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Do you think human beings will ever inhabit a planet besides Earth?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on April 25, 2007

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Photo of Peter Marples

“Yes. I think if we’re given an infinite time frame, the possibilities should be infinite.”

Photo of Laney Johnson

“No. I don’t think we have enough time left on this planet to accomplish that.”

Photo of George McCoy

“I’m going to say yes. I think our urge to explore is an irresistible part of the human makeup.”

Photo of Heather Knearem

“No. I think people are going to destroy the world before that can happen.”


Mike Blur 11 years, 1 month ago

Last line should be "we all can't even agree on when conception begins!"


warthog 11 years, 1 month ago

So 50% of these people... okay, it's only 4, but... think that we won't make it long enough to have settlements on other planets. That's rather depressing. Remember when tv and movies glorified the future, or sometimes, they told us how bleak the future was? But there WAS a future of some sort. And now, our young people are doubting that there will even be a future. I really hope they change their minds. Growing up with an attitude that there is nothing but doom ahead can't be much fun.

Just for the record, I agree with them. But I'm old and tired and cynical. I'm supposed to be pessimistic.

enochville 11 years, 1 month ago

Yes. It is almost possible now. We have astronauts living in a space station right now.

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and although we have never lived on another planet before, humans from 100,000 years ago up unto the present time have been venturing off and settling in new lands as soon as the way has opened up. It has always just been a matter of time before we settled on other planets.

Although we currently have people living on house boats, the day may come when we have whole cities on or in the oceans as well.

Stephen Prue 11 years, 1 month ago

science is the answer to all our problems, if only we can escape our paradise we can make a better world somewhere else. there's no place like home

paladin 11 years, 1 month ago

Mmmmm......maybe. At some point, we may need to invade and occupy other planets in order to secure and control their oil reserves, after ours are depleted. Gas would cost about $4000.00 a gallon, but I'm pretty sure the American people will happily line up at the trough, er I mean pumps.

jonas 11 years, 1 month ago

I'm humming the theme song to Firefly.

Mike Blur 11 years, 1 month ago

If, within the next couple thousand years we can solve the quandary of space-time travel, then we can survive as a life form.

The day aliens land on this planet--probably within the next 300-500 years, since they began to pick up our broadcast transmissions we emitted starting 75-100 years ago--world peace on earth will take a major step. All religions and scriptures will be rendered moot as we welcome an alien life force.

I've though about this--hopefully--the alien life force will search for a fuel source to them, would be waste plastic, dirty diapers and discarded food--things we do not value, but alien forces in desperate search of fuel will gladly scavenge. Talk about a symbiotic relationship!

That's the best chance we have when the aliens come. Because it can get a lot worse. They are out there, and many of them are far more technologically advanced than we are. Heck, we all can even agree on when conception begins!

enochville 11 years, 1 month ago

In fact, having humans living on another planet may be the key to the next step in our evolution. One of the keys to developing new species is to have groups reproductively isolated from each other.

There are very few reproductively isolated peoples on earth anymore due to advances in terrestrial travel and open societies. Our only significant predators now are viruses and perhaps other humans. If in time, the human civilizations that develop on other planets are reproductively isolated enough and have different forces of natural selection acting on them, we may diverge into separate species.

Stephen Prue 11 years, 1 month ago

or maybe we would be the alien's fuel source? like aliens are all gray and nice and stuff

gccs14r 11 years, 1 month ago

H. sapiens sapiens won't, but H. sapiens cooperativensis might. We're too busy playing "Screw your neighbor" to put forth the effort into interstellar travel necessary to actually pull it off.

Stephen Prue 11 years, 1 month ago

earlier i meant to say "there's no place like someone else's home, there's no place like someone else's home" sorry dorothy

enochville 11 years, 1 month ago

Wow, some of you are really thinking broadly. I was just thinking of living on other planets in our solar system, but interstellar colonies would be really out there.

Mike Blur 11 years, 1 month ago

"Posted by buffalo_star (anonymous) on April 25, 2007 at 8:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

or maybe we would be the alien's fuel source? like aliens are all gray and nice and stuff"

Notice I said "hopefully" in my previous post, buffalo_star.

acg 11 years, 1 month ago


I sure hope we are around long enough to develop the technology to travel to and colonize on other planets (if they'll have us, that is. I have this horrible picture in my head of what happened to the Indians happening on Mars or something. "Hi, teach us how to live here so we can kill you and take over".)

