The Race for Space

Earth is quite big, actually to us, it’s very big. Our planet holds all 6 Billion of us, and the countless Trillions of animals, plants and fungi that thrive on the Earth. For some people the size of the Earth is so big, that they cant quite grasp it, in a sense that they cant see how something so big can exist, when in comparison, we are minutely small, let alone small birds and bacteria. Regardless how big this amazing planet is, it wont be here forever. Unfortunately I don’t know when the end will come, I’m no soothsayer, not that they’d know either. The reason I don’t know, is surprisingly simple, the end, is multiple.

Our planet is incredibly complex, and extremely sensitive, well life is anyway. As a result of this delicacy, our shifting climate could have a dangerous effect on its inhabitants. And just before i continue, i am not going to go on about global warming and the polar bears, thats a different entry for the future. No life is incredibly resourceful, and since its first incarnation, it has seen vast changes, from heat-waves, to ice ages, to oxygen bulges, to near suffocation, so i think life will do fine if our globe continues to warm. Wether we will or not, is a different matter. So firstly, our globe, Earth, is getting warmer, and its seasons and climates are changing. (I for one certainly am aware, living in England, the weather while temperamental, is never this bad.But don’t confuse weather with Climate, one affects the other, but is not a complete diagnostic tool.) But If the climate continues to rise, which is a result of industry, but also more solar activity, then it could spell disaster for us. If Dangerous gases get there way to, then our ozone layer will be dismantled, and radiation will wipe the face of the earth for everything.

But global warming/ Climate change aside, is people. People are some of the most dangerous things on the planet. Im sure you’ve passed a night club, and seen what goes on in them, to know that man is an extraordinary, and violent, creature. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are probably the one I’m looking at from outside. But mankind could be its own destroyer. We have such malicious weapons, its a wonder we haven’t killed ourselves long before. With WMD and other massive bombs, its an absolute wonder someone hasn’t accidentally pressed the button. And bye bye Earth, well Earth as we know it. Why we have WMD’s which are globally lethal, inclusive of the one who fired it, is beyond me. Why have a weapon that you daren’t use, for your own safety? I digress.

But if miraculously we don’t destroy the climate, and find world peace and all weapons are disarmed, then there are far bigger threats out there. (please note, i am pointing towards the sky.) Well lets start with the old armageddon story. Big meteor bangs into the earth, so boring, and so cliche I think i will leave that one to hollywood and the science fiction books. But we all know this story, a big meteor or asteroid like 2007 VK184 (lovely name,) hits Earth, and most, if not all of life is destroyed. But this is very boring, and cliche childs play, and also we have teams predicting this, so its not guaranteed to start off with.

However what is predicted and is inevitable is the death of our star, the Sun. She is currently an apparently happy, middle aged majesty, governing the planets and other celestial bodies that make up our solar system. However, even now this apparent unchanging mood of the Sun is a lie. She seems the same, glowing in the sky every day, never changing shape or colour to us. But if you could look closely, and see the little details of her, as we can from the telescopes in space, she is far from calm. She is violent and moody, aggressive and throws tantrums. She throws massive coronal ejections, which give us the glorious northern lights, and southern, and emits tons of charged atoms in it. So every day, she is burning Tons of fuel to stay alive, but also blowing tons of herself back into space. At 4.5 billion years old, she looks good for her age, but her aging process isnt pleasant. In about another 5 billion years, her complete fiery nuclear life will be over. She will become a red giant, and soon after that, all that is left is her hot, glowing core. And she will have died. Not only will our Sun vanish, meaning our planet loses all light and heat, but in that process of becoming a red giant, the surface of the Earth will become molten rock, and will slowly vaporise in the heat of our dying sun. Her death pangs, will be ours as well. But thats 5 billion years away, why should we worry. Well, her death will be 5 billion years from now, but life’s death will come sooner. The Sun as it gets older, just like other stars, gets hotter and hotter, as the sun becomes compressed under its own weight. This heat will travel to earth, and increase our global temperature by up-to and possibly more than 10% than what it is today. Now 10% doesn’t seem a lot, and to cooking, or ski slopes, its not that much. But to a planet, with a finely tuned biosphere, it spells disaster. It will begin to vaporise the oceans, the polar ice caps will melt, causing global flooding. As the seas and oceans vaporise, it will enter the higher stratospheres. From then the Sun will get older and hotter, and the water atoms will break into their constituents of hydrogen and oxygen. And from there the hydrogen atoms will slowly drift off back into space leaving the Earth dry, devoid of water and consequently, devoid of life. And when will this happen? Well thankfully, not for another 1.1 billion years or so.

But its not just the Sun out there that will come crashing to earth. No, something far bigger than that. How about an entire galaxy for you? To be precise the Andromeda Galaxy. the Andromeda galaxy is a spiral galaxy just like ours, if not, its a little bigger. And we know, by looking at something called red shift/Blue shift (similar to the Doppler effect with cars), that it is slowly coming towards us at 120 kilometers per second. I said slowly in space terms. The question is, when will andromeda hit the Milky way? Will it even. Well, recent statistics and observation has pointed to about 1.2 billion years, to potentially 3 billion years, depending on Andromedas side way drift, which can be influenced by unseen current factors. So, if its not the sun dying, its a giant Galaxy crashing into our galaxy. It will be pretty to watch form afar, watching two galaxies slowly encircle one another, performing a galactic ballet. But in this ballet, it could be possible for the sun to be flung into the voids of the universe, and with us potentially following in toe.

But don’t go getting yourself all stewed up, this is a Billion years away, (The giant Cosmic events at least.) However, it brings me to my point, we need to escape. it sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but our planet is dying, as it circles it dying celestial mother. but we have got just under a billion years to think of a way to leave this magnificent planet. But it wont be easy. The nearest earth like planet is ages away, and i mean many human generations away. not only is getting to the planet a problem, but also what wed have to take. We would need all the bacteria in our soil, to enrich the alien soil, so plants can grow in the habitat. We need the insects which ‘farm’ the plants. And we would need all the animals to keep checks on the plants, o that they didn’t over grow. And then we would have to find some way of terraforming, creating the right oxygen to carbon dioxide to nitrogen levels. Hoping it has an atmosphere at least. Which means an ozone layer would be helpful. Also a magnetic field from the planets core would be very helpful for deflecting solar winds, thus keeping the atmosphere in, and not being blown away by the solar wind.

And once we’ve found a way to know all the animal species needed, and found a planet with water, a right distance form its star, with the right ‘strength’ of gravity, we then need to think of how to get there. And that is where i leave you. For future generations, and current, we need to find a way of safe, clean, renewable and long lasting energy, that can propel us to the stars. Bot for holidays, or for tours, but to permanently live. So thats an incredibly large ship, for a massive amount of animals, which will need to breed, so that their species survive the lengthy journey. A ship with safe, renewable energy to get us there. And also, enough food and water. And finally, a place to go. So scientists, and future scientists, find me a planet, a massive ship, some awesome power, and get collecting those animals. I do have a billion year time frame, so no real rush. Not yet anyway.*

*this hinges on wether or not we destroy ourselves before hand, or if the climate changes to a point where our species fails to survive, or manages to thrive, or the climate resolves itself. Somehow.

**Photo courtesy of NASA.

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