Note: This blog is part of an ongoing series examining the manners of death on the Alaska death certificate and exploring what it might take to abolish them.
Even if we could remove the need for death certificates, through anti-aging, prevention of violent death by crime or war, and preventing all accidental death, there is still one more enemy: the sun. In five billion years the sun is set to run low on Helium, when that happens the core becomes denser and the sun will expand in size, eating up the orbits of Merucury, Venus and probably, earth. Don’t laugh, I know it seems a long way away and very few people believe anyone could live that long, but at least think about it. Everyone, immortal or not, eventually needs to escape the earth. That’s why I say avoiding this cause of death is pending investigation. How close are we to living in space or colonizing another planet like Mars? Below are some of the challenges:
- Currently, a trip to Mars, just an initial visit, would take three years. During that time, the travelers would have to make it there, without murdering each other. A recent study suggests everyone would have to be selected very carefully by personality type in order to avoid boredom, depression, and interpersonal hell. It seems that could be done by selecting introverts over extroverts. Our own personalities could be one of the biggest obstacles to long distance space travel. Sorry extroverts, you’ll have to wait. the answer might lie in having traveling vessels large enough to contain the kind of social interaction extroverts crave. It would equate to living in space. How close are we to being able to launch or build something like that and anticipate all that could go wrong, like meteor impacts and food shortages?
- What about the radiation danger of living or traveling in space? It thought that certain genes of extreomophile bacteria might be added to the human genome to protect against it. Human trials of such genetic engineering could far away and that type of gene splicing would have to be perfected first.
- Mars is the closest planet that could be colonized, but it would take hundreds of years to engineer the climate that would make it habitable for humans.
- Given the fastest space traveler we have, Voyager I, does 38,610 miles per hour and the nearest star that might have a habitable planet is 70,000 years away, we have some work to do. Power from nuclear could propel a spaceship thousands of times faster than today’s rate, but that kind of technology has been in development for 50 years without many breakthroughs.
- Space dust, though small, could do serious damage to spacecraft traveling millions of miles per hour. They would need heavy shields that would make them very heavy with need for more fuel. A space craft going that fast would also have to fire it’s engines backward with to stop near it’s target and it would have to carry even more fuel.
We can see that the challenges are daunting, but we have time, 5 million years right? Some people didn’t believe humans could put a man on the moon. Now there are organizations that are working to launch interstellar missions by the end of this century. We just might pull it off someday.
Warp Drive Research Key to Interstellar Travel
Science Fiction Author Mark Alpert