We need to get off this rock
I don’t understand how this is such a low priority among human beings. We know for a fact that at some point our planet will stop being a hospitable place. Even if we do get lucky and don’t get hit by a planet-killer-sized rock, even if we somehow manage to artificially control our planets natural “too cold to be fun”/”too hot to be cool” cycle, someday our sun will burn out and in the process swollow our planet whole. In short it’s not a question of if we need to get out of here, it’s a question of when. And I say sooner is better than later. Why take chances?
In that context, it’s hard to understand why we seem so unwilling to invest in finding a way to get out of this petri dish that is so easy to sterilize… Is there really an upper limit of cost we are willing to accept for our survival?
Yes, the technology we have for even getting into orbit is extremely expensive and ineffective. But there are solutions, like the space elevator, that could fix that. The initial investment in a space elevator is huge, granted, but once it’s set up it soon pays for itself. And once mining operations get going in the solar system, the energy expenditure for moving something into orbit becomes zero, as there will probably be more stuff coming down than going up. It will also enable us to build all our craft in orbit already, which will eliminate much of the cost of travelling further. The most costly part is after all the fuel needed to get up there in the first place.
Once it’s that easy to get up there, we can start by going back to the moon. It will be a short and easy trip away. And once we go to Mars, we start by stopping in orbit and dropping down the cable for an elevator there as well. There are already several good theoretical plans for terraforming Mars and other planets we might find out there like it.
Of course, the solar system isn’t a place we can stay for long anyway. On a cosmic scale, that is. By the time the sun burns out we need to be somewhere else entirely. But once we have the solar system available to draw resources from, that task becomes easier to overcome. The first possibility that comes to mind is generational ships. Huge hulks that travel to distant stars carrying enormous crews. These would have to be really gigantic, since it would require a self-sustainable population. It is, after all, not the crew that leaves that colonizes the planet they head for. It might not even be their children og grandchildren, depending on the starsystem they head for.
There are also some interesting ideas out there for faster ships, even some ideas for how we could possibly beat the famous speed-limit of the universe. Well, cheat, really. Not move the ship itself, but the space around it… I’ll try to fish up some links and post them here soon.
No matter which way we use, I hope more people will get their eyes opened to the fact that we really need to get off this rock. A saying about eggs and baskets comes to mind…