Last weekend, while reveling in the new Star Trek movie‘s general awesomeness vision of a unified, space-faring humanity, I realized how little we are currently doing to make this vision a reality.
That‘s not to say we should don ugly space-sweaters and go looking for pointy-eared aliens suspiciously resembling Lord of the Rings elves, but begin to think about the long-term survival of Homo sapiens (that‘s us). If the human race hopes to survive in the long haul, then it must expand and intensify its exploration of space and eventually establish colonies outside of Earth. Why? Well, hold your Spaceballs because I‘ll tell you.
Overpopulation: Today there are just over 6.8 billion people living on the jolly blue and green rock we call home. The world population growth rate fluctuates between 1 percent and 1.5 percent and with so many people getting busy, nearly 80 million people are added to the word population every year, and by 2050 the world population is projected to reach about 10 billion, a shit ton of people for little ol‘ Earth to support. Colonizing other celestial bodies in the solar system and beyond could remedy this by providing a population safety valve and preventing a Malthusian nightmare from occurring. The moon and Mars are prime candidates for future colonization. Once habitable planets are discovered outside of the solar system, mankind could close the immense distances between the stars by building the theoretical warp drive designed by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierrie.
Resources: The earth cannot long sustain the rate humanity is currently consuming its resources, and all who have endured Houseboats undoubtedly understand this sentiment. Unless you want to be the guy/gal stuck suckling ketchup packets for sustenance on day 2, people must manage their scarce resources (Natty kegs and hot dogs) to last through the 3-day haul. Like the impoverished Houseboater abandoning ship to search for more Natty, humanity must also go beyond the Earth to secure natural resources. Asteroids could be mined for iron-nickel ore and other valuable metals and ice-covered asteroids and comets could be tapped to provide new water sources. This would lighten Earth‘s heavy burden, save the planet, while satiating mankind‘s hunger for resource consumption.
International Cooperation: In addition to being a pinnacle of human technological achievement, the International Space Station represents what the international community can accomplish when it unites under a common purpose. Space exploration unites humanity, gives it a common purpose and decreases the chances mankind will destroy itself. As colonization of the Solar System and beyond commences, nationalistic rivalries will be replaced with a pervasive sense of international cooperation that will hopefully bring stability to Earth. Ever read Ender‘s Game? It‘s kind of like that, minus the xenocidal aliens (although that would work too).
Cataclysmic Disaster: When it comes to the long-term survival of a species, it‘s never a good idea to put all of your marbles into one basket, but unfortunately this is exactly humanity‘s state of affairs today. If a mass extinction event were to occur on Earth today like it has in the past (i.e. what the asteroid cataclysm did to the dinosaurs and Gigli to Ben Affleck‘s acting career), then would be game over for Homo sapiens. Establishing a human presence outside of Earth would increase the likelihood of long-term survival by sowing humanity‘s seed among the stars.
To ultimately achieve these ends and ensure humanity doesn‘t bite the dust, space agencies worldwide and especially NASA need to taste bigger pieces of the budgetary pie while at the same time receiving more public support. Eventually NASA, the European Space Agency and other national space agencies should unite to form an International Space Agency, combining all the resources and brainpower of the human race to venture into the great unknown.
If the world can set aside its differences, come together, and make Homo sapiens a space-faring race, then the fantastic future displayed in Star Trek may one day change from science fiction to science fact.
MIKE HOWER thinks the 21st century is not as technologically marvelous as it was cracked up to be. We don‘t even have phasers yet. Beam him a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.