There is a technological and cultural shift underway, and it is definitely extraterrestrial in nature. While most of us go about our Earth-bound lives, dozens of companies and countries are frantically scrambling to put together various Mars colony missions.
We have talked about many of those efforts in bits and pieces, and in a moment we will check out a Hawaiian study of six men and women testing isolation and food for a space trek. Before we go there, however, it might be worth asking ourselves why all of this is happening now.
In a word: Space-X. In 2002, Elon Musk started his Space Exploration company with the sole intention of rekindling mankind's passion for moving beyond our single-world existence.
He states that there are some very good reasons for roving further out into the solar system and eventually beyond, but first and foremost among them is that our species is a sitting duck for any planet-wide catastrophe, manmade or otherwise. Sure, pragmatists say life has survived on this planet for billions of years and will continue to survive, no matter what.
They would be right.
Unfortunately for the Cro-Magnons, dinosaurs, and saber tooth tigers that is little consolation. And I suspect our ghosts would also fail to appreciate pragmatic logic if and when cockroaches become the sole species on Big Ole Blue.
Aside from a species insurance policy, Elon Musk believes a multi-planetary future gives us something less tangible but even more important: hope. A future of space exploration is exciting and dream-worthy, whereas a dystopian existence on a single crowded planet might be categorized as hopeless.
So, what did Space-X hope to accomplish? Its goal was simple: send a greenhouse to Mars with the hope that it would catch the imaginations of world leaders and spur new interest in space. Somewhere along the way, however, Elon's company was forced to reduce the cost of building rockets, and those savings immediately attracted space payload interest.
In short, Space-X discovered that it could generate enough income to go further than launching one Mars greenhouse. It is now on a mission to become a transportation line to and from Mars and beyond. It hopes to become to modern society what the railroads were to the U.S. in the 1800's.
And, just like the railroad boom, space companies are flourishing and rushing to get their piece of the Space-X dream. Elon Musk is smiling because hope is alive and well.
Though the U.S. government has been nibbling ever-so-slowly at the Mars colonies cookie, it recognizes that mankind is now committed to making that leap. And so, as the grandfather with the most experience in maintaining lives in extra-terrestrial environments, NASA is busy solving the small but important problems, one of which is food.
The space agency has been developing special hybrids of vegetables that could survive and maybe even thrive in the thin Martian atmosphere. It has also been perfecting greenhouses for use on the red planet. Finally, it is now testing recipes and meal interactions among pseudo-astronauts who have been quarantined for four months in a special facility on a lava landscape in Hawaii.
It will be several months before the results of NASA's space food experiment are fully examined, but you can learn more right here: http://www.space.com/22360-mars-food-mock-space-mission-hawaii.html