Space 2022

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This article outlines current technological advancements in space and how it affects humans on Earth. It will cover the “who” by discussing the modern-day space race and its participants, the “what” by discussing new technologies that are being adapted for use in space, and the “why” by discussing the benefits of continuing space exploration and why the average human should care. Finally, the article will conclude with open-ended thoughts on the topics discussed.

Modern-Day Space Race

The modern-day space race involves billionaires competing against each other for their own motivations and desires, as well as countries competing with one another for space control.

Figure 1. Billionaire Space Race.[1]

Billionaire Space Race

Today’s space race is very different than what it used to be. Instead of the USA and the Soviet Union battling each other, it is now three billionaires, specifically: Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk - fighting to be the leader in the space industry.

Figure 2. Jeff Bezos.[2]

Jeff Bezos

History of Blue Origin

Since Bezos’ youth, he’s had an interest in space. [3] As valedictorian of his 1982 high school class, he spoke about how he wished to build space hotels, amusement parks, yachts, and colonies. [4] The company’s first rocket “Goddard” flew in 2006 and was powered to make sub-orbital flights. More recently, their new rocket called New Shepard lifted off with its first crew on board, including Jeff and his brother. [5] This was the beginning of New Shepard potentially starting full commercial operations. [5]

Current Plans of Blue Origin

The founder of Blue Origin has plans to make access to space cheaper and more reliable through launch vehicles, and establish a true industrial base in space. [6] Recently, Blue Origin was awarded $1 billion from NASA to produce initial designs for a human-landing system for the Artemis 3 mission, which aims to land humans on the moon in 2024.[7] One of the company's most unique ventures is Orbital Reef -- a business park in low Earth orbit. The park, which was announced in October 2021, is to be used for space transportation and habitation for both research and commercial customers. Blue Origin plans to make the park operational by the mid-to-late 2020s.[8] However, Bezos has made his priority clear: to enable people to travel into orbit. As the founder of Amazon, one of the largest organizations in the world, everything must come at a price. Therefore, Bezos is aiming to allow his paying customers to go into orbit.

Figure 3. Richard Branson.[9]

Richard Branson

Virgin Galactic History

Founded in 2004, Branson made it his initiative to focus on space tourism. A variation of the SpaceShipOne was the company’s first reusable suborbital space airplane.[10] The company’s original plans were to fly 3,000 passengers aboard the SpaceShipTwo during their first five years, with a ticket costing as much as $208,000.[10] Due to several tragic accidents, there were many delays to the original plans.[10] However, more recently, Branson and his crew took flight on a newer version of SpaceShipTwo.[10]

Virgin Galactic Current Plans

Branson’s Virgin Galactic is a fierce competitor with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin as its mission is also to have customers traveling into orbit.[8] In fact, Branson’s and Bezos’ business plans are the same: taking paying customers on supersonic flights to the edge of space. As Branson’s priority is in space tourism, his company came out with dollar figures regarding the cost of a ticket on his spaceship. Virgin Galactic will sell tickets priced at $450,000.[11] Reservations will cost $450,000, and potential travelers must pay a $150,000 deposit to hold the spot and then pay the rest before their flight.[11] Tickets will be available to 1,000 customers for trips later in 2022.[11] However, there are some differences between the other two billionaires. Branson is proposing to create a suborbital and invent a supersonic jet that can shuttle people between cities at breakneck speeds.[12]

Figure 4. Elon Musk.[13]

Elon Musk

SpaceX History

Founded in 2002, SpaceX was formed by Elon Musk in the hope of revolutionizing the space industry and making spaceflight affordable.[14] The company was the first to successfully launch and return a spacecraft from Earth orbit and the first to launch a crewed spacecraft and dock it with the International Space Station (ISS).[14] In 2008, SpaceX became the first private company to send a liquid-fueled rocket into orbit, which led them to be awarded a $1 billion NASA contract.[14]

