Insights · August 4th, 2008

As a child of the original space age, I’ve been hoping that a human mission to Mars will happen within my lifetime. While this is still a long shot, two recent developments suggest that the possibility is improving.

First, the several successful NASA missions to Mars have culminated with the confirmation of water ice by the current Mars explorer Phoenix. This craft used an on-board lab to confirm that a soil sample contained water vapor when heated. Obviously the existence of water on Mars makes it much more feasible to imagine human missions, even settlements on the red planet, because the water makes it possible to manufacture both hydrogen for fuel and oxygen for life support. It was really a forgone conclusion that water would be present, as we have noted before in 2000, but this observation by Phoenix is the first-ever physical confirmation.

Over the weekend the blogs were full of speculation that NASA is about to announce further test results that suggest either life or the possibility of life on Mars. However, NASA sought to dampen this speculation yesterday.

The second development that suggests a prospect for human mission to Mars was actually the failed launch of the Falcon 1 by the private space launch company, SpaceX on Saturday. This was the third test flight for the Falcon 1. After a perfect launch and first stage separation, the second stage failed to separate from the third, preventing the craft from achieving low earth orbit. At the same time, Elon Musk, company founder noted that a new booster engine performed perfectly, and the entire effort represented progress. Musk created SpaceX after selling PayPal, and has assembled the best private space launch team in the business. The plan is to develop heavy launch capabilities, and eventually manned craft. The company has snagged contracts with NASA, and I’ve heard Musk confidently describe a pathway to eventual trips to Mars in the decade of the 2020’s. SpaceX is discovering how hard space flight really is, but their progress suggests that a private company can be part of the answer as to how we get to Mars.

I believe that it is vital to the long term human future that we continue to develop our ability to be a space-faring civilization.

Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet TV show host and founder of To arrange for a speech contact

Nikolas Badminton – Chief Futurist

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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