Mars mission will solve world’s woes, congress hears

2011-10-05 14:36

The solution to the world’s economic woes is a human mission to Mars, delegates at the International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town have heard.

Global society was in “a process of implosion” and a new frontier would reignite economic prosperity, the Mars Society’s Emmanuel Etrakakis told them.

His intriguingly titled paper – entitled Space or Suicide, Yes we Can – drew appreciative applause from those attending a Mars Exploration session.

Etrakakis, who according to the session programme is from Mozambique, said he had sent a copy of his paper to United States President Barack Obama.

In it, he had warned that the global economy was faltering and financial rescue plans were not working.

The modern world was characterised by “greed, aggression and speed”; hundreds of millions of people were living below the $30 (about R242) a day poverty line; and there were high levels of crime, drug proliferation, public discontent and environmental degradation.

Society needed the stimulus of a new frontier.

“History teaches us that whenever society has been provided with a new dimension to grow into, they have actually flourished,” he said.

However, the funding and the political will for manned space exploration was dwindling.

The US shuttle programme had come to an end, and the , budget was shrinking.

Etrakakis said he had told Obama that he was “sitting on the solution to reignite global economic prosperity”.

This was human space exploration.

“Switch on the reset button, please,” he had said in the paper which had been sent to the White House.

Responding later to a question, Etrakakis said he had received a reply stating: “Thank you for sending us the paper.”

He told delegates that history contained many examples of how new frontiers had “re-energised” economies.

In this regard, a human mission to Mars would be “a real booster, a guaranteed global economic stimulus”.

The Apollo programme, which had put a human on the moon, had a seven-to-one multiplier effect on the US economy. “Imagine what a $200-billion [about R1.6 trillion], 20-year, humans-to-Mars programme would do for many direct and indirect industries.”

Etrakakis called for political leadership to set the world on such a course.

“This is the ultimate endeavour; it’s beyond ‘Yes we can’, it’s ‘Yes we must,’” he said.

The Mars Society is an international space advocacy group. According to the organisation’s website, its purpose is the exploration and settlement of Mars.

Although the European Space Agency has said it hopes to land human on Mars by 2035, the next two decades of exploration of the Red Planet look set to be carried out by robots, including Earth-controlled orbiters, landers and rovers. 

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