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Category Archives: Mars Colonization

This Oil Nation Aims To Colonize Mars –

Posted: February 20, 2017 at 6:49 pm

The UAE may not be the first country that comes to mind when one thinks of space exploration, but it has big plans to colonize mars, and its got the oil money to do it. The plan is already in the works, complete with a concept design for a mini city, to be built by robots.

Though space exploration usually conjures up visions of Russia and the U.S., the UAE has a long history of high-profile, futuristic technological developments, for everything from artificial islands to the worlds first rotating skyscraper and 3D printing.

This time, however, the Emiratis are in no rush: their project is called Mars 2117 and media have praised them for not being overambitious, unlike, some say, Elon Musk and NASA, with their plans to start sending people to Mars some time over the next few decades. As one author points out, neither SpaceX, nor NASA have the money needed to advance space transportation technology quickly enough.

The Emiratis, however, are starting slow, from square one. According to a press release from the government of Dubai, the initial stage of the project will focus on developing the skills and expertise necessary to move forward. This stage will in effect involve a change in the educational system of the emirate, to enable future generations to sprout the engineers who will take the project further. Related:How Long Can The Permian Craze Continue?

In a poetic summary, the emirates ruler, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, said that The new project is a seed that we plant today, and we expect future generations to reap the benefits, driven by its passion to learn to unveil a new knowledge.

One cannot help but appreciate the sober, rational approach, devoid of the urge for quick results. It is this approach that has the biggest chance of success, after all, and we or rather our descendents may see the Emirati-international team in a nose-to-nose race with SpaceX because, to be fair, Elon Musk has not set a tight deadline for SpaceXs manned mission to Mars. It could take place in 40 to 100 years.

So, the interesting question is: will the Emiratis team up with Musk to take people to Mars? Its not unlikely, to say the least.

The UAEs space agency was set up just three years ago and has yet to build sufficient expertise and experience to enable the education of those future engineers we mentioned. SpaceX, on the other hand, has been around for 13 years and is already sending rockets to space and getting them back, too. The company has scheduled its 10th commercial launch for tomorrow, to take supplies and science reports to the International Space Station. Related:Is The Bakken A Bust?

Its a perfect fit, really. SpaceX and Elon Musk have the expertise, the experience, and the skills, and Dubai has the money. Of course, just because they look like a perfect fit this doesnt mean they will team up. And yet, on a speculative note, lets recall that Musk last week opened a Tesla showroom in Dubai. Thats the first Tesla presence in the Middle East and many considered it an exceptionally bold move, given the Emirates oil focus.

The Emiratis, despite the oil price crash, still have a respectable stash in their sovereign wealth fund, the Investment Corporation of Dubai. The fund was worth US$175 billion three years ago, when it launched its international expansion strategy, and now, according to one author, it has reached US$500 billion. With that kind of moneyand technological prowessMars seems feasible.

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The UAE has a plan to colonize Mars in the next 100 years, and the oil money to finance it – Quartz

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The UAE has a plan to colonize Mars in the next 100 years, and the oil money to finance it
… eyed the elaborately decorated exhibit booth of the United Arab Emirates space agency, founded in 2014, wondering whether itand the UAE's $500 billion sovereign wealth fund, swollen with petrodollarscould be the financiers needed for a Mars
UAE Announces Plans to Have a Human Colony on Mars by 2117Futurism
The UAE Has Announced Plans To Build A City The Size Of Chicago On MarsWccftech
United Arab Emirates Reveal Plan to Build City on MarsCrave Online
Dubai Media Office –Washington Post –
all 101 news articles »

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NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Blackbird Interactive Inc. Join Forces to Showcase a Future on Mars – Develop

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Project Eagle – Press Release

For release 10am PST, February 21st, 2017

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Project Eagle

A collaboration between NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Blackbird Interactive Inc. (BBI), Project Eagle is an interactive model of a Mars colony in Gale Crater at the base of Mount Sharp, near the original landing site of the Mars Curiosity Rover. It is set in 2117, 44 Martian years (82.8 Earth years) after first human mission to Mars.

Using BBIs world class art team and cutting edge in-game video and lighting technology, Project Eagle creates an unparalleled vision of a future on Mars.

