Planet's Experts on Space Colonization -Our Future or Fantasy?
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April 16, 2009

Planet's Experts on Space Colonization -Our Future or Fantasy?

Space_colonies_2_2 Humans have always been fascinated by the idea of space travel. Some even believe that colonizing new planets our best hope for the future. The popular idea is that we’ll eventually need some fresh, unexploited new worlds to inhabit.

In a recent Galaxy post we wrote that Stephen Hawking, world-celebrated expert on the cosmological theories of gravity and black holes who holds Issac Newton's Lucasian Chair at Cambridge University, believes that traveling into space is the only way humans will be able to survive in the long-term.

"Life on Earth," Hawking has said, "is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers ... I think the human race has no future if it doesn't go into space."

Another of his famous quotes reiterates his position that we need to get off the planet relatively soon. "I don't think the human race will survive the next 1,000 years unless we spread into space."

The problems with Hawking’s solution is that while it may save a “seed” of human life- a few lucky specimens- it won’t save Earth’s inhabitants. The majority of Earthlings would surely be left behind on a planet increasingly unfit for life.

In a futuristic mode similar to Hawking, both Steven Dick, chief NASA historian and Carnegie-Mellon robotics pundit, Hans Moravec, believe that human biological evolution is but a passing phase: the future of mankind will be as vastly evolved sentient machines capable of self-replicating and exploring the farthest reaches of the Universe programmed with instructions on how to recreate earth life and humans to target stars.

Dick believes that if there is a flaw in the logic of the Fermi Paradox, and extraterrestrials are a natural outcome of cosmic evolution, then cultural evolution may have resulted in a post-biological universe in which machines are the predominant intelligence.

Renowned science-fiction writer, Charlie Stross, argued last week in his High Frontier Redux blog that space colonization is not in our future, not because it's impossible, but because to do so effectively you need either outrageous amounts of cheap energy, highly efficient robot probes, or "a magic wand."

"I'm going to take it as read that the idea of space colonization isn't unfamiliar," Stross opens his post, "domed cities on Mars, orbiting cylindrical space habitats a la J. D. Bernal or Gerard K. O'Neill, that sort of thing. Generation ships that take hundreds of years to ferry colonists out to other star systems where — as we are now discovering — there are profusions of planets to explore."

"The obstacles facing us are immense distance and time -the scale factor involved in space travel is strongly counter-intuitive."

Stross adds that "Planets that are already habitable insofar as they orbit inside the habitable zone of their star, possess free oxygen in their atmosphere, and have a mass, surface gravity and escape velocity that are not too forbidding, are likely to be somewhat rarer. (And if there is free oxygen in the atmosphere on a planet, that implies something else — the presence of pre-existing photosynthetic life, a carbon cycle, and a bunch of other stuff that could well unleash a big can of whoop-ass on an unprimed human immune system."

Stross sums up by saying that while "I won't rule out the possibility of such seemingly-magical technology appearing at some time in the future in the absence of technology indistinguishable from magic that, interstellar travel for human beings even in the comfort of our own Solar System is near-as-dammit a non-starter."

Stross's blog  received over 450 comments as of this writing. The most prescient follows:

"First, Stross's analysis fails to take into account future civilization types; I get the sense that he takes a normative view of today's technological and economic realities and projects them into the future. This is surprising, not only because he's an outstanding science fiction visionary, but also because he's a transhumanist who has a very good grasp on what awaits humanity in the future. Specifically, he should be taking into account the possibility of post-Singularity, Drexlerian, Kardashev Type II civilizations. Essentially, we're talking about post-scarcity civilizations with access to molecular assembling nanotechnology, radically advanced materials, artificial superintelligence, and access to most of the energy available in the solar system.

"Stross also too easily dismisses how machine intelligences, uploaded entities and AGI will impact on how space could be colonized. He speculates about biological humans being sent from solar system to solar system, and complains of the psychological and social hardships that could be inflicted on an individual or crew. He even speculates about the presence of extraterrestrial pathogens that undoubtedly awaits our daring explorers. This is a highly unlikely scenario. Biological humans will have no role to play in space. Instead, this work will be done by robots and quite possibly cyborgs (which is how the term 'cyborg' came to exist in the first place)."

Posted by Casey Kazan.

