Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Stephen Hawking calls for a return to the moon as Earth’s clock runs out

[Washington Post] Humans are overdue for a return trip to the moon, Stephen Hawking has just opined.
Speaking on Tuesday at the Starmus Festival, a science-slash-musical gathering, the astrophysicist offered two parts doom cut with one part scientific optimism. He argued that we should prepare for a cosmic exodus to take place in the next 200 to 500 years.
“We are running out of space, and the only place we can go to are other worlds. It is time to explore other solar systems,” he said via video link to the audience gathered in Trondheim, Norway. “Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth.”
Hawking's plan to boogie off this planet is ambitious: Countries should collaborate to construct a moon colony within 30 years. We can reach Mars “in the next 15 years,” he said, with a base to follow a few decades later.
The head of the European Space Agency said in 2016 that a “moon village” would take 20 years to plan and construct. NASA's long-term plans include sending humans to Mars by the 2030s.
Astronauts last walked on the moon in 1972, the same year that Elton John's “Rocket Man” debuted on vinyl. The final lunar visitor, Eugene Cernan, died in January. Cernan remained a lifelong advocate for space travel, testifying before Congress in 2011 that American space exploration was on “a path of decay” after the Obama administration shuttered NASA's Constellation moon program.
Hawking's gloom goes beyond decay into eschatology. In November, he said we had about 1,000 years left before escaping to the stars. In May, he chopped that timetable to the next hundred years. During his speech Tuesday, titled “The future of humanity,” the 75-year-old black hole expert said that “Earth is under threat from so many areas that it is difficult for me to be positive.” Read More