Should we colonize other planets?

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Are there planets that are suitable to be colonized?

One quick glance at history will showcase humanity’s tremendous curiosity and desire to explore the solar system. Movies ranging from WALL-E to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial have all heightened public interest in this topic, and recent expenditures by SpaceX and NASA have been collecting more and more data to see if conditions on other planets are suitable for human colonization. But the main question is, should humans colonize other planets? While reasonable points are made on both sides, most people believe the time isn’t right to do so yet.

A 2018 poll asked American participants if they believed space tourism would be available to ordinary people by 2068. The results are as follows: 50% believe it will be available, and 32% believe long-term habitable space colonies will already have been established by 2068. But 58% of the participants claimed they were definitely or most likely not interested in going to space, and 63% stated NASA’s top priority should be monitoring Earth’s climate, while only 18% supported the idea that sending astronauts to Mars should be a top priority and 13% believed sending astronauts to the Moon would be most important. This poll shows that the vast majority of Americans believe the Earth should come before seriously considering colonizing space. The closest idea we have of colonizing space currently is settling on Mars, and the conditions on the Red Planet are far too hostile for humans to survive on. Its atmosphere is 100 times thinner than the Earth’s, while the average temperature is -81℉, capable of dropping to as low as -195℉.

Furthermore, the air Mars does have is composed mainly of noxious carbon dioxide, and the air pressure on the planet is very low (only 0.6% of that on Earth). Humans are simply not adaptable enough to survive on Mars, and our technology is not that advanced. For those wondering if the Moon might be a better option- it’s not. Lunar shards, made of silica, cut exposed skin sharply, and the radiation on the Moon is 200 times higher than that on Earth. But looking from a more ethical viewpoint, colonizing space is still not the right thing to do. Humans have already damaged Earth, creating a host of problems, such as deforestation, mass extinction, and climate change. How can we be trusted with the luxury to resettle on another planet and potentially ruin that one too? If scientists want to colonize space so badly and believe they have the technology to do so, they should instead use that technology to fix the problems on Earth before even attempting to propose the idea of moving humanity to another planet.

The opposing side, however, remains fixated on the prospect of saving humanity a couple of centuries later. They insist that with all the environmental problems Earth has, our planet cannot survive longer than a few centuries. They believe that resettling on another planet is the only solution to positively impact humanity long-term. As Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, put it, “I think there is a strong humanitarian argument for making life multi-planetary, in order to safeguard the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen, in which case being poor or having a disease would be irrelevant, because humanity would be extinct. It would be like, ‘Good news, the problems of poverty and disease have been solved, but the bad news is there aren’t any humans left.’ … I think we have a duty to maintain the light of consciousness, to make sure it continues into the future.” Many scientists believe we have a “moral obligation” to preserve humanity and that it comes above all else. In addition, by exploring space to look for suitable habitats, we can make huge milestones in technological advancement that we would never have done without trying to colonize space. This is also a “moral imperative” because humans are the only animals with a sense of morality, so to keep learning and discovering is beneficial, and it is of utmost importance to humanity.

A future in space may loom in the future, and discussions about it are springing up everywhere as that future seems closer than ever. While the prospect of living on another planet may seem appealing, ultimately, we should first restore our current planet to its former glory and resolve all issues on it before turning to another planet. And “moral imperative” or not, it is the right thing to do ethically to fight climate change and clean up the Earth. So while a journey to space may seem dozens of years into the future, something we can all do now is research more about the problems troubling Earth and uniting to take care of our blue planet. Space colonization only reminds us of how precious time and our planet are.