As a planetary scientist, just thinking about it gives me a thrill.
By the time our first spacecraft—probably robotic—head for the nearest stars, we’ll already have an enormous amount of information from ground-based and space based-telescopes about their panoply of planets.
Whether those stars harbor Hot Jupiters, Super Earths, or icy outer ocean worlds like those in our own solar system, we are certain to be dazzled by the diversity we encounter.
Wouldn't it be incredible if the first pictures beamed back of a distant Earthlike planet showed city lights stretching along an alien ocean shore? Unlikely, perhaps—but why not dream?
Here's how Planetary Society Members answered...
Click through to read the full submission and comment.
What do you want to see next in space exploration?
One day the Earth will be too full of people. One day there may be another ice age with the cities of Europe and North America hundreds of feet under ice and those who are left fighting over whatever remains. One day there could be another mass extinction, as there have been mass extinctions in the past. One day we will be glad to have space to move into. I ... more »
Establishing a permanent colony on the Moon should have followed immediately after Apollo 13. Never the less, visualize bases at both the North and South poles connected by tunnels along the Terminator. Just over the horizon, a ring of optical and radio telescopes creating our largest arrays. On this side of the horizon, a ring of communication dishes. All the material removed for the bases and tunnels having been used ... more »
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 ... more »
My story is pretty unimaginative, I think, it's my original thinking but I'm not the only one to draw such conclusions. I'm a 1941 model,I was in my forties when I discovered the L5 Society and the Planetary Society magazines on the same newsstand on the same day. I joined both as close to life membership as I could. (When the Planetary Society started accepting memberships beyond annual renewal I ... more »
There is so much out there. Even within 30 light-years are star systems such as Gliese 667C, whose habitable zone is literally packed within potential Earth-like planets. Even if they do not host life, there is still reason to explore; future technologies such as terraforming and Miguel Alcubierre's concept for a warp drive would allow humanity to spread out among the stars. I subscribe to Michio Kaku's model for civilizations ... more »
We will begin to find worlds like Yavin IV with orbiting habitable moons, Like Hoth; cold but habitable, hopefully like Endor with its great forests and temperate climate and hopefully tropical ones as well. Will we find an ocean world like Cachalot or one that is so rainy it is a mass of swamps and wetlands or a world like tattooine that is desert but habitable? So many different possibilities ... more »
Hello Dr Jim Bell, I would like to imagine the new header entry for NASA data files. indigenous_lifeforms int(64). Years ago, I wrote to you prior to sitting down and making a file name decoder for MER. You replied, 'go ahead', so I did. It's called MERDAT and I kept going and made it do its thing for Viking, Pathfinder, Phoenix and others. All because you gave me a little ... more »
Despite your particular dream for humankind, without an indefinte time to develope said dream, it will not happen. It is becoming more and more apparent that some random Near Earth Object will no doubt bring another "great dying" to our world. Therefore I believe it imperative that we devote a great majority of our available resources to tracking NEO's and developing a foolproof method for diverting them.
With the plethora of planets out there there have to be many that could support life. Given that, it's a small leap to imagine that there are other worlds in which intelligence has developed. It would be fascinating to know how these would have developed differently than us. As we learn more about our own world we're amazed at the forms that life has taken and under what circumstances it ... more »
Growing up in the country in Kansas in the 1950s was amazing. Our Sixth Grade Science textbook had a picture of Explorer I on the cover, and from that time on I was hooked. We read about Telstar. We watched ECHO float across the night sky from the top of our haystack. We built our space station, a triple deck tree house in a walnut tree where we could sit ... more »
My careers have included both the medical and the physical sciences, so I can see that we need both to become an extraterrestrial species. The distances to the planets and the stars are only long in comparrison to the human lifespan. It's time we begin to look at extreme longevty as the ticket to the stars, not just hypervelocity or hybernation. A hundred circuits around our star is not a ... more »
As an engineer I live at the intersection of vision and implementation. What do we want to achieve VS what can we do today. In the public perception of our space programs there is a very large gap between our vision of tomorrow and what we can do today. We talk about setting up colonies on Mars and the Moon but in the last 40 years only our robots have ... more »
I first got interested in space by "Destination Moon", which is surely one of the ten worst movies ever made! When Sputnik was later launched, its presence "over our heads" combined with the angst we kids shared as to when (not if) the "Commies" would drop "the bomb", I realized something entirely new was happening. President Eisenhower responded magnificently. As a Catholic school kid, by the 5th grade I began ... more »
I'd like to think there will be something astounding enough that will make our species think beyond ourselves. Ultimately, that would be the discovery of some another sentience or intelligence, starting with a stronger commitment to extrasolar research and exploration. What is more realistic though, is the knowledge that we still have so much to learn, knowledge waiting for discovery. Our scientific potential is really what awaits us, beyond Titan ... more »
One of my enduring chldhood memories is the night sky I saw from my rural town in New York state. I remember northern lights, and stars and constellations that I can no longer see due to the night lights of civilization. When we first went to the moon, I hoped that an endless frontier had been opened for humanity. To me it became the evolutionary equivalent of earlier Earth sea ... more »
These best color photos from the Soviet Venera 13 lander in 1982 really made me think of worlds beyond our own, way back in high school. I thought to myself after seeing those images for the first time, "This is a real place but not on Earth - totally alien." Been a space and planetary junky every since!
I think we will find worlds that, although they may not have advanced civilizations on them, will offer us a livable environment where we can set up colonies and begin the expansion of humankind, an important step towards fulfilling a dream that we all seem to be born with to climb every mountain and forge every stream.