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Does Humanity Have A Future Beyond Earth?

Updated: May 3, 2023

Chandler, AZ

Will Earth be our home planet forever? Or will another world come into the picture? I will discuss whether humans can live somewhere beyond Earth in this article. Scientists have been studying various planets in the universe for a long time. With the recent advancements in space technology and exploration, colonizing other planets is becoming more feasible. However, society must address many obstacles before permanently living elsewhere on another planet.

space, space travel, outer space, astronomy
Space travel outside of Earth

Before discussing going to other planets, we must answer whether traveling out of Earth and making settlements is society's best option. This issue is very divided, and both sides have their respective opinions. Some say that humans should focus more on fixing the Earth and its problems like climate change. They say that we must improve the planet by terraforming it. Terraforming a planet is the idea that humans modify its atmosphere, ecology, temperature, etc., to make it a habitable body for society. Our Earth is the most sustainable planet for us and will still be. It would be easier and cheaper for humans to fix the Earth they're already on than trying to start anew on other planets. Others say it would be wiser not to have "all the apples in one basket" and to colonize other worlds if a catastrophic event occurs on Earth. At that point, we would become a multi-planetary species, ensuring that civilizations are preserved longer. Whether society stays on Earth or leaves it in the future, both actions will significantly affect humans and their longevity.


Let's say that we go beyond our planet and live outside of Earth. How would we go about doing this? First, we would have to sort out some barriers to which planet we travel to. The absence of a habitable climate on other planets is one of these main obstacles. Most planets in our solar system are either too hot or cold or lack the resources required for human survival. Not all hope is lost, though. Scientists have found several exoplanets capable of sustaining human life. New research has revealed that Mars and a few of Jupiter's moons may be capable of harboring life. Scientists have also found more planets like Earth that are more light years away, like Kepler 186f.


Kepler 186f, Kepler 186, Exoplanets, Exoplanet
Image of exoplanet Kepler 186f

The impact of prolonged space travel on human physiology is another significant barrier to human colonization. Cosmic radiation, zero gravity, and extended exposure to a small space can harm human health and the body. These issues won't be suitable for long-term settlements on another planet. Some of these automatically come from being in space too. Aren't people in the International Space Station (ISS) staying in space for a long time? Yes, but the difference between them and if people were on Mars is that the ISS individuals are closer to Earth. Supplies like medicine can be sent quickly to the ISS since it's in the low earth orbit zone or right above Earth. Communication is also strong at this point because the distance between the ISS and Earth is pretty close. The more space we put ourselves away from Earth, the more risk and communication delays with people are possible. To break down these barriers to human health and communication, people would find it best to travel to planets that aren't as far from Earth. Mars would be the perfect candidate here. It's close by and has sources of liquid water, a thin atmosphere, and a habitable temperature. Adapting to life on Mars would take little compared to other places. Since Mars and Earth share many geological and atmospheric characteristics, it has been the focus of intensive research to see what we can do to make humans on Mars a possibility in the future.


Mars, People on Mars, Space travel to Mars, Mars mission, Mars space mission
Idea of society on Mars

3...2...1 LAUNCH! Let's say that society has officially begun the mission of civilization in outer space. The tricky part about making a society on any planet besides Earth is that we still need to determine precisely how it would work. How would it look in another world? Martin Rees, a British cosmologist, says that it would be a "delusion" to have a mass emigration from Earth to elsewhere. The new societies on different planets would probably be small colonies. They would have to bring a lot of resources from Earth to implement on another planet. They'll also need to change the world to have a presence there. There's always the option of terraforming the place, but that would take a long time. The space colony's chances at that point could be to make a living underground and always wear spacesuits for their oxygen supply. The settlement could be self-sufficient and use what is on the planet to hold life. As I mentioned earlier, the most accessible world to do all of this on would be Mars. Not only is Mars already similar to Earth, but it also is the one that would take the least amount of time for society to adapt to. Time is the most precious thing when talking about space travel. It takes four days to reach the Moon. For Mars, the timeline is around eight months. Other planets are ten times further and take light years. Suppose society wants to be able to colonize outside of Earth and be a multi-planetary species. In that case, a lot of work will need to be done now to ensure the success of future generations in keeping humans around.


SpaceX, SpaceX rockets, SpaceX rocket launch, Rocket launch, Space travel
Launch of SpaceX rocket

Society is already sending more individuals into space, and this trend will continue. Many attempts have been started by both commercial companies like SpaceX and space authorities like NASA to realize the objective of humans living in space. These projects aim to develop technologies allowing people to live sustainably on other planetary systems. These technologies include cutting-edge life support systems, organic farming, and infrastructure printed in three dimensions. In 2021, SpaceX successfully launched a rocket with civilians aboard. Stronger rockets are now being created as technology advances. These activities are already facilitating space flight, and this pattern will continue to improve as time goes on.


Going back to the two questions of whether Earth is our forever home and if there will be another world for us, the answers to these are still very complicated. We know that Earth won't be able to support us forever. We also know that Earth is the only planet that will ever be 100% comfortable for us. In summary, although the concept of people living on planets other than Earth is still in its infancy, recent developments in space travel have made it increasingly likely. Humans may one day be capable of establishing themselves on other planets with ongoing studies and funding for space exploration. Although many challenges still need to be solved, the advantages of establishing a long-term presence outside of Earth are too significant to give up.

Spacecraft, Satellites, Outer Space
Spacecraft hovering over Earth
Want to be blown out of this world even more? - check out more of STEM-Es awesome writing!

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Images:

first image: © Libux77 | Dreamstime.com

second image: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

third image: https://images.nasa.gov/details-PIA23302) NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2019

fourth image: SpaceX

last image: Alejandro Miranda/Alamy Stock Photo

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