Space and survival

Space and survival

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Space and survival is the relationship between outer space
Outer space
Outer space is the void that exists between celestial bodies, including the Earth. It is not completely empty, but consists of a hard vacuum containing a low density of particles: predominantly a plasma of hydrogen and helium, as well as electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields, and neutrinos....

 and the long-term survival of the human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

 species and civilization
Civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

. Its investigation is justified by the fact that space colonization
Space colonization
Space colonization is the concept of permanent human habitation outside of Earth. Although hypothetical at the present time, there are many proposals and speculations about the first space colony...

 and space science
Space science
The term space science may mean:* The study of issues specifically related to space travel and space exploration, including space medicine.* Science performed in outer space ....

 could prevent many human extinction
Human extinction
Human extinction is the end of the human species. Various scenarios have been discussed in science, popular culture, and religion . The scope of this article is existential risks. Humans are very widespread on the Earth, and live in communities which are capable of some kind of basic survival in...

 scenarios. A related observation is the limited time and resources thought by some to be available for the colonization of space.

Uses of space colonization


Extinction can be prevented by improving the physical barrier or increasing the mean distance between people and the potential extinction event
Extinction event
An extinction event is a sharp decrease in the diversity and abundance of macroscopic life. They occur when the rate of extinction increases with respect to the rate of speciation...

. For example, people may survive imminent explosions by being in a bunker or evacuating. Pandemics are controlled by putting exposed people in quarantine
Quarantine
Quarantine is compulsory isolation, typically to contain the spread of something considered dangerous, often but not always disease. The word comes from the Italian quarantena, meaning forty-day period....

 and moving healthy people away. The human lineage of genus Homo
Homo (genus)
Homo is the genus that includes modern humans and species closely related to them. The genus is estimated to be about 2.3 to 2.4 million years old, evolving from australopithecine ancestors with the appearance of Homo habilis....

 has reduced from several species co-existing on Earth to just one — all others went extinct before the end of the last Ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

. This illustrates that Homo sapiens
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

 is not immune to planetary disaster and that human survival may be better assured through the colonization of space.

Barrier


Life support system
Life support system
In human spaceflight, a life support system is a group of devices that allow a human being to survive in space.US government space agency NASA,and private spaceflight companies...

s that enable people to live in space may also allow them to survive hazardous events. For example, an infectious disease
Infectious disease
Infectious diseases, also known as communicable diseases, contagious diseases or transmissible diseases comprise clinically evident illness resulting from the infection, presence and growth of pathogenic biological agents in an individual host organism...

 or biological weapon that transmits through the air could not infect a person in a closed life support system, as an internal supply of air and a physical barrier would exist between the person and the affected environment.

Location and distance


Expanding the living area of the human species increases the mean distance between humans and any hazardous event. People closest to the event are most likely to be killed or injured; people furthest from the event are most likely to survive.

Multiple locations


Increasing the number of places where humans live also helps to prevent extinction. For example, if a massive impact event
Impact event
An impact event is the collision of a large meteorite, asteroid, comet, or other celestial object with the Earth or another planet. Throughout recorded history, hundreds of minor impact events have been reported, with some occurrences causing deaths, injuries, property damage or other significant...

 occurred on Earth without warning, the human species could possibly become extinct; its art, culture and technology would be lost. However, if humans had previously colonized locations outside Earth, the opportunities for the survival and recovery of the species would be greater.

Uses of space science


The observation and study of space protects Earth, as space hazards can be seen in advance and, if discovered early enough, acted against.

Near-Earth objects


Near-Earth Object
Near-Earth object
A near-Earth object is a Solar System object whose orbit brings it into close proximity with the Earth. All NEOs have a perihelion distance less than 1.3 AU. They include a few thousand near-Earth asteroids , near-Earth comets, a number of solar-orbiting spacecraft, and meteoroids large enough to...

s (NEOs) are asteroids, comets and large meteoroids that come close to or collide with Earth
Impact event
An impact event is the collision of a large meteorite, asteroid, comet, or other celestial object with the Earth or another planet. Throughout recorded history, hundreds of minor impact events have been reported, with some occurrences causing deaths, injuries, property damage or other significant...

. Spaceguard
Spaceguard
The term Spaceguard loosely refers to a number of efforts to discover and study near-Earth objects . Asteroids are discovered by telescopes which repeatedly survey large areas of sky. Efforts which concentrate on discovering NEOs are considered part of the "Spaceguard Survey," regardless of which...

 is the collective name for some of the efforts to discover and study NEOs, though these efforts are not highly funded.

