The URL at the end of this article covers an interview with Buzz Aldrin hosted by Sir David Frost (who died on Sept. 1st 2013). One of the things he mentioned was the need for the human race to populate Mars if we are to survive. I imagine the intense experience of vulnerability he must have felt stepping onto the desolate moon’s surface for the first time in 1969 did a lot to make him realise how vulnerable we are on our beautiful planet. I cannot imagine how insignificant he felt seeing the Earth-rise for the first time.
There is a strong argument/human imperative to spread the seed far and wide in an effort to ensure survival; it is primal biology 101 and also makes a lot of sense. Reading about recent ‘near misses’ we have had from rogue meteorites (some we expected, others we didn’t know about until they were almost upon us), and contemplating the probable nuclear winter that would envelope us following being struck by one, I think Mr Aldrin has the right idea. Other risks we face include massive solar flares, invasion by aliens and of course, the zombie apocalypse. With our recent discovery of more potentially viable planets to choose from, Mars seems a less likely venue, although it might provide a stopping off point along the way.
The biggest problem that stands between us and this future utopia is the distance to the next nearest habitable planet. We don’t have enough years in us as individuals to make the complete trip even if we could travel at light speed. The Keplar space observatory, launched back in March 2009, has so far discovered 134 exoplanets that could potentially support life. Extrapolating outwards from these observations, there are possibly 17 billion planets of this nature out there! While this is great news for us if we are planning to spread it around a bit, it appears as if we would have to spend the best part of 3 generations on-board a space craft at light speed before getting there. Not to mention the food supplies, energy source for propulsion, equipment for building a colony, and appropriate communications technology to speak with Earth from that distance. Even developing some form of cryostasis technology will only solve one of the many problems we face.
Makes me think we have a long way to go before we can enable failover redundancy for the human race, but at least we’ve started giving it some thought.