SpaceX Current Plans

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX has initiatives that differ from Branson and Bezos, as his focus is towards having humans living on other planets, specifically Mars. Musk plans to build a full-size city on the surface of Mars. This would be a city open to regular people, not just scientists and researchers. People interested in moving to Mars could pay for their flight with a loan.[15] Once there, people would pay off their loans by working in anything from iron foundries to pizzerias.[15] Musk declared at a 2016 conference that there would be labour shortages for a long time.[15] SpaceX’s rocket named Starship is vital to Musk’s plan of building a city on Mars. It is a fully-reusable rocket, currently under development in Texas, which will enable SpaceX to send humans and cargo to Mars.[15] The ship will be capable of launching over 100 tons or 100 people into space at a time.[15]

Friendly Competition

As some of the wealthiest people in the world, there is not a shortage of competition between these three billionaires. Whether it be constant lawsuits from Blue Origin given to SpaceX over lease agreements with NASA, or Branson moving up his launch date exactly one week before Bezos’ launch, the competition is showcasing innovation and world-changing movements.

International Space Race

USA vs China

USA vs China - heading type 3 After the USA won the space race against the Soviet Union, it has been the clear world leader in the space industry. However, it is the country that is behind the USA that has had the most substantial change. China has amped its efforts to match the USA in its investment in space; however, the USA still dominates the competition. The Americans’ have a budget of $48.5 billion for its space force and space administration, compared to China’s $10.3 billion combined budget.[16] Even though China has now overtaken Russia as second in the world in the space industry, that does not mean Russia is completely out of the running. Due to sanctions on Russia, its ties with China have become closer.[16] If China becomes the dominant space power in the next two decades, that will place the future of global telecommunications, space exploration, and human settlement as well as the application of space satellites and technology for strategic and military use into Beijing’s hands.[16] The USA has gone as far as to ban its scientists from cooperating with Chinese scientists since the Biden administration suspected Chinese satellites were being used for non-civilian purposes.[16]

Figure 5. Canada Junior Astronaut Program Bezos.[17]

Canada's Aerospace Plans


The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has outlined its top 3 priorities being the Lunar Program, Engage Young Canadians, and Space-Based Earth-Observation and Climate Change Science.[18] Since Canada has a smaller space program, work is usually completed in partnerships with other countries because this allows for the costs to be shared.[18]

Priority 1—Lunar Program

Canada is focusing on improving its Canadarm3, while also contributing to the USA-led Lunar Gateway initiative.[18] From this contribution, Canada will earn two flights for Canadian astronauts to the moon with the first flight being scheduled in 2023.[18] Moreover, Canada will be working with 26 international space agency partners to coordinate future lunar and Mars exploration activities.[18]

Priority 2—Engage Young Canadians: Junior Astronauts

Over 58,000 youth throughout Canada were successfully engaged through the Junior Astronauts program.[18]

Priority 3—Space-Based Earth-Observation and Climate Change Science

CSA will pursue multiple Space-Based Earth Observation (SBEO) and climate change science activities.[18] A recent project CSA announced is completing an assessment of Canada’s potential contribution to NASA’s mission on improving forecasts of extreme weather events and air quality.[18]

Militarization in Space

When one thinks of space, one might imagine rockets landing on the moon and traveling to other planets, but what one might fail to imagine is how countries use space for militarization purposes. In fact, space has been militarized since the earliest communication satellites were launched.[19] Examples include relying on satellites for direct bombing raids or orchestrating a “prompt global strike”.[20] The vast majority of UN members are concerned that the weaponization of outer space will ultimately lead to an arms race. In order to prevent this, the members are emphasizing that a multilateral treaty be introduced.[20] Luckily, there are not any weapons currently deployed in space. Nowadays space is considered a military domain in its own right since countries look to utilize space to enhance their military through vast channels.[20]

