Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time, says that humans should consider colonizing the moon, Mars, and eventually another star system, in order to ensure our species’ survival. Here on earth, our risk of being wiped out by a natural or man-made disaster is increasing. The scientist cites “sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of” as causes for alarm.
Regardless of how high the risks are, even one who is less of an alarmist will agree that the risks are increasing. However, space travel introduces new risks, so we rely on intelligent analytical people to study the risks and determine what is best for society.
Looking beyond the problem of not yet knowing how to migrate a community and colonize a location above the Earth’s atmosphere, there are still a few questions. Even if we can begin colonizing the moon in 20 years as Hawking predicts, who will be able to go?
Lunar real estate and space travel are bound to prohibitively expensive for all but the wealthiest millionaires (and entertainers). Those who can afford to escape the pollution and crime on Earth will be able to leave terrestrialism behind and create a better life for their families.
Is this the normal course of historical colonization? Societies leave a secure location for only a few reasons that come to mind: lack or resources or immediate danger. It takes money and strength to travel; migration has never been for the weak unless the less fortunate happened to be enslaved by other societies.
It would be interesting to live to see colonization on the moon or other planets. Although I imagine the first colonization attemps might not be successful, I’m curious to see if the option is only available to those who can afford private space travel at a ridiculous price. This is speculation in its purest form. Feel free to share your thoughts. Who will go to the moon?
Updated January 16, 2010 and originally published June 14, 2006.