by Jeff Cunningham
Ni hao, travellers! With the recent announcement that NASA has found evidence that water still flows on the red planet, and with the highly anticipated film The Martian hitting theaters in the United States, what better occasion can you ask for for the return of The Science of Firefly?
Today, we will indeed be looking towards Mars as a prototype for the very colonization and terraforming techniques that we’re told occurred on many planets and moons in Firefly‘s ‘verse to create the setting for the show and its follow-up film, Serenity.
For those of you just joining us, Take Back the Sky is a campaign by fans of the cult hit sci-fi show Firefly to write letters and sign petitions to SpaceX to name their first manned spacecraft– called the Dragon— after Serenity, the ship featured in the show. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has come to be known for being outspoken about his intent for the Dragon to be the key trailblazer, a 21st-century Mayflower, in a larger movement to found a permanent, independent colony. Scientists, futurists, politicians, and all manner of talking heads can’t “offer comment” loud or long enough– some saying it’s a brilliant plan, others naysaying and decrying the dangers involved (which don’t affect them, if you think about it. Just sayin’…).
In this installment of The Science of Firefly, we’ll tackle the ultimate question: Is it possible? Could human beings found a permanent settlement on another world within our lifetimes and eventually transform it to become like Earth, just like many a science-fiction novel or film? Or does the required technology and knowledge to achieve such a thing still elude us?
It’s a pretty tall order any way you look at it. The good news is, we can say that the short answer is “yes.” Here at Take Back the Sky, however, we refuse to leave matters like that, so you’ll also be getting the somewhat longer answer. To treat it properly, though, I propose we break the timeline down into three phases:
- How do we permanently settle another planet– like Mars– without needing re-supply from Earth?
- Won’t it cost too much?
- Isn’t it dangerous?
- How do we transition from “extreme campout” to a place you might actually want to live in?
- How do you terraform a planet? How long would it take?