Today’s Dance: Exoplanets and Space Exploration

Direct image of exoplanets around the star HR8799 using a vortex coronograph on a 1.5m portion of the Hale telescope (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve got a bad case of total geek-out over the very frequent new discoveries of exoplanets and especially of exoplanets that are earth-like in the last year or so.

I was especially excited when I read yesterday (or was it the day before) that the closest mathematically predicted (by wobbles in orbits, essentially) earth-like planet is only 13 light-years away. Whoo! Wow! Brings me back to my days absorbed in Heinlein‘s juveniles and the books of E. E. “Doc” Smith and so many forgettable (but not to me!) space opera stories about families moving to the stars.

And this is real. Really real. How hard would it be, really, given the proper incentive (like a dying planet) to get to that earth-like planet? Okay, yeah. It’d still be hard. And 99.9% of us would still be stuck on a dying planet. But. Possible.

So, given this most current knowledge, of an ‘earth-like’ exoplanet that we could reach, given incentive and about fifty more years of research, in roughly twenty years, here’s some speculative questions for you:

  • If there were a lottery to participate in a colonization effort (and the Earth was somehow fixed and not dying) would you try to go? Why or why not?
  • If your romantic partner wanted to go and you didn’t, how would you handle it?
  • Would you try to convince family members or friends to go with you, or would you try to make a new start?
  • What skills would you have to offer the ships crew? The new colony? What disadvantages would choosing you bring?
  • If fertility and/or storage of your eggs or sperm for later implantation to increase the gene pool were a requirement (and infertility is a problem that this future has solved) would you still want to go?
  • What governmental structure, shipboard and proposed for the new colony, would prevent your emigration. What would encourage it?
  • What would be the hardest part about shipboard life? The best part? Do you think we’ll have solved the gravity/bone loss problems by then, or will there be a makeshift solution?
  • Once the ship lands on the new planet, what should it be called? (Planet Bob is taken, remember).
  • What will be the worst challenges for settlers on the new world? The greatest pleasures?
  • How will life be different?
  • Will we find other intelligent life when we arrive on our exoplanet? How will we develop a contingency plan for that?
  • Will the other life we find be more like or unlike what we’re familiar with (Star Trek or Star Wars or even more unrecognizable?)
  • How long will it take before cultures on Earth and the new planet diverge so much that we start thinking in terms of being different species (if ever)?
  • How will we solve communication conundrums at 13 light-year distances?
  • Once we start, how long will it be before humankind has colonized all of the exoplanets within 40 light-years of Earth?
  • What could stop this whole journey from ever beginning?
  • Do you, personally, believe we’ll ever reach and colonize exoplanets, or was this an overly optimistic exercise? What makes you think so (either way)?

As with all Today’s Dances, feel free to leave your answers in the comments, or ponder them as you wander through your day without letting anyone know. If you’re having fun with it, feel free to share it to friends and family with the handy dandy buttons at the bottom of the page. See you on the flip side!

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About Maureen O'Danu

Maureen O'Danu is the webmistress of Am I the Only One Dancing? where there is a new discussion every day on any one of dozens of topics and ideas, as well as reviews, geekery, family, fun, and enough politics to season the pot.
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