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The Top Three Reasons for Humans in Space 732

An anonymous reader writes "Why humans in space? The Space Review has the top three reasons: 3. To work. 2. To live. 1. To survive. 'To work' means doing stuff in space: research, explore, visit, etc. 'To live' means to have humans/life beyond Earth in colonies/settlements. 'To survive' means that putting humans/life beyond Earth is a very Good Thing in case a very Bad Thing happens to humans/life on Earth."
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The Top Three Reasons for Humans in Space

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  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:01PM (#12201216)

    Rather interesting order this article puts the reasons in...

    'to work' is not a real reason to go to space, instead, the article really shold have focused on a) the abundant energy and raw materials available in space, and b) the nearly infinitely-customizable work environments abailable in space. At any rate, this is only a secondary reason.

    'to live'? Exactly what sort of reason is this? Sure, life is important (of course I think that...I'm a living being...I can't help it), but does that mean it's our manifest destiny to spread life throughout the universe, merely for the sake of spreading life? Again, this reason, although important, is purely secondary.

    'to survive'. Finally we come to the heart of the matter...the reason that should have been number one, with the two reasons listed above in support of it. Humankind must colonize space, and do it soon. Between the dwindling rescources available to us while we remain shackled to a gravity well, and the impending mass-extinction events (asteroid, pandemic, super-volcano...take your pick), we are left with very little time in which to secure our species' future. Establishing a viable space-community should be the primary goal of the human race.

    (BTW, more interesting information regarding our continued survival can be found here [].)
    • by Mr.Dippy ( 613292 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:06PM (#12201302)
      "but does that mean it's our manifest destiny to spread life throughout the universe, merely for the sake of spreading life?"

      Obviously you were not raised Catholic.
      • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:10PM (#12201344)
        Obviously you were not raised Catholic.

        Actually, I was. That's why I'm questioning this one.

        TM: "Uh, name is TripMaster Monkey, and I'm a recovering Catholic."
        Group: "HI, TRIPMASTER!"
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Obviously you were not raised Catholic.

        As long as you and your SO are married, Catholics are all for "being fruitful and multiplying". Also incase you haven't noticed, the Catholic Church has a different outlook on science than the in the 17th century.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          you are correct, hey just 13 years ago they admitted that galileo was right and issued a formal apology.

          • by Anonymous Coward
            That is not correct. The issue was never one of whether Galileo was correct, but it was the treatment of Galileo and others. A nice write-up of it is here [].
    • by bahwi ( 43111 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:08PM (#12201324)
      "the reason that should have been number one"

      It is.

      Althought space colonization is a good thing IMO, we're currently bogged down in crap down here. It's time for humans to just get more intelligent about things, from war to drugs to hunger, instead of listening to one person, taking that opinion as their own, and sticking to it for all eternity. The last thing we need is another colony that works the same as Earth, it'd be a little self-defeating after awhile.
      • Actually it may help us to move beyond our problems here. If a group were to go forth and colonize away from the general body, it may allow for different philosophy to take hold. Not to mention with the harsh realities of survival in space, it might force a little practicality on the population, one would hope, no one would care about little things like sexual preference when the regular meteor shower may destroy the living environment and everyone is needed to repair it.

        After all during the colonizing y
        • "After all during the colonizing year (when Europ 'blessed' the world with civilization) didn't the colonies usually end up with more progressive populations, willing to be more practical than hold onto old social norms*."

          I think you confuse causation and correlation. And in any event, I would not regard the Puritans as particularly progressive.

      • by nametaken ( 610866 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:55PM (#12202806)
        we're currently bogged down in crap down here. It's time for humans to just get more intelligent about things

        The funny part of this is that people often think we'll escape what they don't like about society here, by just leaving.

        If your opinions aren't properly represented on earth, what makes you think it will be any different just because you're in space? I think we ought to work on making earth a nice place, THEN worry about how well we can manage ourselves in space colonies.

        Living in space won't make you happy and free. Learning to make a difference here will.
    • by qortra ( 591818 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:10PM (#12201345)
      the article really shold have focused on a) the abundant energy and raw materials available in space

      The article was not about why crap in general should be in space.

