Scientists Trying to Mine Metal From Plants

Scientists Trying to Mine Metal From Plants

At first this might sound a bit strange, but bear with me.  Scientists in Australia are using plants to harvest metals like Nickel, Zinc, and Cobalt from the soil.  These plants are called ‘hyperaccumulators’ because they suck up relatively huge amounts of metal.  A single one of these plants can take 11 pounds of Nickel from the soil.  Imagine planting a ton of these plants at a spent Nickel mine and accumulating hundreds of extra tons of Nickel.  Each ton is currently worth around $20,000.

This kind of news story gives me a lot of hope for the future because scientists are finding new ways to do more with less.  Similarly, Elon Musk is about to try to land a rocket on a floating platform in the ocean.  If that works out, it will prove the viability of a truly reusable rocket, which will in turn drive down the cost of sending rockets to space and space exploration in general.  It is estimated that reusable rockets would cut the cost of space travel by 100 times. It’s a really exciting time to be alive.

Future Space Colonies

I came across an interesting article today regarding the location of our future colonies around the solar system.  In it, the author argues that we should look somewhere besides mars for our future colonies due to proximity and other factors.  He suggested that we could paraterraform Mars or the moon (create a dome and create Earth-Like conditions within instead of trying to do so to the entire planet).  I think it would be a great idea to do this on the moon first for a proof-of-concept as well as to mine Helium-3, which could provide us with better rocket fuel to make our trips to Mars faster and easier.  This would make a Mars colony much cheaper to achieve.

Number of colonists is also an issue, as to create the right conditions for genetic diversity to prevent certain disorders and create the best possible survival rates, we would need a minimum of 10,000 colonists, probably more like 40,000 and up.  Getting that many people to the Moon or Mars and being able to house and feed them would be a hefty task.  Elon Musk has said he plans to make a Mars colony with 80,000 people in a matter of decades.  Whether or not this is feasible, we’ll see.  Still, I think it’s a noble task to try.  A number of events could occur which threaten the Earth and the people living on it.  Asteroids, Nuclear War, and the reversing of our magnetic poles which would leave us temporarily vulnerable to solar storms (Something very important now during our current solar storm) are just a few of the many possibilities that could end us.  I’m still banking on Zombie Apocalypse.

Wouldn’t it be an ease on everyone’s mind if the human race could life on in a self-sufficient society even if the Earth were destroyed or uninhabitable?  I think simply the amount of scientific discoveries and the bounds our technology would take just to make these colonies viable would have an immeasurable impact on the Earth.  Most people don’t realize how many discoveries and inventions can be attributed to the space program already, and in reality, the program is still in its infancy.  Take a look…you might be surprised.

When/How Will We Colonize Mars?

I’ve been excited about putting a human on mars since I was five years old and I was sure I was going to be an astronaut when I grew up.  Since then, there have been numerous setbacks for NASA and, more recently, the private companies that wish to travel to the red planet.  Conquering issues like solar radiation on a trip that takes 6 months to complete one way is a major concern.  Astronauts are only allowed by NASA to be in space for about a year due to solar radiation and a trip to mars and back is estimated to take 30 months.  This is because once our people got to Mars they would have to wait for the planet to move to a more favorable orbit that is closer to Earth.  On top of this, the mental impact on the crew of up to 30 months with a handful of people poses concerns over depression and anxiety among the crew.

Mars One is a company that wants to make a reality show out of the colonization of Mars to help pay for the process.  They would eliminate one of the concerns right off the bat: it would be a one-way trip.  There were around 200,000 applicants to become one of twenty-four finalists for the program, which aims to lift off around 2025.  Their plan is to send multiple cargo loads to Mars before any settlers arrive, then continue to send people and supplies as the years go by.  The settlers would then grow their own food and live in small pod units.  It’s a really interesting concept and one that has a lot of promise for the future of human civilization.  If this happens, we’ll officially be a multi-planetary species, increasing the odds of our long-term survival.

SpaceX has a similar goal, but with a different approach.  They plan to make reusable rockets which will dramatically reduce the cost of getting humans and cargo to space.  Elon Musk has stated that a Mars Colonial Transporter is the way to go, transporting up to 100 people at a time to the red planet, with the goal of creating a colony of thousands of people sooner rather than later.  His goal is to start transporting people in 2026.  Here’s a great interview with Elon Musk where he talks about his vision of getting to Mars.

A lot of my upcoming writing will draw from the realities that taking place today.  Any good futurist looks to the present to extrapolate the future.  We’ve already started taking the steps necessary to make these dreams a reality and in most of our lifetimes we will see things that would be unthinkable in our childhood.  It’s a great time to be alive.

For more information on Manned Missions to Mars, check out the wikipedia, which links to all of the various missions not covered here.  Which mission do you believe is the most viable?  Do you think any of the missions will be successful?