The interactive demonstration will be presented live on stage by JPLs Dr. Jeff Norris, at the 2017 D.I.C.E. Summit on Tuesday, February 21st, 2017. Jeff will be joined on stage by BBI CEO Rob Cunningham and CCO Aaron Kambeitz.

Following in the footsteps of legendary space artist Chesley Bonestell, Project Eagle hopes to inspire new generations to dream of human settlement beyond planet Earth and support the exploration and colonization of our solar system. Its been a profound honour and pleasure for us here at Blackbird to work with Jeff and the JPL team to dream up what a future base on Mars might really be like, and to deliver that experience as interactive art. said Blackbird Interactive CEO, Rob Cunningham.

Blackbird Interactive Inc. Company Information

Blackbird is an independent game development studio located in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Founded in 2010, we are dedicated to creating uncompromising immersive games with a strong narrative and distinctive art style. We are a team of industry veterans that launched our first game, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, to critical acclaim in 2016.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a unique national research facility that carries out robotic space and Earth science missions. JPL helped open the Space Age by developing America’s first Earth-orbiting science satellite, creating the first successful interplanetary spacecraft, and sending robotic missions to study all the planets in the solar system as well as asteroids, comets and Earth’s moon.

D.I.C.E. Summit

D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit is an annual videogame conference held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The summit is focused on trends and innovations in video game design Established in 2002 by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS). The following is the brief for the Dr. Jeff Norris D.I.C.E. summit talk:

Science fiction artist Chesley Bonestell didnt simply offer an imaginative vision of humanitys future in space he helped to create that future. Chesleys collaboration with NASA rocketeer Wernher Von Braun convinced the public that expeditions to the moon and beyond were within our grasp. Dr. Jeff Norris, Mission Operations Innovation Lead, NASA JPL, challenges the D.I.C.E. community to follow in Chesleys footsteps and use their medium to inspire a new course for space exploration. Presenting a collaboration on stage with Rob Cunningham and Aaron Kambeitz from Blackbird Interactive, they will share an artistic work that depicts a vision for space exploration through the medium of games.

Contact Information

Blackbird Interactive Inc.


Dr. Jeff Norris

Games Press is the leading online resource for games journalists. Used daily by magazines, newspapers, TV, radio, online media and retailers worldwide, it offers a vast, constantly updated archive of press releases and assets, and is the simplest and most cost-effective way for PR professionals to reach the widest possible audience. Registration for the site and the Games Press email digest is available, to the trade only, at

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NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Blackbird Interactive Inc. Join Forces to Showcase a Future on Mars – Develop

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Mars Life Could Lurk Within These Salty Streaks – Seeker

Posted: February 18, 2017 at 3:51 am

Life as we know it requires liquid water. So you can imagine the excitement when, in 2015, hydrated minerals or compounds that form in the presence of water were seen on the same Martian slopes as mysterious features known as “recurring slope lineae” or, simply, RSL.

First imaged in high resolution by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in 2006, these features tend to appear and disappear over several months, appearing at times when the sun shines most strongly upon those slopes. Now, the theory is that these RSL could be seasonal flows of water flowing down the slopes. On Earth, where there’s water, there’s life could this hold true for the Red Planet?

The challenge for life on Mars is that this water is extremely salty, with a far higher salt concentration than the limit known for Earth microbes. But they are still regions of interest for possible life, and a potential source of water for future Mars exploration.

A new paper published in the journal Astrobiology argues that we should make studying these features a priority.

RELATED: So Liquid Water Flows on Mars Now What?

“The discovery of a large deposit produced by brines on Mars could hold the key to further human exploration or even colonization of the Red Planet,” wrote Javier Martin-Torres and Maria-Paz Zorzano, both members of Lulea University of Technology’s division of space technology. “The question then is, are we ready for the next exploration impulse? And from a political and operational point of view it must be asked, in what ways would the discovery of brines on Mars help steer our exploration efforts? In what ways would it hinder our control over Mars contamination? And if we were to colonize Mars, can we do so without further contaminating the planet?”

