Space travel is possible

"Everything we can think of is realistic."

What can this hype trigger in the coming years, maybe by 2030?

On the one hand, it creates a new competition. That will certainly give the industry a new dynamic. The monopoly positions of NASA and ESA were already hermetic. Now there are a few crazy people who dare to do something. However, that too has a certain fragility. But what you have to leave Elon Musk: He moves amazing things. Space X's rockets are great and innovative. But the risks associated with manned exploration are also gigantic. I don't think there is still this existential heroism like 50 years ago that also accepts sacrifices. If there were deaths on a mission today, whatever to expect, the hype could end very quickly. Nevertheless, it is precisely Elon Musk who repeatedly formulates bold visions. About the colonization of Mars in this decade, about journeys deep into space, about planets that could function as a second earth.

How realistic is all of this from your point of view?

Culturally, Elon Musk is part of pop culture. Everything is always very loud and emotional. On the other hand, I've been driving a Tesla for five years and have already driven the route to the moon in an electric car that is fast, reliable and also looks good. The future of "pop space travel" stretches between the two poles.

What do you mean by that?

There is a huge gap between story and reality. If you want to go to Mars physically, you have to get it right. That means, you have to set up a station there and stay there. That's something else than landing a capsule on the moon and flying home three days later. If people are actually to go on such trips in the future, not only do basic technical problems have to be solved, but everything also has to become fundamentally cheaper. Even a global corporation could not cope with such expenditures. In addition, it also takes time to develop a new myth, to communicate a narrative for this greatest event in world history. So I think that we will have to wait until at least the 1940s for humans to land on Mars.

Why the 40s of all things?

Because then there will again be a constellation in which Earth and Mars are in a certain favorable relationship to one another. The experts have calculated that this will be the case at the beginning of August 2048 and June 2050. So then, if the CO2 emissions of the planet are to be reduced to zero - that would be a nice conjunction. So if I were to make a forecast, I would name one of the two dates as the time of the first landing. But again: Such a mission with astronauts requires the drive by dreams and a certain pioneering nature. It takes a gigantic motif. And that's basically not in sight. Not yet. It will not be like the times of Columbus, when some seafarers financed by the king set out to discover a new continent. They actually wanted to go to India because of the spices. But what are the spices of Mars? Raw materials? I do not think so. A sitcom, a kind of jungle camp in space? That would be terrible.

This is the one great fantasy that space travel awakens: How do we get to other planets and possibly even beyond our solar system in the end? But what about protecting the earth? Will we one day suffer the fate of the dinosaurs?

Protecting the earth is, of course, an immediately illuminating vision. And currently the most plausible of them all. You will get all nations around one table. Much is sure to happen on this front in the next twenty years.

In this, as in all other subjects, humanity is always bound by the laws of physics. In the science fiction series, which you used to enjoy watching, these restrictions have been overcome by teleportation or hyperlight speeds. How realistic is that for the foreseeable future?

We are in an area that we call the Deep Future. That is outside of serious futurology, so I can only speculate. In any case, you would need an unimaginable amount of energy that we could only derive from quantum physics in order to travel faster than light. Such as the amount of energy in the sun.

The other way to go deep into the universe would be that people just get much, much older. Is this realistic?

Everything we can think of is realistic. But the question is: is it likely? If you think about it a little more closely, it becomes clear that we are moving on the path of transcendent speculation here. If we say "people could live to be 1,000 years old" then that would be implicitly a wrong sentence. Because 1000 year old people would no longer be human. Because any kind of radical life extension affects the feasts of human constitution. What makes us as a species inventors and optimizers is precisely mortality. A human race with a radical longevity would become completely decadent, the motivation to survive and with it any drive to create something would be lost. That would probably be more of an organic shell hanging on some machine. And with that the last urge to conquer would most certainly disappear. Why should you go into hostile space when you can doze off comfortably?