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Can Humans Travel to and Inhabit Other Planets Besides Mars?

Updated on March 29, 2017
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Ever since his Master of Science studies, Glenn Stok has been motivated to further investigate fields of science, physics and philosophy.

This article is not about traveling through wormholes or traveling at the speed of light to get to distant planets in another solar system or another galaxy. If that’s what you want to study, there is a lot of debate about that available elsewhere.

What this is about, something we can consider right now, is intergalactic travel that is more in line with present technology.

NASA Artist's rendering of the Mars Ice Home
NASA Artist's rendering of the Mars Ice Home | Source

The idea of reaching beyond the stars and embracing the desire for the human race to inhabit other planets has been envisioned in science fiction and considered realistically by physicists. The following is based on my scientific background and my studies of human survival requirements.

I was a pre-teen when John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. His success, circling three times, attracted my interest with thoughts of reaching farther out with space travel.

I remember being more impressed when Neil Armstrong went beyond Earth’s orbit with the Apollo II space mission that landed him on the Moon in 1969.

With the latest technologies we have today, I’ve been following the activities of NASA sending probes to investigate the potential to support life on Mars.

With that development, I became extremely interested in researching what it’s like to live and travel in space.

Human Trip to Mars in the 2030s

Our present robotic missions have found that there are resources on Mars to sustain human life, such as water beneath the surface. There are also other raw material resources necessary to construct the communities of the future on Mars without the need to send these raw materials from Earth.

Now that water has been discovered on Mars, even though only in frozen form, it has enticed scientists to consider a mission that may have humans traveling to Mars and eventually inhabiting the planet.

NASA is finalizing the experiments to assure the success of the long flight to Mars. It's all planned for the 2030s. [1]

Curiosity Rover Selfie in Bigsky Region of Mars
Curiosity Rover Selfie in Bigsky Region of Mars | Source

Human Travel Beyond Mars to Other Galaxies

More futuristic thoughts involve reaching out to more distant worlds. These missions would require advanced technology that we don’t have today.

However, it’s possible that someday humans will figure out how to traverse huge distances in a heartbeat. That would solve the problem with spending time in space, which takes a toll on the human body.

Scientists think big. They imagine the impossible only to work hard at trying to solve a dilemma that stands in the way of achieving those goals. If nothing else, it’s enjoyable to entertain the thoughts of someday going to a distant planet in another solar system, or maybe even farther out to another galaxy.

These things are unimaginable right now. Its only place is in science fiction, but just think for a moment – when you were young, did you imagine carrying a phone around with you wherever you go? Furthermore, did you think you’d be able to call anyone in the world from that phone?

Yes, technology is advancing, and we already have the ability to send intergalactic space probes to extreme locations in the universe. [2]

Voyager-1 had reached interstellar space 35 years after its 1977 launch.
Voyager-1 had reached interstellar space 35 years after its 1977 launch. | Source

The next step could be sending humans on a one-way trip that only their future generations of offspring would experience.

Who knows what’s around the corner. So let’s keep an open mind and entertain these thoughts as I discuss my views on the possibility of traveling to and inhabiting a distant planet. Inhabiting Mars won’t sound so extreme when we’re done.

Can the Human Race Survive a Trip to Another Galaxy?

In February 2017 NASA announced they discovered seven Earth-like planets 39 light years away in a solar system called Trappist-1. Any one of these planets might support life, as we know it. That’s not to say that we would find intelligent life there, but they might be inhabitable by we humans if we could only get there.

One light-year is about 9,461 billion kilometers or 5,879 billion miles, so 39 light-years is a distance of almost 230 billion miles. If we traveled at 38,000 mph (the speed of Voyager-1), it would take six million years to get to Trappist-1.

There are extremely interesting considerations to take into account if we were to take a journey that would last that long.

For one thing, it would take many human lifetimes. The people leaving would not get to enjoy the destination, only their offspring will.

We need to reproduce in space, while in transit, so that a future generation will be the ones who would carry on the human race. Successful human reproduction in space is dependent on how the weightless environment affects fertilization and growth of the fetus. [3]

Assuming that’s feasible, we still need to live with limited resources and recycle what we have on the spacecraft. This process is actually being studied right now with experiments conducted on the International Space Station.

Human Reproduction and Birth in the Weightlessness of Space

Giving birth to humans in space has never been tried yet. Tests are being conducted with lab rats, and a lot is being learned from this.

The development of the fetus in a weightless condition may cause severe neurological problems. For example, our inner ear develops before birth to achieve a sense of balance. The normal tendency to move and kick while in the womb will change due to weightlessness. The side effects with humans are not known.

