I took a trip to Mars in 2117 and it was exactly like ‘Star Wars’
Virtual reality experience in Dubai sheds light on Dubai’s ambitions in the next century
The skies are different shades of red while my space pod narrowly avoids a larger flying vehicle above. A gold monument adorns a large white plaza where thousands of humans are walking around.
A welcome message from the United Government of Mars greets me. I’ve arrived in the City of Wisdom and it’s the year 2117, a century on from now, and it was very much like a scene from “Star Wars”.
The virtual reality (VR) experience comes to an end, but my journey through the Red Planet showed the ambitions of countries like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and entrepreneurs such as SpaceX founder Elon Musk. The Mars 2117 experience was on display at the World Government Summit in Dubai this weekend and highlighted the government’s hopes of space travel.
“The city is roughly the size of Chicago. It has a population of 600,000,” Saeed Al Gergawi, manager of the scientific and research committee of the World Government Summit, told CNBC in an interview on Monday.
“We came up with that number because it’s like someone going to an exotic island, not everyone can go first, then we get advancement of rocket tech, which makes people move there easily, then the advancement of oxygen tech to make it more earth like, which would incentivise people.”
Travel to Mars has been a hot topic in recent times with Tesla boss Musk outlining plans in September to colonise the Red Planet and send people there within the next decade. The idea is to slowly build up sustainable living conditions to eventually have hundreds of thousands of people on the planet in a self-sustaining community.
What the UAE showed in its VR experience was exactly how that would look and how that might work.
Al Gergawi said it would take collaboration between governments to create co-existence on Mars and that the United Nations (UN) would need to be involved. Countries would co-sign a yearly treaty to be a part of the Mars civilisation. But many details would need to be ironed out such as what kind of economic society would exist on Mars.
“On Earth, we are based largely on a capitalist system. For sure we will have capitalist elements. But we would have to create something unique that would fit the needs and environment on Mars,” Al Gergawi told CNBC.
During the experience, my space pod passed structures that were supposed to have been first set up way before 2117, to study energy harvesting and deep space communication. The NASA Opportunity Rover was also on display as a reminder of the early Mars exploration missions.
The UAE currently has plans to send an unmanned spacecraft to Mars by 2021 called Hope. It is developing its own space travel vehicle for now, rather than working with private companies such as SpaceX.
Tesla and SpaceX board member Steve Jurvetson told CNBC in a recent interview that a round trip to Mars could come down to cost around US$200,000. Al Gergawi said that this figure is about right for the first 50 years, but it could come down significantly after that.
“If you are selling something revolutionary, not everyone will be able to afford it at first. The same went for aeroplanes,” Al Gergawi.
“But if everything goes as planned around US$200,000 is not an unreasonable number. But when you look at 100 years from now, it could probably be much lower by a factor of 10.”