The latter half of the last decade saw a new industry evolve across nations and continents. The industry was built on the foundations of the global warming phenomenon that has been steadily gripping the world. Its business model, akin to the business of religion, exploits deep seated fears within the hearts of people and tries to profit from it. The industry peaked with the release of the 2009 high on graphics, low on logic blockbuster hit movie 2012. The core idea of this industry revolves around the knowledge base of a primitive society (read Mayan civilization) that is now extinct. This is the industry of the doomsayers who believe that the year 2012, more precisely the day 21 Dec 2012 will bring forth unimaginable destruction and will ultimately end the human race. The underlying assumption here is that the end of the planet Earth would spell the end of all humanity. What if that was not necessarily true?
On December 5th this year the scientists working with Kepler, a space telescope discovered a rare earth like planet. The scientists did not split much hair coming up with a name for the planet calling it Kepler 22b. Discovering it however, as expected, required a lot of effort. By all means this is not the first planet to be found beyond the confines of our solar system. What separates Kepler 22b is how much it resembles out own third rock from the sun.
Sisters across space and time
Kepler 22b is dense and made of rock. Its radius is 2.4 times that of the Earth.And after spectral analysis if it is found to be made of the same stuff as Earth, its gravitational pull would also be about 2.4 times that of the Earth. Another important factor which makes Kepler 22b seem habitable has more to do with where it is located in the solar system than what it is made up of. For a planet to be able to support life which is carbon based it should be neither too hot nor too cold. This makes its position from the star it orbits very important and the region where it should be located is known as the “Goldilocks’ zone”. With this regard Kepler 22b’s position is well within the Goldilocks’ zone and its distance from its star would allow water to exist in liquid state on its surface. Also the planet is far enough from its star to be able to rotate around its own axis. Its dwellers will experience night and day. As of now, the conditions seem to be favorable for future human colonists.
Long trek to Star Trek
All the above may sound encouraging for the space enthusiasts out there. But their “beam me up Scotty” moment is further than “a galaxy far, far away”. Galactic problems hinder our space faring ambitions. For example, Kepler 22b is about 600 light years away. Even if our current technology is utilized to the fullest, it would take at least 10,000 years for any space ship from earth to reach it. Also it would require Astronauts to travel for generations in a closed, artificial environment. People would die and children would be born on space ships. As of now, scientists have not spent more than a year and a half in space.
The impact of spending a lifetime in space and the impact it would have on our genes and human evolution is unknown and unfathomable at the moment. Ignoring all the difficulties, and many more, in reaching our destination, even if we do somehow make it we would still not have our task cut out. The environment on the colony planet may be extremely hostile to humans. We have evolved on Earth for thousands of years and still every few years a new virus or germ spreads a pandemic which we are not immune to. It would be impossible for us to land and breathe in the fresh air. We would have to live in bubbles cut off from the environment. Then would begin the task of genetic re-engineering where in we would have to modify our genes to suite our environment to that there would be some hope that our descendents would be able to walk freely on our host planet. Then, there is the question of how advanced and friendly the local intelligent population is.
Plan A for now
In the short term it would be much easier for us to save and make do with our current planet than to think of conquering any new ones. We have all the technology we need to control and reverse global warming. Due to monetary constraints, what is lacking is the will to take some brave decisions. If sane heads prevail, things will get sorted and we can sleep easy for at least a century or two. Besides, we have Mars in our own solar system which is becoming increasingly within our reach. But it is always comforting to know that if all else fails, we do have a Plan B of colonizing planets beyond our solar system. Doesn’t matter how difficult it is to actually do it.
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Category: Jus Thoughts..