Establishing private outposts in LEO [Low Earth Orbit] is just the first step in Aldrin’s plan for Mars colonization, which depends heavily on “cyclers” — spacecraft that move continuously between two cosmic destinations, efficiently delivering people and cargo back and forth…
Step two involves the international spaceflight community coming together to build cyclers that ply cislunar space, taking people on trips to the moon and back. Such spacecraft, and the activities they enable, would allow the construction of a crewed lunar base, where humanity could learn and test the techniques required for Mars colonization, such as how to manufacture propellant from local resources, Aldrin said…
Aldrin foresees these various cycler iterations enabling a crewed mission to a near-Earth asteroid by 2020 and a Venus flyby by 2024. If all goes well, the first future Mars settlers could launch in the early 2030s, he said.
So a sustainable Mars colony could be not an ambitious goal for the next 100 years, as Stephen Hawking just suggested, but 20 years or so out.
In “Expedition New Earth” – a documentary that debuts this summer as part of the BBC’s “Tomorrow’s World” science season – Hawking claims that Mother Earth would greatly appreciate it if we could gather our belongings and get out – not in 1,000 years, but in the next century or so…
“Professor Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive,” the BBC said with a notable absence of punctuation marks in a statement posted online. “With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious…”
The BBC program gives Hawking a chance to wade into the evolving science and technology that may become crucial if humans hatch a plan to escape Earth and find a way to survive on another planet – from questions about biology and astronomy to rocket technology and human hibernation, the BBC notes.
Getting a colony started on Mars, Earth’s moon, or another moon in the nearby solar system within a hundred years doesn’t seem all that daunting to me. Whether it could be truly self-sufficient from Earth in that time frame is the real question. That seems like a tall order, considering how much our current civilization depends on this planet’s natural gifts to get by. Our technology would have to improve a lot.
The Mars mission will result in an inevitable exposure to cosmic radiation that has been shown to cause cognitive impairments in rodent models, and possibly in astronauts engaged in deep space travel. Of particular concern is the potential for cosmic radiation exposure to compromise critical decision making during normal operations or under emergency conditions in deep space. Rodents exposed to cosmic radiation exhibit persistent hippocampal and cortical based performance decrements using six independent behavioral tasks administered between separate cohorts 12 and 24 weeks after irradiation. Radiation-induced impairments in spatial, episodic and recognition memory were temporally coincident with deficits in executive function and reduced rates of fear extinction and elevated anxiety. Irradiation caused significant reductions in dendritic complexity, spine density and altered spine morphology along medial prefrontal cortical neurons known to mediate neurotransmission interrogated by our behavioral tasks. Cosmic radiation also disrupted synaptic integrity and increased neuroinflammation that persisted more than 6 months after exposure. Behavioral deficits for individual animals correlated significantly with reduced spine density and increased synaptic puncta, providing quantitative measures of risk for developing cognitive impairment. Our data provide additional evidence that deep space travel poses a real and unique threat to the integrity of neural circuits in the brain.
In a talk on Tuesday at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk laid out engineering details to establish a permanent, self-sustaining civilization of a million people on Mars, with an initial flight as soon as 2024.
SpaceX is designing a massive reusable Interplanetary Transport System spacecraft with cabins. The trip would initially cost $500,000 per person, with a long-term goal of 100 passengers per trip.
Musk plans to make humanity a “multiplanetary species” to ensure survival in case of a calamity like an asteroid strike. “This is really about minimizing existential risk and having a tremendous sense of adventure,” he said.
There’s always that puzzle – if conditions were such that life could arise on this planet, and the universe is so vast that there must be similar conditions out there, and given the unfathomable amounts of time for that to happen, is it really likely or even possible that this is the only place it ever happened? And if life is actually common, how could it be that we have never detected it? One answer to the puzzle would be if sophisticated life is out there, even relatively nearby, and doesn’t want to be detected by us for some reason.
