Space colonization, the undead dream



I grew up with sci-fi from all over the 20th century. People have been dreaming of going into space for at least a century now. I can tell exactly what decades-old books and movies people are fans of by their vision of the near future. Enthusiasts still lament the slow death of NASA, and praise the achievements of a certain billionaire who shall remain unnamed. And they always have the same few questions for people who try to inject a little practicality into the discussion.

Why should we be doomed to remain Earth-bound?

What if a big asteroid hits the Earth?

Do you know how many inventions we now take for granted were developed for the space industry?

Well, I have a few questions of my own for all the dreamers whose feet still don't touch the ground after all that happened since the turn of the millennium.

Do you realize how much effort it would take to send a few thousand people into space? Because that's the minimum viable population for Homo Sapiens. Never mind the millions you'd want to send out for a meaningful exodus.

Do you realize how many different specialists you need to keep modern civilization going at present-day standards? We're talking specialties on top of specialties, all supported by an intricate network of academic institutions and research facilities the world over. There must be as many different scientific and engineering qualifications as you've had classes in high school -- as many as the minimum viable population I was mentioning. And yes, you'd need enough people in all of them. Renaissance Men could only exist in the Renaissance. And you couldn't survive on Mars with Renaissance-era tech.

And do you really think having colonies on Mars and the Moon would keep us safe from the Big Asteroid(TM)? Dude, smaller planetary bodies wouldn't take a hit as well as Earth would. And we'd be in a precarious position out there in the first place. You'd be better off trying to salvage the situation right here on Earth. For example by going underground. Or underwater. Or building arcologies (not that it works, we tried). Heck, early mammals survived the asteroid that killed off T-Rex, and they didn't have our abilities.

Not to mention that if we had the ability to send millions of people into space, we could probably divert big asteroids as well...

You want to boost research and development again like we did in the 1960s? Launch a big effort to fix the planet we've broken. Why is that never anyone's dream? We keep talking space, space, space, as if the one home we do have, for real, right here, is worth nothing.

Not futuristic enough, is it? Fixing the planet doesn't come with enough blinkenlights and things that go "voosh". And we want to feel like science heroes. We've been conditioned to, by a century of science fiction.

How about we wake up while we have anything left to dream about.

Welcome to the future.


Tags: science, education