The end is inevitable. One day he will definitely come. We are waiting for warming on the planet, acidification of the oceans, the impending mass extinction and a terrific depletion of resources. No need to go far to understand that humanity has reached its peak and is preparing for shocks. But taking such an apocalyptic point of view, we miss something important. There is a path of despair. Between Scylla and Charybdis, a completely different future awaits us. And to find it, you just need to look up. This future is the Solar System, and if we do everything right, we have something to strive for.
Interplanetary View: Humanity
Climate change is only one aspect of muchmore extensive planetary transformations. Ten thousand years ago, when the last glaciers of the Pleistocene epoch melted, our planet entered the geological epoch of the Holocene. The air, water, rocks and life were in a stable condition, mostly warm and humid (with a small amount of ice). Now, human activity brings the Earth out of the Holocene into the new epoch of the anthropocene, because it is humanity that now determines how the systems of the planet function.
The approach of the anthropocene is often depicted as a battle between one kind of policy over another: Republicans against Democrats or business interests against environmentalists. But this opinion is wrong.
Over the past 50 years, people have explored the Solarsystem and all its worlds. The understanding that we received as a result of these travels shows us that the anthropocene has become a predictable transition. This change is inevitable when a species creates the same energy-intensive civilization as ours. From an astronomical point of view, the anthropocene is in some way a planetary adolescence. You cannot prevent children from becoming teenagers. You can only hope that they will come to this side with maturity, wisdom and compassion. Similarly, in order to survive in the face of climate change, we need to develop into a new relationship, mutual support and cooperation with the rest of the biosphere and the planet as a whole.
There is an opinion that this is already happening.
This year marks 50 years since the firstNeil Armstrong steps on the moon. Five decades later, this great journey shows that we are ready to conquer a higher line. Billionaires, rocket scientists and robots exploring asteroids, we draw a new scenario for the future. The next few hundred years do not have to lead to exhaustion and death. Instead, they can become a great drama, played on many scenes of many new worlds.
Until the beginning of the 21st century, it was generally accepted thatNASA is stuck. Instead of sending astronauts to bold missions beyond our planet, the space agency became a hostage to the whims of subsequent administrations, who left it without funding and choice. By the end of the space shuttle program in 2011, NASA had already sent its astronauts on Russian rockets.
Then came the “new space” movement. Private entrepreneurs jumped into the exosphere and restored the course to the future of space travel.
Headed this movement, for the most part, IlonMask and his SpaceX, a new generation of entrepreneurs with money, who have set themselves the task of reducing the cost of delivering materials and people into orbit. Together, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin, among others, have developed working versions of their spacecraft. Richard Branson focused on space tourism, and Jeff Bezos and Musk are developing new classes of reusable space rockets and commerce.
But Musk, Bezos and Branson are just the beginning. A small army of new companies is entering the space enterprise. Today, this global space economy is already estimated at $ 350 billion, and by 2040 it is estimated to reach $ 1 trillion. Last year alone, space companies received $ 3.9 billion in private investment.
But the era of the new cosmos is more than justrockets. Companies such as Planet Labs and Spire Global are looking for ways to offer continuous space monitoring of the agricultural, ecological and industrial state of the planet. Space production is another frontier: companies such as Made in Space are already exploring 3D printing in weightless conditions.
However, most of these efforts remain geared to Earth. If the long-term future of mankind should be interplanetary, what will tear us away from the Earth?
Our growing understanding of the wealth of other worldsThe solar system provides most of the motivation. Despite the fact that since Armstrong, no one has been outside the moon, our robot emissaries have proved to be fruitful travelers.
Today our space probesvisited all the planets of the solar system. More than 20 missions visited Venus. Mars stores tire tracks of four different rovers. And we visited not only the planets. Our space robots went to all types of bodies in the solar system: asteroids, comets, dwarf planets. From these missions, we learned that the solar system is much more interesting than even the scientists of the Apollo era thought. And most importantly, our research has shown us that the solar system is very, very wet.
Under the frozen surface of Europe, the satelliteJupiter, lies an ocean depth of 90 kilometers, which contains more water than our Earth. Many of the larger moons of Jupiter and Saturn have underground oceans. And although Mars is now a dry desert, scientists have strong evidence that it was once a blue world with huge lakes or oceans, on the surface of which streams flowed. At least some of the water remains on the Red Planet as ice on the poles and below the surface. Only last year we learned that Mars has a liquid subsurface lake with a diameter of more than fifteen kilometers.
Water is needed not only to maintain humanlife and growing food, but also for the production of rocket fuel. The discovery of a humid solar system means that the raw material will help create a long-term human presence among the planets. Even a small asteroid orbiting the sun can contain up to $ 50 billion in rare metals like platinum. Therefore, interest in the study of technologies that can form the basis of powerful space economy remains high.
However, none of our researchThe solar system has not revealed a single world, similar to the one suitable for humans. In the solar system, there is still no place, not counting the Earth, where you can walk without a spacesuit.
However, our studies have shown thatwith the right imagination and technology, we could succeed in creating new territories for human settlement, commerce and culture. This is a project that will undoubtedly take several generations. Building a human civilization outside the Earth will require not only machines. To thrive in an artificial environment, we need to figure out what the environment is in the first place. Giant dome-shaped cities on Mars that inhabit the imagination of science fiction writers and Ilona Mask need their own ecosystems. There will be plants. There will be microbes. There will be soil and atmosphere. How will life, air, water and stones function together to maintain stable conditions?
To survive the anthropocene, we need to askthe same questions. Becoming an interplanetary species will require the same sensitive attitude to ecosystems, as future climatic scientists will save the Earth. In other words, figuring out how to do it in space can be a turning point in helping us understand how to do it on Earth.
What then store the next 1000 years for humanity? We used to imagine that we would go on warp-powered ships to the stars. But if you take the laws of physics seriously, the limiting speed of light and the huge distances between stars can make an interstellar civilization unlikely. Even with the most advanced technologies that we have today, it will still take at least 100 years to reach the stars. Unless a scientific miracle happens, the next 1000 years is unlikely to mean the creation of an interstellar empire of humans.
But the development of the solar system can take onlya few months even with our modern technology. Jupiter, for example, is very close. If we can cope with climate change and transform the anthropocene, the solar system will become the place where the drama of the next millennium of human culture will play out. All planets, moons, asteroids and comets will be our outposts.
The good news is that the first act has already begun. And where would you like to live? Share in our chat in Telegram.