USA's Militarization

The USA has been “militarizing” space since the early 1960s in response to unpredictable threats from the Soviet Union.[21] Due to the Cold War, the USA has the most extensive situational awareness capabilities among all nations in space.[21] The Americans also have missile defense interceptors and missile warnings.[21] In addition, the USA has electronic warfare that has the ability to jam navigation satellites such as the Russian Glonass and Chinese Beidou systems.[21] Currently, with the Biden administration, the budget for the 2022 fiscal year has allocated a whopping $20.6 billion to strengthen the USA’s capability in space “to deter conflict and prevail in a global all-domain fight”.[21] Among the more high-profile programs: $2.6 billion for the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) satellite, which will combine with existing GEO satellites and associated ground systems to “increase missile warning, missile defense, battlespace awareness, and technical intelligence”. 29 Initial launch capability for the first polar satellite is earmarked for 2028. $1.8 billion for two GPS follow-on satellites and upgrades to the existing GPS system. $1.7 billion to fund five new space-launched vehicles. This does not include the $800 million in classified programs that went to the Space force this past year.[21]

Russia's Militarization

The Soviet Union is believed to be the first to have militarized space when it launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957.[21] Similar to the US, the Soviet Union developed a space presence due to the Cold War and experimented with offensive counter-space capabilities aimed at the USA.[21] Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia still maintained its intention to remain a major player in space, leading to it creating the world’s first Space Force and the Russian Space Agency in 1992.[21] In the 2000s, Russia is reported to have revived many of its Cold War counter-space capability programs, including ASAT technologies, direct energy weapons, electronic warfare, surveillance and tracking, and missile defense technologies.[21] Recently, in 2015, the Russian Space Force combined space, air defense, and missile defense under one command.[21] Russia has been the face of many controversies due to it being accused of widespread electronic counter-space warfare and it jamming navigation and communications satellites in nearby territories.[21] In 2018, France publicly accused Russia of planning to intercept communication satellites in the French and Italian armed forces.[21] Two months later, Russia was also accused of GPS interference during a NATO exercise in the Arctic regions of Norway and Finland; however, the Kremlin repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.[21]

China's Militarization

China’s militarization efforts in space are more recent when compared to the USA and Russia.[21] The Chinese have two top priorities for their militarization in space: 1. Developing its own military architecture in space that will enable military activities on the ground. 2. Developing a broad range of counter-space capabilities. One of China’s biggest controversies came in 2007, when it successfully launched its first missile capable of targeting low earth orbit satellites, while simultaneously impacting a Chinese weather satellite from the missile, causing space debris.[21] Additionally, China has spent the last decade upgrading that same missile system.[21] China is also reported to have developed high-powered lasers capable of blinding commercial and military imaging satellites.[21] As China has advanced cyber capabilities, over the past years, they have been accused of several cyber attacks on USA satellites. In 2014, hackers with suspected links to China forced a temporary shutdown of the USA weather satellite network.[21] It was once a two-country competition for the international space race; however, due to recent events, China intends to surpass Russia as a leading space power by 2030 and replace the USA as the leading space power by 2045.[21]

Space Economy

The Space Economy encompasses activities and the use of resources that create value and benefits for human beings in the course of exploring, researching, understanding, managing, and utilizing space.

Reusability and what it Enables

Reusability currently enables massively reduced costs and increased launch frequency in the airline industry, and it may provide the same benefits to the space industry in the near future. According to Boeing's current list prices, a brand-new 747 costs $418.4 million and is capable of holding between 416 and 524 passengers. Meaning if planes were not reusable, the cost of a one-way ticket on a Boeing 747 may be between $800,000 and $1,000,000. Using current ticket prices we can approximate that reusability makes flights between 800-20,000 times cheaper for passengers in the airline industry. In addition to being more expensive, they would also have to be planned much further in advance. Generally, the use case of airline flights for transport would not work at this price point as the vast majority of today's passengers can not afford this.

