https://www.inverse.com/innovation/mars-city-population-collapse

LOOK: JAW-DROPPING IMAGE SHOWS THE WEBB TELESCOPE 1 MILLION MILES FROM EARTH

The James Webb Space Telescope has reached L2, and its position has been captured in a new photo.ESAMIKE BROWN1.25.2022 11:00 AM

THE JAMES WEBB Space Telescope (JWST) has made it into position — and there are pictures to prove it.

On Tuesday, the Virtual Telescope project released an image of the new telescope among the stars. The 300-second exposure, captured with the “Elena” telescope, shows the project around 1.4 million kilometers (869,919 miles) from Earth.MORE LIKE THISSCIENCE1.24.2022 3:00 PMJAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE REACHES ITS FINAL DESTINATION — 1 MILLION MILES FROM EARTHBy PASSANT RABIESCIENCE1.24.2022 11:48 AMNASA REVEALS NEW SCIENCE MISSION TIMELINE FOR THE JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPEBy JOHN WENZSCIENCE1.18.2022 4:00 AMTHE WEBB TELESCOPE IS UNIQUELY ABLE TO FIND POTENTIALLY HABITABLE WORLDS — HERE’S WHYBy CLAIRE CAMERONEARN REWARDS & LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY.SUBMIT

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The James Webb Space Telescope in its final position.
The James Webb Space Telescope in its final position.VirtualTelescope

The image captures the latest stage in the ambitious project’s story, a joint venture between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency.

JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE: WHAT TO KNOW

The telescope features a 21-foot, four-inch-thick set of 18 mirrors coated in gold. This bounces light into an infrared sensor. Its ultra-wide perspective enables it to observe around a third of the sky at a given time.

It’s nearly three times bigger than the Hubble Space Telescope, which launched in 1990 and has provided some of the most dramatic images of space.

NASA will use the new telescope to reveal more about the origins of the universe. It could also provide insights into far-flung exoplanets that could hold life. It’s also expected to help researchers understand Sagittarius A*. Scientists have yet to image what they believe is a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.

A woman stands near a model of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) at NASA Goddard Space Flight Ce...
The James Webb Space Telescope could reveal more about the universe.JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

The telescope launched on December 25, 2021, using an Ariane 5 rocket taking off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. It took around a month to reach its final destination, the L2 Lagrange point around the Sun just beyond Earth.

This point is where gravitational forces between the two are stable. It enables the telescope to face away from the Sun throughout its operation, protecting its instruments. The positioning also means that the telescope will stay out of the shade of both the Earth and Moon. The Hubble Space Telescope, meanwhile, moves in and out around every 90 minutes.

Operations are expected to begin in around five months’ time.

It’s expected that JWST will operate for around five years. However, NASA revealed after the launch that the telescope saved more of its fuel than it expected. Where NASA expected JWST to use 146 kilograms of its 300 kilograms of fuel to move into position, it only used 32 percent of that allocation. Mike Menzel, NASA mission systems engineer for the James Webb Space Telescope, told Inverse that this could mean it has a lifespan of more than 20 years.

The final moment of repositioning was a key moment for the project’s success.

“We’re pretty excited that the spacecraft portion has been going as well as it has, and looking forward to the science instruments,” Amy Lo, JWST vehicle engineering lead at Northrop Grumman, said during a press conference on Monday.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that L2 is not between the Sun and EArth, but rather just beyond Earth.

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January 19, 2020 - Kennedy Space Center, Florida, United States - SpaceX CEO Elon Musk prepares to d...

INNOVATION

MARS CITY: ELON MUSK WARNS A MAJOR EARTH PROBLEM COULD STOP IT HAPPENING

Musk is sounding a familiar alarm. But the math might not add up.NurPhoto/NurPhoto/Getty ImagesMIKE BROWN1.19.2022 9:28 AM

POPULATION COLLAPSE COULD mean fewer humans for Mars, Elon Musk has declared. On Tuesday, the SpaceX CEO posted on Twitter that “we should be much more worried” about the emerging trend before writing that “if there aren’t enough people for Earth, then there definitely won’t be enough for Mars.”

The comments cut to Musk’s long-term goal of a self-sustaining city on Mars by 2050. The city would include one million people, establishing humanity as a multi-planet species.

They also echo comments made by Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos. In 2019, he argued for giant orbital cities in space to support one trillion humans. That would include “a thousand Mozarts, or a thousand Einsteins.”

On Tuesday, Musk argued that official figures are wrong:

“UN projections are utter nonsense. Just multiply last year’s births by life expectancy. Given downward trend in birth rate, that is best case unless reversed.”

It’s not the first time Musk has warned about the issue. In 2019, he described population collapse as “the biggest problem the world will face in 20 years.” He also added that immigration does not solve the problem, as people have to come from somewhere.

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POPULATION COLLAPSE: IS ELON MUSK RIGHT?

Musk shared two article links after his declaration. The first was for a May 2021 story from NPR, which reported that the number of babies born in the U.S. fell by four percent year-over-year in 2020, the sixth year of decline in a row. Births per 1,000 women were now at 55.8 for ages 15 to 44, a record low.

Another article from the BBC in July 2020 warned that the global fertility rate was dropping. In 1950, the average woman would have 4.7 children over a lifetime. That figure had fallen to 2.4 in 2017, and a study in the Lancet predicted it could reach 1.7 by 2100.

newborn baby hand holding mom's index finger
Elon Musk has warned that the population could be on the verge of collapse.Shutterstock

The article explains that a population declines when the birth rate reaches below 2.1. That means, according to the report, that the world is close to decline.

But is Musk right to describe United Nations projections as “utter nonsense”? The organization estimates that the population will reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11 billion in 2100.

Experts in the field heavily criticized Musk’s suggestion. Edward Morgan, head of the U.K. Office for National Statistics’ census analysis coordination, responded on Twitter:

“The issue is that the tweet implies that sensible population projections can be achieved by multiplying births by life expectancy, which any introductory demographic methods textbook would tell you is nonsense.”

significant issue with Musk’s approach is that it does not factor in how these figures will change in the future.

THE INVERSE ANALYSIS — Musk has regularly cited science fiction novels as part of his inspiration. Isaac Asimov had a big effect on him: in 2018, Musk described Asimov’s Foundation series as “fundamental to [the] creation of SpaceX.”

The first book describes a galactic empire of one quadrillion humans, spread across multiple planets. It also says that the capital planet, Trantor, had reached the “ultimate” in urbanization: all its 75 million square miles of the surface was a single city.

Indeed, in Asimov’s 1964 vision of life in 2014, he foresaw massive inequality spurred by a race for more resources for a select few.

“Although technology will still keep up with population through 2014, it will be only through a supreme effort and with but partial success,” he wrote at the time.

Harvard professor Jill Lepore argued in November 2021 that Musk and others read sci-fi books “for the gadgets” without fully engaging in how they criticized those fictional worlds. Population growth is a centuries-old and contentious debate, but either way, it seems unlikely Asimov would have agreed with Musk’s conclusions.

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