      It was in fact about the top reasons for humans in space.

      In fact, having humans in space is not a necessary condition for gathering "abundant energy and raw materials" of other planets. The article just makes the arguments that humans would be better suited than robots to work in space.
    • by PIPBoy3000 ( 619296 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:12PM (#12201387)
      In general, the article seemed a bit fluffy. For example, the robot versus people argument didn't mention that sending up a robot to do a specific task is often one or two orders of magnitude cheaper than people. Robotic capabilities keep getting better while plain old non-genetically modified humans remain the same.

      I'm not sure that people must colonize space immediately. For me, it's like playing those old sim games. Do you spend limited research dollars on building 1960's style moon bases, or keep pressing on and shooting for nanotech before you move off the planet? If you can hold on long enough before colonization, you can move far more people and reach self-sufficiency much sooner.
      • beware (Score:5, Insightful)

        by qortra ( 591818 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:27PM (#12201564)
        That kind of argument can potentially keep humans out of space forever. Theoretically, there will always be superior technology on the horizon, and if we always decide to wait for it, then we'll never get anywhere.

        Also, there is the distinct possibility that the decision for humans to travel to space would actually act as a catalyst for innovation. After all, necessity is the mother of invention.
        • Re:beware (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ostrich2 ( 128240 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:34PM (#12201647)
          Man, you said it. Have you ever looked at the stuff Edmumd Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Mt Everest with? It was like a windbreaker and some fluffy slippers. Ridiculous! The first astronauts may as well have been shot into space with a cannon (and pretty much were) for all the technology they had. People have never, at any point been prepared for what they were doing.
        • Re:beware (Score:3, Interesting)

          by quisph ( 746257 )

          That kind of argument can potentially keep humans out of space forever. Theoretically, there will always be superior technology on the horizon, and if we always decide to wait for it, then we'll never get anywhere.

          This reminds me of the proof [] of the uselessness of running a computer program to print a googolplex. (For a few centuries, anyway.)

          In short, there may indeed be an optimal time before which it would be pointless to colonize space, since our future selves would catch up and overtake us with

    • does that mean it's our manifest destiny to spread life throughout the universe, merely for the sake of spreading life?

      C.S. Lewis, (who was an Anglican) addressed this very concept in his space trilogy. In it, man (and Earth) is corrupted, and the rest of the solar system is not. In the stories, men attempt to leave earth and colonize other planets in order to spread the 'manifest destiney' of Adam's race. Lewis portrays these attempts as misguided and resulting in great evil.

    • by kfg ( 145172 )
      Because it would be really fucking cool!

    • by koa ( 95614 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:36PM (#12201674)
      Qwoth the author:
      Establishing a viable space-community should be the primary goal of the human race

      Interesting point you make, but alas, it may be life that people say is precious. However, the one singulare reason why we as humans are not making space colonisation a top priority is money and greed. If one looks into the past for an answer as to why we are not colonizing space at this point it is simple.. We have not been given the old 'kick in the pants yet' ... I will wager that the INSTANT we get hit with an asteroid that doesnt totally anihilate us, you will see some serious money put into colonising space. Until then procrastination will be king..

      • Establishing a viable space-community should be the primary goal of the human race

        Frankly I think this is idiotic. Simply putting a couple people on Mars would cost a couple hundred billion dollars; establishing a viable, self-sustaining outpost would cost orders of magnitude more. Meanwhile, half the world lives in abject poverty and the environment and climate are going to hell. Hasn't it occurred to anyone that funding a multi-trillion dollar effort to colonize space, with its massive consumption of e

        • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:35PM (#12204161) Homepage Journal

          Hasn't it occurred to anyone that funding a multi-trillion dollar effort to colonize space, with its massive consumption of energy and resources, might push us over the edge and to the very extinction which space fanboys claim to be staving off?

          Yes, I did, right after I read one of Douglas Adams' books in which it was related that an entire empire was lost due to an unsanitized telephone.

          Then I came to my senses.