Opportunities for space colonization


Human Space colonies
Space colonization
Space colonization is the concept of permanent human habitation outside of Earth. Although hypothetical at the present time, there are many proposals and speculations about the first space colony...

 do not currently exist. It can be said, however, that humans have had a continuous space presence since 2000 due to the International Space Station
International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...

. There is concern that the human species may lose its organized societies or its technological knowledge, deplete resources or even become extinct before it colonizes space.

The author Sylvia Engdahl
Sylvia Engdahl
Sylvia Louise Engdahl is an American science fiction writer. She has published thirteen books, including seven science fiction novels, three nonfiction books, two science fiction anthologies, and a children's picture book. Engdahl is best known for her novel Enchantress from the Stars which was...

 wrote about the "Critical Stage", a period of time when a civilization has both the technology to expand into space and the technology to destroy itself. Engdahl states that the human civilization is at a Critical Stage, but that the funding for space exploration and colonization is minuscule compared to the funding for weapons of mass destruction
Weapons of mass destruction
A weapon of mass destruction is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans and/or cause great damage to man-made structures , natural structures , or the biosphere in general...

 and military forces. Similar ideas have been discussed in terms of the Fermi paradox
Fermi paradox
The Fermi paradox is the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such civilizations....

 and the great filter.

NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

 News space analyst James Oberg
James Oberg
James Edward Oberg is an American space journalist and historian, regarded as an expert on the Russian space program.-Biography:...

 commented that "It's just a matter of waiting until we get some kind of cosmic 9/11
September 11, 2001 attacks
The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th or 9/119/11 is pronounced "nine eleven". The slash is not part of the pronunciation...

 that will make everyone say 'why didn't we see this before,' and then we'll have enough money to afford these programs."

Objections


Creating a backup colony in space would be a very costly method of ensuring human survival in the event of catastrophe, and it is likely that other ways of creating an independent colony could be more cost efficient. While extinctions occur on the order of tens of millions of years, major damage to the structure of the Earth itself is likely on the order of billions of years. As a result, an independent surface colony or an oceanic or sub-terrestrial colony may be a cheaper way to obtain a similar but less robust result.

Also, a space colony could conceivably revolt and pursue its own independent self-interests. In terrestrial civilizations, this occurs on the order of every 10 to 100 years. Even a loyal colony may decide that it would be against its economic or political interests to aid or recolonize a troubled Earth. This objection could be weakened by the theory that the limitless resources in space would end economical interest-conflict. Indeed, the resulting society without economical interest-conflicts would in itself improve the odds of human survival by removing motivation for war and environmental exploitation. The opportunities for peaceful revolt in the form of leaving Earth would also be a protection against war since it would become far more difficult for leaders to coerce people to fight. However, some argue that space's limitless resources will still be controlled by the wealthy few, sustaining resource competition. Furthermore, supply and demand will likely price interstellar travel above the income of many Earth inhabitants, maintaining a population vulnerable to coercion. But the sheer vastness of space would mean that a wealthy few claiming any parts of it would mean nothing, since there would always be free unclaimed space. It is likely that the awareness of this fact would eliminate all will to claim exclusive property, especially as conflict-solving based on non-motivation to do bad things would be a necessary "in lieu" of the then no longer possible punitive enforcement. Building spacecraft in space, outside the finite bounds of Earth, would then eliminate the expensive prices for space travel.

The survivability and sustainability of a colony could potentially be less than the survivability and sustainability of Earth's population, especially during a colony's infancy. Creating colonies that can reliably withstand the rigors of space and unpredictable extraterrestrial environments for thousands of years may be very expensive. The creation of a colony that not only survives but also grows to a scale where it can create its own new colonies is a far more difficult and expensive task.

See also


  • Human outpost
    Human outpost
    Human outposts are artificially-created, controlled human habitats located in environments inhospitable for humans, such as on the ocean floor, in space or on another planet....

  • Human adaptation to space
    Human adaptation to space
    Human physiological adaptation to the conditions of space is a challenge faced in the development of human spaceflight.The fundamental engineering problems of escaping Earth's gravity well and developing systems for in-space propulsion have been examined for well over a century, and millions of...

  • Planetary habitability
    Planetary habitability
    Planetary habitability is the measure of a planet's or a natural satellite's potential to sustain life. Life may develop directly on a planet or satellite or be transferred to it from another body, a theoretical process known as panspermia...

  • Solar analog
    Solar analog
    Solar-type, solar analog, and solar twin stars are those stars that are particularly similar to the Sun. The classification is a hierarchy with solar twin being most like the Sun followed by solar analog and then solar-type...

  • Space colonization
    Space colonization
    Space colonization is the concept of permanent human habitation outside of Earth. Although hypothetical at the present time, there are many proposals and speculations about the first space colony...