These questions of interest because of the risk of contaminating Mars with Earth microbes. As careful as we are at sterilizing a Mars rovers, it seems there’s always a few hardy microbes left behind.

NASA and other agencies have guidelines for planetary protection during missions, especially for “special regions” that could have an increased probability of life. So until we get close to these places, the new paper argues, it is best to figure out how to best decrease the risk of us contaminating it. And of course, we must also consider how to stop Martian microbes (if they exist) from contaminating any sample return mission in the future that would bring parts of Mars back to Earth.

Recurring slope lineae in Raga Crater on Mars. Such features have been suggested as “special regions” where life may be present. This image is also from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE camera (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

Not everyone agrees that RSLs could host life, however.

Richard Zurek is chief scientist both for the MRO and for NASA’s Mars exploration program. He cautioned that the amount of water in RSLs is likely more of a “seep” than a stream of water. Furthermore, microbes would have to contend with a very cold, very salty, low-pressure environment if they were to survive in these brines. It’s a combination that is difficult for Earth microbes to survive, so he is skeptical microbes could be in these regions on Mars.

“The measurements [from MRO] are measured over 100 meters, a football field, and you can’t tell some times if there are hot spots or cold spots somewhere,” he told Seeker, adding that the individual features are often only a couple of meters across.

For that region, MRO tends to target areas that have lots of RSLs. Another limitation is different instruments on MRO have different resolutions, making it difficult to compare data across the various observations. “It is hard to get an adequate measurement of the temperature,” he said.

Scientists are also still trying to figure out where the briny water originates. MRO can only sample the temperature of the first few centimeters of the regolith, or Mars “soil.” Scientists also aren’t sure how much water is needed to produce an RSL.

RELATED: Mystery Solved: Water DOES Flow on Mars

Complicating that, MRO is peering through an atmosphere that could make it difficult to see the true contrast on the slopes, so it’s not clear how much darker the RSL is than the surrounding terrain. Ongoing calibrations of MRO observations are happening as scientists learn more.

There are some slope streaks on Mars that may or may not be related to RSLs, including some spotted from Gale Crater the landing site of NASA’s Curiosity rover. It is known that there are dark streaks within the long-range view of Curiosity’s cameras, but whether these are RSLs are unknown at this point. Then the next question is whether Curiosity should take time from its other work to image these streaks from a distance, Zurek said. Right now, Curiosity is probing different layers of Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) for signs of ancient habitable environments.

“The argument is, should we make an exception and drive the rover deliberately to one of these [dark-streak] sites to get a better view, and trade between its ongoing investigations to get to the layers where there are definitely minerals that have been altered in water?” Zurek asked, pointing out the rover could be detouring to image “something that may be no more than a dry debris flow.”

NASA’s Curiosity rover may be able to image RSLs from a distance, but doing so may detract from its main mission to explore the layers on Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) in Gale Crater (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

It certainly leaves plenty of work available for the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the MRO, both of which are in excellent health despite spending more than a decade at Mars.

Another new paper in the journal Icarus identifies 239 candidate and confirmed RSL sites within Valles Marineris alone, which is a large canyon that stretches across the equivalent distance of the United States. The valley hosts half of all globally known RSL locations, and given its vast size there are always at least some RSL growing within, “regardless of the season”, the paper abstract reads.

“If RSL are caused by water, such a long active season at hundreds of [Valles Marineris] RSL sites suggests that an appreciable source of water must be recharging these RSL,” says the paper, which is led by David Stillman at the Southwest Research Institute. The research team adds that modelling indicates a melting temperature of at least -16 degrees Fahrenheit would be needed to make the briny water flow.

“The mechanism(s) by which RSL are recharged annually remain uncertain. Overall, gaining a better understanding of how RSL form and recur can benefit the search for extant life on Mars and could provide details about an in situ water resource,” the paper adds.

RELATED: Weird Mars Streaks Could be Liquid Water Stains

Zurek said his team knows there is still a lot to learn about the water activity, especially how RSLs could form in a Martian environment (low pressure, very cold) as opposed to Earth. There are laboratory studies going on to try to get the temperature cycle exactly right; it’s hard to replicate because the soil composition is difficult to forecast beyond the salt concentration, he said.

