As stated elsewhere on this website, we accept interstellar space travel as an absolute requirement for the sustained long-term survival of our species (or derivatives therefrom). But of course, it is not the “travel” part of the equation that is the most important. It is the “colonization” aspect which is key to this evolutionary activity. And while most individuals have a general notion of space colonies as domed habitats in near vacuum environments (i.e the “moon”), there are a number of possibilities beyond this basic model. Mars will be our first significant step.
:: Mars Colonization
There has been much recent activity related to the colonization of Mars. Zubrin’s historical book The Case for Mars is an excellent treatment of this subject, received recognition from Carl Sagan, and influenced NASA plans. It is is not a vision for the far future or one that will cost us impossible billions. It explains step-by-step how we can use present-day technology to send humans to Mars within ten years; actually produce fuel and oxygen on the planet’s surface with Martian natural resources; how we can build bases and settlements; and how we can one day “terraform” Mars, a process that can alter the atmosphere of planets and pave the way for sustainable life.
:: Interstellar Colonization
After making our initial foray into space by colonizing select locations within the solar system and establishing permanent space colonies in orbit around earth, the additional resources and wealth at our disposal will enable the number of solar and interstellar colonization efforts to increase. The fascinating aspect of this is the dispersal and diversification of the human species. We envision entirely autonomous colonies departing for star systems likely to contain habitable planets. Because of the distance and delay in communication, it is highly unlikely that colonists will hold any allegiance whatsoever to their former homes or governments. New political systems and social interactions will develop, influenced by two overwhelming realities not currently a part of our every day existence:
- The certain understanding of the fragile, closed environment in which they travel and that they must share with a finite number of people for perhaps centuries/several lifetimes. This is diametrically opposed to the “endless sea of humans breeding like rabbits and over exerting our welcome on such a benign environment as earth” mentality we all can’t help but have. “We are billions. Surely we are invincible.” Ha!
- At the other end of the spectrum is the psychological release from terrestrial thinking. It will no longer be “the world is our oyster,” but “the universe is our playground”. This freedom, which will be both a source of liberation and fear will most likely have a profound affect on our spacefaring descendants. The first successful colony or two, and there will be failures getting to there, will be reticent to think of themselves as conquerors of the universe. Repeated victories will surely embolden our spacefaring mentality.
The robust and enduring spirit of the human race will sustain our inherent expansion proclivities such that we either expand to conquer the universe or meet external forces with which we have to deal.
Kepler Telescope and Earth-like Planets
It should be noted, for those of you who did not follow the Kepler mission, that the results for the search of earth-like planets in the habitable orbital zone of nearby stars in a very small region of space yielded unprecedented results beyond even the most aggressive estimates. At the outset mission leaders suggested we may find dozens of planets in near by space. The actual results? As of early in 2013 more than 2,740 planet candidates have been identified. And that’s just in the small section of sky surveyed.
The planets are out there waiting for our interstellar propulsion system technology to catch up with other disciplines.
High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space
by Gerard K. O’Neill, Freeman J. Dyson (Introduction)
This expanded third edition features a preface by Roger O’Neill, an introduction by Freeman Dyson, and essays by top experts in the field of space research, including Roger O’neill, David Gump, Peter Glasser, Margo Deckard, George Friedman, Rick Tumlinson and John Lewis. Man’s on-going conquest of the solar system has been much publicized for its miraculous accomplishments. What is generally less publicized are the potential uses of space beyond simply landing men on another planet. “Flags and foot prints” is something we can all be proud of, but the true value of near-Earth space lies with the possibilities for manufacturing and colonization. Processes not possible on Earth, because of atmosphere and gravity, can be employed in space to produce unique and highly desirable commodities. Habitats built in space, occupying the same orbit as the moon and made primarily from lunar raw materials, can be the necessary answer to our desperate, ever-increasing needs for living and agricultural areas. Gerard K. O’Neill is universally recognized as the father of the “O’Neill colony” concept. Beginning in the 1970′s, he took the original concepts and built from them a complete, realistic and attainable plan – a plan to orbit permanent colonies at the L4 and L5 Lagrange points in near-Earth space, where everyday people would live, work and play in comfort and safety in an environmentally satisfying world. In this 3rd edition of The High Frontier, is O’Neill’s original blueprint for the future, accompanied by new chapters presenting the up-to-date technologies and social considerations that impact upon and further justify the plan. This is a vision of a possible hopeful future that could already have come to pass if the human race had committed to it – it is still a source of hope for the future. Space and all its advantages need not be limited to only those with “the right stuff”, it should and can be for all of us. Includes: CD-ROM featuring: Presentations by Gerard O’Neill and the Space Studies Institute. More than an hour of MPEG video.
Islands in the Sky: Bold New Ideas for Colonizing Space
by Stanley Schmidt (Editor), Robert Zubrin (Editor)
“Let the meek inherit the earth the rest of us are going to the stars! Here’s how it’s going to be done.” Robert Zubrin
“These articles are not ‘just science fiction.’ They are things we can do and with any luck at all, and vision and determination, we will.” Stanley Schmidt
Take off on a thrilling journey of space exploration and speculation to the realm where science fiction becomes science fact as leading writers, researchers, and astronautic engineers describe a not-too-distant future of interstellar travel and colonization. From cable cars that ride “skyhooks” into space to rockets that can refuel out of Martian air, from “terraforming” planets (a process that makes them habitable for human life) to faster-than-light propulsion systems, Islands in the Sky offers an astonishing collection of challenging and plausible ideas and proposals from the pages of Analog magazine. Brilliant and provocative, here is fun-filled reading for everyone interested in science, technology, and the future.
Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization
by Robert Zubrin
Astronautical engineer Zubrin stirred up more than a few imaginations with his 1996 The Case for Mars, which explained how and why humans could visit the red planet cheaply and soon. Zubrin’s confident followup divides its predictions and programs into three sections: the first covers near-term projects in Earth orbit, with a view to commercial possibilities. The second part takes on the Moon, Mars, asteroids and the outer solar system, and the third adopts an optimistic view of interstellar travel and extraterrestrial life. Zubrin’s range can amaze: he begins with the Space Shuttle (misguided and inefficient, he argues) and ends with speculation about how humanity might “change the laws of the universe.” In between, Zubrin (privy to some of the dealings involved) shows how American politics quashed recent chances of cheap space flight; how “shake-and-bake” processing can profitably mine helium from the Moon; what we can do to defend life on Earth against a real-life Armageddon asteroid; and how a magnetic sail might speed up and slow down a starship. Zubrin’s engineering background and his crisp prose make him a confident explainer, as technical as he needs to be but rarely more so. Regular readers of science fiction and anyone else with high school chemistry and physics will understand his arguments about the engines, ships and industries he proposes to create. His gung-ho clarity may even raise suspicions, especially when he moves from physics to metaphysics: Will the species really stagnate unless we become a “Type II” civilization? But anyone who cares about space travel will care about some part of this book. While some will gravitate to the near-term proposals, others will happily escape their pull and reach, with Zubrin, for the stars.