          Has it occurred to you that the advances in technology made during the space race benefited all humanity? Granted there are still people squatting in the mud building houses out of sticks and straw and mostly going hungry, but those people were doing that BEFORE space travel. Now, they occasionally get someone bringing them some medication, sometimes some food - and the shit is wrapped in space-age (and later) plastics. I don't want to get off on a rant here, so I guess I'll just stop soon, but have you considered that if there is always going to be this great a disparity, the answer is to provide enough wealth so that everyone can actually have some?

          Developing space is highly desirable because it's not hazardous to people living on Earth. Whatever you say about Earth's climate, and the materials lying around on or near its surface, Humans are making it worse in both regards. Even if it's only a tiny nod of the head compared to natural processes, why do we want to do that to ourselves? Putting a lot of our infrastructure in orbit (food and energy production for example, as well as heavy manufacturing, refining, blah blah blah) would allow us to increase production and decrease pollution. Having people up there is sort of a necessary part of building it all, putting it in place, and maintaining it. For some types of problems, you really need a human at this point.

          Starting sooner rather than later means that we will proceed faster. The faster we improve our level of technology the more rapidly the lower levels of technology will reach more people, allowing them to crawl up out of the mud, take a shower, and go to work, feed their family, et cetera. Personally I'm merely hoping that somewhere in the world, these people end up building a society that's not predicated upon taking advantage of the weaknesses of the citizenry.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )
      'to survive'. Finally we come to the heart of the matter...the reason that should have been number one, with the two reasons listed above in support of it.

      I don't agree.

      To survive, we need to focus on what we have now. Even if the Earth goes to hell in a handbasket -- if it becomes a radioactive, greenhouse gassed nightmare, there is little doubt that barring changes to the Sun, the adaptable human species will survive, albeit possibly in greatly reduced numbers. There's a world of difference between
    • 'to survive'. Finally we come to the heart of the matter...the reason that should have been number one, with the two reasons listed above in support of it. Humankind must colonize space, and do it soon. Between the dwindling rescources available to us while we remain shackled to a gravity well, and the impending mass-extinction events (asteroid, pandemic, super-volcano...take your pick), we are left with very little time in which to secure our species' future. Establishing a viable space-community should be
    • I was once at an event at the Johnson Space Center where there was a panel on the space program. The event had a mix of scientists, astronauts, and science fiction writers.

      The topic of why the dinosaurs became extinct came up, with the leading contender being a killer asteroid. Larry Niven turned the issue upside down and said, "The dinosaurs went extinct because they didn't have a space program."

      Given the audience, there was lots of laughter and cheering.
    • Life has always spread itself out to new environments. If they were capable of it, would the plants who first moved up onto the land debated whether or not they should do it?

      Now, we shouldn't go around destroying other life forms we find, but turning sterile environments into healthy biospheres can't be bad thing, whether or not life is rare.

  • by gowen ( 141411 ) <> on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:01PM (#12201222) Homepage Journal
    0. FOX News satellite broadcasts pointing in opposite direction.
  • same reasons (Score:3, Insightful)

    by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:02PM (#12201240) Journal
    Seems to me these are the same reasons for being on Earth...
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:03PM (#12201247) Homepage Journal
    It's a 0 based counter, it's missing the 0th reason for humans in space.


    Yes, you too can mutate beyond your wildest dreams, slice-n-dice your DNA and see what progeny you yield! Two heads? Three arms? Oh, no! That's fine for the Beeblebrox's next door over, but you could have any of the following with proper exposure to unshielded solar radation:

    • Green scale in place of skin!
    • Radar Vision!
    • Able to leap small buildings in a few bounds!
    • Hyperspeed!
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    • Snake Hair!
    • X-Ray Hearing!
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    • Huge pectoral muscles!
    • Chicken feet!
    • Facial tentacles!
    • Long black hair, pasty white skin and interchangeable noses!
    • Shark fins and laser eyes!

    Or with improper planning it may just be a short-lived pile of goo! Send for free brochure:


    PO Box 1484
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    (Include $10 for shipping and handling)
  • Work? (Score:5, Funny)

    by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:03PM (#12201252)
    How the heck did "Work" beat out "Anti-Gravity Porn"?

