Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos both have grand plans to colonize space.
Samantha Lee/Business Insider
The space race between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk is heating up.
Both billionaires have grand – but very different – plans to colonize space.
Three experts told Insider about the scientific, medical, and ethical challenges facing space colonies.
See more stories on Insider’s business page.
We are currently in the middle of a new space race, except this time it’s not between conflicting nation-states – it’s battling tech billionaires.
Amazon founder and the richest human being alive, Jeff Bezos, boarded the New Shepard rocket made by his space exploration company Blue Origin on Tuesday, blasting 62 miles above sea-level to touch the edge of space. Elon Musk, the second-richest person in the world and CEO of space exploration company SpaceX, wished him luck on his voyage.
The two billionaires’ respective companies have been rivals for 15 years over their ambitions for space travel. Their companies are still battling for a huge NASA contract and the two billionaires have personally sparred over their competing projects – although Bezos’ comments have been more veiled than Musk’s.
In the near future, both Blue Origin and SpaceX hope to help NASA return astronauts to the moon.
But neither men are content to talk about near-term goals. Both have laid out grandiose visions for space colonization.
Read more: These 4 companies are leading the charge in ‘space vacations’ – from giant balloon flights to orbital hotels
Elon Musk’s gaze remains fixed on Mars, where he claims he wants to start building a human settlement by the 2050s and where he has said he would like to die (although, he noted, not on impact).
Bezos’ vision is a little closer to Earth. In 2019 he said he wants to develop a “sustained human presence” on the moon, proposed heavy industry could be moved off-Earth, and said humanity could live in O’Neill cylinders – huge spinning space stations which would simulate gravity.
A Blue Origin artist’s concept of an O’Neill space colony.
So how close are we to actual space colonization? In 2019 Insider spoke to three experts to sift through the tech moguls’ bombastic rhetoric and uncover some of the real scientific challenges.
Low gravity thins our bones, weakens our muscles, and makes our hearts change shape
Being in space for long periods of time has a big impact on human bone density. A 2013 study of 35 astronauts found that on average they lost more than 10% of bone density after flying missions of between 120 to 180 days.
“Mars has more gravity than the ISS [International Space Station] but not a lot, it’s still about a sixth of Earth’s. So you’ve got a serious issue there as to whether people can live there for any serious length of time at all. That doubles down if you want to try raising children and anything that approaches an actual colony,” said David Armstrong, an astrophysics professor at the …read more
Source:: Business Insider