It’s been an interesting few weeks for those of us who want to see humanity take that next step toward colonising our solar system and beyond.
In 2015, a team led by Michael Gillon from the University of Liege in Belgium, detected three Earth-sized planets orbiting the dwarf star. That in and of itself was a win for astronomy, but the story of Trappist-1 didn’t end there. On the 22nd of February this year, astronomers announced four additional exoplanets in orbit of the star – three of which were in the star’s habitable zone. To top that off, scientists suggested that all seven, conceivably, could be habitable because it was possible they had liquid water somewhere on their surface.
Could the Trappist system be a future home for humanity?
As our technology continues to advance, it’s possible, but would we want to because the planets aren’t the most hospitable. All of them are very close together, which means the gravitational interactions are quite prominent. The planets are most likely tidally locked (one side of each planet permanently faces the star) and there would almost certainly be staggering differences between the temperatures on the light and dark sides of each world. Each planet is also each exposed to very strong x-rays and UV, FUV (far ultraviolet) and EUV (extreme ultraviolet) radiation.
If we were to explore this system at some point in the future, it would no doubt be an exciting and fascinating voyage but would we find life and would we then attempt to establish a colony on one of the worlds? It’s unlikely, unless future observations present us with additional information that makes the expense of such an exhibition worthwhile.
The next question we need to consider is, could life evolve in such harsh conditions, and could it be sentient?
For more information on the discovery, visit NASA here.
Not long after this news excited news outlets and scientists all around the world, many of those same outlets began reminding us of recent promises made by certain space capable powers that there would be a moonbase on our satellite soon.
The European Space Agency has wanted a moon base for a while, first announcing their interest in May of 2015. Why? It’s the logical successor to the International Space Station, says Johann-Dietrich Wörner, the Director General of the ESA. For more information, visit this link here. A year after securing the top job, Johann-Dietrich next proposed we go one step further and create a village on the moon.
China has been talking about creating a base on the dark side of the moon, and the Japanese have been looking to Luna with moon bases on their minds too.
NASA, arguably the most famous and prolific space agency in the world, has been talking about creating a base for a very long time, and in January of this year teamed up with Bigelow Aerospace to announce they will be working with the business on a number of space-based missions. Sadly, none of them are a moonbase. Bigelow, a private aerospace company, will be going that alone.
What everyone involved in the race to the moon agrees on, is that we can establish a moonbase before 2050 – and launch a mission to Mars before then too.
I don’t know why there is suddenly so much interest in the moon, except perhaps for the financial benefits of being able to establish tourism and mining facilities there, but I’m glad multiple agencies and at least one private business is finally giving the idea serious consideration.
The cost in prohibitive, but the benefits far outweigh the expense. As Earth continues to suffer under the weight of a growing population it can no longer easily support, one possible solution is allowing people to colonise the moon and Mars.
Now all we have to do is wonder who will get to the moon first, and whether or not our prediction (in our Space 2049 fan script) of a multinational and private business collaboration establishing a joint moonbase, is on the money.
In an alternate timeline somewhere, Commander Koenig and Doctor Russell are smiling!