Link

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Comments

When i read the commentary answer to the blog article (or post) I remembered the %th element scene of the reonstruction of Leelu and the test from the martians to the crew of humans to complete the dna sequence, couln't be sent a living dna samples to the space?

Here's why we will NEVER colonize our solar system.

We don't have enough metals left on the planet to allow for such a thing to occur. We might have expeditions to Mars and maybe a semi-permanent outpost on the Moon, but full colonization of those two locations? Not within the next 1 billion years. That's how long it will take tectonic activity to concentrate enough metals to allow for them to be shipped offworld.

Plus, how are you going to lift any construction materials to orbit and send them to the Moon or Mars? Ain't gonna happen.

You're gonna need LOTS of wood, too. It's the perfect construction material. It's easy to transport and pliable enough to make lots of shelter. Find wood elsewhere except for our biosphere.

Unless we figure out how to mine the Moon and Mars, and have enough O2 to be able to smelt metals in those environments, we're as good as stuck here for the rest of our species' evolutionary history.

WARP drive systems are in their infancy...and experimental phase (go to NASA and JPL sites).

Einstein -Rosen pipes...are still theoretical....no proof that even if they exist a body like our can go thru....at speed faster than light.

A world in 500Years from now 'without energy' , lacking of food, with water scarce or not drinkable, over-populated...could be dying.

A good reason to escape away.....the rest is pure speculation and philosophy, based on imagination more than facts.

To debate about the far future of our kind is highly speculative ...degrade of future lifestyle and survival issues are however likely to occur...80% to 98% probability in 500 Years from now (or less).

Then if there will be a good reason a strong survival reason why NOT to escape ???
Mentioning this and that scientist and related theories and reasoning cannot change the math and probability density.

The probability of vast progressive life conditions-style degrade in next 500 Years is HIGH (Occam razor theory).

About intelligence instated - injested in machines....well again we are in presence of speculations.....if it will exist at all , an A.I. will be rather different from the intelligance of men kind.

Could intelligent machines help human crews to fly to distant stars and habitable planets ??

Answer is YES....provided these smart robots exist....or will exist....and provided that WARP drive or 'faster than light' are operational.

Who the hell still listens to stephen hawking?! My god, I saw him as a plagiarizer and a popularist when I was 15 years old... a couple of decades ago at least.

Anyone believing hawking is not half as smart as they believe they are.

Interesting views, all be it a bit pessimistic.

Personally, I think we do not even deserve to get far enough to colonize other star systems if we can't even take care of trivial problems like hunger and politics.

If I was another intelligent, space faring species, I would not want a petty species like humankind to mix into the galactic community in it's current state. It'll be nothing but trouble.

We stay on Earth, overcrowded, polluted, noisy, yadda - yadda, the human race is in some serious merde. We send humans to Mars, the Moon the outer Solar System, brimming with its own resources, then humanity has a chance. Expanding out into the rest of the galaxy is optional. We stay on a planet with limited resources, squabbling nation - states / factions, pollutions, limited land, we stand a good chance of dying as a species.

Space colonization isn't something as dramatic as SALVATION, but it's an insurance policy for our physical survival.

jer35mx -
Of course the human race is destined to live on other planets! With population increasing the way it is and everything we may need to in a few years.

But to answer your skepticism - Where would we get enough metals? Well the moon has plenty of it, and all we would have to do is set up a refinery on the surface and we would have enough to do whatever we wanted. On the moon, the soil is comprised of ~50% oxygen, so O2 for smelting would be found and mining would be as simple as drilling into the ground and extracting materials.

Transporting construction materials? Most construction materials are metal, right? And since the moon has much less gravity than the earth it would not take nearly as much to lift the metals into space. From there the materials could go anywhere. Anything that doesn't come naturally from the moon could be shipped from earth, and the idea of a naturally sustaining biosphere on the moon is conceivable. Don't believe me? Look up skyscraper farms which feed 50,000 people and make energy.

If you think wood is the best building material...You should go back to school...

That was directed toward mark, not jer35mx.

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First of all, the Space Elevator concept changes everything. We are maybe ten years out from having all the components necessary for that. All that is missing is a slightly stronger grade of CNT necessary for the tether, and improvements in CNT strength have been made on an on-going basis, so it is doubtful that we are going to miss reaching that goal. Trials on components will take place in 2010 at a competition held by the Spaceward Foundation. Google Spaceward Foundation Space Elevator.

