All you Star Trek fans rejoice, Stephen Hawking has said that we had better head for the stars in order to save humanity. Unfortunately in this current financial climate that just might be a little iffy.
According to the Huffington Post and The Winnipeg Free Press, Stephen Hawking has said that between our growing population, use of finite resources and our genetic code we need to colonize outer space and soon.
"We are entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history," said Hawking, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, leaving him almost completely paralyzed and unable to speak.
"Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill. But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million.
"Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain lurking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space."
But Houston we have a problem. Funding for space exploration is running into the same financial landmines as everything else. The Washington Post recently reported that NASA saw funding restored for the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble’s replacement, and “a new giant rocket and a deep-space capsule to carry astronauts far beyond Earth.”
Unfortunately, that means that funding for other projects is being cut. NASA’s Commercial Crew & Cargo initiative will not receive the money that President Obama had requested. Essentially the program provides financial and technical resources to private companies “to develop and demonstrate safe, reliable, and cost-effective space transportation capabilities.” That means that we will continue to spend “$480 million per year beyond 2016” to ferry astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station using Russian rockets.
Hurtling out into space is not a new idea. Writers and movie makers have been encouraging our space fantasies for over 100 years. (see Jules Verne From the Earth to the Moon, H. G. Wells War of the Worlds, Flash Gordon, or most of the offerings at Baen) Even though the U.S. was the first country to put a man on the Moon, they might not be the first to colonize it. It looks like that honor may go to the Chinese according to China Daily.
POPSCI has reported that Japan wants a Moon base by 2020 and some in the US Congress want one by 2022. However, that requires funding and from what it looks like some sort of territorial coordination with other countries.
One of the skills that we need to cultivate in order to survive is cooperation. Without cooperation we as a species will have a hard time surviving. Working together and sharing technology, we might be able to jumpstart our Moon bases and deep space exploration earlier than if we go at it piecemeal. Between the European Space Agency, Japanese, and Chinese space programs and NASA, colonizing space should become a reality
If you remember Star Trek’s crew was multinational if not multiworld.
Above Photograph, “30 Doradus – The Growing Tarantula Within” from NASA