A Univeristy of New South Wales professor believes that humans will colonise Mars by 2050, but not to the extent that Elon Musk predicts.

Professor Serkan Saydam from UNSW Sydney is of the belief that the minute autonomous mining processes quickly become more commercially viable, there will be humans on Mars well before the end of the 21st century.

With NASA’s Perseverance Rover touching down on the red planet in recent times, there is increased interest in humankind’s ability to put itself onto Mars, with many anticipating it will come sooner rather than later. 

Saydam says that is certainly achievable, but there are many hoops to jump through before we may touch down on the distant planet.

“Everything is all about water. You use water as a life support, plus also being able to separate out the hydrogen to use as an energy source,” he says in an interview with the university's media arm.

“The process for having humans on Mars will be to set up operations, go there and produce water with robots first, and then be able to extract the hydrogen to make the energy ready before people arrive.

“Innovation in robotics and autonomous systems are clearly important so that we have the water ready and the hydrogen separated and ready for when human beings land.

“At the moment, we don’t have the ability to do it. There are significant research efforts, specifically here at UNSW under ACSER (Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research), about the best way to do it, but there is no consensus yet. It also depends on how many people we expect to be living on Mars. Is it five, or 5000, or 50,000, or even more?“

Saydam disagrees with the idea that there will be a city on Mars of up to 1 million people within 30 years, which has been coined by entrepreneur Elon Musk, who says he will easily fly over 1000 SpaceX rockets with people, infrastructure and cargo to the red planet.

“I believe a colony on Mars is going to happen, but between 2040 and 2050 is more feasible. This could be shortened depending on the technological advances that can reduce the costs or from stronger motivation.

“What I think will happen is that first of all we will do these activities on the moon and have a colony there. Then we can use the moon as a petrol station to get to Mars and beyond.”

He goes on to say that there must be a monetary benefit involved for companies to invest in products that will fuel the colonisation of Mars.

“One issue is that demand is not there. For companies to get involved in developing products (for Mars missions), they need to be able to produce minerals or something that can be used for manufacturing goods and then sell it.

“At the moment, everything is just a cost and there is no revenue for companies.”

Despite Saydam’s sentiments, Musk and SpaceX look to push on, with the company looking to fly the first humans to Mars in 2022, with NASA aiming for a launch in 2024.

Although, there is no word yet on how many architects will be needed in order to terraform the Martian landscape.

Image: Wikipedia Commons