Figure 6. Space Shuttle.[22]

The Space Shuttle

Reusable rockets are not a new idea. The Space Shuttle flew its first flight in 1981 and was reusable. However, the boosters and orbiter vehicle had to be refurbished after every mission in a time-consuming and expensive process. Five Shuttles flew 135 missions with an average launch cost of $1.5 billion. The Space Shuttle program is largely considered a failure as it did not reduce the cost of mass to orbit and it officially came to a close in 2011.[23]

Chrysler's Space Shuttle

Chrysler's radical space shuttle design called the "Chrysler Space Division," was unveiled in the early 1960s. The design was a reusable space shuttle that was meant to be launched on a rocket and then land like an airplane. The shuttle was designed to be able to carry a crew of six and up to 65,000 pounds of payload. It was also designed to be able to make up to 100 flights per year. The design was considered to be ahead of its time, as it resembled the space shuttles that were eventually built by NASA in the 1980s. However, the design was never built due to cost concerns and a lack of government funding. If it had been built, the Chrysler space shuttle may have been more successful than NASA's space shuttle program due to its reusable design and ability to make more frequent flights.[24]

Today's Reusable Rockets

Space X's Falcon 9 rocket is a partially reusable rocket, with no refurbishment required, and is currently operating with the highest use, and cheapest mass to orbit figure.[25]

Reusable Rockets of the Future

Space X's Starship rocket is a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Starship will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed, with the ability to carry an excess of 100 metric tonnes to orbit. It is currently being prototyped and tested with its first orbital flight planned for late 2022/ early 2023. The platform has a mission planned for 2023 featuring a fly-by of the moon. SpaceX intends for the rocket to decrease the cost of mass to low earth orbit to around $10/KG.[26] This cost figure for mass to orbit potentially enables developments in the space economy including:

Figure 7. 16 Psyche.[27]
  • Space Tourism
  • Asteroid Mining
  • Earth-to-Earth Transportation
  • Mars Colonization
  • Space Manufacturing

Space Tourism

It currently costs $450,000 to buy a ticket to space from Virgin Galactic. In the future, this price may be drastically reduced to only a few thousand dollars.[28]

Asteroid Mining

There is an asteroid known as the 16 Psyche which is 1.6 astronomical units away from the Earth at its closest point. It is 226 km wide and made of mostly iron and nickel. At current market prices, the asteroid is worth approximately $1- quintillion, which is over 100,000 times the GDP of the earth. With cheaper costs to get mass to orbit, it could become feasible to mine asteroids like 16 Psyche.[29]

Earth-to-Earth Transportation

Most international long-distance trips could be completed in 30 minutes or less, with access to anywhere in the world in an hour or less. Ticket prices could be similar to a plane ticket.[30]

Figure 8. Mars Colony.[31]

Mars Colonization

It is estimated that 1,000,000 tons of mass on Mars' surface would allow for a self-sustaining colony to exist. Meaning, that if 10,000 SpaceX Starships full of supplies were sent to Mars, that may be enough to start a self-sustaining colony on the red planet.[32]

Space Manufacturing

The space environment, particularly microgravity and vacuum, enables the production of goods that could otherwise not be manufactured on Earth. Examples of items that could be manufactured in space are improved semiconductor wafers and advanced fibre optics. Fibre optic developed in microgravity has minimal flaws and the performance can be orders of magnitude above that of fibre created on Earth.[33]

Rocket Engines of the Future

Raptor Engines

Raptor engines are reusable methalox staged-combustion engines that power the Starship launch system and are the first full-flow staged combustion rocket engine ever flown. The engine utilizes two pre-burners, one running rich while the other runs lean. The mixture balances out in the main combustion chamber. This configuration leads approximately to a 10% increase in efficiency compared to traditional rocket engines.[34]

SpaceX plans to use the engine to get to and from Mars. The Sabatier process produces water and methane from a combination of carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Carbon dioxide and hydrogen are both found on Mars, and thus this is a part of SpaceX’s in situ resource collection plan to power the rocket for the flight back to earth.