Flap Doodle 11 years, 1 month ago

We've been ignoring Pellucidar for ages.

mick 11 years, 1 month ago

If it were not for HAL we would have a colony on Jupiter by now.

ms_canada 11 years, 1 month ago

What do you mean will they? Col. Jack O'Neill and his crew go to other planets all the time. Is that not proof enough? It is for me. sheesh, what a question.

Mike Blur 11 years, 1 month ago

Hey TOB, what's your response to the fact that just a couple years ago, after Congress authorized nuclear waste dumps in Nevada--did you know, scientists were trying to come to a consensus as to what kind of symbol would convey "toxic waste" on the dumps to inhabitants a mere 10,000 years from now!

Ragingbear 11 years, 1 month ago

Already it is realistic to see the potential that humans could produce colonies on Mars. Sure, they would start with things like domes containing a Terran atmosphere, but there are many things that could be done to contribute to certain basic atmospheric conditions to make it more earth like. No, I am not referring to the alien reactor that will melt the frozen core into a viable atmosphere.

However, we would have to come to accept that there would be certain things that we cannot do. We would not be able to pull water out of oblivion for oceans. Nor would it be realistic to think we could do things like reactivate the planet's magnetic fields (Like in The Core) for quite a long time. I am referring to 400-500 years at our current rate of technological advancement.

We will probably figure out a way to travel across gigantic distances via spacial folding or artificial wormholes (both of which are considered scientifically feasible to a degree). Figuring in that even 1% of the galaxy may have a solar system layout that has a planet with temperature and radiation exposure consistent with supporting life, we will still have over 3 BILLION planets to examine. Even if there is a Hundred million to one chance at finding a planet among them that actually has the atmosphere and terrestrial composition to support life, we would still have 30 MILLION planets to explore.

Of those 30 million, if there was even a 1% chance that life would actually spawn, we would still find 300,000 planets that would actually have some forms of life on it, even if we are only talking about plants and simple animals like insects.

If there was a 1% chance that advanced life that could possibly have the potential to grow a brain capacity large and complex enough to form sentience, we would still have 3,000 planets that would harbor sentient life. Figuring in that among them that there may be 1% of those that could be on par with us technologically we would still see 30 planets that would have beings on it that we could contact without violating Star Trek's prime directive.

This is assuming, of course, that life could form under circumstances that we have not yet come to realize that life could survive in. Already we have come to a conclusion that life forms could exist in a Methane atmosphere.

But consider this. With all those numbers even further divided down to a mere fraction of what I presented, that we are not the only galaxy in the universe. At last count, the Hubble Telescope has seen far enough to estimate roughly 125 BILLION galaxies within it's current view. Keep in mind that many theorize that that represents a nearly infinitesimal fraction of what comprises the entire universe.

What I am saying, is that life, even sentient life could exist on a nearly infinite number of planets. The sheer odds indicate that no, we are not alone in the universe.

Linda Endicott 11 years, 1 month ago

Not during my lifetime, or probably even my daughter's, but in the future, who knows?

However, even if they do figure out the solution to problems such as finding ways to inhabit planets that humans cannot survive on now, or how to travel many light years away in a faster time frame, if we go by how civilization on earth is now, I'm afraid that only the very wealthy would be able to go. What would that be like? Having a planet light years away inhabited only by the wealthy?

I wonder if they'd find a way to be able to do electronic bank transactions back and forth from earth?

Buffalo_star, that reminds me of the old Twilight Zone episode where the aliens come to earth, woo all the leaders and important people, and they have a book...which at first the only part of their language we can translate is the title, "To Serve Man"...which sounded altruistic...until they managed to translate the rest of it...and it was a cookbook...

oldvet 11 years, 1 month ago

I've know a few women that I am sure came from another planet, so getting people there must not be far off... I've also known some that I would propose be the first we send there!!! and quickly!!!

sgtwolverine 11 years, 1 month ago

Jonas -- thanks for the Firefly reference. I did find that show entertaining.

prioress 11 years, 1 month ago

Beam me up, Scottie, there's no intelligent life on earth. If we last a few billion years (doubtful) we will need to move when the sun expands and goes through its 'senior moment;' all stars do this eventually.

Flap Doodle 11 years, 1 month ago

Would Red Dwarf be the only TV show you could watch on this new planet?

