Space and survival refers to the idea that the long-term survival of the human species and technological civilization requires the building of a spacefaring civilization that utilizes the resources of outer space[1], and that not doing this could lead to human extinction. A related observation is that the window of opportunity for doing this may be limited due to the decreasing amount of surplus resources that will be available overtime as a result of an ever-growing population [2].

The earliest appearance of a connection between space exploration and human survival appears in Louis J. Halle’s 1980 article in Foreign Affairs, in which he stated colonization of space will keep humanity safe should global nuclear warfare occur.[3] This idea has received more attention in recent years as advancing technology in the form of reusable launch vehicles and combination launch systems make affordable space travel more feasible.[4]

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Risk to humanityEdit

With space and human survival comes risk to the human species. A severe event in the future is one that could cause human extinction which is also known as an existential risk.[5] Humanity’s long track record of surviving natural hazards suggests that, measured on a timescale of a couple of centuries, the existential risk posed by such hazards is rather small. Nevertheless, researchers have experienced an obstacle in studying human extinction as humanity has actually never been diminished during all of recorded history.[6] Although this does not mean that it will not be in the future with natural existential scenarios such as: Meteor impact and large-scale volcanism; and anthropogenic-natural hybrid events like global warming and catastrophic climate change, or even global nuclear warfare.

Many of the same existential risks to humanity would destroy parts or all of Earth's biosphere as well. And although many have speculated about life and intelligence existing in other parts of space, Earth is the only place in the universe known to harbor life. Eventually the Earth will be uninhabitable, at the latest when the Sun becomes a red giant in about 5 billion years. Mankind, or its intelligent descendants, then has to leave the Solar System to ensure survival of the human species.

Space settlementEdit

Human extinction can be prevented by improving the physical barrier or increasing the mean distance between people and the potential extinction event.[citation needed] For example, pandemics are controlled by placing exposed people in quarantine and evacuating healthy people away. The human lineage of genus Homo has reduced from several species co-existing on Earth to just one — all others became extinct before the end of the last Ice age. This illustrates that Homo sapiens is not immune to planetary disaster and that human survival may be better assured through the colonization of space.

Although space colonies do not yet exist, humans have had a continuous space presence since 2000 due to the International Space Station. Life support systems that enable people to live in space may also allow them to survive hazardous events.

Multiple locationsEdit

Expanding the living area of the human species increases the mean distance between humans and any known hazardous event. People closest to the event are most likely to be killed or injured; people farthest from the event are most likely to survive. Increasing the number of places where humans live also helps to prevent extinction. For example, if a massive impact event 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.

ObjectionsEdit

Many problems can occur when travelling in outer space. One of the biggest issues that may affect the human body is interstellar radiation. While the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere protects all living forms on the planet, this cannot be said for outer space. According to researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center, a radiation equivalent to a mission to Mars can cause serious brain damage such as cognition problems and Alzheimer’s disease.[7]

EquipmentEdit

SpacesuitsEdit

 
Spacesuit at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Spacesuits are required for astronauts to survive in space; they are the most essential piece of equipment with many features to help protect them from the dangers of space. Due to space being a vacuum, the suits are required to have oxygen, which is stored in tanks allowing astronauts to work or remain outside for 6 to 8.5 hours before having to return to the spacecraft.[8] Water is also required to survive in space and the space suits have water supply bags in two sizes, 21 or 32 US fl oz (620 or 950 ml), so astronauts do not suffer dehydration when outside the spacecraft. The suits are made from several layers of material; within these layers there is tubing all around which is filled with chilled water to help cool the suit.[9] The suit is also insulated so the astronaut does not become too cold; the astronaut’s body heat is what is keeping them warm. The several layers protect the astronaut from space dust, which can travel faster than a bullet. The visors on the suit helmets are made with a special gold liner which protects the eyes[clarification needed] of the astronaut from sunlight.[10]

Space scienceEdit

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 objectsEdit

Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are asteroids, comets and large meteoroids that come close to or collide with Earth. Spaceguard is the collective name for some of the efforts to discover and study NEOs, though these efforts are not sufficiently funded.[citation needed]

In fictionEdit

Space as an aid to human survival is a staple themes of science fiction. Among the examples are:

In the 1972 film Silent Running, a set of space stations out orbiting Saturn contain the remnants of Earth's ecosystem, after Earth's was destroyed by pollution.

In the Arthur C. Clarke short story "If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth", humans are surviving on the Moon after the Earth was rendered uninhabitable by a nuclear war.

In Gateway by Frederik Pohl, those with the money to leave the dying Earth can hitch a ride on a starship that will either make them extremely wealthy or lead them to their death.

In the 2005 John Scalzi novel Old Man’s War, Earth itself is a backwater and the Colonial Defense Force must fight for the scarce habitable planets left.

In the Jack Vance omnibus volume Dying Earth, a far-future Earth is under a giant red sun that is about to go out forever.

The 2014 blockbuster “Interstellar” starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway follows the plot where a global crop blight and second Dust Bowl are slowly rendering the planet uninhabitable. Professor Brand (Michael Caine), a brilliant NASA physicist, is working on plans to save mankind by transporting Earth's population to a new home via a wormhole.

Exogenesis Symphony” - a three part song by British rock band Muse. The song follows the journey of mankind and details the difficulties and actions that face Earth’s end. Part 1 (Overture) is the “jaded acceptance that civilisation will end” according to frontman Matthew Bellamy. He also states that Part 2 (Cross-Pollination) is “a desperate hope that sending astronauts to find and populate other planets will be successful alongside the recognition that this is the last hope”. Part 3 (Redemption) concludes the song and its source album, "The Resistance" (2009). The final part is a recognition by the astronauts that the extinction of Earth is a continuous cycle and that humanity must change its ways in order to save itself.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Curreri, Peter A.; Detweiler, Michael K. (December 2011). "A Contemporary Analysis of the O'Neill-Glaser Model for Space-based Solar Power and Habitat Construction". NSS Space Settlement Journal: 1–27.
  2. ^ Rees, Martin (2003). Our Final Hour. ISBN 0-465-06862-6. (UK title: Our Final Century)
  3. ^ Halle, Louis J. (1980-07-01). "A Hopeful Future for Mankind". Foreign Affairs. 58 (5): 1129–1136. doi:10.2307/20040585. JSTOR 20040585.
  4. ^ spacexcmsadmin. "Capabilities & Services". SpaceX. Retrieved 2015-11-19.
  5. ^ "Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios". www.nickbostrom.com. Retrieved 2015-11-19.
  6. ^ "existential risks: threats to humanity's survival". www.existential-risk.org. Retrieved 2015-11-19.
  7. ^ "Houston, We Have Another Problem - Newsroom - University of Rochester Medical Center". www.urmc.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2015-11-19.
  8. ^ MSFC, Jennifer Wall :. "What Is a Spacesuit?". NASA. Retrieved 2015-11-19.
  9. ^ MSFC, Jennifer Wall :. "What Is a Spacesuit?". NASA. Retrieved 2015-11-19.
  10. ^ "HSF". spaceflight.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2015-11-19.

Further readingEdit

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