    I can understand Living and Surviving are pretty important but I could list a few hundred things that would beat out "Work" on my priority list.
  • Another reason... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cmeans ( 81143 ) * <(moc.raftni) (ta) (snaemc)> on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:03PM (#12201253) Homepage Journal
    Because we're curious.

    I/we want to know what's out there.

    • by DarkDust ( 239124 ) *

      Because we're curious.

      In fact IMHO this is the only reason. All other reasons are ridiculous. To work there ? Oh come on, who likes to work ? To live there ? Why, the air is bad and it's rather boring up there. To survive ? The dumbest reason ever.

      What's so bad with admitting that we humans are just f***ing curious ? :-)

  • #3 (Score:3, Funny)

    by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:03PM (#12201256) Homepage Journal
    1. Space
    2. ???
    3. Profit!!!
    • Oh, come on, mods! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ggvaidya ( 747058 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:13PM (#12201393) Homepage Journal
      It's a perfectly valid point! Everybody wants to "Space", but unless there's money to be made, the Big Men With Dollars aren't going to look in your direction. Which means you either need to talk the government into it - hard enough in good times - or you need an angel investor.

      Whichever way you look at it, whichever way it works, finding the mysterious #2 in this case IS our best case to getting into space. Space tourism is risky and expensive, but it's only a start. If we could come up with some good, financial, bottom-line-friendly reasons to get into space, we could get some serious money - and effort - behind it.
  • Survive? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by selectspec ( 74651 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:03PM (#12201261)
    If we can't survive here on Earth, our chances somewhere else are worse.
    • Not if we turn other planets into fake Earths. For example, to colonise Mars, we'll have to create an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere for breathing, add rivers and seas for water, grow fields and farmlands for food, and trees for recycling bits of the atmosphere. With these, there won't be many differences from Earth, so our survival on such a planet should be pretty easy.

      Making other planets into Earths, that's the hard part.
    • Re:Survive? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <> on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:10PM (#12201355)
      If there was an Extinction Level Event on Earth and we had a substantial number of persons else where, then we would have a greater chance of the Human Race surviving. Granted with todays tech we cannot create a viable colony on another planet or in orbit, but all things were started with a small step (America didnt suddenly become 'colonised' by Europeans, it took a small shipload of people to find it, then a few people to go there and live and gradually it built up. Small steps gradually getting bigger). If we dont start small now, we cant continue bigger later.
    • Comment removed (Score:4, Insightful)

      by account_deleted ( 4530225 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:16PM (#12201433)
      Comment removed based on user account deletion
    • Re:Survive? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by selectspec ( 74651 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:22PM (#12201505)
      This article is rediculous. First of all, humans in space is a complete joke: there is very little of interest in space. Humans on other planets is another story.

      However, while all of us dream of populating other planets, the practicality of doing so with today's technology is absurd. For example, we haven't colonized Antartica. Sure there are a few scientists living on isolated stations, but they are doing research - no intention of making the area habitable. If we can't even colonize all of the continents here on Earth, why bother with other planets. A better example is the bottom of the ocean. Why not colonize the ocean floor? It's less rediculous than colonizing the moon.

      On this survival front, no scientist could possibly prove that life is safier anywhere else than on the Earth, where it has been happily plodding along for a few billion years, and so far been unobserved anywhere else.
      • Re:Survive? (Score:3, Funny)

        by RichardX ( 457979 )
        Sure, but you're missing an important point
        <echo>"Humans... On other plaaaaaaaannnnneeeettttttssss"</echo>
        just doesn't sound as good as
        <echo>"Humans... iiiiiin spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!"</echo>
      • Re:Survive? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Wybaar ( 762692 )
        This article is rediculous. First of all, humans in space is a complete joke: there is very little of interest in space. Humans on other planets is another story.

        I disagree with your statement that there is very little of interest in space. Both asteroids and comets are of great interest. Why, you ask? Many comets are made of ice -- frozen water, which will be quite useful if we're going to create colonies either in space or on the surface of other worlds. In addition, if we keep on pumping crap into
    • Re:Survive? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sparohok ( 318277 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:22PM (#12202273)
      I want to elaborate on this. I am quite convinced that the survival argument for space travel is fundamentally an excuse used by people whose real reasons are less rational. How else could such a patently nonsensical argument have gained such passionate support among a community of otherwise intelligent and rational people?

