Space is the object of dreams for most humans and of lust for potential resources for the greats of this world. Since the race to the Moon in the 1960s between the Russians and the Americans, we know that it is possible to tear ourselves away from our cow floor.
For several decades, we have sent satellites into orbit and the ISS station in which astronauts from all over the world rub shoulders. Recently, companies like Space X led by Elon Musk are promising us that other planets will soon be habitable.
The news about space projects often testifies to failures of this kind of initiative, such as the Starship’s thruster, which recently caught fire during a test in Texas. These kinds of issues can undo or delay a multi-billion dollar project that has taken years to complete. Thus, despite the expertise of the best scientists in the world on this kind of problem, the outcome is generally as certain as a
If launching a rocket is so complex, what about colonizing other worlds? Is this possible, even in several hundred years or is it a chimera that we pursue in vain?
What can delay the implementation of a space project
For the European Space Agency (ESA), the establishment of an inhabited space has been an objective for several years. Their roadmap foresees advances until 2030 with a deepening of the exploration of the moon and Mars. However, their plans can easily be disrupted by the geopolitical context because of their policy of international cooperation.
In a recent press release, ESA therefore announced that it was taking steps to make the organization more autonomous. An unstable international context can therefore lead ESA to question cooperation, even with a historical member.
It is a measure that is ultimately quite logical, because overnight a country on which the ESA relies to deliver technology may find itself unable to provide it. This has already happened during the ExoMars mission.
Does a private company like SpaceX have a better chance of success?
Elon Musk’s company has been making a lot of noise for several years with surprising technological feats such as the deployment of 55 satellites in just 36 hours. The fact that the company is fully privatized puts it in a unique position.
Indeed, the ESA, for example, depends on the participation of the various Nations of the program and their capacity to allocate a budget and provide technologies for the construction of a mission. Then, it is necessary that the twenty or so ESA countries agree on the way forward.
SpaceX does not encounter this problem, which allows it to set up its projects much more quickly. However, this does not mean that the road is not strewn with pitfalls. For example, the Starship rocket had its propellant catch fire during a test, which delayed the mission. Despite this, the latter have a considerable lead on the Ariane 6 mission, which has been postponed to 2023.
Finally, when is life in space?
Colonization missions are under construction and NASA, SpaceX and ESA are working tirelessly on projects to create colonies on Mars. If the closest estimates for getting to Mars point to 2038 as the year of the first colonies, that’s guesswork.
Indeed, there are many factors that can delay this kind of project, whether environmental, geopolitical or related to unforeseeable technical issues. Thus, if the conquest of space makes us dream, life on other planets à la The Expanse, it is clearly not for now.