Admit it…you’ve thought about it. What would life on another planet be like? You can see unusual suns, stars, planets, moons, weather, physical features and perhaps even life forms as you panoramically move your gaze around the world your mind’s eye envisions.
NASA wants to take us there. It starts with Mars.
Created during the cold war, the mission of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was the peaceful exploration of space. In the half-century of its existence, we have seen men on the moon, shuttles safely leaving/returning to earth and the construction of a technological marvel in the International Space Station (ISS).But when we think of space—we think of Star Wars and/or Star Trek. We think of space as something teeming with intelligent life. Planets which contain advanced civilizations with whom we’ve established contact, customs, and commerce. Travel to and from these planets is as easy as hopping a plane and flying from one place to another.
Our minds make it seem that simple. Of course, it’s not.
How far HAVE we come?
Why SHOULDN’T we envision travel being that simple? Planes, trains, and automobiles have only been around for around 100 years (trains ~150). That represented a quantum leap forward in travel. Unfortunately, we need at LEAST another quantum leap forward to make space exploration a realistic possibility.
We need to go even further
The leap forward from travel on horseback to rockets propelling us into space was extraordinary. To make deep space travel a realistic possibility, we need a leap forward that makes rocket propulsion look like traveling on horseback.
It took several millennia to make that leap, by the way. Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long for that next leap.
OK…So what else?
So let’s say we solve the speed problem that doesn’t require hibernation (no mean feat). What next? There are still myriad problems that make space travel fraught with peril. These must be addressed prior to finding the people with the right stuff to hurtle themselves through the unexplored cosmos.
Food—You can’t go through into the cosmos without knowing how to feed the humans going there. It takes time and the proper conditions to grow crops for food. Some combination of recycling and rapid turnaround of food production is a must.
Water and Air—like food, recycling is a must. This is easier for both air and water than it is for food, and NASA has pretty much perfected this…but they’re both resource intensive.
Medicine—treatment of astronauts/explorers is a must.
Repairs—the ability to repair your ship is as critical as being able to repair humans. After all, you can’t just call up NASA’s space plumbers if your bathroom fixtures get clogged. Spare parts and the ability to fabricate materials for unforeseen situations have to be addressed.
Scout teams—in sports, your B-team pretends to be an opponent when it scrimmages your A-team. Humans would need a “B-team” to scout out suitable planetary locations to determine if suitable resources were available. B-team translation?…robots, not people.
Communication—right now, we can communicate at the speed of light—pretty quick. Still, it takes three seconds for light to reach the moon, eight minutes to reach the sun and hours to reach Jupiter. Deep space exploration will require some new form of communication to maintain contact with Mother Earth.
Nothing is impossible—though some of the needed innovations seem impossible. When we look back at the technological progress made in just the last 100 years…is ANY of this impossible? Let’s hope not.