Ceallach 11 years, 1 month ago

No. Before reading the answers of the fearful four I would have said I believed our young people would one day spirit mankind into the university. But now I think our only hope is to aggressively seek the entrance(s) to Pellucidar and free its natural resources for our own use. If we wait for them to come to us, chances are we will be carried into exile, a life of forced labor on the Unfriendly Islands. Gloom, despair and misery on me. Deep dark depression, . . . . .

KyleXY 11 years, 1 month ago

Yes. We are already helping you to reach these goals. We can't serve man if the supply runs out.

Ceallach 11 years, 1 month ago

make that "universe" seems I have university on my mind :)

mom_of_three 11 years, 1 month ago

"Whaddaya mean? I know lots of people who already inhabit their own other-galaxy planets."

lol, pywacket.

I know lots of people who aren't living on this planet- more like Mars or Pluto.

Ceallach 11 years, 1 month ago

prospector: if it was the garden of eden, we'd probably mess it up again :)

irnmadn88 11 years, 1 month ago

I can imagine that aliens look at this planet and think that the dominant life form is the automobile. If humans are to reach beyond the stars to another world, surely the aliens will think they are being invaded when our inter-galaxy vehicle arrives.


sunflower_sue 11 years, 1 month ago

I think we should try putting a human on the moon first...although, I'm not sure what good that would do. Maybe it would be a good place to store wine.

Average planet Average solar system Is there life out there? Yes. Will we get to them? Not by our doing. Inhabit another planet? Not likely. We will destroy this planet long before some genius figures it all out.

RI, been to Lucas and that Garden of Eden was all wrong. The inhabitants looked human enough, though.

Kontum1972 11 years, 1 month ago

hmmmm..well if we do in habit another planet we will probably declare war and destroy that place too...if theres oil there its a no brainer...correct VP Cheney?

Atalanta 11 years, 1 month ago

Nice to see other Browncoats here.

"You can't take the sky from me..."

werekoala 11 years, 1 month ago

They just announced the discovery of the first extrasolar planet a few days ago. Gliese 581 C (3rd planet in the Gliese system). Not as comfy as So Cal, but probably has liquid water and 5x the Eath's area and 2.2 times the gravity. Bonus points -- it's only 20 lightyears away.

But if you think about it -- barring faster than light travel, or suspended animation, the stars are still reachable, but not terribly urgent Because in order to get to an extrasolar planet with any sort of decent tech base and genetic diversity, you'd already have long since passed the point of needing to inhabit planets per se, and the asteroid belt and oort/kuiper clouds have damn near unlimited amounts of organic and inorganic resources.

Which, by the way is the reason that I am a huge space nerd, and every single other environmentally concerned human being ought to be one as well. It's already been calculated that to provide every single human being now alive the same lifestyle and benefits that are enjoyed by Americans would take the resouces of 12 Earths. Well, we've only got the one, but to be honest, I'm not a big fan of the massive genocide and decreased standard of living that would be required to make human life on earth sustainable once more.

No, what kills me is how much time and energy we spend in petty squabbling over the resources of this planet when there are literally billions of times those resources ripe for the plucking. Asteroids for raw minerals and habitable space. Comets for organic matter. Free energy from the sun. And we could move every single polluting industry off of Earth. There are plenty of cold, dark planetoids that wouldn't mind being used as industrial factories, but there's only one Earth. In a thousand years, we could have turned it back into a garden.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 1 month ago

As soon as I figure out a way to get my 4 ft. wide transporter beam machine out of my basement with the 30 inch door...

Mike Blur 11 years, 1 month ago

TOB, in response to your comment at 9:33 am, I was alluding to the fact that scientists were debating what symbol to put on nuclear waste dumps because...the presumption is, Homo Sapiens will likely not exist 10,000 years from now!

Marco Moona Temple 11 years, 1 month ago

Posted by buffalo_star (anonymous) on April 25, 2007 at 8:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

or maybe we would be the alien's fuel source? like aliens are all gray and nice and stuff

LOLOLOL!! gotta love the 'and stuff..'

Linda Endicott 11 years, 1 month ago

Let's face it...if humans are ever able to inhabit other planets, they will just do the same things there that they have done to this planet.

coolmom 11 years, 1 month ago

my youngest son is 9 and for the last several days he has been in the what if mode of finding this maybe habitable planet. he has been so interested that his teacher is allowing his homework next week to be a plan to get to another planet and what he might find good and bad. he has been so excited and interested i think maybe we might find a way to go to another planet maybe my son will see something besides earth.

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