Elon Musk ‘has revived’ Carl Sagan’s dream of colonising the stars, says Michio Kaku

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SpaceX chief Elon Musk has pledged to expand humanity’s reach into the solar system when he revealed his dream of putting humans on Mars. The South African billionaire has spoken about the staggering cost of this endeavour and his company is pumping resources into the development of Starship – an interplanetary vehicle he believes will be the first to put boots on the Red Planet. Mr Musk, however, is not the first visionary who has called on humanity to leave the planet.

Carl Sagan, the American astronomer and cosmologist who hosted the award-winning series Cosmos in the 1980s, was a staunch believer our time on Earth was limited.

Dr Sagan believed humanity could not risk staying on Earth indefinitely due to the dangers lurking in the depths of space.

The planet has undergone at least five major extinction events in its history, the last of which was an asteroid strike 66 million years ago.

The astronomer once said: “The probability that the Earth will be hit by a civilization-threatening small world in the next century is a little less than one in a thousand.

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“The probability of dying on a random commercial airline flight is one-in-two million.”

Although there is no such threat known to face our planet today, Mr Musk has expressed similar concerns about Earth’s safety in the past.

In August 2019, for instance, he said “a big rock will hit Earth eventually” and we do not have any adequate defences in place.

Dr Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist and professor at The City College of New York, agrees this is one of the more pressing issues faced by humanity.

The best-selling author and futurist believes humanity will one day become a space-faring civilisation and Elon Musk could play a big role in this vision of the future.

In a video for Big Think, Dr Kaku said: “As an insurance policy, we have to make sure that humans become a two-planet species. These are the words of Carl Sagan.

“And now, of course, Elon Musk has revived this vision by talking about a multi-planet species.

“He wants to put up to a million colonists on the planet Mars, sent to Mars by his rockets financed by a combination of public and private funding, including fusion rockets, ramjet fusion rockets, including anti-matter rockets.”

There are, of course, many challenges that will need to be overcome before this happens.

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Launching humans and cargo is a costly business, even more so on long-term trips to places like Mars.

The first Martian colonists will also need to figure out ways in which resources and fuel can be made in situ to save on the costs of transport.

One way this could be achieved, according to Dr Kaku, is by sending robots to the Red Planet that could use materials already present there to build shelters and habitats for colonists.

He said: “If Elon Musk wants to put a million settlers on Mars you have to have a million hammers. You have to have a million saws.

“You have to have fleets of workers to begin the process of building things—unless you create the first self-replicating robot.

“With one self-replicating robot, you get two, then four, then eight, 16, 32, 64, until you have an army of these robots that can build cities on Mars.”

The expert added 99.9 percent of all species on Earth eventually go extinct and humanity is no exception to the rule.

He said: “And that’s why I say given the fact that Mother Nature and the laws of physics have a death warrant for humanity that ultimately our destiny will be in outer space.”

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