"No less a critic than C. S. Lewis has described the ravenous addiction that these magazines inspired; the same phenomenon has led me to call science fiction the only genuine consciousness-expanding drug." Arthur C. Clarke

Science Fiction and the Search for New Earths

Science fiction, when viewing the expansion of the human race to new galaxies and worlds, generally has ignored much of the science and technicality of living on other planets.  Probability tells us that there must be other planets somewhere that exhibit extremely similar qualities to our own Earth, but we have not found any yet which are particularly close.

English: This artist’s impression shows the pl...

Image via Wikipedia

It seems that every other week the Kepler or Hubble telescopes find new planets that are rotating in the “habitable zone” around their stars, the distance at which it is possible to support water.  Yet so far, none are confirmed to have any.

Many science fiction authors talk of “terraforming,” or molding planets to be inhabitable.  However, much like any future technology, it is easy to simply say it is done and not explain or even think about how it would work.  Would water have to be transported by spaceship to the planet?  What protection would have to be built to keep the temperature at a habitable level?  For that matter, how far would we have to travel to find a planet to inhabit?

The first barrier to the colonization of new planets is the speed of space travel.  At the current rate, it took the Apollo astronauts three days just to get to the Moon, which is a trifling distance in the scope of things.  Right now it would take 165,000 years just to get to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star to us at 4.27 light years.  The moon is only 1.27 light-seconds from the Earth.

Once we get there, the problems have only just begun.

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