Space colonization will be realized in baby steps, as we move ever farther away from the good green earth, fabricating livable environments as we go. Most likely, mining operations on the Moon and some zero-G manufacturing and space tourism will go on for decades before the the big push to Mars and the asteroid mines. In fact, as we will be fabricating most of what we need, we could simply fabricate ever-expanding space stations, and remain near the Earth, yet fully space-borne.

A writer above said we would need to bring our own supplies, down to metal and wood to build space bases. I think we will only need to do that for the first buildings. We will be utilizing materials on the other planets for most of our needs.

Nanotechnology and other emerging sciences will make this feasible. The Moon bases and orbiting hotels will happen in our lifetime, the rest will follow as science progresses. Again, the entire key is cost-efficient escape from Earth's gravity, and that is where the Space Elevator comes in. When that system goes online you might as well reset the calendar to Year 1. Space will at last be open to the average person.

I agree that human consciousness housed in non-biological bodies will be the ultimate, but there will be many, many steps in between today and those days. It could be that after a few generations of living in space, humans will be altered to a point where they will not resemble us very much. Their reduced gravity environment will be so different.

Another major hurdle will be the radiation of outer space. Astronauts today are taking almost the limit in radiation, just in their brief trips. Anyway, nobody is saying we are going to colonize space with the exact same technology we have right now.

The first step may be what we are doing right here - debating the possibilities. Above all must avoid being like those guys on the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk who laughed at the Wright Brothers and said man will never fly.

i have come up with a way for a ship to reach 90% the speed of light

FANTASY. BUT ITS A GOOD THOUGHT, BUT GLOBAL WARMING IS SET-UP BY ALIENS WANTING EARTH FOR THEIR OWN PLANET AND THE UNIVERSE FOR THEIR MINERALS AND VOLCANO'S FOR FUELING. I DONT BELIEVE THEY'D LET ANYONE ALONE OUT IN SPACE, ESPECIALLY WHEN THE HUBBELL TELESCOPE'S CAMERA PICKS UP YOUR INCOMING AND THE COLLISIONS OF 3 COMETS COLLIDE WITH IT. I DONT THINK THEY'LL LET IT SURVIVE. YOUR SO-CALLED INCOMING ASTEROID IS IM FACT A VERY LARGE SPACE CRAFT WHICH IS CARRYING THE INVADING SPECIES AND THEIR CULTURE. THEIR INTELLIGENCE IS SO FAR IN ADVANCE THAT THEIR USEING NATURE AGAINST US BY USEING ALONGATED BEAMS ON CERTAIN CONTINENTS AROUND EARTH AND ARE USEING THE EARTH'S ROTATION TO ACTIVATE EACH BEAM SO THEY CAN KEEP IT GOING 24 HOURS A DAY, BUT MY GLOBAL TEAMS AND I =GLOBAL COMMAND HAVE STOPPED GLOBAL WARMING SO MANY TIMES THAT WE NOW KNOW HOW TO DELETE GLOBAL WARMING, BUT IT TAKES MONEY, SO I PUT MY EARTHQUAKE SOLUTION UP FOR SALE FOR $120 BILLION AT $10 BILLION TO THE FIRST PERSON THAT FINDS ME A BUYER. I PLAN ON USEING $750 MILLION TO TURN YOUR ECONOMY AROUND, 100 BILLION TO HIRE ALL UNEMPLOYED IN AMERICA AND MANY COUNTRIES TO WORK MY GLOBAL SOLUTIONS= 1/ OF 3 http://www.socyberty.com/Activism/First-Step-for-the-Solution-to-Global-Warming.103109 2/ OF 3 IN CREVICES ON DIFFERENT CONTINENTS, 1 AND 2 LINK UP 3/ OF 3 IS IN FULL OPERATION. I HAVE THE TOOLS AND THE MINERAL. NOW I'M WAITING FOR A BUYER. I'M HOPING THAT ALL NATIONS ON EARTH WILL GET TOGETHER AND BUY MY EARTHQUAKE SOLUTION SO THAT THEY CAN IMPLEMENT IT IN A CERTAIN LOCATION IN NEW ZEALAND TO STOP EARTH FROM HAVING ANYMORE EARTHQUAKES. HAVE A NICE DAY. MIKE

If the economic arguments for Space colonization were sound then there would be existing colonies on the continental shelf, the Sahara Desert, Antarctica and on the Canadian Arctic Archepelago.

All of these places have unexploited energy and mineral resources. All of them could be colonized with far less difficulty than the Moon, Mars or the solar planets. The Earths poles present a climate that is tropical compared to that of Mars and the Moons of the outer system. The radiation environment of the Moon and Mercury would be like living near the Chenobyl plant. A colony inside a blast furnace would be more hospitable than Venus.

If broadcast power transmission can be perfected then there would be an economic justification for orbiting space platforms. If Helium3 fusion is not just a fantasy then there is a justification for Lunar mining. In both of these examples robots could do the mining and mechanical maintanance as well as humans.

Expensive capital projects like space elevators are only built to exploit proven resources and not for "prospecting".

Unless physics produces some sort of "antigravity" technology, the resources of the solar system will remain untapped. If such a technology is developed then we might see a low level of colonization similiar to what we have now on off-shore oil platforms

I'm old enough to have lived through the space program when phrases like the "canals of Mars" and the "swamps of Venus" referred to possbilities and not fantasies. It saddens me that manned space flight has not become common.

I think the "space age" of the 1960s represents a sort of false dawn. It is a bit like a cave man who has succeeded in floating accross a river on a log and then dreaming about crossing an ocean to paradise. Not in our time my freinds.

Joe N.

jer35mx

you have to be one of the most idiotic and mentally challenged people in the world. WOOD. FOR A SPACE COLONY!!! what the hell is wrong with you. Sit down and stop commenting space stuff. you are a joke.

You peeps should watch this instead:

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/09/cool-video-human-virus.php

Simply put, when we go out it means we 'infect' other planets -- by 'infect' I mean in a negative sense. Why? Because it is obvious, if we didn't infect the Earth currently negatively, then we wouldn't need to go out further. We have what's called lack of resources because of our growth, so in effect we are negatively infecting them (since we need more than they can provide). Picture a man and his son, we being in the man currently, 'water' in the Earth being his blood. Now, what excuse do we have to suck this man from the inside out? Because he's going to 'die' eventually anyway? (e.g: engulfed by the Sun in millions or billions of years) Is that a reason for us to kill him way before (suck up resources) and then infect his son so we can survive (let's say his son = Mars for example)? I mean, we are all going to die eventually anyway, so why do we treat diseases? I mean, diseases and viruses kill a person way before he dies of old age, but that's ok, he was going to die anyway right? Even more, let's encourage their spreading and "growth" since we encourage the spreading and growth of the space-colonization-oriented mankind, which fits under the typical 'disease' or 'virus' traits very nicely it seems!I guess the Earth should find a cure for us, if we keep on sucking and then wanting to infect his siblings as well (not literally). I thought we were way above the selfish ego, since we can be rational.

But there's a few of us researching a "cure" for Earth. Not all of us will follow the tyrant (which is mankind itself) and spread its tyranny further.

I'm not an oppressor, YOU ARE. Because you and your kin are the ones AGGRESSIVE that go out and EXPLOIT stuff, not us. I don't give a shit that you think it's "for humanity". How is that different than tyranny? It's always "for the tyrant" which apparently here it's almost the whole sickening species, who somehow think that they are 'above' the things they exploit, that they are special, and that they DESERVE to be that way, which is one of the most troubling and sickening thoughts that can cross my mind. Tyrants *never* deserve anything, not even to live. Period.


So at least keep in mind that not everyone is going to be happy happy about the continuous tyranny and exploitation that you seem to be so thrilled about. Apparently we know that moderation is always good for our bodies -- too bad that we, as Earth's "cells", don't do the same to it. Kinda hypocritical to like something which you don't do in return. (by this I mean that ANY and EVERY animal on Earth lives in *balance*, except for... you guessed it buddy, the freaking human race!)

I hope we get annihilated by a virus just so we can see how other things can exploit us just as we exploit like bastards which never know when to stop.

Step 1

I believe the first faze would be to create a super human with the help of gene manipulation. Using the help of information found in the animal kingdom. Animals that have the possibility to hibernate and others that can with-stand radiation (roaches,rats, scorpions).

Step 2

Starting to build something in space that is build expandable and round shaped with an empty core(not knowing the technology to move it yet). I guess something like a big round container (Death star :)).
(sounds like we need a small planet)


Step 3 (Technology)

R&D in creating gravity on ship
R&D in creating electromagnetic fields (to keep out radiation)
R&D in plant know-how, to create an atmosphere inside the container, artificial light for plants to get oxygen on board.
R&D in renewable energy (I guess the fuel could come from human waste + advanced research in nuclear tech :))
R&D in warp speed technology and movement
R&D in nano-technology for clothes, electronics onboard
R&D in refinery deployment

and more...

Step 4

Build around the container the new technology.
Create a small lake inside the container

Wood could be used for creating huts inside the spacestation for people to live in :D

Step 5

And were off.... :D

The meek shall inherit the earth , The strong shall escape to the stars . The race to the moon is all ready on and it's resources that's driving the venture . That is one thing that will never change greed . The moon will soon truly become earth's seventh continent.

I wish I could live long enough to see if russia will be as dumb as they were the last time ....get alaska sell alaska ....for nothing .. now that would be funny.

Maybe once we get out to the stars, we can finally hunt down and kill God.

In a tv show ( http://file.sh/space+torrent.html ) scientists said that in a couple of millions years our planet will be damaed not only by human factor but also by other factors. Thus, if we don't start acting now, it may be too late for our descendants

In a tv show ( http://file.sh/space+torrent.html ) scientists said that in a couple of millions years our planet will be damaed not only by human factor but also by other factors. Thus, if we don't start acting now, it may be too late for our descendants

A bit pessimistic? Sure you didn't bite your tounge with the aftermentioned statement JT? The gall of petty humans who think that we are all created equal. We are not! We may be created alike but not created equal. Proof standing is all of the great minds that humanity has produced throughout the ages. I believe when we do (its only a matter of time, & very short in my opinion)it will be that portion of us that is best suited to make contact, you'll not find Big Bruno hustling numbers on a space station.

In responce to Mark

There are ideas about space mining from asteroids and other other worlds. That could give us the metals we need to colonize.

If it can happen, it involves more than we can really understand today.

Mark how about nanotechnology 100 times the strength of steel, yet only 1/6 the weight. And it also heals itself when hit
And that's probably`just minuscule to to the possibilities it has. ;)
As for wood, its cool that our biosphere might be unique for it, but why wood there are plenty of better options especially since we need our wood if you haven`t noticed,
,what i mean is we need the trees we have. Hint: (global warming is bad enough). Before he died you should have Tried explaining yourself to Steven Hawking.
I disagree with the scientists (what do I know) about the fact the majority has to be left behind. If we want a chance in the solar system to begin with and then the universe than we need to send our whole population out there. The universe is a big place and sending a few up there probably wont help. The extent of our technology potential is limitless as of now. Jer35mx has a great idea. I believe that how we started( the building blocks of living organisms in meteorites most likely crashed to earth starting live on earth). As for humans never being the ones to populate the universe (cyborgs being the ones), I 100% disagree with that. And what we need to get there is wood and metals (primitive!). Then we can always go back in time, which is said to be possible, just really expensive. That will give us more time.

Mark how about nanotechnology 100 times the strength of steel, yet only 1/6 the weight. And it also heals itself when hit
And thats probably`just miniscule to to the possibilities it has. ;)
As for wood, its cool that our biosphere might be unique for it, but why wood there are plenty of better options especially since we need our wood if you haven`t noticed,
,what i mean is we need the trees we have. Hint: (global warming is bad enough). Before he died you should have Tryed explaining yourself to Steven Hawking.
I disagree with the scientists (what do I know) about the fact the majority has to be left behind. If we want a chance in the solar system to begin with and then the universe than we need to send our whole population out there. The universe is a big place and sending a few up there probably wont help. The extent of our technology potential is limitless as of now. Jer35mx has a great idea. I believe that how we started( the building blocks of living organisms in meteorites most likely crashed to earth starting live on earth). As for humans never being the ones to populate the universe (cyborgs being the ones), I 100% disagree with that. And what we need to get there is wood and metals (primitive!). Then we can always go back in time, which is said to be possible, just really expensive. That will give us more time.


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