      The counterargument is as follows: what could anybody or anything possibly do to our planet to make it as hostile an environment as, say, Mars?

      Even nuclear war or an asteroid strike would be unlikely to eliminate the oxygen from the atmosphere or change the mean surface temperature by more than, say, 20 or 30 degrees Celsius. Still quite hospitable in the grand scheme of things.

      Rather than shipping a self sufficient colony of humans to Mars, at extraordinary difficulty, expense, and risk, why not just build the same colony in a physically and environmentally isolated place on Earth, like some mine shaft somewhere? Heck, build two for redundancy. The engineering and political risk to such a project would be vastly reduced by avoiding the need to shlep everything between gravity wells. Space travel is extraordinary difficult, and as a result, space engineering projects have a remarkably poor success rate. The survival of the species hardly seems like an area where we should choose to take on vast and unnecessary risks.

      If our goal were truly to protect the survival of the species, we would start with that premise and consider the technical merits of all the possible solutions. Yet we seem to be entering this debate with a preconception that space colonization is the answer. I believe that the answer is preordained simply because survival of the species never was a goal, and never will be; it is simply a rationalization for our desire to explore a new frontier!

      I think nothing illustrates this better than the political absurdity of actually implementing a realistic human survival plan here on Earth. Can you imagine getting Congress to spend a few billion dollars for a self sufficient colony on Earth? It would be laughed out of committee. Even at the height of the Cold War, we were telling schoolchildren to hide under their desks instead of seriously trying to protect our future. And just writing these words, I am starting to sound like a survivalist crackpot!

      Why is it so much easier for us to justify an enormously difficult, expensive, and failure prone attempt at survivalism in space when we do it so much better, faster, and cheaper here on Earth?

  • by IdJit ( 78604 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:03PM (#12201262)
    Instead of pushing outward in it's exploration ventures, NASA should push inward and delve deep into Earth's oceans. There's a lot of possibilites for research and discovery right in our "big backyard bathtub" if only we'd take the plunge.

    Mission costs would be lower, and I really believe the payoff would be much, much greater!
  • Get me off this crazy planet. Other humans are making the environment (work, atmosphere, etc) unpleasant for me. Will bartend in zero-g for food.
  • by bonch ( 38532 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:06PM (#12201301)
    The glorious potential of space porn!
  • Redundant (Score:2, Insightful)

    Where the hell is the classical geek answer?


    Because I can, possibly the greatest reason known.
  • by BigGerman ( 541312 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:11PM (#12201360)
    In the heart of any exploration, any advance of human genius, there was always some personal itch needed to be scratched.
    "oh, we can get to India faster" or "oh, we can fly mail to South America in 3 days" or "oh, we can throw explosives further", all this comes later as part of the speech aimed at the venture capitalists, etc. The foundation, the basic desire is always just because it is there. The practical needs come later.
  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:17PM (#12201447) Homepage
    Always have a backup civilisation/planet/atmosphere in case the first goes down.

    Make sure you have enough redundancy in your population to ensure DNA data integrity
  •'s top 10 (Score:5, Informative)

    by djinn2020 ( 874365 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:27PM (#12201566) Journal
    The Expanded reasons from

    1. To Secure a Future for Humanity (when we deplete the ozone/nuke ourselves out)
    2. To Build a New Frontier (welcome the space cowboys and their space cattle drives)
    3. To Find New Energy Sources (hydrogen wells)
    4. To Build an Industrial settlement On the Moon (more likely than not it will be a military establishment; MoonWars 2034)
    5. Better Quality Images of the Universe -- and More of Them (no air to look through means fewer distortians; I refer to hubble and all of its glory)
    6. The SETI Effort (same problem of distortion of current signals, but on earth it is due to ambient radio wave interferance from all the devices we run here)
    7. Mining (rare elements here on earth will abound on different planets/moons; some elements' abundance in asteroids could reduce prices here on earth exponentially)
    8. Learning the History of Our Universe On the Moon (lunar geology, a hands-on test of our theories and observations about the varying ages of planets and moons)
    9. Environmental Benefits (perhaps, more than likely we will discover more environmental problems such as breathing sharp lunar dust and introducing extra-terrestrial life into earh's ecosystem)
    10. Meeting the Challenge (if we can, we will; I'm sure about that)
  • Missing the Point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by logicnazi ( 169418 ) <> on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:27PM (#12201568) Homepage
    Damn Formating

