Sooner or later humanity will have to learn how to deal with the sun when it becomes a red giant and vaporizes everything on this rock. We’re talking maybe 100 million years in the future. Of course before then the moon may escape Earth’s gravity (it’s moving away about an inch and a half a year), and cause the planet to wobble 60 degrees or so (like Mars) and create unlivable weather conditions; or the Earth will get whacked by a meteor large enough to kill off most life. That happens every 130 million years or so. Scientists estimate catastrophic kill-off has occurred between six and 27 times during Earth’s history. See what happens is the sun’s orbit through the galaxy reaches a particular danger zone; that is, our solar system gets too close to several other stars (much larger than our sun) whose gravity causes a gazillion meteors and comets to be slung into our solar system. To make things more interesting, the sun’s orbit also has amplitude (i.e., bounces up-and-down) dragging the planets along for the ride. Jupiter intercepts most of the incoming giant snowballs and rocks, but the supply is limitless, and enough get through to nail the inner four planets. And that is not a probability; that is a certainty! The solar system’s galactic orbit happens to be a cyclical process that we can do nothing about except get the hell out of Dodge. The danger zone cannot be avoided. But get out to where? That’s the question. How? That’s another question. |
Here’s what I’m thinking: In less than 70 years mankind went from a short flight at Kitty Hawk to landing on the moon. With that in mind, what’s to say the “where” and “how” questions won’t be answered? I believe a relocation plan will be available at least for enough forms of life to be sustained. Why? Technology does not stop, but keeps evolving. And with the knowledge and tools we have today technical evolution is exponential. For instance the rockets we use now are as primitive as a sling shot is to an ICBM. The fuel is too cumbersome and short-lived to be of use for an odyssey. But we know that; and solutions to the problems are already being formulated.
But first things first.
Bases with be needed on the moon and/or Mars to launch exploration of the cosmos and deep space. Less gravity means less escape velocity. Plus a different mode of propulsion is required. Ion drives and solar sails are among the options being researched. A solar sail vehicle could launch from the moon, slingshot around the sun and travel at a million kilometers an hour. That’s not fast enough for a timely escape from our galaxy (without wormholes) but it’s a start. Reality check: Voyager, the faster vehicle ever made on Earth at eleven miles per second took nine years to reach Neptune.
Like the first mariners to roll over the seven seas, which were an unknown and frightening mystery, it’s not likely that the first space explorers will return. The cosmos is more vast and chaotic than the oceans and equally unforgiving. Say we land people on Mars to construct a base. Because of the difference in orbits of Earth and Mars it will be two-and-a-half years before the explorers could return. Science is already telling those lining up for the opportunity; that they should plan on never returning; that is, on spending the rest of their lives there. The plan is to send more people every two years for permanent colonization. Science figure Mars was once much like Earth including oceans, but the core of the planet cooled causing loss of the magnetic field, resulting in radiation from the sun stripping the atmosphere. One theory is that if we put enough factories on Mars intentionally pumping out massive amounts of greenhouse gases, the temperature of the atmosphere could be raised 14 to 16 degrees Fahrenheit a century meaning in, say, 800 years Mars would begin to resemble Earth. However, meanwhile there is the extreme wobble of the planet to deal with along with dust devils that can reach 100,000 feet in width. And how about renewable sources of food, oxygen, and water? It will be no picnic.
However, Mars like the moon (and maybe a space elevator) would just be a convenient jumping off place to launch explorations into deep space in search of a planet to inhabit and preserve life. Since the galaxy is about 100,000 light years across, most (if not all) explorers will never return, and be buried in space. So who are these intrepid explorers likely to be? I promise you that even with the risk and likelihood of no return, volunteers will be lined around-the-block. Adventure, even at high risk, happens to be in our nature. We’re an audacious lot.
How will the first be chosen? I have an idea…
Last year I heard some of the petulant, entitled, whining, everybody-gets-a-trophy, Occupy-Wall-Street dipshits make the statement that all people over 55-years-old should hurry up and die. Even though it was an election year I didn’t hear any squeals of protest from the liberals and their willing accomplices in the media. If the statement would have been made about a minority, Muslins, or women all hell would have broken loose. However, older people (all races), Jews, Christians, and white males are an exception. Anyway, here’s my logic for a great recommendation for the first space explorers…
There are many white males between the ages of 60 and 75 who are: 1) in fantastic physical shape many of whom run triathlons and marathons—they have the muscle tone and fitness of healthy 30-year-olds; 2) technically astute with graduate degrees in science and engineering; 3) experienced pilots; 4) widowers; and have 5) demonstrated a cool demeanor under pressure; 6) available; and 7) considered to no longer have value to society, and were downsized because of accounting decisions. (Management with a straight face says, “People are our most important asset!” Oh yeah, then why aren’t they shown on the balance sheet instead of the income statement as an operating expense? Answer from management: “Well, that’s because of…bullshit, bullshit, non-disclaimer, non-disclaimer…”)
So there it is. My recommendation is take the first space explorers for dangerous, high-risk missions from men (and women) from that talented and able group. Let them provide one last valuable contribution to preservation of our species. And when they’re gone, no one will give a rat’s ass anyway. If humanity is to survive it would be prudent to use our assets wisely—all of them.
By Gene “Spaceman” Myers
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