“We are arguing for more work there. Also, we should map out where we think these features might be,” he added. While HiRISE has been imaging Mars for more than a decade, it has only mapped out 3 percent of the planet in high resolution. One of the spots it’s keeping an eye on now is Gale Crater to see if those streaks are RSLs, which should become clear within the next Martian year (the equivalent of two years).

Zurek added there still is time for MRO to collect much more data, as the orbiter is forecast to work at Mars until at least 2023. This would allow MRO to also act as a communications relay for the Mars 2020 rover, which is expected to land somewhere on Mars in 2021.

Image (top): A 3-D computer model of dark streaks, known as “recurring slope lieae”, on the walls of Garni Crater on Mars. Data came from the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

WATCH VIDEO: Why Can’t We Livestream From Mars?

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UAE Announces Plans to Have a Human Colony on Mars by 2117 – Futurism

Posted: February 17, 2017 at 12:54 am

The Race Is On

The race to the Red Planet is, indeed, on, and the United Arab Emirates wants to be a part of it. Yesterday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and vice president of the UAE, announced the Mars 2117 Project. Its goal? To establish the first inhabitable human settlement on the Red Planet by 2117.

The project will expand on what Dubai sees as its role as aworld leader in space science investments. The new project is a seed that we plant today, and we expect future generations to reap the benefits, driven by its passion to learn to unveil a new knowledge, Sheikh Mohammedsaid, reports Aljazeera.

A statement released by the Dubai government media office said that the plan involves working with major international scientific institutions to accelerate research that would make traveling to and from Mars, as well as living on the planet, possible:

The first phase of the project will focus on preparing the human cadres able to achieve scientific breakthrough to facilitate the arrival of human to the Red Planet in the next decades. The Mars 2117 Project also aims to prepare an Emiratis scientists team and to develop an international scientific consortium to speed up the research project. The project will start with an Emiratis scientific team and will be extended to include international scientists and researchers, in addition to streamline the human efforts in term of exploring and settlement of the [Red Planet].

The Mars 2117 Project isnt the first time the UAE has expressed its desires to probe Mars. Back in 2014, the government announced the creation of a space agency with a goal to send an unmanned explorer to Mars by 2021.

The UAE joins a number of international efforts already in motion to bring the first human settlement to Mars. At the top of the list is SpaceXs plan, which Elon Musk shared in September. Also in the private sector isveteran aeronautics companyBoeing, which is working on its own plans to get to Mars.

Through NASA, the U.S. government has prioritized a mission to Mars, thoughrecent announcements from the current administrationcould indicate a shift in focus.China has also announced an ambitious plan to get to the Red Planet by 2020. In the Netherlands, space tech organization Mars One is working on plans to establish a human settlement on Mars, and it recently received a sizable investment from a Swiss financial outfit.

Getting to Mars is a race, yes. But the daunting tasks involved developing technology to travel fast enough, getting back from Mars, etc. require a more collaborative approach. According to Sheikh Mohammad, this seems to be what UAEs Mars 2117 Project brings to the table: The landing of people on other planets has been a longtime dream for humans. Our aim is that the UAE will spearhead international efforts to make this dream a reality.

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Finally, someone has a realistic timeline for Mars colonizationthe UAE – Ars Technica

Posted: February 15, 2017 at 8:53 pm

Artist’s concept of a very green city on Mars.

Dubai media office

Some sort of a sweet 22nd century ride on Mars.

Dubai media office

Is that a gun turret overlooking a Martian city?

Dubai media office

A bird(?) shaped Martian city.

Dubai media office

For now, UAE residents will have to content themselves with a virtual reality experience of the Martian surface.

Dubai media office

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, right, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan confer before the announcement.

Dubai media office

NASA says it intends to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, but the space agency does not have a realistic budget to do so. SpaceX’s Elon Musk says he will send the first human colonists to Mars in the 2020s, but his company also lacks the funding to implement its bold plans without a major government partner.

We can now add the United Arab Emirates to the list of those entitieswho want tosee Mars colonized. However, even if it too lacks the space exploration budget or technology to do so at this time, the federation of seven Arab emirates appears to have a much more reasonable timeline for sending humans to the red planetthe year 2117, a century from now.

