The Pull of More Distant Horizons

Not only is life, by all appearances, tenacious. So, too, is the human desire to prosper and live well. Although the resources for securing both a full and contented human life within the Solar System are nearly limitless, they are nevertheless finite. In this light, it does not seem unreasonable to speculate that in the very distant future, perhaps millions of years from the present, that there might well be large-scale, one-way expeditions of humans into interstellar space. Such exploration will be fraught with both known and unknown dangers, and while such adventures will, for the inhabitants of the Solar System, have zero commercial or even scientific value (presumably still things of interest in the very deep future), they will perhaps satisfy the human desire to know what is beyond the ever-distant horizon.

Humans may eventually inherit our Milky Way galaxy, perhaps as the cocooned cargo housed within the hollowed-out asteroids envisioned by Dandridge Cole, and presumably the colonization of other planets will be part and parcel of that inheritance. This latter component of colonization will probably depend upon the terraforming skills developed in the Solar System, since the likelihood of any Earth-sized planets encountered being directly habitable are very small. There is a clear distinction, however, between finding a planet that is potentially habitable and one that might have supported the emergence of life from inanimate matter. This interesting question concerning the possibility of humans encountering extraterrestrial life and even possibly intelligent life is not, unfortunately, one that will be addressed here. What can be addressed at this stage, however, is the question relating to the existence of exoplanets, and how terraforming might play a role in the colonization of other star systems.

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