Figure 9. SpaceX Raptor Engine.[35]

Rotating Detonation Engines

Detonation is the combustion of a substance that is initiated suddenly and propagates extremely rapidly giving rise to a shock wave. This is opposed to a deflagration reaction in which the combustion propagates at subsonic speeds, driven by the transfer of heat. A detonation engine could be as much as 25% more efficient than a conventional deflagration engine. This would provide increased power and major fuel savings to an engine that utilizes detonation. The basic concept of a rotating detonation engine is that a detonation wave travels around a circular channel where fuel and oxidizer are injected. After the engine is started the detonations are self-sustaining. The issues facing this rocket engine type are that the reaction is not as stable as a conventional rocket, and it produces much more heat which can destroy the engine.[36]

Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR)

This rocket engine is currently in development by the Ad Astra Rocket Company. It is an electrothermal thruster that's thrust scales very well with energy input compared to other electric propulsion rockets. The propellant of the rocket is a neutral gas such as argon or xenon that is heated up to ~5,000,000 °C and is ejected from the engine at ~180,000 km/h. This rocket would still require a chemical rocket to get from the surface of the earth to space as it does not provide enough thrust to make that trip. However, because the rocket is more efficient than a conventional rocket and can be run for much longer, it could shorten the trip to Mars from ~210 days to ~39 days. Current issues that this rocket is facing are that it produces a lot of waste heat which is hard to get rid of in the vacuum of space, and its high electricity demands.[37]

Benefits of Space Exploration

Space exploration and the continuation of expanding human knowledge around space have resulted in tremendous benefits for mankind. These benefits range from day-to-day items to large-scale humanitarian benefits. This section will explore “the why” of space exploration and its continued research and development.

Benefits for Day-to-Day Life

Technological advancements in space have been integrated into several products that humans use in day-to-day life; many of which the average human probably does not realize originated from space technology.

Spinoffs from Space Technology

Below are examples of items that humans use in day-to-day life that are spinoffs from space technology.[38]

Air Purifiers

Air purifiers were initially developed for use in the ISS and were since proven to be capable of serving the same purpose on Earth.

Enriched Baby Formula

While researchers were developing food and nourishment solutions for long-duration space missions, a natural source of an omega-3 fatty acid was discovered. This supplement is now incorporated in 90% of baby formulas on the market.

Memory Foam

While inventing solutions to cushion pilots flying into space, researchers invented memory foam. Today this is used in several items such as mattresses, shoes, and blankets.[39]

Cordless Vacuums

Cordless vacuums were adapted from a lightweight battery-powered drill that was used to collect rock and soil samples on the Moon.

Using Satellites to Improve Day-to-Day Life

Satellites serve a vast number of purposes of various magnitudes; however, they also serve seemingly simple purposes as well that humans use every day.[38]

Figure 10. Satellite.[40]

GPS Technology

The navigation systems built into cell phones, modern cars, airplanes, trains, and more vehicles utilize navigation satellites. These satellites send out constant radio signals that are picked up by GPS receivers in the device or vehicle.[41] The satellites transmit information allowing the receivers to know where the satellites are located and measuring the time it takes for signals to arrive from the satellites. This technology powers navigation systems and provides traffic estimates on Earth.

Weather Forecasting

Weather satellites are utilized to provide accurate weather forecasts. These satellites take images of the Earth allowing scientists to study cloud and storm movements to predict the weather.


Satellites connect people all over the world via satellite television, phones, radio, and the Internet. This is facilitated with the use of radio waves that send signals from satellites in Space to Earth.[42] Antennas around the Earth capture those signals and allow for global communication.

Potential Future Space Technology Adaptations

Finally, below are two examples of space technology adaptations that are currently in consideration for use on Earth.[38]

Improving Access to Clean Water

In 2008, the ISS developed a water recovery system to recycle and filter used water. This technology can be utilized in countries that struggle with accessing clean water.

