What does humanity need to firmly establish itself in space?

We take for granted that we liveon a planet rich in life. With 14 million species identified, the huge biological diversity on Earth is simply amazing. We depend on this diversity in food and resources, which, in turn, allow us to thrive and spread throughout the planet. However, one has only to leave the limits of the fragile atmosphere of the Earth, and these symbiotic relationships will cease to exist.

Can we live outside the Earth?

In the book The Beginning of Infinity, the physicist David Deutschinvites readers to conduct the following thought experiment: imagine that the universe is divided into cubes the size of our solar system. What would a typical cube look like?

It will be very different from the one in whichwe are. In fact, a typical cube should be so dark that if a supernova exploded in it, we would not even see the reflection. A typical cube will have a temperature of 2.7 Kelvin, which is enough to freeze everything, and for each such cube there will be about one atom - we cannot create such a purity vacuum even on Earth.

Thus, in a cold, dark and empty universe, the Earth is not at all typical; our home is a rare and precious oasis.

This cosmic perspective reminds us of how we must protect and protect life on Earth, our "pale blue dot." It also reminds us of the hostile conditions in the rest of the cosmos.

Being a cosmic species, we consider it necessaryexplore and colonize other parts of the solar system and the galaxy as a whole. Over the past decades we have achieved tremendous success in space exploration. And yet, many scientists are wondering: is it possible to become an independent and resource-independent species in the Universe, which is for the most part colder, darker and more hostile in any place except our planet?

Growing food in space

To create a self-sustaining habitatman in space, many components are needed. We need to understand where to get raw materials for the construction of cities of the future, how to generate efficient energy and how to get access to power sources. Organizations like SpaceX, Blue Origin and NASA continue to push the last frontier, and at the same time access to resources in space is becoming more and more important. The further we travel from the Solar System, the more difficult it will be to rely on the Earth as a source of resources.

If we talk about food, we recently observedamazing progress. The landing module of China "Chang'e-4" successfully grown seeds on the dark side of the moon. Due to difficult conditions, the plants soon died, but the fact of the incident is amazing.

Our ability to create self-sustainingAn ecosystem — no matter how small it is — on the moon can be a great help to future missions. For example, NASA’s mission to Mars will use the surface of the moon as a potential “transit point” on its way to Mars. Blue Origins CEO Jeff Bezos is also set to create permanent settlements on the moon. What we learn from our attempts to grow plants on the moon can also be applied to other colonies, such as colonies on Mars.

This is not the first time astronauts grow food inspace. In August 2015, astronauts at the International Space Station tasted the first vegetables grown in space. The space garden on the ISS, known as Lada-VPU-P3R, is very similar to the greenhouse: the light and water in this module are controlled automatically.

These efforts are supported geneticallymodified plants and seeds that are better suited for survival in space conditions. Seeds in space must resist ultraviolet and cosmic radiation, low pressure, harsh temperatures and microgravity; changing their genetics and allows all this to be overcome. Genetic engineering, in fact, can become a tool for the liberation of humanity from resource dependence: it will allow both rocket fuel and drugs in isolation from Earth.

NASA is also exploring the possibilities of 3D printing of food in space. Last year, the agency allowed astronauts to print 3D pizza in space.

Self-sustaining spacecraft

One of the main motivators of humanity inspace exploration was the desire to free their species from life only on Earth. According to science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, "The earth is just too small and fragile for the human race to keep all its eggs in it." Life on Earth is dominated by existential threats, such as a supernova explosion, nuclear war, or asteroids. Building colonies in other parts of the solar system and the universe will serve as an insurance policy for humanity.

Many science-fiction writers explored the idea"Ship of generations" or interstellar ark. Such a self-sustaining ship could serve as a small human colony and reach its destination for several centuries or thousands of years. The original inhabitants of the ship will grow old and die, leaving their descendants for further journeys. That is how independent space colonies can save humanity from extinction and allow us to spread our species throughout the rest of the Universe.

Ultimately, projects involving the use of space resources — such as growing plants on the moon — are critical steps towards the future of space exploration and humanity.

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