The future may be closer than we think
December 5, 2013
I envision a future in which more than half of humanity resides somewhere other than on Earth. I’m sure we will eventually populate our solar system, terraform Mars and perhaps Venus, build space colonies and mine asteroids as there will be economic reasons to do so, but I am doubtful that any more than just a few of us will ever physically travel to planets around other stars. My doubt is only partially due to the great distances. I think the real reason will be a lack of need to go. Traveling to other stars would be extremely expensive both in money and in various hardships and may prove to be unnecessary to gain all the benefits. While the ability for people to travel to other stars is in the far distant future, communications with civilizations in other solar systems could begin at any time. Once we locate other intelligence we will already have the ability to communicate with them by radio or laser beam. Once that link is established we will be able to share histories, pictures, sounds, science, music, language, perspectives…. In short we will be able to gain everything by long distance electronic communications that could be gained by physically sending human representatives to explore, and we would not have to wait for many hundreds of years for the round trip to be completed. We will be able to share all our respective knowledge and experience at the speed of light. Over the course of a 100 or 200 years we as individuals could become as familiar with civilizations around other stars as we are about places here on earth that we have not yet visited in person. Think of the wealth of information we can gain without actually going anywhere. And just suppose the first civilization we communicate with has already established links communicating with many other civilizations on planets circling other more distant stars. It just might be possible for mankind to join the interstellar community at any moment.
An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.