Growing Food in Harsh Conditions

Ongoing research is being conducted by the ISS to determine if Mars is inhabitable. Part of this research is to develop a way for food to be grown in harsh conditions. If this discovery can be made, it could be utilized to help grow food in developing countries or areas on Earth with harsh environments.

Large Scale Benefits for Earth's Safety

Advancements in space technology have had several large-scale benefits for the safety of Earth as well. These benefits include understanding climate change and protecting Earth from natural disasters and asteroid strikes, among many more.

Figure 11. NASA DART.[43]

Environmental Benefits

The environmental benefits surround the use of satellites. By utilizing satellite technology, scientists are better able to monitor how Earth is changing and how its various environments are being impacted.[44] Monitoring Earth’s environmental changes allow scientists to better promote the preservation of land and biodiversity. Earth’s changes have been documented through satellite imaging and from astronauts’ observations while in space. For example, astronauts have witnessed the shrinking of the ocean and the arctic ice. As well, the thinning of the ozone layer was discovered with the help of satellites.

Similar to weather forecasting technology, scientists are also able to use satellites to make more accurate natural disaster predictions. Satellites gather data to predict natural disasters and visualize the magnitude and direction of natural disasters. This allows search and rescue teams and residents in those areas to better prepare.

Protection from Asteroid Strikes

Also by use of satellites, asteroids that may come within close proximity to Earth can be detected and monitored.[45] In preparation for the day a killer asteroid menaces Earth, NASA made its first attempt to shift the position of a natural object in space in September of 2022.[46] NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft, nick-named the DART, was slammed into the 160-meter asteroid at 22,500 km/hour roughly 11.3 million kilometers away from Earth. NASA scientists concluded that DART was successful in altering the asteroid’s orbit.[47]

Humanitarian Benefits

Using Satellites to Enhance Human Safety

Benefits to humanity have also been felt as a result of space technology. Satellite images and signals of devastated regions on Earth after natural disasters allow search and rescue teams to better locate those in need.[45] From 2012-2016, search and rescue teams were able to rescue six people per day on average using this technology. Satellites also allow civil engineers and builders to design safer infrastructures. This is done by measuring ground movements and utilizing shock absorption technology, which was originally used to protect spacecraft.


Elon Musk’s Starlink has also proven to be impactful during humanitarian struggles across the globe. Examples of this include when Starlink was administered over Florida to help provide Internet connectivity after Hurricane Ian crippled the southwestern side of the state.[48] As well, Starlink was to be sent over Iran to provide Internet to citizens after the Iranian government shut down the Internet in response to public protests in the country.[49] Finally, after Internet services were disrupted in Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion, Starlink was activated to provide connectivity.[50]

Health Care

There have been numerous scientific advancements made in health care from adapting space technology as well, as outlined in the examples below.[51]

Figure 12. Modus V.[52]

Understanding the Human Body

Astronauts undergo intense health examinations before being approved to travel into space. As well, upon returning from space, the effects of space on their bodies are thoroughly examined. These experiments and studies have allowed scientists to better understand the human body and how it is impacted by vastly different circumstances than on Earth. This research has produced findings in areas such as cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart failure.


The technology used in the ISS has been adapted for use in surgical rooms. For example, the neuroArm and Modus V (surgical robots) were adapted from robots used in space.

Treating Breast Cancer

Another use of space robots in health care was in the development of IGAR, which is a tele-operated medical robot. IGAR is capable of performing very precise biopsies for breast cancer detection.

Treating Bleeding after Childbirth

Antigravity suits (also known as g-suits) use pressure technology that is now being used in pressure garments to treat women suffering from postpartum hemorrhage after giving birth.

Why Explore Mars?

A primary topic of discussion in recent years when talking about space is Mars. This section will go into further detail as to why Mars is such a prevalent topic today and what exploring Mars could mean for humanity.

