Can Engineers Get Us to Mars by 2027?

Stephen Petranek discusses the current barriers to Mars colonization, and the solutions he sees to break those barriers.

Stephen Petranek says that Mars will be colonized, some of us will work on projects for Mars colonization, and that our kids might live on Mars. Those are just a few of the wild predictions that Petranek makes as he talks about the scientists, engineers and technicians working on Mars related projects right now. In his TED Talk Your kids might live on Mars. Here’s How, Petranek looks at current barriers to Mars colonization and the answers he sees to those issues.

Petranek views a manned Mars landing as a moonshot level project for the 21st century, and a possible unifying event for all of the nations working on the project. Mars is a smaller planet than Earth but has a close usable surface area because of the water covering our planet’s surface. The atmosphere on Mars is thin and the standard temperature is -81 degrees Fahrenheit. A few other differences are outlined for Petranek to make the point that Mars is not like Earth, but it is by far the most inhabitable planet for us in the solar system.

The world’s record with Mars missions is not good. Of the 44 missions that have been launched by Americans, Russians, Europeans, Japanese, Chinese or Indian space agencies, less than a third have been successful. The question of time is also examined. NASA is quoted as saying that humans could reach Mars by 2040, but Stephen predicts humans will land on Mars by 2027. He cites Elon Musk as the driving force behind his accelerated timeline.

Survivability and long term habitation are another huge area of concern for Mars living. Humans need food, water, clothing, shelter, and oxygen. Petranek outlines devices that University of Washington and MIT engineers have built for water and air concerns, using the ice present on Mars. He then tackles possible solutions to the issues of food, clothing, and shelter.

This is an incredibly ambitious talk full of wild controversial claims about what engineers are currently doing to get us to Mars and what might happen in the next two decades. Petranek is a very low energy speaker but his words and delivery keep the audience’s attention. He is able to convey a wide eyed sense of optimism while adding enough facts to make us feel these claims could have some merit, and the idea of engineering our way to Mars seems a little more possible.