    This article entierly misses the point. No one argues that humans should not eventually go to space for these reasons and many more. The question is whether it makes sense to send people into space now.

    In particular the question boils down to whether the money spend on human space flight now would be better spent on general technological advancement and not wasted on giant solid rocket boosters. This general technilogical advancement would then reduce the cost and increase the utility of going to space. This would be a plan to ultimately colonize space faster in the long run and in no way contradicts the arguments in the article.

    In short the question is whether we are ready for human space flight or if we should spend more of our resources laying groundwork. I mean I think we all agree that in the 1950's it would have been a mistake to just try and build a really big v2 and do space exploration in that fasion. Instead we needed to do lots more research and build tools. Perhaps we need to build better launch systems, robotic support systems, life support systems and the like before it really makes sense for humans to be in space.

    In particular at the moment it is not economically effective to send humans to space for raw materials. Thus at the moment argument 1 doesn't really apply yet. Also we don't have the technology to establish independent colonies. If the earth was hit with a disaster any space colonies we had now would die without support. This means argument 3 doesn't really apply yet. Finally argument 2 is a good general goal but it has no time component. Sure lets put life in space but lets spend our money now on technology and later use that to more effectively put life in space.

    (Yes I admit that human space flight has some spin offs. However, my claim is that these spin offs are not really worth the large price compared to other research opportunities like robots or ground based research)

    • by El ( 94934 )
      The reason we need to put a few people into space now is quite simple: the only way to determine the long term health effects of living in space is to have people living in space! We need to start the long-term research now, so we can better design life support systems for the time in the future when it makes more sense to send people into space.
  • by traffi ( 800888 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:40PM (#12201735) Homepage
    This whole article sounds exactly like it is introduced: Something that will sound good to president Bush, who has already made up his mind (feel free to mod down).

    Still, the author does put a nice economic sounding spin to his argument.

    Risk management catchphrases:

    "Don't put all your eggs in one basket", "diversify your portfolio", "spread your risk",

    Supply and demand:

    The most valuable part of the universe is life: not only because life is important, but because life appears to be extremely rare.

    This all sounds well and good but I think the author might give "cost-effectiveness" a look.

    Cost-effectiveness [] is "a comparison between the relative expenditure (costs) and outcome (effects) associated with two or more courses of outcome."

    The US administration contends that the Koyoto agreement is too costly to implement. How about increasing the value of our current investment (earth) by decreasing the probability that something might go wrong (global warming).

    Surely it is more cost-effective to limit Co2 emissions that to burn away and aim for Mars in 2030?

    Also, if life is so valuble due to its rarity, why jump the gun and send astronauts out to do what robots can do just as well (and they can for now)? Investing in artificial intelligence has a higher probability of returning an eventual profit that investing in life support. We're more likely to be able to use AI in various indurstries than we are of making earth inhabitable in the near future.

    When we've got the AI technology right, we'll send robots out to colonize and will therefore have to do less research into life support.

  • by carambola5 ( 456983 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:47PM (#12201801) Homepage
    I kid you not, I wrote this on my whiteboard at work for all to see:
    Dinosaurs are extinct because they didn't have a space program.

    Slight oversimplification, but the idea is there.

    Oh and by the way, IAARS (I am a rocket scientist).
  • by geomon ( 78680 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:54PM (#12201903) Homepage Journal
    I heard Peter Ward and Don Brownlee pumping their book a couple of years ago on National Public Radio's Science Friday []. They propose that NO life will be possible in approximately 500 million year due to the life cyle of the Sun. I only heard the last few minutes of their explanation, but they contend that the organic molecules that life depends on here on Earth will not form under the intense ultraviolet radiation that will be pumped from Sol in a half-billion years. No organic molecules, no life.

