Feeds

'Now that we have a map, let's start colonizing outer space' - expert

Only women willing to read maps invited

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

For proof that man will soon live in outer space, you need only look at Christopher Columbus. Or so said space whiz and senior SETI astronomer Seth Shostak during a lecture last night at NASA Ames.

Shostak presented, for the first time, his ideas on the parallels between ocean going explorers and today's space pioneers. The explorers, he argued, moved from setting out on their first voyages to creating rather accurate maps of the continents in a span of about fifty years. From that point on, naval powers focused on colonizing the new lands they had discovered.

Astronomers have mimicked the discovery portion of this journey over the past fifty years by producing a map of the Solar System, Shostak said. Next up, we'll set out to colonize space.

"The big picture comes when you step back and realize this is the one generation making the atlas of the solar system," Shostak said. "That is what's happening."

Columbus "discovered" a "new land" in 1492 and kicked off a flurry exploration made possible by innate human wanderlust and improved technology. Columbus, however, didn't really know where he had traveled and didn't add a tremendous amount of mapping knowledge. But over the next 50 years, the likes of Magellan, Vespucci and Verrazano would deliver a pretty solid picture of most of the major land masses.

"The basic globe was there," Shostak said. "One generation did that. All we have done since then is refine that globe."

With a decent map in hand, the European powers set out to fund the colonization of the new world.

A similar practice of mapping the solar system started in 1965 when Mariner 4 sent back much improved pictures of Mars, Shostak said.

Since that time, astronomers – with the help of high-powered telescopes and various exploration vehicles and probes – have delivered stunning pictures of most of the planets and their moons. The quality of these images coupled with our knowledge has made it possible to target not one or two but several places where we might find life or where it might make sense for humans to set up shop.

"Before 1965, if you asked, 'Do you think there is life elsewhere in the solar system?' most scientists would have said, 'Yes' and said Mars and Mars only as the likely candidate," Shostak said. "Since then, we have learned Mars is still a candidate and maybe the best, but it is not the only candidate by any means"

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.