It’s the final countdown: from wasteland to spaceland

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This planet won’t be able to sustain our exploding population and massive consumption of resources forever. One possible solution to this is simply shipping humans to live in a space station which would lessen the strain on earth. As tempting as it may be to leave our mess behind, we humans should not leave, but instead fix our problems on earth.

The March 2011 edition of Popular Science took a look at the likely possibility of removing humans from earth and living in space, addressing all the what, where, why and hows. It’s remarkable to contemplate the notion of leaving earth and surviving among the cosmos, but it will require much consideration by both NASA and us.

Two main reasons scientist give for leaving our home are rapid consumption of resources and climate change, which will bring water shortages and massive natural disasters. Of course ultimately the sun will burn out and in its death throes, destroy our delicate atmosphere and evaporate all oceans. Not for several billion years though, so we have some time to plan.

But this is the natural cycle of everything: we live and we die.

The National Space Society has been mapping out where we could live in space. Ideas are anywhere from our own moon, to the moons of Jupiter or Saturn, Mars or even a space station.

Exploiting extraterrestrial resources from Mars or other planets sounds like a great plan until we look at the harsh reality of what we have already done to our own planet. From our own evidence, there is no reason to believe that we won’t destroy another planet by milking it bone-dry of materials.

NASA’s Ames Research Center has a website dedicated to space civilization prototypes for plausible solutions to our predicament. Each would be equipped with living and recreational facilities to accommodate its population. According to the article, 150 people would be its maximum capacity in to “avoid the consequences of inbreeding, although ideally the rotating inhabitants would exist in socially interactive clusters.” But if we had controlled population in the first place, there would be no need to ship humans off earth.

A problem with controlling space population is allowing each person to access “stored DNA” in case more options were needed. Can you imagine being able to create a person the same way we bubble in a scantron on a multiple choice test? A: blue eyes, B: green, C: brown…

The next big issue is cost. These numbers are in the billions from mainly the private sectors and some government. Issues of how to launch both cargo of this magnitude and humans to a spot in space are debated by scientists at NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts. Some ideas for launch methods are using nanotechnology, teleportation (yes like star trek) and hoisting us up by a cable.

There are plenty of problems we have already created on earth that could use a few billion dollars to solve. Rather than spend money running away from this disaster we created, we need to take responsibility and fix it. If not, we will leave behind a wasteland and live in a place where we look and function like the cartoon humans in Wall-E.