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Ending poverty and Mars exploration shouldn’t be mutually exclusive

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By Hardik Madan

Recently, I got into a conversation with the admissions officer of the College of Charleston. We got into a discussion about the topic and we reached a dead end: Advancement, should it come by putting at stake the lives of millions. 

Living in the 21st century in one of the fastest growing nations of the world, we ourselves have seen numerous startups, tech giants and MNCs joining hands and pledging to make the human race a technologically advanced species. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, is of the vision that not only humans ought to become an interplanetary species, but also plans to land two cargo spaceships by the end of 2024. But do we really have to sacrifice millions of lives for it?  Are the two things mutually exclusive? Do we have a sustainable and efficient way to do it?  

Covid-19 has, and continues to imprint deep scars on the economy. Almost 150 million people are projected to fall into extreme poverty and food insecurity. Around the world, more than 700 million people live in extremely miserable conditions and barely manage two square meals during the day. The planet’s average surface level has risen about 2.2-degree Fahrenheit since the late 19th century.

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Experiments show Greenland lost an average of 279 billion tonnes of ice per year between 1993 and 2019, while Antarctica lost about 148 billion tonnes of ice per year. Global sea levels rose about 8 inches (20 centimetres) in the last century. The rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century and accelerating slightly every year. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30%.

These grave dangers at hand would make someone ponder upon the fact that we plan to spend trillions on sending people to Mars and establish a new civilization there. It’s crazy that the world has managed to provide space tourism before providing clean water for all the world’s population.

But advancement can only be delayed, not denied. Humankind has made conscious observations throughout the course of history that advancement comes with rejection and refusal. In other words, ending poverty and Mars exploration shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Musk, the pioneer of space tourism, has opted for technology that would enable even the middle class to go to Mars in some years. SpaceX tech can easily take spacecraft to space with less than 1/10th of an average Nasa rocket. Being efficient and cost-effective, SpaceX also plans to alleviate world issues by using sustainable technology. We need to prioritise things in each segment. In science and technology, right prioritisation is taking place but such prioritisation is not visible in public infrastructure and poverty alleviation schemes.

Along with that, space mining and manufacturing would reduce the burden on Earth’s resources and give us the capability to create products that would be impossible to manufacture on Earth. History has also shown us that the benefits of advancement seep down to all the sections of society. Looking at the bigger picture, we can only hope that this iteration will transform the entire human race and lead us to a better future.

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