If the human race stays on its current trajectory in the realm of space travel, then humans will never reach the stars. This is not because of a lack of technology, or innovation. Eventually man will discover the secret to interstellar travel, but by then what will have changed?
As we have seen with the twentieth century, man is capable of rapid development in terms of technology. In the course of less than one hundred years man went from basic flight to traveling to the moon. This gives hope to the notion that one day man will be able to develop a craft capable of delivering him to another star. Some might even call it inevitable. However, space travel since the famed moon landings has been more timid than most space enthusiasts would prefer. The technological race brought about by the cold war made the moon landings possible, and without the cold war, advances in space travel have hit a road black. Without the immense amount of funding from the government, NASA has been unable to produce the kind of results necessary for space travel beyond earth orbit. This is not because of lack of knowledge. The men and women with NASA are some of the best man has ever known, however, without proper funding, some ideas don’t leave the drawing board, or worse, they take enormous amounts of time to come into focus. What is necessary, and what is currently in the works now, is private innovation in the field of space travel. Creating a market and a need for space travel may be a challenge, but eventually companies will take the pressure off of NASA, and man will see a new dawn of space endeavors.
The journey to other stars is so far off, that it’s hard to conceptualize. Seeing man venture out into our own solar system to reside on other worlds may take over one hundred years, provided private industry makes the necessary choices. Assuming this all goes smoothly, and man has made his home on other worlds in our own solar system, then we can start to envision the forward thinkers of tomorrow logically considering a trip to Alpha Centauri.
This is where things get sticky.
When I envision the world of the future, I do it with the help of the great Isaac Asimov. In the world of the future, I strongly feel that robots will be prevalent, if not essential. Already, in our own time man has crafted the post industrial society, and he lives in a comfort unimagined by his ancestors. I feel the same sort of development will be inevitable in the future using advance computers and robotics. In Asimov’s robot series we encounter people referred to as spacers—the first humans to immigrate to space. I feel that the whole of humanity will become much like these “spacer” worlds. In Asimov’s works the “spacer” worlds deteriorate, and have ill relations with Earth, but for my purposes I will use only their general behavior as a model for future human behavior. It may also be said that this is ironic, because Asimov’s “spacers” settled worlds around other stars, but hear me out.
Spacers have long life spans (400 years), and live in extreme comfort with constant aid from robots. Future humans will have no need to travel to other stars, and as the model in my example for the population of our solar system was commercial, this poses a huge problem. With no way to coax people into spending money to go to space, the engines that drive the spacecrafts to other stars will go unmanufactured. After all, if you lived in complete comfort, what would motivate you to give up years of your life living in a cramped spaceship, only to know that a hostile new world awaits you, without the comforts you’re accustomed to? Man will lose the will to explore, and while he may send scientific probes to other worlds, I fear the population of other star systems will not be a reality in this millennium. Of course I hope I am wrong.
The only way a future human, or a “spacer” if you will, will make this sort of a journey, is if it is in a luxurious cruise ship like the one seen in the entertaining children’s movie WALL-E. This of course is assuming that all of the science fiction premises for how humans and robots will behave together hold true in the future. Who knows, maybe robots will develop a taste for adventure.