If and when Earth is no longer able to sustain human life, where should we go? NASA says that a colony could be dug several feet below the surface of our moon (with a cover to protect residents from high-energy cosmic radiation, which can damage our DNA and lead to cancer).
Or we could head for the resource-rich moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Mars is very Earth-like, with enough carbon in its soil to grow plants, and daytime temperatures that reach 70°F. And that’s only the start of our options. Popular Science explores:
Earth won’t always be fit for occupation. We know that in two billion years or so, an expanding sun will boil away our oceans, leaving our home in the universe uninhabitable—unless, that is, we haven’t already been wiped out by the Andromeda galaxy, which is on a multibillion-year collision course with our Milky Way. Moreover, at least a third of the thousand mile-wide asteroids that hurtle across our orbital path will eventually crash into us, at a rate of about one every 300,000 years.
Indeed, in 1989 a far smaller asteroid, the impact of which would still have been equivalent in force to 1,000 nuclear bombs, crossed our orbit just six hours after Earth had passed. A recent report by the Lifeboat Foundation, whose hundreds of researchers track a dozen different existential risks to humanity, likens that one-in-300,000 chance of a catastrophic strike to a game of Russian roulette: “If we keep pulling the trigger long enough we’ll blow our head off, and there’s no guarantee it won’t be the next pull.”
Many of the threats that might lead us to consider off-Earth living arrangements are actually man-made, and not necessarily in the distant future. The amount we consume each year already far outstrips what our planet can sustain, and the World Wildlife Fund estimates that by 2030 we will be consuming two planets’ worth of natural resources annually.
None of the threats we face are especially far-fetched. Climate change is already a major factor in human affairs, for instance, and our planet has undergone at least one previous mass extinction as a result of asteroid impact. “The dinosaurs died out because they were too stupid to build an adequate spacefaring civilization,” says Tihamer Toth-Fejel, a research engineer at the Advanced Information Systems division of defense contractor General Dynamics. “So far, the difference between us and them is barely measurable.”
Read the rest at Popular Science
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