A New Home
December 14, 2013
At some point, science begins to trump the superstitions that grip our young race. In some places and some minds it merely replaces what had previously given solace, in others it becomes a guiding passion. In most all, however, it is accepted as fact and not fiction. Science is no longer feared. As acceptance of new and exciting realities takes hold of a planet finally connected and able to share world-wide, the all too brief flare of imagination that brought about the first moon landing once again grips us. Money shifts on the political landscape when support for exploration has its day as an imperative; newer, longer-range probes and telescopes are built, launched, and tracked. It is a long wait. Perhaps we remain patient, and perhaps we don't, but eventually - hundred of years or longer hence - we humans are rewarded with confirmation of planets in habitable zones around stable stars. We're far from melting in the critical heat of our own star yet the allure of this next giant step for humankind is too much to resist. After all, we only have a paltry billion years before the Earth heats up under the sun's helium fusion, and moving is such a pain, best to start early. Ships are built in space with minerals from mined asteroids, able to obtain unheard of speeds still far too short to make a dent in this reality: Those who first board will be the ancestors of those who step off onto the planets we hope to tame. Launch days are remembered as holidays to those on the blue ball near Sol. And, for some of the ships, memorials. Each step is a baby step. Humans are no more than toddlers, and that's being kind, in this parental nursery of gas clouds and stars, yet we learn as fast as our offspring do. Well, in an evolutionary sense, anyway. A few of the ships do make landing. A fewer still gain a foothold on wild, unfamiliar terrain. And, in hundreds more years or thousands, a communication comes though on deep space radar that sparks a sliver of tremulous joy in every person that finally hears it: "Mother Earth, clean out the guest room, we're coming home to visit."
In 2016, The Planetary Society’s LightSail program will take the technology a step further.