Dreams of colonizing the moon received a breath of fresh air as researchers at Purdue University released new studies theorizing the existence of giant, city supporting lava tubes under the lunar surface. Twitching apocalypse junkies can breathe a sigh of relief, now when the inevitable end of life on earth arrives they can bank on a solid plan B, that is, if they are rich enough.
Space colonization would be more “Titanic” and less “Interstellar.” The end of Cameron’s blockbuster bait film depicts the moving scenes of wealthy first class cabin holders boarding life boats, while poor mothers read their kids to death so they can die peacefully. This isn’t fiction, but historical fact.
The earth doesn’t have enough lifeboats.
According to an article in Discover Magazine last year, “NASA’s new Orion spacecraft…carries a maximum of six astronauts.”
A large part of this is because while people don’t weigh a lot, the equipment to keep each person alive does. Which means that to save even a relatively paltry 100,000 people, it would take 16,667 launches. Even at a rate of one launch per day, this would take 45 years.
Besides, 100,000 people would be about one one-hundred-thousandth of a percent of the earth’s population, or to put it in perspective, the point one percent of the one percent. Thus, the only people to survive would be those with a first class ticket on space ship earth.
The 2012 documentary “Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream” shows the exceptional wealth in a single apartment building on 740 Park Avenue, which houses many of the world’s billionaires. The film tracks how some residents haven’t been photographed since the 1990s. The point is clear: to be the wealthiest of the wealthy is to have the ability to avoid the basic facts of life.
So how would the planet choose who leaves? On the optimistic end of the extra-planetary colonization
spectrum lies the Mars One Program. Operating off of meritocratic principles the program devotes itself to finding the best astronauts. One key characteristic is “emotional and psychological stability,” because these are “the primary personal attributes of a successful astronaut.” This form of eugenics doesn’t force sterilization, but does consign parts of the population who don’t fit their profile to die on earth.
On the other end of the spectrum lies space tourism, where the population control mechanism is not talent or skill but cold hard cash. Greg Olsen, a private citizen and entrepreneur, paid $20 million for the chance to go to space, and Virgin Atlantic is poised to offer space flight for $200,000 a seat.
Scholars Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou write, “Although we can and do choose with whom to share a bed, a house, or sometimes a neighborhood, we cannot choose with whom to share the earth without engaging in genocide.”
The only way offered to get everyone off planet earth involves bending gravity.
It is clear that unless the laws of physics change we will choose who we share the future earth with. Perhaps saving the earth is an easier and more equitable solution.