The problems of colonizing another planet

Recent posts have taken a short sharp look at some of the obstacles that would have to be overcome to get to another planet on which we might live.  Basically, these are finding a habitable planet in the first place, the second is the task of actually getting ourselves there.  Assuming we survived for what at this point looks like about 250 generations travelling in a space ship to get there, surviving on a new planet is also a daunting task.

The past is only partly encouraging.  120 thousand years ago, a band of humans left Africa, but the evidence is that within 20 thousand years they had all died.  A second expedition about 90 thousand years ago is the one which succeeded.  Even then, about 75 thousand years ago, DNA evidence suggests that the human population was reduced to less than 20 thousand people, and remained at that number for thousands of years.  Challenging as it was, the trek out of Africa was on the same planet where we have always lived.

Similarly, it is only within the last 500 years that humans have really begun to move around the globe and returned to tell the tale.  Some returned at least.  Many never did.  In some ways, going to the moon was less terrifying than setting out to circumnavigate the world, and is more instructive for imagining what life on a new planet might be like.

Like the earlier emigrants, people arriving on a new planet might be met with hostile inhabitants who are already there.  Would they welcome us?  To answer this question, it might be interesting to turn the question around:  how would we humans typically respond to newcomers arriving from outer space?  All the evidence is that we would response with fear.  At the very least, we would try to control and imprison the new arrivals, and if in doubt would certainly be willing to kill them.

Assuming they were not killed upon arrival, the new immigrants would have to solve the basic problems of water, food, and shelter.  If they had already survived 5000 years on a space ship, one would assume that the internecine warfare to which we humans are so pathologically addicted would be under control, and a workable, permanent social structure in place. 

If all these difficulties could be met, my own guess is that human ingenuity and creativity could build another new world.

Do you think these problems are solvable?  If so, would you be willing to be one of the first generation to step onto a space ship headed for a new planet in outer space with the hope that your distant offspring would someday land in a truly New World?

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About Terry Sissons

Terry Sissons is the author of The Big Bang to Now: All of Time in Six Chunks, and this blog is a dialogue about the universe and what’s happened in the last 13 billions years.
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3 Responses to The problems of colonizing another planet

  1. kareem Yusuf says:

    wow ,here is great people with spirit lifting taught ,..u people can change the world with your thought. ,here u are rough mind together for a better tomorrow ….., but as for me there is a lot of impossibility,all this planets we are talking about have there own creatures I guess something is living there also .so anyway is our planet that we don’t want again seeking for another think it will doom one day or may corrupt from us by use of deadly weapons and others nuclear substances.. here we are ,the finest planets but yet still looking for alternative wen other continent manage there own and made it lovable for others e.g earth. but we don’t made our own to be loved for others to loved and attractive …………AS FOR ME I AVE BELIEVED IN GOD ………………,because nothing can’t just form like scientists believed. infact all what we are using in this world e.g computer ,chairs ,clothes,house,car e.t .c are not just form we made them so nothing was just form surely there is a secret behind them and I ave found one which is God the Almighty whose beyond our imagination …… so this God has planned every thing and no body wise unless God made it to be so ….. so stopped thinking about next planet but think about your day with God that how is going to be…and also start make world a more beautiful place by yourself from your house then to government but start it somewhere and let it be today

  2. Parsa Dorbeigi says:

    Your assumption that a functional social structure would be in place is quite misleading. Because as populations grow, they also grow in structure and are faced with new questions, and also new conflicts in their attempts to solve them.

    • I agree with you completely that as populations grow, they also change. We may actually be seeing this happening on our planet right now as globalization and environmental change both are facing us with new challenges. Sometimes those changes are clearly for the better. And sometimes not. Let us hope. The human species seems to me to be such an incredible development.

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