The ruler of one of the seven emirates, Dubai’sSheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced UAE’s colonization plan this week at the World Government Summit in Dubai. Later, in a series of tweets,Sheikh Mohammad explained, “The project, to be named ‘Mars 2117,’ integrates a vision to create a mini-city and community on Mars involving international cooperation.We aspire in the coming century to develop science, technology, and our youth’s passion for knowledge. This project is driven by that vision.”

According to Dubai’s media office,an Emirati team of engineers, scientists, and researchers has developed a concept for the first human city on Mars, which will be constructed by robots in advance of human habitation. This Martian city would have transportation, power production, food andbased upon some concept drawings releasedvery modern-looking buildings.

This is all rather ambitious for a space agency that was formed just three years ago. However, the new goal does seem consistent with UAE’s interest in Mars, as the Arab federation has previously announced a plan to launch an automobile-size probe named “Hope” to Mars in 2020 to study the planet’s atmosphere.

What is perhaps most notable about Mars 2117 is that it represents a third major stakeholder interested in sending humans to Mars, alongside NASA and SpaceX. Most of the rest of the global space community, from Europe to Russia to China, have expressed far more interest in developing lunar resources rather than far more ambitious human missions to Mars.

Listing image by Dubai media office

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Mars was just slammed by a ‘cosmic shotgun blast’ – RedOrbit

Posted: February 14, 2017 at 10:54 am

February 13, 2017

by John Hopton

Nobody ever said it was going to be easy, but the discovery of a cluster of recent meteorite impacts on Mars has highlighted a major reason why future colonization of the Red Planet will be an almighty challenge.

Among myriad other obstacles, Mars has lower gravity, lower temperatures, and lower atmospheric pressure compared to Earth. A new observation from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has also reminded us that while Earth’s thicker atmosphere keeps out almost all space rocks, the thinner atmosphere on Mars gives less such protection.

The impact is thought to have occurred between 2008 and 2014, but NASA’s High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera revealed in 2016 that two large impact craters were surrounded by up to 30 smaller craters.

A meteorite had broken up in the atmosphere and then rained down rock onto the surface.

This is by no means the first observation of impacts of this nature. Regular examination of impact sites on Mars help scientists to study what minerals sit beneath the surface, and to track how surface winds affect fine particles of material. The regularity of impacts is also of great interest.

Human expeditions to Mars are expected within two or three decades, and Elon Musk of Space X previously said he wants to help the human race to establish a permanent, self-sustaining colony on Mars within the next 50 to 100 years. Whoever does make it up there, though, will have to find a way to deal with what amounts to celestial carpet bombing.


Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

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5 Things We Learned From The Wall Street Journal’s Exclusive … –

Posted: February 13, 2017 at 8:53 am

It’s what you may not have heard, though, that will really shock you: SpaceX never planned to earn much profit from launching rockets in the first place. Instead, SpaceX is placing its faith in a megaproject, partially backed by Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL), to create a satellite broadband internet constellation, which will encircle the globe, and (as the Journal puts it) “eventually dwarf [SpaceX’s] rocket division.”

Now, here are five more things you need to know about SpaceX’s secret plan for satellite dominance.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s not a bird or a plane — it’s how SpaceX hopes to turn profitable. Image source: Getty Images.

While most famous today for its rocket launches (and soon to become famous for launching reused rockets, perhaps as soon as this month), SpaceX sees rockets as only a small part of its plans for future profits.

That year, revenue from satellites will be minuscule — a few hundred million dollars at most, and probably contributing nothing to profits. Just one year later, however, in 2020, SpaceX expects to get roughly equal amounts of revenue from rocket launches and from satellite internet, about $3 billion each. Profits are expected to leap to $2 billion — 33% of revenue.

And this is just the beginning. SpaceX expects its revenue from satellite internet to grow by leaps and bounds from 2020 on, eclipsing revenue from rocket launches in 2021. SpaceX expects that by 2022, satellite revenue will account for roughly 75% of all revenue the company collects, then grow to more than 80% in 2023, and to 85% or more in 2024 and 2025– by which time SpaceX expects to be regularly landing astronauts on Mars.