  • Space habitat
    Space habitat
    A space habitat is a space station intended as a permanent settlement rather than as a simple waystation or other specialized facility...

  • Terraforming
    Terraforming
    Terraforming of a planet, moon, or other body is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology to be similar to those of Earth, in order to make it habitable by terrestrial organisms.The term is sometimes used more generally as a...


Further reading

  • Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind's Future in This Century - On Earth and Beyond
    Our Final Hour
    Our Final Hour is a 2003 book by the British Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees. The full title of the book is Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind's Future In This Century - On Earth and Beyond...

     (UK title: Our Final Century), Martin Rees, 2003, ISBN 0-465-06862-6
  • Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
    Pale Blue Dot (book)
    Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space is a non-fiction book by Carl Sagan. It is the sequel to Cosmos: A Personal Voyage and was inspired by the "Pale Blue Dot" photograph, for which Sagan provides a sobering description...

    , Carl Sagan
    Carl Sagan
    Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

    , 1994, ISBN 0-679-43841-6
  • Realspace: The Fate of Physical Presence in the Digital Age, On and Off Planet, Paul Levinson
    Paul Levinson
    Paul Levinson is an American author and professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University in New York City. Levinson's novels, short fiction, and non-fiction works have been translated into twelve languages....

    , 2003, ISBN 0-415-27743-4
  • The Survival Imperative: Using Space to Protect Earth, William E. Burrows, August 22, 2006, ISBN 0-7653-1114-3
  • Space (also called Hyperspace), BBC
    BBC
    The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

     documentary narrated by Sam Neill
    Sam Neill
    Nigel John Dermot "Sam" Neill, DCNZM, OBE is a New Zealand actor. He is well known for his starring role as paleontologist Dr Alan Grant in Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III....

    , 2001 (BBC web site)

External links

  • Spaceflight or Extinction Academics and other leaders explain that we should colonize space to improve our chance of survival. Authors include Stephen Hawking
    Stephen Hawking
    Stephen William Hawking, CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA is an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, whose scientific books and public appearances have made him an academic celebrity...

     and Carl Sagan
    Carl Sagan
    Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

    .
  • Space Quotes to Ponder Quotations from scientists, engineers, authors, astronauts, leaders, journalists and others
  • Space and Human Survival: My Views on the Importance of Colonizing Space Sylvia Engdahl
    Sylvia Engdahl
    Sylvia Louise Engdahl is an American science fiction writer. She has published thirteen books, including seven science fiction novels, three nonfiction books, two science fiction anthologies, and a children's picture book. Engdahl is best known for her novel Enchantress from the Stars which was...

    's essay, links and books
  • Alliance to Rescue Civilization Non-government organization founded by William E. Burrows, Robert Shapiro
    Robert Shapiro
    Robert Leslie Shapiro is an American civil litigator and senior partner in the Los Angeles-based law firm Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro, LLP. Shapiro is most recognized for being part of the defense team which successfully defended O.J. Simpson in 1995 from the charges that he...

     and others
  • Back up civilization Robert Shapiro
    Robert Shapiro
    Robert Leslie Shapiro is an American civil litigator and senior partner in the Los Angeles-based law firm Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro, LLP. Shapiro is most recognized for being part of the defense team which successfully defended O.J. Simpson in 1995 from the charges that he...

    's response to Edge
    Edge Foundation, Inc.
    The Edge Foundation, Inc. is an organization of science and technology intellectuals created in 1988 as an outgrowth of The Reality Club. Its motto is 'To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together and have them ask...

    s hypothetical request from the American President: "What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?"
  • Space and Civilization William E. Burrows's op-ed
    Op-ed
    An op-ed, abbreviated from opposite the editorial page , is a newspaper article that expresses the opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper's editorial board...

     article from The Wall Street Journal
    The Wall Street Journal
    The Wall Street Journal is an American English-language international daily newspaper. It is published in New York City by Dow Jones & Company, a division of News Corporation, along with the Asian and European editions of the Journal....

  • Colonies in space may be only hope, says Hawking Article about Stephen Hawking
    Stephen Hawking
    Stephen William Hawking, CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA is an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, whose scientific books and public appearances have made him an academic celebrity...

  • Sagan's rationale for human spaceflight Article about Carl Sagan
    Carl Sagan
    Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

     and human spaceflight
    Human spaceflight
    Human spaceflight is spaceflight with humans on the spacecraft. When a spacecraft is manned, it can be piloted directly, as opposed to machine or robotic space probes and remotely-controlled satellites....

  • Molecular Manufacturing and The High Frontier from the Foresight Nanotech Institute