want to help colonize Mars?
– respond in the comments below.