Should Humans Colonize Space

“It will completely change the future of the human race and may determine whether we have any future at all.” The famed astronomer and author, Stephen Hawking, spoke these words through his computer in a lecture to over two hundred people in regard to his call for humans to colonize space.

Hawking presented his argument that this goal would be possible if the human race were to set aside one quarter of a percent of global GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The United States alone would have a share of 35 billion dollars a year, which is more than twice the current budget of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

He also argues that a new manned space-flight program would increase public enthusiasm about space and science in general. However, many in the scientific community are opposed to spending large sums of money on space, when scientific advancements could be more useful here on Earth.

In addition, those against the idea of space colonization believe that it is not even possible, as all the planets in our solar system have problems that make it impossible to live on them currently.

For example, the moon has no atmosphere, Venus is too hot, and Mars is too cool and has too thin of an atmosphere.

Hawking disregards these claims, declaring that an immediate launch of a colonization program could have a moon base established in a few decades, and have humans on Mars by mid-century. He does admit, however, that it would be impossible to reach this goal with current technology, so he encourages the youth of the world to take an interest in science through his lectures and books.

A few experts believe that Mars would be the best place to colonize first, seeing as how it contains the one element essential to life-water. However, there are no firm plans to colonize anytime soon, as NASA officials say that not enough is known about the long-term effects of space flight or radiation in space.

In addition, a single human mission to Mars or anywhere else in the solar system is estimated to cost $10-$50 billion dollars or more.

However, most of these experts agree that if we were to colonize space, the results could mitigate the initial financial outlay. Asteroids could be mined for minerals, and efforts to increase Earth technologies could be an extremely useful economic boost. It is also a good idea to have a quick escape plan, in the event a giant meteor or asteroid were about to collide with Earth. As Oscar Falconi puts it, “It has become more and more apparent that intelligent life on this earth has very little time remaining” (Falconi, 1981).

If humans were to colonize space, how would they go about it? There are several theories on how it can be achieved, but they all have their flaws.

For example, one theory states that space colonies should be set up in orbit (around the Earth or another planet, perhaps), rather than based on a planet. However, anything like this must be completely airtight to maintain a breathable atmosphere, and must rotate to provide pseudo-gravity (such as when a car takes a sharp turn and you are pressed up against the side). In effect, people would be walking on the inside of the hull. The hull itself would have to be protected by about five tons of matter per square meter in order to protect inhabitants from radiation and solar flares. Finally, all waste products, oxygen, water, and other materials would have to be recycled endlessly.

However, there are also great possibilities for these kinds of living spaces. Living in orbit would be much easier to accomplish than on the moon or Mars (which takes many months just to reach), because supplies could be shipped from Earth in a matter of hours, making both construction and quality of life for inhabitants much easier. The gravity we could establish in the stations would be normal. The gravity of the moon and Mars is much less than Earth’s, so anybody raised on these bodies would not be able to build adequate bone and muscle tissue to ever visit Earth-it would be too painful. Colonies could be built many times larger than buildings on Earth, because the weightlessness allows astronauts to move tons of material easily by hand. In fact, if the largest asteroid (Ceres) were used to construct a space colony, the resulting structure would have a surface area of more than 150 times that of Earth, providing uncrowded homes for over a trillion people.

Another benefit of these potential colonies is the privacy they can create. Convents can have their own small colonies, devoid of non-believers of their faith. The handicapped and crippled could live in zero-G colonies, rendering wheelchairs and walkers useless. Prisons could be established, virtually escape-proof. However, it is reasonable to expect that the majority of people living in the colonies will be normal citizens. These citizens will have many forms of recreation available to nobody on Earth.

For instance, although the pseudo-gravity would be Earth-norm on the outside of the hull, the center of any rotating station would have none. This would allow anybody to partake in sports, dance, and aerobics that would be taken to a whole new level than on Earth. Another advantage of these colonies is the potential for constant power. In space, there is no night, so solar power would be available 24/7 for as long as the sun existed. Of course, no space colony will be cheap to build, but if they are in orbit they could supply Earth with valuable goods and services much faster than a colony on the moon or Mars could, paying for the cost of colonization on its own.

It’s a fact – the time for humans on Earth is on the decline. If we expect to continue our existence, we need to look beyond the boundaries of our planet and consider the possibilities that the vastness of space offers. This goal is entirely reachable, but only as long as all of humanity strives towards it together.