World-renowned Greek astrophysicist, Stamatios Krimigis, says that a human settlement on Mars is a distant dream.
Unlike Elon Musk who claims that colonization of the Red Planet is feasible in the not too distant future, Krimigis argues that although an initial exploration of Mars by manned spacecraft is possible in the near future, colonization is a completely different proposition.
“It is relatively easy to make an initial exploration of Mars by manned spacecraft – it will happen before the end of the 2030s,” the Greek astrophysicist told the Athens-Macedonia News Agency (AMNA) last week.
Human construction on Mars is extremely difficult
Construction of a human settlement in the planet’s harsh environment, however, is extremely difficult. The atmosphere on Mars is only 0.6% of that of the Earth’s and consists of carbon dioxide rather than oxygen. The construction must be done at a depth of at least one meter for protection from cosmic radiation and from solar explosions, which can cause not only bodily harm but also death in people who move unprotected on the surface.
“The lack of magnetic field and atmosphere, which protect us on Earth, will have cataclysmic consequences for those attempting to colonize Mars,” Krimigis notes.
The Greek scientist is an expert in space exploration. He has contributed to many of the United States’ unmanned space exploration programs of the Solar System and beyond. He has contributed to exploration missions to almost every planet.
He is Head Emeritus of the Space Department Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Laurel, Maryland in the United States, and he is a member of the Academy of Athens, Greece, where he has the Chair of Science of Space.
Krimigis told AMNA that access to space from the private sector, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX is a new development, but it is not exploration.
“We can call it commercial exploitation of a new area, which we already know quite well due to exploration by state space agencies,” Krimigis said.
He noted, however, that as the private sector is gaining access to space, “towing” an asteroid with a large amount of exploitable minerals to Earth is a project that will not take long.
Krimigis took part in numerous space missions
The Greek astrophysicist has designed vehicles, devices, and instruments for numerous missions, but how does he feel when his creations travel into space?
“After the first, second, or third mission, it becomes a regularity, especially when someone is young. I started making instruments as a graduate student with Van Allen and within five years I had “touched”, as you put it, Mars, the moon (twice), Venus, and of course, the orbit of the Earth (three times),” Krimigis reported.
He added that “at Johns Hopkins, we made the instruments for ‘Voyagers 1 & 2,’ for Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Poseidon, and of course, three other missions around Earth.”
“Then ‘Messenger’ to Mercury, and finally ‘New Horizons’ to Pluto and the Kuiper belt. In addition, ‘NEAR’ on the asteroid ‘Eros,’ where we landed in 2001,” added Krimigis.
“The latest one is the ‘Parker Solar Probe,’ where we have already ‘touched’ the sun. But let me not forget that now the two ‘Voyagers’ are in the Galaxy at a distance of about 22.5 billion kilometers from Earth, after 44 years of travel, at a speed of 62,000 kilometers per hour,” he proudly notes.
Why he rejected an offer to head NASA
Krimigis explained that he rejected the offer made to him during the Clinton presidency to take over the administration of NASA because he wanted to remain committed to research and the joy of space exploration.
“How can one compare exploring the mystery of the universe with making depositions in the House and Senate committees on the NASA budget, staff numbers, building needs of research centers, etc.? I was sure that others would be much more suitable than me in these matters,” he tells AMNA.
Krimigis, who has the asteroid 8323 (previously 1979 UH) named in his honor, fears that humanity will never know the answer of whether we are alone in the universe.
“The distances are huge, the possible civilizations are probably not timeless, and our presence on Earth is relatively recent, with the possibility of communication only for the last about 100 years,” he says.
Krimigis’ love for his homeland
The Greek astrophysicist from the island of Chios is proud of his homeland.
“I had the great fortune to learn the ancient Greek language in secondary education and I was unimaginably impressed by its elegance, economy, and structure. It is amazing that this language is still alive 4,000 years later,” said Krimigis.
“I see the Acropolis and try to capture the greatness of inspiration and thought, the degree of organization of these people, who carried out such a project 2,500 thousand years ago. Terribly harder than catching and building Voyagers!” he adds.
Krimigis has a vision for his homeland: He says modern Greeks need to develop the nation “into a progressive, humanitarian, and technologically advanced country, with an excellent education system, and principles of excellence, meritocracy, evaluation and ethics. Then we will probably prove to be worthy of our ancestors.”
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