Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Escape from Earth
I think that author and people that agree with that sentiment need a serious reality check. Star Trek is not real, and fantasy books that talk about the rapid colonization of space as a way to relieve population pressure on Earth are ludicrous. We have an awful lot of space on Earth to put people that is completely unused and yet is dramatically easier to colonize than anything beyond our atmosphere - say the north or south poles, or the middle of a lifeless sand desert. Imagine the difficulties of setting up a colony on the South Pole. Crushing cold, nighttime that lasts 3 months and total lack of soil for growing things are just a few issues you would encounter, and even if the South Pole was a few million kilometers away instead of a few thousand it is almost inconceivably more hospitable than *anything* else in our solar system.
Many moons or planets in our solar system that are in the 'most likely to be colonizable' category regularly have temperature swings of hundreds of degrees (Mars), impossibly crushing pressure on the surface (Jupiter, Saturn) or simply sit consistently at a few hundred degrees above (Mercury, Venus) or below (Ganymede, Io) maximum human tolerance. Even if the surface of any planet or moon in our solar system was immediately available for colonization there is no chance that anyone would ever go there - every single place would have a lethal atmosphere, produce no food and/or be utterly uninhabitable due to temperature.
Imagine if the absolute worst were to happen and a tactical nuclear weapon were to be detonated over the 1000 most populous cities in the world and the temperature of the earth's surface went up 10 degrees due to global warming. This new planet would be not very well suited to us compared to what we have now, and yet the idea that we would choose a different planet as our home is a joke.
We have precisely one planet to live on. While the space program probably does have many benefits (whether they outweigh the costs I have no idea) an escape hatch should things go badly on Earth is not one of them. We must make do with what we have as there will not be a second chance.