Stephen Hawking Says Humans Need To Leave Earth In 100 Years: Here Are The Technologies That Can Make This Possible
In another apocalyptic prediction, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking said that humans cannot survive on the planet beyond 100 years as threats of extinction mount. This has turned attention to new space technologies that can help in rapid transport and exploration of new habitable planets.
According to Hawking, the terrestrial risks include climate change, overpopulation, epidemics, and asteroid strikes. Hawking's advice to humanity to become a multi-planetary species within the next century was made in the documentary Stephen Hawking: Expedition New Earth under the Tomorrow's World by BBC. In the documentary, the famed physicist looks at the current technologies that can assist in colonizing new planets.
Hawking's new prediction scales down the time frame of human extinction from that of the 2016 prophecy, which said humans will last another 1,000 years.
In the documentary, Hawking probes the technological advances in astronomy, biology, and rocket technology to reach out to new planets including Mars. The futuristic technologies being discussed include plasma rockets and human hibernation.
Hawking is looking at human colonization of moon and Mars as a hedge against any catastrophe on Earth that may erase the human species.
Lecturing at the 50th anniversary of NASA in 2008, Hawking had said Mars was "the obvious next target" for human colonization.
However, colonizing new planets on a rapid scale needs the greater pace of advanced technologies for safe transport, communications, habitat, food, healthcare, etc.
In the documentary, Hawking and his colleagues explored how humans can reach different planets. It also showed that Hawking's ambition is not just a fantasy, and the plan on occupying other planets is becoming a reality.
The human mission to Mars is already in progress. Billionaire Elon Musk has also announced that his company SpaceX would establish a settlement on Mars in the coming decades.
Technologies In Progress For Mars Mission
There is considerable progress in the technologies required for the Mars mission. A transit vehicle with two propellant stages will be driving the spacecraft carrying the crew backed by a landing module and transit habitat.
The transit habitat will be a mini space station where radiation shelter will serve as sleeping quarters for the crew.
On arrival at the planet Mars, the crew will touch down on the Martian surface in Mars suits.
Many of the vital hardware for Mars settlement has already been designed and is under test.
Mars Landing Module
Suppliers such as Lockheed Martin are working on landing modules. Development of Life Support Units for generating energy, water, and breathable air is also underway.
The living units will be outfitted with deployable inflatable habitats and carry solar panels, spare parts, and other components.
Rovers: Rovers will precede human mission to Mars and establish outposts before the humans arrive. They will scout for the right location at Martian surface for settlement and carry hardware components as well.
Mars Suits: The suits will check radiation from the Mars atmosphere and protect the astronauts from high temperatures and risks of thin atmosphere.
Communications systems will involve satellites and Earth ground stations that will receive data from Mars to Earth and back.
Mars Not An Easy Choice
Though Mars has become an obvious choice for colonization, it is not exactly Earth. The challenges include toxic soil, cold conditions, and air unfit for breathing. Moreover, dependence on packages from Earth for the Martian colony will be another risk.
Explaining the rationale of the BBC program of Hawking, BBC director-general Tony Hall said science has been changing the world at an extraordinary pace and the audience must know the new developments. The surge of robotics, demise of antibiotics, and Mars expedition are some examples of that.