Traveling in Space Help

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Apr 25, 2014

Traveling in Space

Ever since human beings first realized that the nighttime stars are distant suns, adventurous humans have dreamed about traveling among them. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the true vastness of the Universe became apparent, and the sheer number of other galaxies and stars led astronomers to imagine that myriad Earthlike planets exist, with climates ideal for human beings. Like the New World before the Vikings, these places beckon to dreamers. Science-fiction writers and moviemakers have a field day when it comes to “space stories.” Starting with the launch of the first Earth-orbiting satellites in the 1950s, fiction has been evolving into reality.

Why Venture Into Space?

The proponents of space travel and colonization use several arguments to support their contention that the human species (that is, us ) should reach for the stars. However, there are plenty of people who think we have no need to leave Earth and no business trying. Here are some arguments for and against human efforts to venture into the Cosmos.

Death Of The Sun

When we observe it casually, our Sun seems like a steady, unchanging, eternal source of energy. When compared with a single human lifespan, this is true. Even if we look back thousands of years to the earliest known human civilizations, we have little or no evidence that the Sun’s output was ever different than it is today. Astronomers know that the Sun will not shine forever, though. In a few billion years (where a billion is considered to be 1 billion or 10 9 ), the Sun will bloat into a red giant, and the inner planets will be incinerated. All the stars we now see will die eventually too. From the vantage point of our little speck of dust, heaven and Earth will pass away.

In the years following World War II, we developed weapons capable of annihilating much of the life on this planet. Even today, despite the end of the so-called cold war, there remain enough nuclear bombs to turn back the clock of civilization hundreds of years. As our species finds new ways to create disaster for itself, rational people wonder whether we will survive another 4,000 years, let alone another 4 billion. However, even the most optimistic folks must face the fact that our lease on this Earth is for a finite term.

Even if we evolve into the most enduring and cooperative species imaginable, the time will come when we must leave this Solar System and look for someplace else to live. We have a lot of work to do before we will be able to roam among the stars. If we prepare for the Sun’s demise, we will be ready when it sets on the last perfect day . If we do not prepare, we will face extinction. Therefore, say the proponents of space travel, we might as well set our goals and start working toward them now because the stakes could not be higher, and the road will be difficult.

Seeking Extraterrestrial Life

Another reason for traveling among the stars is the opportunity to discover new life forms. Adherents of this philosophy argue as follows: “Are there other intelligent civilizations out there? If so, why should we wait for them to come to us? Let’s go to them!”

If we decide to travel to other stars and galaxies in the hope of meeting extraterrestrial beings, will we do it with the intention of learning from them and joining with them to create an enlightened interstellar civilization? Or will we go on missions of conquest, intending to exploit and subjugate creatures from other worlds, take over their resources, and set up outposts from which to conduct a campaign to conquer the Universe? It’s reasonable to suppose that if we survive as a species long enough to develop the technology to travel freely among the stars, we will have learned to cooperate with each other and thus will have benevolent intentions.

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