By indexer
168 days ago

All aboard the starship to Proxima Centauri!

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Let’s suppose that – 100 years hence, maybe – it is decided that Planet Earth is no longer inhabitable and the human race will have to decamp to another planet if it is to survive. After much debate it is concluded that Mars is far from suitable so the journey will have to take a lot longer – to the next nearest planet that could sustain human life, namely one that orbits Proxima Centauri B, some four light years away.

OK – we know that light can make the journey in four years, but no spacecraft could possibly travel at anything like that speed. Indeed, the best we can imagine given the propulsion technology available to us is around 700,000 kilometres per hour, which means that the journey would take around 6,300 years!

Is that feasible? Let’s imagine what that would involve. Of course, if a spacecraft left Earth with a journey of that length in mind, the astronauts who began it would die of old age before they had gone even a fraction of that distance. The only option would be for a whole community of people to set off in a very large spaceship that could not only sustain life for thousands of years but enable them to breed new generations of people as they went along.

An awful lot of new generations! If you estimate that a new generation arrives on average every 25 years, that is more than 250 generations that will be born, live and die during the voyage. It is now 2018 – 6,300 years ago our ancestors by 250 generations were living in 4282 BC, when agriculture was first being developed in Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, metalworking was in its infancy in some parts of the world and the Pyramids and Stonehenge were still thousands of years into the future!

Can you imagine what it would be like to spend your whole life on a vast starship whizzing through space, knowing that you had absolutely no choice in the matter and that you would die exactly where you had been born, your only real function being to produce the right number of babies to keep the community in perfect balance?

Presumably it would be essential to develop virtual reality to the extent that people could lead entirely artificial but realistic lives, maybe similar to that of the hero of “The Truman Show”? Otherwise everyone would surely lose their minds!

There is also the question of preventing disease from wiping out the community before it gets to where it’s going. That will imply the thoroughgoing screening of all the “starters” to make sure that there are no genetic imperfections that could lead to fatal or debilitating conditions emerging several generations down the line. It will also mean that some of the community will have to learn medical skills as they go along – presumably from previous generations or from a highly sophisticated library.

How much lifestyle choice will the voyagers be allowed to have? Suppose that a substantial portion declare themselves to be gay and refuse to breed? Should this be a genetic trend that is screened out at the outset, or would that mean introducing a form of eugenics – extreme social engineering – that is morally indefensible?

And who will enforce the rules down the generations? How will they do it, and what sanctions will be at their disposal?

Hm! A lot of questions! So is the idea even remotely conceivable? It may surprise you to learn that there are people who have given serious thought to these issues and produced computer models for the ideal starship community – apparently you start off with 49 men and 49 women and that is what you get at the end!

It sounds crazy to me – what do you think?
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carmen3521 good to know, thanks
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fortune I do not think it possible, it's some king of fantasy. And even if it become possible to ready such stars and live there, no one would take all humans to this trip.
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ze2000 Is it possible? Yes. But our human condition cannot conceive that whoever starts the journey will never reach the destination alive, generations will have to live in the spaceship and his/her descendants will be the ones that reach Proxima Centauri.

Also this is considering the ship is so well made that it lasts for hundreds of years and it has a food/water regeneration system.
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indexer @ze2000 It would have to be like a planet all its own - able to grow its food and recycle its waste. People are giving serious thought to creating a self-sustaining community on Mars - this would be a mobile version of that.

Yes - it does sound fantastic, but impossible? I wonder!
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indexer @fortune Well no, it would not be a trip that everyone could take. The voyagers would be "perfect people" which leaves out most humans! The scenario is that the planet is doomed, so survival will only be on offer to those who leave.
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milenazoran 6,300 years?????
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