You might expect that once SpaceX has begun its Mars colonization project, the company would lose interest in the workaday business of merely lofting satellites into Earth orbit — and you’d be right.

SpaceX’s rocket launch plans got knocked off track by its twin SpaceXplosions in 2015 and 2016. But before those plans went askew, the company had mapped out a surprising future for its rocket launch program. Starting off from a base of zero launches in 2011, SpaceX planned to steadily increase the pace of launches through 2019. SpaceX had 27 launches slated for this year, for example. That number would grow to 44 launches in 2018, and then 52 in 2019. But in 2020, satellite launch activity would suddenly reverse course, and fall to just 41 launches.

At the same time, SpaceX projects modest increases in launch revenue even after 2020. The logical conclusion is that by 2020, what few rockets SpaceX is still launching will be bigger, and more expensive, and will carry bigger, more expensive satellites, too — just not as many of them.

As we explained last week, SpaceX’s internal documents show that even in the best of years, it has been only marginally profitable, and is not profitable at all at present. Introducing reusable rocket launches, as the company plans to do this month, holds the potential to put SpaceX back in the black. But significant profits — the kind that can finance the colonization of Mars — will depend on the company’s successful deployment and operation of a constellation of broadband internet satellites.

Based on the numbers laid out above, SpaceX appears to be targeting operating profit margins of 33% once its satellites begin operating in 2020. Operating profits could total $4 billion by 2021 (a profit margin of more than 40% on projected revenue of about $9.5 billion). Margins will top 50% by 2022 — then soar into the mid-50s range in 2023, and finally top out at better than 60% by 2025. At that point, SpaceX expects to be collecting $36 billion in annual revenue — almost all of it from satellites — and earning roughly $22 billion in operating profit. To put that final goal in context, $22 billion in profit is 11 times more than the $1 billion in revenue that SpaceX collected in 2014, its best revenue year ever.

Logical conclusion: If SpaceX can bring its broadband satellite internet project to fruition, SpaceX stock could turn out to be a very profitable investment. But if you’re planning to invest in SpaceX, you need to do it for the satellite business (which doesn’t exist yet), and not for the rocket launch business that does exist.

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Bohemia’s Take On Mars leaves Steam Early Access, gets launch trailer – DSOGaming (blog)

Posted: at 8:53 am

Bohemia Interactive has announced the official release of Take On Mars. In order to celebrate this announcement, Bohemia released the games launch trailer, highlighting the many benefits of playing Take On Mars over alternative options of space exploration.

Take On Mars places you right in the middle of mankinds most exciting undertaking. Start out in the seat of a rover operator, finish as the first human to have ever set foot on Mars. With a scientific arsenal at your disposal, you will pioneer the exploration, and colonization, of the Red Planet.

Starting out as mod for Carrier Command: Gaea Mission, Take On Mars began life as a passion project by Project Lead Martin Melichrek, who was already working at Bohemia Interactive at the time.

Take On Mars Project Lead Martin Melichrek said:

For as long as I can remember Ive been fascinated with space exploration, and particularly Mars. Being able to make this game has been like a dream come true. It took a bit longer than anticipated, and its been wild ride thats tested the patience of both us and our Early Access subscribers, but, it was a ride worth taking. We, as a team, thank all of our loyal fans, those who have never doubted us, in helping us make this dream a reality!

Here are the games key features:

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Should we leave Earth to colonize Mars? A NASA astronaut says nope – Quartz

Posted: February 11, 2017 at 7:52 am

Todays businesspeople are very excited about launching into the stratosphere. Whether its Elon Musks SpaceX, Richard Bransons Virgin Galactic, the Mars One mission, or a slew of other aerospace enterprises, a host of companies are trying to help humans leave the rocky planet weve called home for the past six million years. But some critics argue that instead of finding a nook elsewhere in the solar system, we really ought to be focusing on solving the issues with our own planet.

Ron Garan, a former NASA astronaut, believes we should not be abandoning hope for continued life on planet Earth in favor of rubbing shoulders with Martians. He has spent time on the International Space Station (ISS), done four spacewalks, and has been awarded both the NASA Exceptional Service medal and the NASA Space Flight medial. Back on land, Garan spends his time focusing on bettering the home we already have. Being so far away from Earth makes you see how similar and interconnected everything is, he says, rather than us compartmentalizing home.

