Space and survival
Space and survival refers to a position stating that the long-term survival of the human species and civilization requires proper use of the resources of outer space, and in particular space colonization and space science, which could prevent many human extinction scenarios. A related observation is the limited time and resources thought by some to be available for the colonization of space.
Risk to humanity
Survival of life and intelligence
Many of the same existential risks to humanity would destroy parts of all of Earth's biosphere as well. And although many have speculated about life and intelligence existing in other parts of space, Earth is the only place in the universe known to harbor either of these.
Eventually the Earth will be uninhabitable, at the latest when the Sun becomes a red giant in about 5 billion years. Mankind, or its intelligent descendents, then has to leave the Solar System to ensure survival of the human species.
Extinction can be prevented by improving the physical barrier or increasing the mean distance between people and the potential extinction event. For example, people may survive imminent explosions by being in a bunker or evacuating. Pandemics are controlled by putting exposed people in quarantine and moving healthy people away. The human lineage of genus Homo has reduced from several species co-existing on Earth to just one — all others went extinct before the end of the last Ice age. This illustrates that Homo sapiens is not immune to planetary disaster and that human survival may be better assured through the colonization of space.
Location and distance
Expanding the living area of the human species increases the mean distance between humans and any hazardous event. People closest to the event are most likely to be killed or injured; people farthest from the event are most likely to survive.
Increasing the number of places where humans live also helps to prevent extinction. For example, if a massive impact event occurred on Earth without warning, the human species could possibly become extinct; its art, culture and technology would be lost. However, if humans had previously colonized locations outside Earth, the opportunities for the survival and recovery of the species would be greater.
There is concern that the human species may lose its organized societies or its technological knowledge, deplete resources or even become extinct before it colonizes space.
The author Sylvia Engdahl wrote about the "Critical Stage", a period of time when a civilization has both the technology to expand into space and the technology to destroy itself. Engdahl states that the human civilization is at a Critical Stage, but that the funding for space exploration and colonization is minuscule compared to the funding for weapons of mass destruction and military forces. Similar ideas have been discussed in terms of the Fermi paradox and the great filter.
Applications on earth
Although space colonies do not yet exist, humans have had a continuous space presence since 2000 due to the International Space Station.
Life support systems that enable people to live in space may also allow them to survive hazardous events. For example, an infectious disease or biological weapon that transmits through the air could not infect a person in a closed life support system, as an internal supply of air and a physical barrier would exist between the person and the affected environment.
The observation and study of space protects Earth, as space hazards can be seen in advance and, if discovered early enough, acted against.
Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are asteroids, comets and large meteoroids that come close to or collide with Earth. Spaceguard is the collective name for some of the efforts to discover and study NEOs, though these efforts are not highly funded.
Creating a colony in space is currently a very costly proposition of ensuring human survival in the event of catastrophe, and it is likely that other ways could be more cost efficient on the span of millions of years. While extinctions occur on the order of tens of millions of years, major damage to the structure of the Earth itself is likely on the order of billions of years.
The survivability of any colonial enterprise has historically been less than the hosting state given the resource availability imbalance. Creating colonies will be extremely challenging that can reliably withstand the rigors of space and unpredictable extraterrestrial environments for thousands of years.
One of the staple themes of science fiction, a short list:
In the 1972 film Silent Running, a set of space stations out orbiting Saturn contain the remnants of Earth's ecosystem, after the one of Earth was destroyed by pollution.
- Global catastrophic risks
- Human extinction
- Space colonization
- Space habitat
- Human outpost
- List of microorganisms tested in outer space
- Planetary habitability
- Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, Carl Sagan, 1994, ISBN 0-679-43841-6
- Realspace: The Fate of Physical Presence in the Digital Age, On and Off Planet, Paul Levinson, 2003, ISBN 0-415-27743-4
- The Survival Imperative: Using Space to Protect Earth, William E. Burrows, 22 August 2006, ISBN 0-7653-1114-3
- Space (also called Hyperspace), BBC documentary narrated by Sam Neill, 2001 (BBC web site)
- Essays and Manifestos about the Colonization of Space at DMOZ
- Spaceflight or Extinction Academics and other leaders explain that we should colonize space to improve our chance of survival. Authors include Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan.
- Space Quotes to Ponder Quotations from scientists, engineers, authors, astronauts, leaders, journalists and others
- Space and Human Survival: My Views on the Importance of Colonizing Space Sylvia Engdahl's essay, links and books
- Alliance to Rescue Civilization Non-government organization founded by William E. Burrows, Robert Shapiro and others
- Back up civilization Robert Shapiro's response to Edge's hypothetical request from the American President: "What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?"
- Space and Civilization William E. Burrows's op-ed article from The Wall Street Journal
- Colonies in space may be only hope, says Hawking Article about Stephen Hawking
- Sagan's rationale for human spaceflight Article about Carl Sagan and human spaceflight
- Molecular Manufacturing and The High Frontier from the Foresight Nanotech Institute