    Okay so what if they are wrong? If Sol takes the normal life course of any star it will expand and consume the inner terristrial planets, Earth included. That scenario can only be avoided by the only other option stars take: a nova and possible core collapse. That isn't exactly a path that leads to expansion of organic life either.

    So we either move out into space or die out as a life form. Humans might not (probably not) exist in those timeframes, but organic life will have to move to survive.
  • Malthusian Dilemma (Score:3, Insightful)

    by publius_ovidius ( 870895 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:08PM (#12202086) Homepage Journal

    OK, maybe my thoughts on this matter are a bit simplistic, but if you consider the Malthusian Catastrophe [] (sometimes known as the Malthusian Dilemma), it boils down to two things:

    1. Our planet has limited resources
    2. We're using them

    While, in theory, some would argue we should adopt economies based upon sustainability rather than growth, I think it's more realistic to say that this will only happen when we have no choice. In the meantime, in our never-ending quest for resources, we can look at those two bullet points and notice that the real limiting factor isn't "resources", but "our planet."

    I certainly don't believe we can solve our population problems via space exploration, nor do I think it's likely we're soon going to be in a position to utilize enough space-based resources to make a difference at the bottom of our gravity well. However, we can still spread the human race further and increase our chances of survival (as mentioned in the article) by ensuring that some humans are not dependent on our planet's resources.

    But as a last ditch effort to sway those Harvard business school types who really don't understand the long-term benefits we get from space exploration, here's a short list of technologies have been directly a direct result or space research or greatly enhanced by said research:

    • Air quality monitors used in smokestacks
    • Better structural analysis technologies
    • Energy efficient insulation
    • Freeze-dried food
    • Machinery lubricants
    • Many new medical techniques
    • New hydroponics techniques
    • Scratch resistant lenses
    • Semiconductors
    • Smoke detectors
    • Solar energy
    • Water purification systems
    • Weather forecasting
    • And many more ...

    I've ranted a bit more about this in one of my journals [].

  • by Cyn ( 50070 ) <cyn.cyn@org> on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:17PM (#12202209) Homepage
    Just think - with overpopulation and limited resources, moving out into space solves all our problems for FREE!

    Oh wait - no it doesn't. Say we even manage to get 1% of the earths population out there off the earth. We'll quickly replace that number on earth alone, despite all the effort (and vast resources) being put forth to sustain the colonies that are to be created off-world. Now we have even fewer resources, for still more population. We'll still be providing the resources for that off-world population (plus a big load of technology) for years to come, easily a few generations, before they can become reasonably self-sufficient.

    Even when that point comes, we'll just be back where we started - humans ruining other moons or planets.

    Maybe we should get our shit together at home before we spread forth, otherwise we're the same as all of those 'evil aliens' in all our movies that come to steal the earths resources. Didn't you ever wonder why that was such a common plot point?

    If we don't, we're just a virus and a plague on this galaxy.
  • No mention of... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by clambake ( 37702 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @02:08PM (#12202992) Homepage
    1. Unlimited energy
    2. Unlimited raw materials

    That seems to me to be such a greater proposition than "to work" or "to live". Imagine tne entire world entering an economic prosperity that doesn't end for fifty thousand years... That's think kind of thing you get by utilizing the resources of our solar systel, let alone outer space.
  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @04:03PM (#12204600)
    Similar to the ships designed in space postulated by Clarke, but with robots and solar/nuclear hybrid power - we launch an entire fleet of them towards all the stars in our galaxy likely to have Class M (sorry for the Trek ref) planets - and embryos frozen.

    There is no reasonable cryogenic method to take a human form and shut it down for millions of years. But it's feasible with frozen embryos.

    How we grow them from there, I don't know. We'd some way to create test tube babies without implanting them in a host.

    The adam and eve of the new solar system are created. If it turns out there is habitable planet in that system - they win. If there isn't, the humans can nuke themselves or something.

    I don't know - seems the only way. The distances are just so huge and the time scales so vast, that transporting organic material that far seems impractical.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling