A Chinese spacecraft has photographed the entire surface of Mars. It has sent back China’s first images of Mars’ South Pole, where most of the planet’s water is located. Finding water on Mars will be key to future crewed missions. It could also help determine whether life has ever existed there.
Tainwen-1 has now circled Mars more than 1,300 times. It arrived in Mars’ orbit in February 2021 and successfully dropped a rover onto the Martian surface, then began circling the planet and taking pictures. China is the only country after the US to land a rover on Mars. The country’s Zhurong rover is exploring Mars’ northern hemisphere, a few hundred kilometers from NASA’s Perseverance rover.
China plans to send its first crewed mission to Mars in 2023, with regular missions scheduled afterwards in order to build a permanent base on the planet. NASA is working on a similar timetable. Regardless of which country Mars’ first human visitors come from, they will be undertaking a 225 million km round trip. It will take about 500 days to complete.
In an interview with the World Economic Forum, Tim Ellis, chief executive and co-founder of Relativity Space, the world’s second-largest private space company, shared his vision for the future, including making “multiplanetary” human life a possibility.
Based in Los Angeles, California, Relativity Space 3D-prints entire rockets. Ellis’s vision is to use these rockets to make humanity “multiplanetary” and put one million people on Mars. Ellis’s company is building the world’s largest 3D-printing factory.
Somebody has to build the company that’s going to create infrastructure on Mars, and it’s going to have to be based on 3D printing.Tim Ellis, chief executive and co-founder of Relativity Space
Together with CTO Jordan Noone, Ellis founded Relativity Space in 2015. At the Southern California’s Rocket Propulsion Laboratory, they helped launch into space the first rocket designed and built by students.
According to Ellis, Elon Musk’s space company, SpaceX, further informed his vision. Ellis also worked on 3D-printed rocket components at Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2000. After SpaceX, Relativity is only the second space company in two decades with the mission of making humanity multiplanetary, said Ellis. He was inspired by watching SpaceX land rockets and dock with the International Space Station six years ago.
According to Ellis, space technology could help solve climate problems on a global scale. It’s possible to collect data and use that data to solve those problems. “We’re talking about putting a million people on another planet in an extremely hostile environment. Many of the challenges we’re going to have are also going to help us solve the climate issue on Earth.
It’s all about scarce resources, human ingenuity, doing more with less.Tim Ellis, chief executive and co-founder of Relativity Space
One of the questions raised is whether the efforts should be put instead on solving Earth’s problems first. Ellis notes that in the US, five times more money on the NFL and football are spent than on the space program. “It’s not really an either or for me,” he said. “I really do think it could be one of the greatest adventures in human experience and one of the biggest innovations.”
Ellis notes that Relativity Space has had “hundreds of micro failures”, and that he has received rejections from customers and customers thousands of times. Even potential new-hires.
“My advice is just to be really relentless and don’t scale back your ambition just because there are people that don’t see it,” he says. “You have to always push through something to make greatness.”