Serious people at serious universities like Columbia study this, the technology side at least if not the existential questions. If aliens are hiding from us right now, here’s one way they might be doing it. Or if we thought there was somebody bad out there (one of those infinitesimal probability, infinite consequence risks that are hard to wrap your head around) and wanted to hide, here is how we could try to do it.
The transit method is presently the most successful planet discovery and characterization tool at our disposal. Other advanced civilizations would surely be aware of this technique and appreciate that their home planet’s existence and habitability is essentially broadcast to all stars lying along their ecliptic plane. We suggest that advanced civilizations could cloak their presence, or deliberately broadcast it, through controlled laser emission. Such emission could distort the apparent shape of their transit light curves with relatively little energy, due to the collimated beam and relatively infrequent nature of transits. We estimate that humanity could cloak the Earth from Kepler-like broadband surveys using an optical monochromatic laser array emitting a peak power of ∼30 MW for ∼10 hours per year. A chromatic cloak, effective at all wavelengths, is more challenging requiring a large array of tunable lasers with a total power of ∼250 MW. Alternatively, a civilization could cloak only the atmospheric signatures associated with biological activity on their world, such as oxygen, which is achievable with a peak laser power of just ∼160 kW per transit. Finally, we suggest that the time of transit for optical SETI is analogous to the water-hole in radio SETI, providing a clear window in which observers may expect to communicate. Accordingly, we propose that a civilization may deliberately broadcast their technological capabilities by distorting their transit to an artificial shape, which serves as both a SETI beacon and a medium for data transmission. Such signatures could be readily searched in the archival data of transit surveys.
This is a new book about the potential for space colonization.
Its concluding section presents a scattered but sweeping vision for our future in space, and offers more plausible ideas than can be found in whole shelves of futuristic science fiction. Want to construct a lunar base, or mine asteroids for precious resources? Are you looking for alien life in our solar system, or habitable planets around other stars? Impey covers all this and much, much more in a brilliantly brisk series of chapters intended to show how we might someday become not only an interplanetary species but also an interstellar one.
Such a leap would be far more epochal than that of the Apollo moon landings, Impey notes. If Earth were the size of a Ping-Pong ball, the marble-size moon would be only a yard away — and the nearest neighboring star system would be 30,000 miles distant. Though that distance may now seem insurmountable, Impey implores us to consider the possibility of crossing it, even if only to grasp how far we have come since our ancestors spread out of Africa, and how far we still must go in securing a legacy for our distant descendants.
Someday, the sun and Earth will perish, but humanity may have the choice to be “more than a footnote in the history of the Milky Way.” Contemplating this future “and the possibility that we might not exist at all, is as haunting as deep space,” Impey writes.
The book review makes some references to H.G. Wells’ 1902 essay series Anticipations, which I might get around to reading some day.
Remember when you read Starship Troopers, and found that it wasn’t quite the book you thought it would be? But then you decided even though it wasn’t the book you thought it would be, it was a pretty good book, maybe even better than you thought it was going to be, and you forgave it for not being the book you thought it was going to be. Well, when you start reading Armor, you think it is going to be the book that you thought Starship Troopers was going to be. About half way through, you decide it is not the book you thought Starship Troopers was going to be after all, but it is a good book in its own right, maybe better than the book you thought it was going to be, which was the book you thought Starship Troopers was going to be.
Then you read Enders Game, and The Forever War, and you thought, gee, there sure are a lot of books about fighting alien bugs, or bug aliens, or whatever. And they are all actually pretty good, even though none of them is exactly the book you thought Starship Troopers was going to be. And entertaining as all this is, you really, really hope there are no actual bug aliens out there.
the technology would allow the launch of satellites into space at a fraction of the current cost and allow passengers to fly anywhere in the world in four hours…
According to Reaction, an aircraft using such engines could take off from a runway and accelerate to more than five times the speed of sound, before switching to a rocket mode which would propel the aircraft into orbit.