NASA's Goals for Mars Exploration

On a scientific level, below are NASA’s goals for Mars exploration.[53]

Goal 1: Determine if Life Ever Arose on Mars

This includes determining if Mars’ climate was ever capable of harbouring organic beings, as its atmosphere currently is not. As well, NASA is looking for signs that life once existed on Mars. NASA’s Perseverance rover is currently collecting rock samples from a large crater on Mars that scientists have long since believed to have once been a body of liquid.[54] Scientists believe that surrounding a body of liquid, there are higher chances of finding evidence of ancient life on Mars, and so this is a topic of high interest currently for NASA.

Goal 2: Characterize the Climate of Mars

Scientists are aiming to draw conclusions as to what Mars’ climate is currently like and what it was like in the past. If it is determined that life once existed on Mars, then the question of what happened to Mars’ climate to make it so hostile must be explored.

Goal 3: Characterize the Geology of Mars

This is centered around determining if channels of water or another liquid ever flowed across Mars and what the rocks and minerals on Mars could prove about its history.

Goal 4: Prepare for the Human Exploration of Mars

NASA’s goal is to land the first humans on Mars by the 2030s.[55] For this to be successful, many challenges must be overcome, and NASA is working on mitigating them. These challenges include astronaut safety in Mars’ harsh environment and how to transport humans to and from Mars safely.

Figure 13. Mars.[56]

How this Impacts Us?

Advancements and discoveries in relation to Mars are occurring every day. NASA’s Perseverance is a primary example of this. NASA is developing its Orion spacecraft designed to shuttle humans to the Moon, where an outpost is planned to be built, and then transport humans further into space.[55] The billionaires in the modern-day space race have also expressed great interest in Mars. For example, Musk’s SpaceX is aiming to have one million humans on Mars before the end of the century. The underlying factor behind all of these Mars discussions is that humans on Mars is no longer a distant and optimistic thought, but will likely be a reality in the next decade.

Biosphere 2

However, if humans hope to inhabit another planet, certain human characteristics and capabilities must be tested first. This concept was explored in the 1990s with the experiment titled “Biosphere 2”.[57] The rationale behind this experiment was that humankind would need to learn how to replicate Earth to have any hope of inhabiting other planets. In the experiment, four women and four men moved into a man-made biosphere for two years to test if humans could survive in an enclosed biosphere with a finite number of resources. In recent years, a documentary was filmed about the events that transpired in Biosphere 2. Below is a trailer for this documentary.

Matt Wolf, the director of ‘Spaceship Earth’ stated that he thinks “the experiment revealed that humans are the most unstable element of a closed system.” Experiments such as Biosphere 2 need to be considered to explore whether humans can survive in such conditions before shuttling thousands of humans to Mars.

Concluding Thoughts

This final section will discuss the bigger picture of space technology and exploration. More specifically, it will explore the question of whether humankind’s goals should be to keep advancing space technology as much as possible with the hopes of inhabiting other planets. A premise for this discussion stems from statements made in 2017 by the late theoretical physicist, astrophysicist, cosmologist, and author, Stephen Hawking. Hawking stated, “[he is] convinced humans need to leave Earth,” and that, “humans need to colonize another planet within 100 years or face extinction,” and finally, that he believed humans will turn Earth into a “giant ball of fire” by 2600.[58]

The following sections will first explore a pro-space exploration take on this topic, and will then explore the more bleak considerations that should be kept in mind when venturing further into space.

Figure 14. Space Megastructure.[59]

Venturing into Space

Humanity venturing into space could allow people in the distant future to enjoy an extreme degree of prosperity, with nobody suffering from not having enough, as outer space has virtually unlimited resources. Extracting resources in space comes with no negative impact on life as humanity would be mining from asteroids and planets with no signs of life. As opposed to on Earth, where obtaining and using resources can negatively impact both human and non-human life.

