27 Jun ESA, Nasa reveal how we’ll conquer the galaxy and live on a…
Humanity has barely started to explore the heavens, with the furthest manned mission into space reaching a cosmologically insignificant distance of roughly 250,000 miles from our planet’s hospitable surface.
Now the European Space Agency has revealed how our species could escape the solar system and conquer the entire Milky Way galaxy.
Scientists from ESA’s Advanced Concept Team filed a plan for ‘settling the galaxy’ in response to a Nasa call for papers exploring how we’ll leave Earth and set off to settle on brave new worlds way out in deep space.
Nasa asked for responses to the following scenario: ‘In about ten thousand years from the present, humanity will reset its counting of years to zero.
‘Year Zero will be the year when humanity decides the time is ripe for the human race to boldly venture into the galaxy and settle other star systems.
‘One hundred thousand star systems in the galaxy have been identified as being suitable for settlement.
‘Even in this Year Zero, although technologies and knowledge have dramatically progressed, we are still subject to the tyranny of inertia and remain far from the near-instantaneous space travel depicted fancifully in science fiction.
‘However, enormous strides have been made in the ability to live in space, so much so that self-reliant settler vessels can travel through space for hundreds of thousands of generations, making it possible for humans to reach and settle other star systems.’
Nasa’s challenge was posed during the tenth instalmentallment of its Global Trajectory Optimisation Competition (GTOC X).
Teams were asked to chart a plan on how our species could occupy other star systems whilst using the lowest amount of spaceship fuel.
First, Nasa identified 100,000 stars in the Milky Way that are potentially habitable.
It then asked teams to imagine humanity had launched ‘mother ships’ carrying up to 10 ‘settlement pods’ released whenever it passes a habitable star system.
Once settled on alien worlds, the settlers then build more motherships and begin taking over even more star systems.
The process of taking over the Milky Way is no small endeavour, so scientists were asked to plot our species’ spread through the galaxy over a time frame of nine million years.
Teams were then given scores based on how many systems their scheme would conquer as well as how much fuel was consumed to power ‘propulsive velocity change’ during the long, long mission.
The top prize was won by a team made up of rocket scientists from several Chinese universities.
ESA came in third place but made a nice video which you can see above, showing how we could surge victoriously through the void like a galactic Genghis Khan. The dots are star systems, with the lines representing human spaceships.
Last week ESA’s Advanced Concept Team hosted a two-day workshop on interstellar exploration, where it showed the video.
The topics discussed included the design of ‘worldships’ capable of sustaining generations of inhabitants during the trip between stars, the social structure of these craft and even how the long, isolated journey will affect the language of its crew.
The workshop also considered laser-based propulsion and self-healing materials.
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