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Stephen Hawking on Space-Migration -Fantasy or Reality?

Transportation_space_rocket_2_2 Is There a Way to Save Our Species Without Becoming the “Evil Aliens” or “Space Invaders” of Science-Fiction Infamy?

Experts in the field of space exploration say we need to get off the planet Earth and colonize space. Leaders in the field have become much more vocal in the past several years that humankind needs to start considering space colonization as a means to preserve our species.

However, there are many largely unaddressed questions, both moral and practical that have not been presented alongside the space colonization platform. It’s called “reality” and it’s not nearly as rosy as the dream.

Astrophysicists and cosmologists around the globe seem to be in agreement that life on Earth is fragile and bereft with risks. Scientists like Dr. J. Richard Gott, a professor of astrophysics at Princeton who says we should get a colony up and running on within 46 years, and men like Professor Stephen Hawking, who is a well known space colonization advocate, may be absolutely right about the risks, but are they right about the solution?

Even if we have a space station on Mars, how will that save the human species? is not a hospitable environment. Even in a beautifully self-contained  where colonists could grow their own food, and recycle air and water—it is very difficult to believe that they would not need some type of reinforcements from Earth to exist long-term. However, if they’re up there in case something happens to the Earth (say we get hit by a asteroid)—they’re doomed already. Let’s say in the best case scenario they can survive without any type of reinforcements for a few hundred years—prolonging the existence of just a few people for such a short time period doesn’t seem to be much of an answer.

Then there is the other argument—that we don’t even need a planet at all. Dave Brody of the National Space Society says “orbiting colonies” are the way to go.

"Just because you evolved on a planet does not necessitate that you continue to live on one. And there are some profoundly good reasons not to do so. Like that big honkin' ‘gravity well’ that you have to expensively and dangerously blast your way up out of each time you need to go someplace. And the bigger the planet, the worse the penalty."

Maybe Brody is onto something, but the same logic can be applied to this idea as to colonizing mars—long-term sustainability with no parent planet with vast resources to send reinforcements makes the likelihood of this being a long-term solution quite slim. Also, with both of these plans there would have to be some serious population control.

The prospect of terraforming a planet, moon, or other body by deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, or ecology to be similar to those of Earth in order to make it habitable by humans sounds lovely, but is still completely hypothetical. Since we currently are nowhere near possessing the technological or economic means to terraform another planet (and perhaps never will)—I’ll skip that option for now.

As it stands now, our best bet to preserve the human species in the long-term would be to find a habitable planet and figure out how to get there (even if it took a few generations). But here’s where things get really messed up. What are the odds of a truly habitable planet—one that is temperate, has water, and supports plant life—not already having life on it. The odds aren’t bad that there would already be indigenous life. Are we prepared to become “space invaders”. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the lifeforms are cognecent and unappreciative of our intrusion? Should we bring along weapons, just in case?

I’m the first to agree that all of the scenarios mentioned, seem far, far away and perhaps incredibly unlikely. But the truth is, some of the greatest and most brilliant minds on the planet are big advocates of space colonization and nearly every space agency has some sort of future plan to colonize. The dilemmas brought up are theoretically real. Maybe while we’re reaching for the stars, we ought to figure out what it is we’re really reaching for.

Posted by Rebecca Sato

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Comments

Stephen Hawking on Space-Migration -Fastasy or Reality?


What is Fastasy?

We also must consider the asteroid belt as a home as well. Hollow out a large enough body and spin it creating artificial gravity. Space will be our long term destination. We need to include the "overview effect". It seems that those Humans who spend time in space come to a greater sense of spirituality. This could be part of our evolution.

Wow! what a bunch of very old information...

True, the very first Mars base/space base/asteroid base/whatever wont be enough to save humanity if humans on earth are destroyed, but it is a necessary first step. You have to learn how to crawl before you can learn how to walk.

"The prospect of terraforming a planet, moon, or other body by deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, or ecology to be similar to those of Earth in order to make it habitable by humans sounds lovely, but is still completely hypothetical. Since we currently are nowhere near possessing the technological or economic means to terraform another planet (and perhaps never will)."

We use to be no where near the means of reaching the moon either, and I am sure many people throughout history thought it would always be impossible too.

Yes, there will be many hurdles to jump and obstacles to surmount, but we have no choice.

If we die here on earth, everything everybody has ever done will be for not. Including your article and this post.

Whether you think you can or think you can't, your right.

If we can not learn the hard lessons here, why vault into outer space just to repeat history.

Mike,

Because we are not perfect and should not beat ourselves up for not being so.

Remember, the road to success is paved in failure.

We will never be able to correct our mistakes if we are dead. We will never be able to create a just and equitable society from the grave.

The legacy of our evolution is that in many ways, we are a violent and morally corrupt species. These traits evolved, because for millions of years, they facilitated survival. In this modern era, those same traits that helped us survive, now threaten our very existence.

