Why manned spaceflight is ultimately doomed

When I was a little kid, Star Trek was a staple. No surprise – I was born in the year when Neil Armstrong strode down the surface of the moon for the first time.

And I sucked it in. I just sucked every sequel of Captain Kirk solving another cosmic puzzle and Mr. Spock frowning his eyebrow in. The more, the better.

But pretty early in life I started to ask myself a couple of fundamental questions. How comes that the galaxy is so full of funny life forms and they are all uncannily similar to us. Mostly we have to do with something with legs and arms and some form of head. Star Wars was more creative with its aliens.

But there was worse. How the hell comes that a civilization that is advanced enough to roam the galaxy would still use flipcharts for presentations and that humans were still as physically frail as we are today. Put a bullet in our head and we are glibber.

Where is the man?

Where is the man?

I just occasionally watched the next season with Captain Picard and what followed after him is a black hole to me. Ask me about the last sequel of Sex in the City and you would get the same, puzzled look.

We have a problem with spaceflight as we still think that even in 100 years from now we will still be the same and go about space travel the same way we do today. What are we doing today? We are sending frail, wetware that needs copious and expensive protection from its surroundings into tin cans in space.

Pretty much everything in space is our enemy in our biological form of today. Hard vacuum would instantly suffocate us and make blood vessels explode. Radiation would quickly kill every living cell in our bodies or give us cancer so quick, we could probably watch it growing. And temperature extremes would fry and freeze us at the same time. No moderating atmosphere to protect our fragile self’s.

But will we be still this frail in 50 years, or 100? One thing that is certain is that our bodies will evolve through technology or medicine. I don’t want to enter the ethical discussion or it should even happen. It will happen, one way or another. There are always people who want to try out new things first.

But let’s just imagine that our bodies have gone from biological to fully synthetic. Let’s also imagine that we still look the same but would be able to withstand extreme heat and cold, hard radiation and vacuum without taking damage. Let’s imagine that we would need no food or water or sleep and that we are equipped with endless power supply.

Let’s imagine that our minds are able to quickly upload into any synthetic body that is available (please read my posts on radical evolution for more). Most of what we need in order to go to space today would be useless. We could walk the surface of Venus or Mars completely unprotected.

Ready for Pluto ...

Ready for Pluto …

We could feel the lunar regolith between our toes while we walk its surface bare feet. We would be able to bask in the radiation of the sun on the surface of Mercury without fear from temperature or cancer and we would be able to travel without taking an arduous ride in tiny cabin on a stick filled with explosives soaring through the sky.  We would simply upload our mind to an available synthetic body already in place.

This means no beaming, no sleeper ships, no resource reutilization, no terra forming of Mars or Venus; it means no spaceships or fear from alien monsters. It would all not be necessary as we would be strong, durable and omnipresent.

This makes most of the science fiction film genre no more than a fairy tale such as Snow White and the seven dwarfs. They are no closer to ever become real than Mickey Mouse to actually be born.

But anyone looking at the space colonization scene one would be forgiven to think that none of this has filtered through. They are still conceptualizing steel tubes or their containers designed to protect us frail things from the elements.

We will roam space and we will do so in ways we can barely imagine but our experience of other worlds will be infinitely better than a clunky, tight, sweaty space suit with narrow vision and false environmental feedback.

When we scale the slopes of Olympus Mons, chances are that we will do so without any protection necessary. We will sample an unobstructed, stunning view, feel the cold breeze without freezing and smell what it is like to be on Mars. We will dive in the ocean underneath Europa’s ice crust without the need to breathe and stand on the rim of the volcano Loki on Io experiencing its unbelievable eruptions close up.

We will go to the stars and beyond unrestricted by barriers of time and space as we will have transcended from bio to synthetic and beyond.

We will blend with the universe. No need for spacefaring anymore.

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