Our Future Universe
"What comes over a man, is it soul or mind- That to no limits and bounds he can stay confined?"
--Robert Frost, poet
"I don't think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I'm an optimist. We will reach out to the stars."
--Stephen Hawking, cosmologist
Credit: STS-115 Shuttle Crew, NASA
The International Space Station
The urge to explore is part of what it is to be human. Throughout our history, pioneers have taken great risk to venture into the unknown. Now, some say, the greater risk might be to stay on Earth.
Grave threats such as environmental collapse, pandemic disease, and technology run amok could one day overwhelm us. The only way to ensure our survival, some say, is to venture into space. They claim it is impossible to contain all possible risks and our species is too vulnerable to disaster if we remain confined to one planet. Others say the only way to ensure our survival is to take better care of our planet and each other, sacrificing short-term comforts to leave a safer world for our children and their descendants.
Colonization of space might have another consequence as well: the splitting of our species. If we were divided into separate populations that could no longer interbreed, evolution could eventually produce new human species.
Credit: ESA & NASA; Ack: E. Olszewski (U. Arizona) HST
Open Cluster NGC 290: A Stellar Jewel Box
Is Anyone Home?
Our Sun is just one of an estimated 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the visible universe. If even a tiny fraction have planets with water and other requirements for life, the number of planets suitable for human colonization would be immense.
Our species would have to survive for another hundred million years to match the record of some extinct species of dinosaurs.