At some indeterminate time in the future, our descendents will take the sage advice of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky—the father of modern cosmonautics—to its ultimate conclusion: by leaving the cradle forever and setting sail for the stars. To do so, our children and grandchildren will face daunting technological, biological, sociological, and engineering challenges. Photo Credit: NASA

Pack a Bag for the Stars: A Shopping List for Deep Space?

By Ben Evans

It is a fact of human nature that our imagination often outruns the reality that is. For decades, science fiction writers and futurists alike have written about brick moons and manned projectiles shot out of gigantic cannons and torus-shaped space colonies and vast starships with exotic propulsion sources, but the reality of our species’ technological handicap at the dawn of the second decade of the 21st century makes it unlikely that we will see fully-fledged cities on Mars and human expeditions beyond the Solar System in our lifetimes. Only last week, the White House laughed off a tongue-in-cheek petition to build a real-life Star Wars-type “Death Star” as unrealistic, impractical, and pointless. Yet the humor which the Death Star petition has garnered actually underlines a stark point: that little political support exists for turning us from a spacevisiting civilization into a true spacefaring civilization. “We are still stuck in the 1960s in many ways,” laments the website BuildTheEnterprise.org, “when it comes to putting human beings into space.”

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