Will Elon Musk be the president of Mars?

Author Michael Byers believes the final frontier may not be that far away

Author Michael Byers talk to students and staff about the possibility of a colony on Mars. (Juan Cabrejo/The Omega)

SpaceX, a private company founded in 2002 by businessman and investor Elon Musk, aims at “enabling people to live on other planets.” With their reusable Falcon series rockets, SpaceX has changed the future of space travel.

In a speech at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Musk talked about his plans to send a Falcon rocket to Mars with people to start inhabiting Mars. Concepts of humans being interplanetary species might have seemed like a sci-fi movie a few decades ago, but with Musk’s agenda it might become a possibility.

Michael Byers, author of numerous books and a regular contributor to the Globe and Mail, talked about Musk’s role in a possible colony on Mars in his keynote speech at the PHP Conference last week. Byers holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia. His interest in space was stirred when his son, Cameron Byers, took him to a launch of a SpaceX rocket. Byers described the event as a scene “straight out of a sci-fi movie.”

The global consensus on climate change has made the topic of colonizing another planet even more relevant now. According to Byers, aside from the fact that we might need to diversify and inhabit Mars, we should because “humans are the species who walked on two legs, built wooden boats and houses of ice.”

“We survived in every climate – rainforests, snow, desert,” Byers said. “We’ve done some stupid stuff along the way, but we’re still awesome.”

A member of the audience, Heramb Vadalkar, a professor within TRU’s school of business and economics, pointed out the dangers in letting such an important decision of inhabiting another planet fall into the hands of one single person.

“Leader of the free world Donald Trump cut down the space budget,” Vadalkar said. “Does that mean privatization of space? Are we looking at a second East India Company?”

Byers is more optimistic about a Mars colony than Vadalkar and sees this as an opportunity for the world to come together.

“Space is too vast for one man to control and will give a chance for humankind to set aside their enmity and develop it together,” Byers said.

Byers also raised questions about the ethics of colonizing Mars. Are Martian and space babies ethical since they didn’t sign a contract to be born in outer space? Who would be the President of Mars? Do we tax Martians? Despite these complex questions, Byers remains positive about a Martian colony.

“Space isn’t just about us being an adventurous species, but a chance to go above and beyond,” he said.