Earth has Limited Resources

Earth contains a limited amount of resources, meaning that if humanity does not venture into space, this fact will eventually constrain economic progress. Putting a limit on humanity's access to resources may spur conflict as taking from others may become the primary way to gain wealth.

Earth has Limited Time

In about one billion years, the sun's luminosity will be 10% higher, causing the oceans to evaporate and making the atmosphere unsuitable for most life on earth.[60] Life will one day no longer be feasible on earth, so if we have to leave eventually, we may as well begin that adventure now.

Preserving the Light of Consciousness

The only planet we are certain harbours life is earth. All the life in the universe may be bound to earth. For this reason, many people including Elon Musk consider ensuring that life continues of utmost importance and believe expanding into space is the best way to do this. [61]

Considerations to be Kept in Mind Before Venturing into Space

When discussions of humans inhabiting another planet take place, some consideration should be given as to what has happened that causes astrophysics, such as Stephen Hawking, to make such grim remarks. Hawking made the above statements because he believed artificial intelligence may take over, an asteroid could severely damage Earth, a pandemic could cripple human life on Earth, or global warming will reach a tipping point and be irreversible.[58] The following section will specifically discuss the global warming aspect, which is a common concern amongst more physicists than just Hawking.

The Effects of Climate Change

Climate change and global warming are the results of human impact on Earth. These are the effects of industrialization, over-manufacturing, the food industry, and private jets, amongst many more examples. The underlying factor between all of these examples is that they are human actions that have severely damaged the biome of an entire planet.

Every year that passes, climate change and instances of Earth’s destruction become more apparent. Within a couple of months in 2022, Earth saw devastating catastrophes which resulted from hundreds of years of climate change. A land mass the size of the entire United Kingdom was flooded in Pakistan affecting 33 million residents, among which 10 million children are in need of lifesaving support due to diseases, drowning, and malnutrition.[62] In North America, Hurricane Fiona and Hurricane Ian crippled eastern Canada and Florida, respectively.[63] Kenya faced one of the most deadly droughts it has ever faced instantiating a hunger crisis.[64] Elephant, zebra, and giraffe populations have been severely impacted and three million people face starvation.[65] Meanwhile, in the same continent, Nigeria faces devastating floods affecting more than two million people and destroying 200,000 homes.[66]

Figure 15. Global Warming.[67]

These are only recent examples among many more consequences of climate change seen every year. Climate change will continue to get worse every year, as it already has been. Locally in British Columbia, the forest fires in the Okanagan and heat waves in the summer get worse and winters become harsher. These are all examples of the Earth slowly self-destructing and one day, likely resulting in an uninhabitable planet.

The Damage Humans can Cause to a Planet

Global warming was discovered in 1938, though studies on climate change began in the late 1800s.[68] Since then, considerable work has been done to combat the effects of climate change. However, when compared to the damage being done to Earth every day from pollution and waste production, it does not seem to be enough. The fact that the human race was capable of damaging a planet so critically that it is slowly self-destructing, is a very difficult idea to grasp.

The ethical consequences of this need to be considered before humans abandon Earth and inhabit another planet. If humankind could damage Earth as badly as it has, what might the galaxy look like in centuries if human reach becomes that far? What might happen to Mars if humans move there and continue to neglect the delicate environments in which they inhabit? The principle of destroying Earth which was once rich with biomes and species that existed long before humans and moving to another planet because humans are smart enough and have the technology to do so, while the animals on Earth that did not contribute to global warming do not, is another concept that is difficult to grasp. And while these events are not likely to occur in any living human’s lifetime today, they could very well happen in generations to come.

Final Remarks

Continued scientific growth and the groundbreaking discoveries made in space is a prime example, if not the prime example of what humankind is capable of. And by all means, science should continue to grow and test its boundaries. That being said, some consideration should be given along the journey as to the bigger picture and the daunting truth of how humans can negatively impact something as large as a planet.


Gurkirat Athwal Lorenzo Bardi Preet Dhadda
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada


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