Delivery of a newborn would be completely different without gravity. The amniotic fluids would just float out and become airborne. These fluids would need to be contained, probably similar to how the toilet works in the international space station – with suction.

The development of the baby's ability to survive starts from birth.

  • Without daylight, the brain doesn’t develop sight properly.
  • Without gravity, the brain will not be able to develop a sense of balance.

This will not be necessary while in space, but what about the final generation that makes it to a human-friendly planet.

They will have lots of trouble with balance. Their bones will not have developed properly to support the weight of their own bodies. The following 13-minute video will give you all the remarkable details.

What if You Were Born in Space?

Extra-Terrestrial Life: Life Forms Elsewhere in the Universe

Considering the possibility of settling on a new planet, the structure of the body comes to mind. If life similar to humans exists elsewhere, how would they be different?

My discussion in this last section is not about if aliens exist. That’s another topic. I’m proposing to consider what they might be like if they did exist.

The human body has evolved for survival on Earth. Life forms on other planets in the universe may be drastically different from anything we can imagine. Those who theorize about what aliens from outer space might look like usually imagine a human-like figure.

It’s easy to relate to our own form. We even have good reason for considering this. We’ve developed the way we have so that we can manipulate our environment. All living animals on Earth have evolved in such a way as to assure survival in their environment. Survival of the fittest is what guides evolution.

  • Bees have hundreds of lenses in each eye.
  • Deep-ocean fish have no eyes. They don’t need them.
  • Bats use radar to maneuver in the dark.
  • Cockroaches have an outer skeleton to provide protection.
  • Humans have an opposing thumb so we can manipulate our environment.

The point is that every life form on Earth has evolved with the "tools" needed for their own survival.

As for alien forms, we have to imagine the type of environment they may live in. In addition, if they do exist, we have to think of what period in their evolution they are in. We may be ahead of them. They may be ahead of us.

Survival on Another Planet

How can the human race travel to a distant planet and inhabit it? If we do find solutions to make this journey feasible, how will our future generation survive once they settle?

One thing is for sure – we need to get our own house in order first. Rather than destroy our environment, we need to learn to survive on Spaceship Earth.

If we can't survive on our own planet and learn to live with nature, then we will never find a way to continue anywhere else.

References

  1. Journey to Mars (NASA.GOV)
  2. “Deep Space Probes: To the Outer Solar System and Beyond” by Gregory L. Matloff (Springer Praxis Books - Oct 21, 2010)
  3. Effect of space environment on mammalian reproduction (NASA.GOV)

© 2017 Glenn Stok

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    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 4 weeks ago from Brazil

      Interesting idea about the potential problems not just of getting there but the hurdles to overcome during the journey.

      For example, without exercise, the muscles will atrophy. In a gravity-free environment, how is muscle quality maintained? The humans who would leave Earth might be radically different than those who would eventually arrive after a long journey, mere mutants of our former selves.

    • Glenn Stok profile image
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      Glenn Stok 4 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      "Mere mutants of our former selves." That's a good way to put it Mary. Your question about how they "maintain muscle quality" is something I discuss in my other article about "What It's Like to Be in Space on the International Space Station?" I've also included a video showing how astronauts exercise without gravity. Check it out. There's a link to it right before the 4th subtitle above.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 4 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      This is a very interesting hub, Glenn and the points you discuss make a lot of sense, funny how the artist's impression of a Mars ice home looks a lot like an igloo.

    • Glenn Stok profile image
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      Glenn Stok 4 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      I was wondering the same thing John. I didn't find any reason stated for the igloo resemblance. Note the airlock hatch however. To enter and leave the home, they need to go through an airlock so that the proper atmosphere inside can be maintained. The atmosphere on Mars is too rich in carbon dioxide, and its pressure is way too low for humans, only 0.6% of what we have at sea level on Earth.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 4 weeks ago

      Very good article, Glenn. Like you say, first we have to see if we can survive on Mars. With an atmosphere of 93% nitrogen and .13% oxygen, not to mention the other gases, humans would have to exist in a contained atmosphere until the planet could be terraformed. It would take a special breed of human to be able to do that. As for galactic travel, you've made some good points about the survival of the human body. I don't think anyone can guess as to the condition of the human emotional body if humankind survived the trip.

    • Glenn Stok profile image
      Author

      Glenn Stok 4 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      MizBejabbers - Very good points you've made. In addition to the different chemical makeup of the atmosphere on Mars, the air pressure is also an issue as I mentioned in my last comment. Homes on Mars would require an airlock entryway, and people would need to wear spacesuits to go outside.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 weeks ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Amazing! You shared another thought provoking hub.

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