A-Z of the Future > Space Colonization
One day, Earth may not be home. Through investment from NASA and private organisations, the long-mooted ‘life on Mars’ is becoming ever closer to reality, meaning humans having the rocket capability and technology to permanently inhabit far-flung reaches of our solar system in the centuries ahead.
The speed at which this happens is dependent on many factors, none more so than the pure scale of the distances involved, and corresponding costs.
Some see it as an essential step in how humans can safeguard their existence should natural or man-made disaster destroy civilisation on Earth. The next giant leap for mankind to satisfy our instinctive curiosity for new frontiers.
The prospect of terraforming other planets to suit human needs concerns many others - that we’d simply be extending our colonial instincts into space, taking war, social inequality and other human foibles onto places that our bodies and minds weren’t made for.
There are huge obstacles to how humans could live elsewhere in the universe, let alone be self-sufficient and self-governing. But rapid technological progress is edging us closer to this possibility. Robots or machines could be sent as explorers to test the survival prospects for human life elsewhere in space, and assess the availability of additional resources - including the inter-planetary harnessing of solar power - to enable the expansion of human society. Genetic engineering could produce new functions for humans to be able to exist comfortably outside of Earth’s atmosphere, such as protecting us from cosmic radiation.
One day, our descendants may live far away from Earth - potentially on exoplanets like Epsilon Eirdani b, Gilese 674 b and Gilese 581 d. But would the civilisations they live in find a solution to humanity’s destructive tendencies, and create a more harmonious and equal society?