Friday, December 21, 2012

Discovering a Habitable Planet

I trust that you've heard the exciting news by now.  Writing this blog posting previously, and setting it to show on Friday (you know, just in case the world comes to an end and I'm not able to type it up), word should have certainly made it to your ears by now.  Just in case it didn't, it looks like we've got a potentially habitable planet.  The discovery shows up orbitingTau Ceti which is just a mere 12 light years from Earth!  Aren't you remarkably excited about this discovery?  Wait, you're asking yourself how we could ever get there, or hope to colonize it since we haven't done anything like that yet, even on our closest neighbor?  Oh come on now, don't spoil it - why trouble yourself with little details like reality.

Alright, that last bit might have been dripping a little too much with sarcasm.  I've spoken in this space before about the need to take comparatively little steps before we try hurtling out to other stars.  It's incredibly cool that Tau Ceti has five planets orbiting it, and that one of them is in what they refer to as the habitable zone.  This is great news for the long term plan, but we really need to take a look around these planets that we already have, and the possibilities that they present us much nearer.  Twelve light years is a long, long way away.  Our moon, Luna, is 238,900 miles (or 384,400 km) away from the Earth.  A light year is about 58,784,998,100,000 miles.  So, you can see why I'd like us to look a little closer first, huh?

When I wrote "The Past Repeated" I talked about orbital prisons (which we'll certainly delve more into in a later post), as well alluding to cities under the surface of the water and colonies on other planets and moons.  The short stories that I'm producing on will be delving deeper into those habitats in the coming months.  Space stations might be our first way to go, however, which I've mentioned before.  Much more focus on these orbital habitats comes across in "Drawing Battle Lines" and the trilogy's soon to be released final book, "The Future Reborn".

We've already got an International Space Station that has been up and working fairly well for years.  How sustainable is it, though?  Perhaps that's the first thing that we need to do.  It's time to work hard, expanding this station so that it can support dozens, and perhaps hundreds of people at a time.  We need to start somewhere, after all; what good will it be to only have space born stations that can only hold a handful of people at a time?  Not much at all.  So, first we expand to handle dozens, then hundreds, and we work towards making this station self-sustaining.  Once it can feed and fuel itself, repair itself, maintain itself without any true need from Earth, we can work towards building towards further launches: the moon and Mars.  If, when you think about it, you don't need all of the power to escape Earth's orbit just to get to space, you need a lot less power and packaging to make it to one of these destinations.  Firing off to the Moon from a space station increases our chances.

So, I've already discussed factories in space and brought up the use of robots for colonizing other venues.  Well, let's consider it.  If we use our nearest neighbor to figure out how we might make landfall and develop long lasting habitats much further from Earth's reach, how would this not help make Tau Ceti more of a reality?  Before we reached the moon the first time, none of this equipment existed.  We came up with it.  We employed people, we figured it out, and there it was: jobs, technology, brilliance and breakthroughs.  Why wouldn't we have similar breakthroughs once again?  Doesn't it seem to follow?  Before considering a next step, it takes a first step.  Looking towards building and assembling in space, farming in space, and living in space... we need to stop shooting off probe after probe, and start looking at moving people skyward.  Time to make science fiction into reality, don't you think?

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