By David Ngugi.

Have you seen the advertisement?
“The earth is dying! Old!  Tired!  Overpopulated! Polluted!
Why not make a fresh start in a new exciting world – Mars?”
Certainly not. But it is coming in 100 to 150 years.  You however have seen the increasing impetus to explore the Red planet-Mars by the United States, China, India and the Emirates.

The eminent Historian Yuval Noah Harari, in his book Homo Deus-A brief history of Tomorrow examines the phenomenal development in technology and the way it has changed life and man himself. He opens up a totally new world in which history becomes not just what was but will.  He avers that while the last bifurcation of the pongid and  hominid development of man took place 6 million years ago we are moving into another bifurcation in 100—200 years in which the Homo Sapiens will develop into a super being—the Homo Deus.

Physicist Michio Kaku  in his book The Future of Humanity, concurs. He however expounds on the difficulties and possibilities of terraforming the planet Mars, Interstellar travels and the destiny of man beyond earth.  He is very exhaustive on research and presentation of scientific knowledge as known today.  He acknowledges that settlement on Mars and on moons of planet Jupiter and Saturn and in the Exoplanets is feasible in 150—200 years.

On encouragement of President Obama, private   entrepreneurs like Elon Musk have given space exploration a new zeal.  Musk, Owner of Space X has put his sights on Mars. He envisages sending a human mission to Mars by 2025. He declared in an interview “….We are establishing a cargo route to Mars…. It’s going to happen every 26 months like a train leaving a station.”
There will be great deployment of ARIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AI.   Musk and Mark Zuckerberg agree that intelligent Robots will be deployed to build cities and will make Martian communities more efficient, better and cheaper. What requires control is the point at which robots transition and become dangerous when they develop self-awareness—especially after man entrusts his survival on them for the very survival on the Red planet.

Interstellar travel involves very long distances. It is measured in Light years where a light year is the distance light travels in one year or 6 trillion miles.  The shortest of those journeys is the journey to Mars which takes 9 months one way. The vehicle to travel in becomes very crucial. A lot of research is being carried out and consideration has been made on Nano ships, ION engines, nuclear rockets and even Fusion rockets. Of these the latter is promising.   One version of the Fusion rocket known as Project Daedalus uses large bank of electron beams to heat the hydrogen rich pellet.  If 250 pellets are detonated per second enough energy could conceivably be generated for the starship to reach a fraction of the speed of light. A lot more time is required for research.

The universe is also very vast. The Italian astronomer Giordano Bruno who was burnt at stake in 1600 said that the stars in the heavens are so numerous—our sun is just one of the many.  The stars have their own galaxies orbited by exoplanets.    The invention of the Kepler telescope has made it possible for astronomers to see them. Bruno’s observations were canonized in 1966.
As the quest for a suitable vehicle for space exploration and settlement is being sought the immediate target is the Red planet—Mars which is closer to the earth and then the exoplanets.  Of the latter it is KO7711 that is getting most attention. Discovered in 2017, it has the most earth like features. It is 30 percent larger than the earth and its mother star is very much like our own. The length of one year on this exoplanet is identical to our own.  It appears to have all conditions that can sustain life only that it is 1700 light years away.

An interstellar journey may take decades or even centuries. Human beings may have to genetically engineer themselves for the long periods in deep space even extending the human life span.  Studies are being done on arctic frogs and fish that freeze solid on ice and when spring comes and ice melts, they   emerge as if nothing happened.  Experiments have shown that a process known as vitrification, close to the freezing of the fish can be done. But it’s not conclusive to be tested on a human being.

The quest to suppress aging and extend life has attracted the big names of the Data companies to fund the research:  Sergey Brin– the co-founder of Google, Larry Ellison—the co-founder of Oracle, Peter Thiel—co-founder of PayPal, Elon Musk—of the SpaceX,  Dmitry Itskov—the Russian Internet tycoon. Together with AbbVie—the pharmaceutical company are contributing billions to fund this research and have made Biogentology the new science on aging process grow.  Days may not be very far before a breakthrough on aging is made. If it is done then life will be lengthened and the earth will be over populated.  Remember Thomas Malthus?  Human beings will be forced to look for alternative settlements in the stars even if it takes centuries to travel.   A new generation of human beings—The Homo Deus will be born.   In the words of Michio Kaku
“If we are to explore the   planets and the stars we will have to modify and enhance ourselves to survive the journey…..we will need to adjust ourselves to the different atmospheres, temperatures, and gravity. So genetic and mechanical enhancements will be necessary.”
Our epoch is equivalent to the period 14th to 19th century vis-à-vis the discovery of the new lands in the Americas and the discovery of the sea route to India from Europe.  Stories abounded in Europe about the mysterious East until the Italian traveler Marco Polo 1254—1324, traveled over land to China.  His book Travels of Marco Polo written around 1300 explained to Europe the then mysterious culture of the East, just like NASAs Curiosity Mars Rover is doing today.  It is studying the composition and texture of the ancient rocks to help establish how Martian climate changed.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola—modern Haiti.  In a few years the Portuguese Vasco Da Gama landed in India, 1498.  The accounts of the travels of these men circulated in all of the known world then just like the reports of the US, China, India and the Emirates are doing today in their exploration of the Red planet.

Columbus colonization of the Hispaniola was brutal and led to near extinction of the indigenous people—the Taino.  The Spanish conquistadors followed suit. In 1519 Hernado Cortez landed in the Aztec kingdom of Mexico. He plundered it in the search for gold. He destroyed the Kingdom.  Francisco Pizzaro  did the same to the  Inca Kingdom of Peru in about 1533.
It was the subjugation of the indigenous people that led to the importation of slaves from Africa, to work in the sugar plantations that were subsequently established.

Those who study the history of the slave trade are familiar with the so called   triangular trade and the middle passage. The Guiana historian Walter Rodney captures this poignant history in his book   How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.  Africans who went through the middle passage today form the African American experience.

AFRICA, It’s that middle passage to the Red planet—Mars that you must guard against! It can happen again!  Africa must from now on break from apathy!
The NASA programs are led by the Jet propulsion   Laboratory involving some   500 scientists from the US and other countries.  Africa must seek collaboration and partnership in these projects with the US, China, India, the Emirates and any other power with the ability for space exploration.  Through the Africa Union, Africa must take up an aggressive stance in collaboration lest her people be taken to the Red planet as slaves!!!
—-David Ngugi.
                   A Scholar
Formerly, Principal,   Pumwani Secondary School

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  1. Very good article , well thought and food for thought for Africa.
    African governments need to pump more funding in research else , the continent will continue to lag behind in innovation field.

  2. Great analysis.very well articulated .A read through this review make one to have a birds eye view of the book reviewed.

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