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AI Will Help Mankind Colonize Marsby@allan-grain
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473 reads

AI Will Help Mankind Colonize Mars

by Allan GrainFebruary 29th, 2024
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Odysseus is the first private spacecraft ever to land successfully on the moon. The Moon will hopefully be used for scientific experiments, training purposes, and a way station for future astronauts who will spend lengthy periods of time in space. Billionaire and SpaceX founder Elon Musk believes that humans could already be making their way to the red planet in just a few years.
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Space travel remains the dream of many people, and Intuitive Machines' Odysseus lander has brought us one step closer. Although it “tripped” while landing on the Moon, Odysseus has managed to communicate with its control team on Earth, beaming back information and images. Odysseus is the first private spacecraft ever to land successfully on the moon — and the first American vehicle to do so since the final Apollo mission in 1972.


Of course, the Moon is probably only meant to serve as a practice pad and “truck stop” in the future for more ambitious missions that will take humans to Mars and elsewhere. The Moon will hopefully be used for scientific experiments, training purposes, and as a way station for future astronauts who will spend lengthy periods of time in space.


While the Odysseus was unmanned, NASA has plans to send astronauts back to the Moon through its Artemis program. Billionaire and SpaceX founder Elon Musk said last year he believes that humans could already be making their way to the red planet in just a few years.


Musk recently revealed an ambitious plan to establish a human colony on Mars and that he aims to transport one million people to the Red Planet, stating that “civilization only passes the single-planet Great Filter when Mars can survive even if Earth supply ships stop coming.” In the past, Musk has said he plans to have a million people on Mars by 2050 and that “a permanent colony on the red planet could sustain our species if all humanity is extinguished on Earth.”


Musk has long voiced his intent to make humanity multi-planetary, often pointing to human settlement on Mars as an insurance policy for civilization in case Earth is struck by any number of calamities.


With the space race in full gear, the question of who gets what contract has become a matter of serious competition. Companies like Intuitive Machines, Musk’s SpaceX, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, or Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are all competing for the eventual ability to ferry Earth’s inhabitants back and forth between our planet and whatever way station or permanent

habitat we build elsewhere, whether on the Moon or Mars.


SpaceX's first priority is "establishing a cargo route to Mars," Musk has said in the past.

Musk is relying on the much-touted Starship to advance his plans. His early plans involved sending unmanned ships to the surface of Mars and then sending people after that once the flights were proven safe. The first missions would work to convert water and CO2 found on the Mars surface into the liquid oxygen and methane fuel that powers the Starship. By doing so, SpaceX would guarantee a long-lasting fuel source. Once refueled, the Starships would be able to make the journey back to Earth.


Following the initial flights, Musk wants to bring large groups of people to Mars to build colonies and factories to make the planet self-sustaining. One of the main priorities would be to build a factory for rocket fuel, essentially turning Mars into an outpost for ever-expanding space travel. In Musk’s vision, people could go from Mars to the asteroid belts, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and the Kuiper belt.


While in the beginning stages, people on Mars would have to live inside large protected air-tight structures on the surface or even underground, eventually, though, Musk said he envisions having the ability to warm the planet to make it habitable and allow humans to live outside without the need for supplemental oxygen.


But this is where some scientists begin to see problems with Musk’s grand plan.

According to experts, there just isn't enough CO2 on Mars that you can mobilize and create a long-lasting atmosphere the way Musk believes he can. The other problem, even if this was possible, is keeping the CO2 contained in the atmosphere.


Musk has said he understands this issue and realizes it would take a long time. He acknowledged that this is a project that would span several generations, and even if we cannot create an atmosphere now, we could at least build the first colony on Mars, preparing the way for future generations.


One of the greatest advantages of space exploration in today’s day and age is that we now have new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), to expand our capabilities more than was possible when space travel first became possible.


For instance, AI is currently being used in the space industry to help scientists analyze data more quickly and accurately and automate operations on spacecraft. The continuous development of AI is helping rovers and landers explore other planets and moons in ways never before possible.

“SpaceX has been improving and refining how rockets operate. The company uses AI to monitor and analyze data from the rocket’s sensors and telemetry systems, allowing for better decision-making and more precise control of the rocket’s trajectory and speed. SpaceX also uses AI to automate certain aspects of the rocket landing procedure.”


NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has also recently developed an AI-based mission planning system that can autonomously plan a spacecraft mission based on given parameters and constraints. Machine learning algorithms are being used to identify potential water sources or mineral deposits on the planet’s surface.


Clearly, AI is essential to the future of space exploration and will increasingly be implemented across various future missions in space—from Mars colonization efforts to interplanetary travel to supporting astronaut health. We are getting closer to this vision of becoming an interplanetary species. As long as it does not hallucinate or generate false information, as some AI technologies currently do, AI will help us achieve this unique and incredible vision.