Stephen Hawking calls for Moon and Mars colonies

jeffy777

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Hawking spoke at George Washington University in Washington, DC, US, in honour of NASA's 50th anniversary (Image: NASA)

Stephen Hawking called for a massive investment in establishing colonies on the Moon and Mars in a lecture in honour of NASA's 50th anniversary. He argued that the world should devote about 10 times as much as NASA's current budget ? or 0.25% of the world's financial resources ? to space.

The renowned University of Cambridge physicist has previously spoken in favour of colonising space as an insurance policy against the possibility of humanity being wiped out by catastrophes like nuclear war and climate change. He argues that humanity should eventually expand to other solar systems.

But in a speech in Washington, DC, US, delivered in honour of NASA's 50th anniversary in 2008, Hawking focused on near-term possibilities, backing the space agency's goals of returning astronauts to the Moon by 2020 and sending humans to Mars soon after that.

The Moon is a good place to start because it is "close by and relatively easy to reach", Hawking said. "The Moon could be a base for travel to the rest of the solar system," he added. Mars would be "the obvious next target", with its abundant supplies of frozen water, and the tantalising possibility that life may have been present there in the past.

Some space experts have recently called for NASA to send astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid instead of the Moon as a next step.

Hawking did not mention the idea, but said that any long-term site for a human base should have a significant gravity field. That's because long missions in microgravity lead to health issues such as bone loss.
Boldly go

He also called for an acceleration of NASA's plans for human landings on Mars, which one NASA study suggested could be done in the early 2030s. "A goal of a base on the Moon by 2020 and of a manned landing on Mars by 2025 would reignite the space programme and give it a sense of purpose in the same way that President Kennedy's Moon target did in the 1960s," he said.

Hawking made a pitch for human space exploration, rather than just sending robots to explore space, a position taken by Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, among others.

"Robotic missions are much cheaper and may provide more scientific information, but they don't catch the public imagination in the same way, and they don't spread the human race into space, which I'm arguing should be our long-term strategy," Hawking said. "If the human race is to continue for another million years, we will have to boldly go where no one has gone before."
Interstellar travel

Eventually, Hawking said, humanity should try to expand to Earth-like planets around other stars.

No such planets are known so far. But even if only 1% of the 1000 or so stars within 30 light years of Earth has an Earth-size planet at the right distance from its star for liquid water to exist, that would make for 10 such planets in our solar system's neighbourhood, he said.

"We cannot envision visiting them with current technology, but we should make interstellar travel a long-term aim," he said. "By long term, I mean over the next 200 to 500 years."

Humanity can afford to battle earthly problems like climate change and still have plenty of resources left over for colonising space, he said.
Intelligent life

"Even if we were to increase the international [space exploration] budget 20 times to make a serious effort to go into space, it would only be a small fraction of world GDP," he said. GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, is a measure of a country's economic activity.

Hawking argued that the world can afford 0.25% of its collective GDP to devote to space colonisation. "Isn't our future worth a quarter of a percent?" he asked.

The physicist also speculated on the reasons that SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) projects have not yet detected any alien civilisations.

He offered three possibilities: that life of any kind is very rare in the universe; that simple life forms are common, but intelligent life rare; or that intelligent life tends to quickly destroy itself.

"Personally, I favour the second possibility ? that primitive life is relatively common, but that intelligent life is very rare," he said. "Some would say it has yet to occur on Earth."
Source:
http://space.newscientist.com/article/dn13748-stephen-hawking-calls-for-moon-and-mars-colonies.html
 

Blind_Io

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A good idea, and one Hawking has been pushing for years. However there might be a small problem with the moon.

http://blogs.zdnet.com/emergingtech/?p=898

Researchers working for NASA?s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission have discovered that the Earth?s magnetic tail could be harmful to future astronauts. The moon stays inside Earth?s ?magnetotail? for six days every month ? during full moon. This can have consequences ranging from lunar ?dust storms? to strong electrostatic discharges, according to one researcher quoted by NASA in ?The Moon and the Magnetotail.? So far, this is pure speculation: no man has been on the moon when the magnetotail hits. As added the same scientist, ?Apollo astronauts never landed on a full moon and they never experienced the magnetotail.? But read more?

