Maybe We All Need to Escape to Mars. Maybe Not: The Power of Vision!
About 75 million people were killed during World War II. Adjusted for today’s inflation, about $4.1 trillion was spent fighting the war. That’s a lot of money. Thankfully, not all went to waste.
During the war, Nazi Germany saw the possibilities of using long-distance rockets as weapons. Late in the war, London was attacked by 200-mile-range V-2 missiles, which arched 60 miles high over the English Channel at more than 3,500 miles per hour. These were the first ballistic missiles ever made.
The missile caused great destruction. On the bright side, it was the key to a whole new world.
The Cold War started almost immediately the guns went silent. The United States and USSR, each scared of the other’s strengths and capabilities, started their missile programs.
USSR developed the first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The United States, to avoid the notion of the USSR being more technologically advanced, raced to come up with the same weapon.
What was to come needed a push and the arms race did this nicely. Each bloc wanted to show how powerful and advanced it was. This had a way of sending messages to the citizenry, especially in the West. A lot of folks must have had trouble sleeping with both eyes closed. For all they knew, what appeared like a shooting star in the sky could have been a missile.
If a missile could travel from Eastern Europe and cause utter destruction in the continent of North America, why couldn’t it reach for the stars? This must have been the question that led to the launch of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, into space. The Soviets did this the same year they successfully tested the first ICBM: 1957.
Four years later, Russian Lt. Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth in Vostok 1. Looking for a bigger win, the United States put the first man on the moon. Neil Armstrong’s words as he landed on the moon are still intriguing:
That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.
The first leap led to several others. Space expeditions and the positioning of satellites became the thing. However, space expeditions were expensive. Only governments could sponsor them.
In the 1980s, investment in the new world started to pay off. Satellite communications expanded to carry television programs, and people were able to pick up the satellite signals on their home dish antennas. Satellites discovered an ozone hole over Antarctica, pinpointed forest fires, and gave us photographs of the nuclear power plant disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. Astronomical satellites found new stars and gave us a new view of the center of our galaxy.
Perhaps the Gulf War proved the value of the satellites the most. Allied forces were able to use their control of the “high ground” of space to achieve a decisive advantage. Satellites were used to provide information on enemy troop formations and movements, early warning of enemy missile attacks, and precise navigation in the featureless desert terrain. This helped to quickly end the war.
Having no private player in the sector left space research at the mercy of government funding. A private player was needed; one who could deal with the issue of cost and take space exploration to a new frontier.
Enter Elon Musk. In 2002, he made $180 million from the sale of PayPal to eBay. He invested $30 million into Tesla. He also set on his plan to land a miniaturized greenhouse on Mars.
He wanted to send a colony of mice to Mars, so he went to Russia to buy refurbished ICBMs. He was put off by the $8 million price tag attached to each piece. He walked out of the meeting knowing that there could always be another option.
On his return flight from Russia, he calculated what it would cost to build a rocket and realized that the cost of raw materials was just 3% of the entire price for a rocket. He realized he could manufacture and sell cheaper than everyone in the market and still make a wide profit margin.
Enter SpaceX. Musk invested $100 million into SpaceX. His new goal was to build spacecraft for commercial space travel.
Saying SpaceX got off on a rocky start would be an understatement. The road was full of pointed stones, nails, and huge stumps. After investing time, money, and effort for 4 years into the development of the first SpaceX rocket, it failed in just 33 seconds after liftoff. That was 2006.
In 2007 and 2008, two new rockets were launched in a bid to gain credibility for the only private player in the game. The rockets failed. The third failure almost killed the company. No external funding and no success to point to since 2002, Musk didn’t have enough money to sponsor the fourth launch. Well, he could pay for his retirement. SpaceX was broke. It was the intervention of PayPal co-founder, Peter Thiel, that provided funding for the fourth launch.
Fortunately, the fourth launch was a success. Falcon 1 achieved earth orbit and became the first privately developed liquid-fuel rocket to orbit the Earth. History was made.
This success brought SpaceX credibility and its first contract, a $1.6 billion contract from NASA to handle cargo transport to the International Space Station (a research laboratory in low Earth orbit).
For many, this is the moment to take the company public, cash out, buy a yacht, and live luxuriously off the coast of Monaco. But, that’s not Musk. He pushed further. Launching could be a lot cheaper if the system was reusable.
Surprisingly, the system in use was not much different from what was in place in the 1960s. New launch systems and rockets had to be built every time. More, rockets were designed to burn up upon reentry. SpaceX set out to do what was seemingly impossible. Several failures happened, but they did it. SpaceX rockets are designed not only to withstand reentry but also to return to the launchpad for a vertical landing.
Let’s take a minute away from space travel.
A Google search that: ‘are all self-driving cars electric?’ would return in the negative. However, Google ‘are all Tesla cars electric?’ It is a big ‘Yes!’.
Climate change scientists, activists, and meteorologists complain daily about global carbon emissions. As much as we want to extend the lifespan of our planet, we have come to see daily carbon emissions from vehicles as a necessary evil. Climate change indicators such as the melt rate of the ice caps and an increase in sea levels are showing an alarming trend. Yet, about 80 million vehicles were sold globally in 2019.
It’s clear: humans can’t do without fast and efficient transportation. We only need to make this highly sustainable. And that is what Elon Musk is doing with Tesla.
You may dislike him for his tweets and see his plans to build a colony on Mars by 2050 as crazy, but you’ve got to love the power of his vision.
Google, Ford, Mercedes, and many other companies are trying to dominate the self-driving car market, but self-driving is almost synonymous with Tesla.
Tesla wants to make the autonomous car so efficient that the driver can take a nap behind the wheels. To make the nap highly comfortable, the company plans to make the batteries so efficient, by 2020, they can go 745 miles on a single charge. I guess it’s sleep tight and sweet dreams!
Space exploration is one thing, building a colony on Mars is another. Mars is unlike Earth. Humans can’t breathe without the oxygen mask on the red planet and there are a lot of doubts coming from the scientific community. But if history is anything to go by, we know Musk is one to challenge the seemingly impossible and make it happen. It wouldn’t be surprising if an outer space Dubai is located on Mars.
The vision of a leader is what the followers will conform to. Musk’s vision for sustainability and a Plan-B for humanity is gradually unraveling before our eyes.
Vision is not everything, but it is what pushes you to start.
It was a vision for a personal computer that pushed Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to invent the personal computer. To them, it was possible for the average human being to own a computer.
An operating software (OS) was extremely expensive before Microsoft. IBM was the market leader, and, to them, it was cool selling to businesses and corporations alone. Microsoft didn’t have the best OS when it started, but the revolutionary move made OS something that comes affordably with every computer.
It was Henry Ford’s vision to put a Ford car in every American home. He did it.
The visions of these leaders have changed the course of the world.
What’s your vision?
A vision doesn’t have to be static, you expand it over time. As you hit every milestone, you make it bigger.
Maybe this world will become an uninhabitable wasteland. Maybe not. Thankfully, we have visionaries who are working hard to ensure that we enjoy our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Originally published on Ourhoodspace