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The World Outside

A weekly column exploring issues relating to the environment, the future of our planet and that of mankind.

Either we go into Space or we go extinct

— Filed under: Science & Technology, Opinion

Texas Tech alumnus Rick Husband was the final ...

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A couple of months ago world renowned Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said "It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species, Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of."

This did get some media attention however it seems to me that people in general could not care less about looking at the long term future of man and space exploration. We have not even been to the moon since the 70's and now the Space shuttle program is closing down with nothing yet developed to replace it. Going to the moon and then losing the will to plant a colony will almost certainly be remembered as the moment our civilization failed. It would be like Moses leading his people to the Promised Land, them looking over the mountain and saying, "Nah, too hard we are going back to Egypt."

We need to get society off this rock as soon as possible and establish a permanent self-sustaining settlement on another one as a means of risk mitigation against the various calamities that could destroy human civilization. I feel it should be the United States because someone is going to do it - it will happen eventually. That point should not be up for debate. For us to sit around spending money on things like wars and bailouts instead of continuing the role as the leader in space is short sighted. How many billions have been wasted in Iraq that could have been spent on something truly monumental that would eventually benefit us all as a species and would doubtless bring countless other benefits in the long run.

So what do you think? Am I right or is my head in space?

Kuncen's picture

How long do we have?

Great column, thanks for sharing your perspective. It's a very interesting take. How long do you think before we are able to build a sustainable colony on another planet/moon? A hundred years? And in that time, will we have destroyed the Earth, or will we have maybe evolved to implement plans/actions save it instead?


Ethan's picture

its hard to say

Well Stephen Hawking believes the next 200 years will be the critical period for mankind. I believe we should skip the moon and concentrate on Mars. We could have a sustainable colony on Mars within 50 years if the will was there.

However the Nasa Constellation program has been practically cancelled and no other space agencies have plans for a manned mission to Mars. Hopefully we can keep things together enough so that it will be a possibility but the worldwide increasing population and destruction of the environment does not bode well. I believe we should definately try to fix things on earth but to not move into space as well is short sighted.

Bernard's picture

US as space leaders is debatable

I'm afraid that I must take exception at the idea that the USA should be the leader in space exploration 'without debate'. We have royally mucked up many an endeavor in the past, and I fail to see why we should be the de facto leaders, 'just because'.

Ethan's picture


Well, I believe NASA is the best equipped space agency and has the most experience. In addition they are the only agency who has seriously considered a manned mission to Mars. However China is quickly growing in its capability as well. Its a shame to see Nasa's budget cut the way it has been though.

Anonymous's picture

For devil's advocate: space

For devil's advocate: space is expensive.  Incredibly so.  All of our monies and energies should be turned back toward our planet, which is not too late to save.  We still discover exciting new species every single month!!  Why kick around in the dust of a dead and deserted planet.  Let's use our funds to save this one!

Ethan's picture

why space?

I agree we should dedicate more to saving the planet. However humans as a species have a need to expand. The potential that having a growing colony on Mars could create is enormous. To focus only on earth without planning any expansion into space is short sighted. Any number of events could occur that would devastate life on our planet. A colony on another planet would mitagate any such event and would also I believe foster the development of new technologies that would help earth as well.

anonymous's picture

Tied to this earth

I am surprised at myself, but I feel that the Earth itself is precious, and our human relationship to the Earth is part of who we are.  Would we still be human on another planet?    

Ethan's picture

human evolution

I sgree earth is very precious and I definately hope we can fix things here. Interestingly though humans on a different planet would most likely evolve quickly. For example with the reduced gravity on mars, with a few generations a human from there would likely require an exoskeleton to walk around on earth with the gravity here being that much higher than on Mars.

Winston Smith's picture

The next Earth?

Astronomers have found the most Earth-like planet yet:

The right temperature, the right gravity, probably has an atmosphere, might have water. Only 20 light years away. Sounds promising!

Ethan's picture

thats awesome

thanks for posting that link, interesting to read though that it does not spin like earth but always has one side towards its star. Discoveries like this cannot help but to fire the imagination.

anonymous's picture

I suppose that we are

I suppose that we are citizens of the universe, rather than citizens only of the earth.  But we will have to grow into that.  Right now, most of us see ourselves as patriots of one country.  I think of the wars...

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture


I went into a department store today and had a look at all the new fandangled 3D Tv's they are selling. Truly amazing. I had a brief conversation with the sales rep and he said that we truly are in he age of the Jetsons (the old school cartoon if anyone remembers) and he has been selling TV's for 20 years and never though he would be selling technology like today's. I can imagine in 20 more years time providing we have not blown ourselves up yet that colonizing the moon or Mars too will be a distinct possibility. I was reading an article a few months ago about antigravity. When we fully develop this technology it will revolutionize and start a whole new space race and change the face of the planet most probably not for the better if the warmongers are still in control. But hey what else are we gonna do with ourselves? I think it would be a great injustice to just sit on this rock and not colonize other worlds.   

I'm gonna go read some Peter F Hamilton now.

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

Communists on the moon.

Just heard that China is planning on sending a man to the moon after 2012. Perhaps the Chinese will be the ones to colonize the moon.  

Ethan's picture

they very well might be

The Asian space race happening at the moment is very interesting. I might make my next column about it. I would not be surprised at all if the next man on the moon is Chinese.

Kuncen's picture

The end of US manned space exploration

Here's a new piece on Salon suggesting that the end of US manned space exploration is a good thing.

It has a few good points, but I don't care for the author's tone, and he seems to just assume a lot of stuff as fact without any evidence.


Anonymous's picture

We need to go further than

We need to go further than mars or the moon. The sun is dyingand we should go lightyears out and find a new sun or live in a special space home. Wither way earth WILL be destroyed, in about 5 billion years or so

Anonymous's picture

Look I'm just a kid but i

Look I'm just a kid but i know one thing
Some where in a galaxy far far away! Or how ever long maybe even closer than we think there's got to be other living organisms beings of some sort plants even we can't be the only ones it is up to us if we want to find them think of it as this we are the aliens we need to leave and find them because there waiting for us look I know I sound dumb but this is real... I wish I could live to see something great!... Ohhh if only