To be clear, Garan isnt opposed to exploring the notion of colonizing Mars: Its just that we should be using the innovative technologies were developing to live up there to make life better down here. Human curiosity is one of the biggest drivers for space exploration, and it keeps us hungry to continuing wanting to innovate and solve these problems, he says.

It may be a moonshoot, but perhaps if we aim for the moon, well land on the stars.

This conversation has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.

Considering you are one of the few people who have left Earth, how have you come to form the opinion that we shouldnt colonize Mars?

I think we should explore other planets, but I dont think we should abandon this planet to go live on Mars. It just doesnt make any logical sense that we would leave this planet for an inhospitable one like Mars. First of all, if we cant even terraformwhich is to control our climate and environmentour own planet, what makes us think that we can go to another planet and control the environment there? If we developed the capability to terraform and create atmospheres and climates on other planets, then we should apply that capability to benefit our home planet.

From Elon Musk to Richard Branson, private entrepreneurs are sending a lot of money up into space. Would it be best to redirect that capital toward solving the problems that already exist on Earth?

I think funding should go to both. Space is our future; we need to devote resources and time and effort toward further exploration of our solar system, including human exploration. The primary reason for doing this is not so that we can have a plan B, via having another planet we can go live on, but instead so that we can use the technology thats developed through those efforts to help us here on Earth.

Carl Sagan basically said that for the foreseeable future, Earth is where we make our stand. So if there is nowhere else we can go right now, we need to take this really seriously.

Have you always felt this way, or was there a moment when you realized the importance of focusing on the Earth instead of the stars?

Ive always had the idea that everyone has a responsibility to leave this place a little bit better than how they found it. But going to space broadened, reinforced, and amplified that opinion.

The Earth is just incredibly beautiful when viewed from space, and all those buzzwords youve heard astronaut after astronaut say about how beautiful and tranquil and peaceful and fragile this planet looks from spacethose are all true. It really does look like this jewel in the blackness of space; a fragile oasis. I try to use this perspective of our planet to inspire people to make a difference, mind the ship, and take care of our fellow crewmates on Spaceship Earth.

Why are so many people obsessed with getting off planet Earth?

I wanted to be an astronaut ever since July 20, 1969. That was the day when I, along with millions and millions of people all around the world, watched those first footsteps on the moon on TV. I wouldnt have been able to put it in these words at the time, but even as a young boy, on some level I realized that we had just become a different species. We had become a species that was no longer confined to this planet, and that was really exciting to me.

I wanted to become a part of that group of explorers that got to step off the planet and look back upon ourselves. I think continuing that exploration out into the solar system and beyond is part of human nature. We are explorers by nature. We want to expand our knowledge and expand our understanding of our universe.

Is it common among astronauts that once you finally leave Earth and can look back upon it from space, you have an urge to go straight back to protect it?

I dont want to speak for other astronauts, cosmonauts, or taikonauts, but most of the people I know whove had this experience have come back with a deeper appreciation for the planet that we live on. And its not just an appreciation for the planetits appreciation for the living things on the planet, too.

One of the things I experienced in space is what I can only describe as a sobering contradiction: a contradiction between the beauty of our planet and the unfortunate realities of life for a significant number of its inhabitants. Its obvious from space that life on our planet is not always as beautiful as it looks from space.

The other thing Ive experienced was a profound sense of gratitude: gratitude for the opportunity to see the planet from that perspective, and gratitude for the planet that weve been given. Being physically detached from the Earth made me feel deeply interconnected with everyone on it in some way that I really cant fully explain. Its very obvious from that vantage point that we are all not only deeply connected, but also deeply interdependent as well.

What new discoveries have we uncovered in our exploration of the universe that have been particularly revolutionary back on Earth?

