It's Time for Us to Become a Spacefaring Species

Establishing a colony on Mars would protect the long-term survival of the human race.

Stephen Petranek: The reason we need to travel to Mars and to establish a civilization on Mars is to protect the long-term survival of the human species. We need to become a spacefaring society and eventually we need to move far beyond Mars — not only from our own solar system, but into other solar systems within this galaxy and other solar systems in other galaxies. We are making wonderful progress finding other Earth-like planets and we will continue to find many of those in the future.

Eventually the human species is going to disappear. That means everyone who’s a human being will die eventually and this species will die out and go extinct. And there are a number of reasons how that could happen and why that could happen including a large asteroid hits Earth and destroys everything larger than a rabbit as happened in the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago or eventually our sun begins to die and that is a 100 percent probability our sun will begin to die in about 2 billion years. And one of two things will happen. Either Earth will be thrown completely out of its orbit and go spinning off into space and everyone will die very quickly. Or the sun will essentially irradiate Earth as it expands because what happens with a dying sun is it gets very large. And so in order to survive as a species we have to become a spacefaring species. We have to get off this planet eventually and that is the long-term hope for humanity.

Mars is the most habitable place in our solar system by far. And even though it’s an incredibly hostile environment, we’ve developed the technology over the last 50 years to survive on Mars and to survive quite readily. So Mars is a wonderful first step. It’s where we go to learn how to go farther. Elon Musk says he will land on Mars in 2025. We’ve had, he and I have had a number of — several conversations about this. He’s more optimistic than I am and he’s one of the most optimistic people I’ve ever met. I’m very optimistic, but he’s more optimistic than I am. So I am in the discussion with him about a timeframe and when a SpaceX rocket or two might land on Mars. We kind of came to the conclusion that maybe we should say 2027. In other words, give him a two-year fallback. But he specifically says and I quote him on this in the book that he will be extremely disappointed if a SpaceX rocket has not landed on Mars by 2030. And I think that’s quite reasonable. I’d give 90 percent odds to a betting person that a SpaceX rocket will land on Mars before 2030.

 

Establishing a colony on Mars would protect the long-term survival of the human race. At some point, we're going to need to become a spacefaring species. There's no better time than now to get started.

Stephen Petranek is a journalist and author of a new book titled How We'll Live on Mars. Fittingly, he's here to tell us not just how we'll live on Mars, but also why and when. The why? As mentioned, we need to get off this rock sooner or later. The when? Within 15 years.


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Robot pizza delivery coming later this year from Domino's

The pizza giant Domino's partners with a Silicon Valley startup to start delivering pizza by robots.

Nuro
Technology & Innovation
  • Domino's partnered with the Silicon Valley startup Nuro to have robot cars deliver pizza.
  • The trial run will begin in Houston later this year.
  • The robots will be half a regular car and will need to be unlocked by a PIN code.

Would you have to tip robots? You might be answering that question sooner than you think as Domino's is about to start using robots for delivering pizza. Later this year a fleet of self-driving robotic vehicles will be spreading the joy of pizza throughout the Houston area for the famous pizza manufacturer, using delivery cars made by the Silicon Valley startup Nuro.

The startup, founded by Google veterans, raised $940 million in February and has already been delivering groceries for Kroger around Houston. Partnering with the pizza juggernaut Domino's, which delivers close to 3 million pizzas a day, is another logical step for the expanding drone car business.

Kevin Vasconi of Domino's explained in a press release that they see these specially-designed robots as "a valuable partner in our autonomous vehicle journey," adding "The opportunity to bring our customers the choice of an unmanned delivery experience, and our operators an additional delivery solution during a busy store rush, is an important part of our autonomous vehicle testing."

How will they work exactly? Nuro explained in its own press release that this "opportunity to use Nuro's autonomous delivery" will be available for some of the customers who order online. Once they opt in, they'll be able to track the car via an app. When the vehicle gets to them, the customers will use a special PIN code to unlock the pizza compartment.

Nuro and its competitors Udelv and Robomart have been focusing specifically on developing such "last-mile product delivery" machines, reports Arstechnica. Their specially-made R1 vehicle is about half the size of a regular passenger car and doesn't offer any room for a driver. This makes it safer and lighter too, with less potential to cause harm in case of an accident. It also sticks to a fairly low speed of under 25 miles an hour and slams on the breaks at the first sign of trouble.

What also helps such robot cars is "geofencing" technology which confines them to a limited area surrounding the store.

For now, the cars are still tracked around the neighborhoods by human-driven vehicles, with monitors to make sure nothing goes haywire. But these "chase cars" should be phased out eventually, an important milestone in the evolution of your robot pizza drivers.

Check out how Nuro's vehicles work: