Colonies in Space
Do I think humans will colonize other planets? Yes. However, I feel it necessary to consider the steps that must be taken before it happens. Technological advancement is, of course, the given. That is a step that comes to mind whenever this question is posed. But are there other steps?
In reading your responses, I saw some optimism—some of which was exaggerated. I don’t think it is possible within our lifetimes. A moon colony is probable. A Mars colony and a Venus colony are improbable, and given that they are the only colonizable planets in our solar system, so to speak, the probability of colonizing another planet within our lifetimes is extremely low. On the other hand, I saw some pessimism. A responder stated that it won’t happen. Such pessimism isn’t unwarranted. Given our current state, there is a point. Who’s to say we won’t destroy ourselves long before we develop the necessary technology? Who’s to say global warming won’t do us in? Who’s to say some unforeseen catastrophe won’t spell the end? What if we fail to stop a sizable asteroid from slamming into the Earth? These are all very probable—some more than others.
However, our problems are more internal. We are constantly at war with one another. Some of us are less developed technologically. Some of us are lagging behind in terms of education. Others willfully remain ignorant of the effects of global warming and thus, it is becoming increasingly difficult to act against it. How exactly would people react if we found a way to regulate pollution or carbon emissions? What if we’re told how often we can use our cars, boats, factories, etc.? It is easy to predict that most of us won’t take kindly to such limitations. Nonetheless, it all seems inevitable.
So before we go anywhere, we have to ensure our own survival—which means that we must take better care of the planet we’re already on. We have to solve our internal conflicts (which are too many to get into), we have to slow the pace of global warming, we have to make technological advancements (which also means that we must develop our modes of education) and we have to make scientific advancements. As one of you noted, we have to improve the human genome—sifting out any harmful viruses, gene combinations and mutations. These improvements imply that we must make medical advancements; viruses evolve quickly and therefore, we have to respond to new strands as we already do with influenza. Many steps have to be taken before we colonize another planet(s). Then there’s the issue of spanning light-years. Is superluminal speed the answer? Can that be achieved? Can it be achieved via straightforward motion or are we required to bend the fabric of space via Einstein’s general relativity? Are there wormholes to exploit or can we make them ourselves?1 And surely we can’t embark on a journey to a distant planet without knowing if it’s habitable. Therein lies the reason why it isn’t achievable in our lifetimes. I don’t rule out the possibility; major advancements can be made. But how probable is that?
Ultimately, I think we will colonize other planets. Mars and Venus will be the first—initially by way of space station and then by way of terraforming (which will take centuries in both cases; or will we find a way to expedite the process?). Then we will colonize an exoplanet that is relatively close to our solar system; currently, the closest habitable exoplanet is twelve light-years away.4 Colonizing periods will be long; think of how long it will take us to get up to speed—per se. A colony will have to build residences, factories, laboratories, etc. Unless we find a way to transport essentials, it will be incumbent on us to build them from scratch. This will be a tedious process indeed. Humanity has a lot to look forward to, but the future begins in the here and now. If we don’t right our ship, it will not sail for much longer.