Theres the technology side, and theres then theres perspective. Perspective is very powerful. That first time that we looked back and saw this planet from spaceEarthrisewas incredibly revolutionary. That photograph of Earthrise is certainly the most influential environmental photograph ever taken. It was credited for inspiring the first Earth Day in 1970, and its helped launch the modern environmental movement. It really shows the truth, the reality of the world we live in; that were on this oasis, and its all we have.

So theres that aspect of it, but theres also all the technology that comes from the space program, whether its computing technology, energy production through things like solar energy, or all of the implications for medicine and medical diagnostics. We do a tremendous amount of Earth observation from space that gives us a profound increase in understanding of our planet and its life-support systems that we would not have insight into if we didnt have a space program.

Why do you think there are so many conversations about Martian colonization? Have we lost hope for Earth?

This idea that we are going to abandon Earth and go live on Mars is utter nonsense. Its illogical. It makes perfect sense to expand human presence to Mars, but were not going to abandon Earth. If we had the capability to colonize and terraform Mars to make it habitable for humans, then we certainly could control whats happening on our own planet, which has a head start of millions of years.

What conversation should we be having instead?

The first place we should establish a permanent human presence in our solar system is the moon, our closest neighbor. And then from there, establish transportation infrastructure to allow regular flights between the Earth and the moon. Then from there, we could use it as a jump-off point and have that be a transportation hub to the rest of the solar system. That makes perfect sense to me.

We need to basically take parallel paths: We need to be exploring the solar system because of all the benefits to humanity that that will incur, while also devoting as much effort to being able to control the life-support systems of Spaceship Earth.

If we expand milestones such as the accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and having complete decarbonization by 2050 out to 2068which is the 100-year anniversary of EarthriseI believe we should have complete control of the life-support systems on our planet by then. If we had complete control of the chemical constituents of our atmosphere, soil, land, and oceans, wed be able to monitor it and adjust itand optimize it for life.

Why are we having more conversations about living on Mars than the potential of being able to control our own atmosphere on Earth? Learning how to counteract climate change and other environmental factors here instead of establishing colonies elsewhere seems far more beneficial.

Well, its a moon shot, right? Its something thats going to take a lot of effort and a lot of time to accomplish, but we started this conversation off with terraforming Mars. Its a lot easier to control our own atmosphere and our own oceans than it is to create an entirely new atmosphere.

What are you currently trying to achieve back on Earth?

Ive got a non-profit that I founded and am still involved in, and I have a lot of social enterprises that Im involved in. Most of the stuff I work with in that sector is around being able to provide clean water to folks, because I think its really important to do that in an environmentally, financially sustainable way.

Im also involved with an effort called Constellation, which is bringing together a coalition of international astronauts, visionaries, and futurists to put out a call to the world to crowdsource and co-imagine a vision of our future. Were not going to be able to get to the vision of our future we want if we dont learn how to work together on a planetary level, not just a local level.

My primary day job is working as the chief pilot for a company called World View, which is trying to launch all kinds of thingsincluding peopleto the edge of space in high-altitude balloons. This project has tremendous environmental capabilities as far as being able to hover these platforms over a specific area of interest to do things like monitor the oceans, coral reefs, or how much CO2 is in the atmosphere. From it, we might be able to develop better ways to do climate modeling, weather predictions, and agricultural optimization.

For those who would still want to go live on Mars, what kinds of over-romantic notions do people have about living in space?

You cant be claustrophobic, because if youre going to Mars, youre gonna be in a can for six to eight months. And once you get there, youre still gonna be living in a tin can. There are a lot of things that define the beauty of life on our planet, like the breeze in your face, mist on a lake, and the sound of the birds. If youre going to live on Mars, youre not gonna have that for the rest of your life. Thats not so romantic to me.

What is romantic is expanding the body of human knowledge and expanding human presence. Its not going to be all fun. Those pioneers who will eventually be exploring Mars are going have to deal with hardships. Im sure there will be a lot of people who get homesick, which is an interesting thought: When you get that far away from the planet, your definition of home changes radically. Home simply becomes Earth.

You can follow Ron on Twitter at @Astro_Ron and read more on his website. He is also the author of The Orbital Perspective. Learn how to write for Quartz Ideas. We welcome your comments at

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Should we leave Earth to colonize Mars? A NASA astronaut says nope – Quartz

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