As the illustration above shows, ?the moon spends about six days each month inside Earth?s magnetic tail, or ?magnetotail.?? Credit: NASA/Steele Hill) Here is a link to a larger version of this image.
And here is a link to images of Earth?s ?magnetospheric substorms? which could affect future astronauts on the moon. From this page, you?ll be able to see a short animation (49 seconds) in various formats. ?This animation shows a magnetospheric substorm, during which the reconnection causes energy to be rapidly released along the field lines causing the auroras to brighten.? (Credit:
Walt Feimer, for NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Conceptual Image Lab)
This research work has been led by Tim Stubbs, a University of Maryland scientist working at the Goddard Space Flight Center. For more information, take a look at this University of Maryland, Baltimore County news release, ?UMBC Scientist Joins NASA Mission? (April 15, 2008).
Another researcher involved in this project is Jasper Halekas of the University of California, Berkeley, who works in the Space Physics Research Group. Here is a link to his publications. Please note that the link to his home page is not working: it redirects you to his research group.
Now, let?s see what could happen monthly on the moon according to NASA. ?Imagine what it feels like to be a sock pulled crackling from a dryer. Astronauts on the moon during a magnetotail crossing might be able to tell you. Walking across the dusty charged-up lunar terrain, the astronauts themselves would gather a load of excess charge. Touching another astronaut, a doorknob, a piece of sensitive electronics ? any of these simple actions could produce an unwelcome discharge. ?Proper grounding is strongly recommended,? says Stubbs.?
The NASA?s writer continues. ?The ground, meanwhile, might leap into the sky. There?s growing evidence that fine particles of moondust might actually float, ejected from the lunar surface by electrostatic repulsion. This could create a temporary nighttime atmosphere of dust ready to blacken spacesuits, clog machinery, scratch faceplates (moondust is very abrasive) and generally make life difficult for astronauts.?
Here is the conclusion of the NASA?s article. ?What happens then? Next-generation astronauts are going to find out. NASA is returning to the moon in the decades ahead and plans to establish an outpost for long-term lunar exploration. It turns out they?ll be exploring the magnetotail, too.?
Finally, if you want to read more about what might happen to future astronauts on the Moon, you can read ?Strange Things Happen at Full Moon? (SPACE.com, April 18, 2008).
Sources: Tony Phillips, NASA?s Goddard Space Flight Center, April 16, 2008; and various websites
 

NooDle

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I agree. Space is the next big thing (even though people forgot about it) and we should explore more.

dunno if a moon base is a good thing, i'd like to see more planets be explored by probes and stuff first. Trouble is they're so freaking far off
 

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A good idea, and one Hawking has been pushing for years. However there might be a small problem with the moon.

http://blogs.zdnet.com/emergingtech/?p=898
The NASA Article said:
Much of this is pure speculation, Stubbs cautions. No one can say for sure what happens on the moon when the magnetotail hits, because no one has been there at the crucial time. ?Apollo astronauts never landed on a full moon and they never experienced the magnetotail.?

The best direct evidence comes from NASA?s Lunar Prospector spacecraft, which orbited the moon in 1998-99 and monitored many magnetotail crossings. During some crossings, the spacecraft sensed big changes in the lunar nightside voltage, jumping ?typically from -200 V to -1000 V,? says Jasper Halekas of UC Berkeley who has been studying the decade-old data.
Doesn't sound like it'd be too big of a problem. 1000V isn't really that much for a static charge (you can generate 50,000 V just by rubbing a balloon on your head). I imagine getting building materials to the Moon is still the main issue.
 

Blind_Io

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We've already ruined one planet, don't need to ruin anymore... :|
:stupid:

*checks to see if anything else needs to be said*

Nope, that covers it. Thanks for coming, tip your waitress and try the veal.
 

LP

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Out of curiosity, how long does it take him to type in what he wants to say?
He just selects like the first 2-3 letters of the word he wants to say and then a whole bank of words appears before him, from which he can choose. I've seen 2 of his lectures (IRL not on the TV or something) and all the questions he answered were always prepared before hand, so he just needed to load them. According to my physics professor though it takes like about 2-3 minutes for him to say a few sentences.

I don't really have anything else to add to this topic. I also think we've gotten an F in Taking Care of Planets 101, so it would be stupid to start trying to terraform other planets and moons. I think exploring them on the other hand: taking samples and pictures and jumping up and down and playing golf on other planets is totally cool. I would fully support that.

As Blind said, there are issues when leaving the safety of the Earth. The vacuum, the changes in gravity, cosmic rays and radiation in general, asteroids, and then the time it takes to get anywhere with our snail-speed rockets. It took Apollo missions 4 days to get to the moon, and so it would take months to get to mars. I personally couldn't imagine anyone retaining their sanity after being cooped up in a tin can flying at 17000 mph for months let alone a few days. Time to break out the cryogenic chambers.
 

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Clue: It has boost.
We need to scratch the ideas of conventional fueling for aircraft and start thinking bigger.



Hyperspace Window ftmfw!
 

Necx0

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I saw a program once say that they whole worm-hole idea isn't just science fiction but it could be possible to jump through them somehow. Was a long time ago though so can't remember the details. Space travel scares me, not something I would want to do.
 

argatoga

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I personally couldn't imagine anyone retaining their sanity after being cooped up in a tin can flying at 17000 mph for months let alone a few days. Time to break out the cryogenic chambers.

I don't see it being much different from sailing across the Atlantic a couple hundred years ago.
 
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