On the other hand, our evolution has endowed us with compassion, empathy, love and the ability to plan into the future, to weigh the consequences of our actions. There is still hope.

seriously guys from which country is this web site based in?, it's obvious to any english speaking human that english isn't your first language. Every one of your articles has spelling or grammatical errors, I'm over it!

And I quote "Even if we have a space station on Mars, how will that save the human species? is not a hospitable environment. Even in a beautifully self-contained where colonists could grow their own food, and recycle air and water—it is very difficult to believe that they would not need some type of reinforcements from Earth to exist long-term"

that makes sense kids!

There are indeed many ethical issues to consider. Check out "Space: A Moral Vacuum?" at http://www.jeffkrukin.com/Space%20-%20A%20Moral%20Vacuum.pdf.

Jimmy

The logic of colonizing inhospitable planet because ours has a fever is mind numbing. Let's spend our energy, compassion and love on this one first.

1. Any solar system habitat solution is irrelevant. When the sun finally does itself in, any humans hanging around, on, or in this system will be finished.

2. So, the stars it is (which makes the moral question very real for any species that does more than pay lip service to ethics and principles, let alone the slippery slope of morality...sigh).

3. Whether constructed worlds (a la Ringworld, Dyson spheres etc) or any habitable planet without an indigenous sentient life form, the choice will have to be made or it's lights out and goodnight humanity. Given our species propensity for dragging it's feet, not to mention hypocricy...well...

The human species can do more than two things at once. We don't have to choose between improving our planet and starting to colonize others. We can do both, and they may even bolster each other. Every heard of the Overview effect and NASA spin-offs?

http://www.universetoday.com/2008/05/22/the-human-brain-in-space-euphoria-and-the-overview-effect-experienced-by-astronauts/

http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html

The amount of resources we spend on exploring space is a minuscule portion of our budget. We should be doing much more, considering our long term survival depends on it.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2007/08/06/neil-tyson-on-exploring-space/

step 1 build colony at geosynch. tether to earth. each elevator would be a self contained habitat for a small number of people. any kind of failure would require occupants to travel to nearby module till repairs are effected. another tether extending outward would allow spacecraft to reach higher orbit. at some point cast off burp a bit of fuel to lunar orbit. step 2 land more self contained habitats park close to each other. step 3 park more habitats at L4 and L5. possible tethers to moon? lets get busy.

This person is obviously looking completely short term, at the short term economics of something, with no idea as to the potential benefits...Look at the explorers of the world! They had an amazingly difficult time getting funding to do what they did, but they found America! Even then, people really didn't think much of it, "Whats the point?" they asked. "How can we make money from this? Its just not worth it." And then the people who bothered shipped billions of dollars worth of gold, tobacco, silver, etc back to their countries.

You are operation on the faulty belief that colonies will never be self-sufficient. This is certainly false. What are they going to need from us? Take mars for example. The ground there is litterally filled with Iron, the basic building block of modern industry. Spend 50 years building a manufacturing plant, and they can build equipment to rapidly expand their colony. Air? Iron Oxide, the red stuff? yeah, its full of oxygen. water? The ice caps have enough H2O to last them forever! literally, forever, because once they get biological matter growing(plants), it will convert their waste into pure clean water and air for free!

Food?

They can be vegetarians, if need be, but whats to prevent them from growing domes large enough to contain many forms of animal life? The larger the dome, the less micro and macro-management is needed for it to remain in balance. Effectively you have a completely self sufficient society.

And these are all really very short term plans! If you really want to be looking long-term, you'll realize that with greenhouse gasses, Mars could be warmed to the point that domes would be completely unneccessary! All you need to do i crash 5-10 fairly large Ice asteroids into the Ice caps, which will boil the water off, effectively giving you an instant atmosphere! Set up several plants around the martian globe producing greenhouse gasses, and within 50 years you can have a fully self-sustaining ecosystem, complete with lakes and rivers.

And as a last thought, think of this: The US gov't is spending Hundreds of billions of dollars on supporting car companies. HUNDREDS of billions. Contrast that to the MAYBE 200 million a year, and i've heard as low as 20 million a year, that is going towards NASA? Thats a pittance. We could be doing MUCH more than we are right now, and we are not. And unless we act soon, nothing will make any difference any more, because we'll all be radioactive cinders.

Good day.

That's the spirit, Mark :) We will never get to do anything if we think it's impossible or extremely-long-term(which is really the same).

About the money, I would like to go back to the cold war times to see nations proving their power launching rockets to see who goes further instead of throwing bombs to see who kills more people. How much money is spent every year on wars? How much could we do with that money?

Also, getting out of this planet has a lot to do with progressing as a species right now; because it's about unification. It's about changing our minds and correcting errors form the past. We have to do this as the only intelligent known life form we are, not as a bunch of nations who fight each other all the time. If we only had something else, something like this, to focus in; perhaps we could end war. Forever.

Forgive my English, I have just been studying this language for one year and a half. Greetings from Spain :)

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