According to renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, humanity will only be able to survive on earth for about 1,000 more years.
“We must continue to go into space for humanity,” Hawking said at a medical conference in Los Angeles yesterday. “We won’t survive another 1,000 years without escaping our fragile planet,” he added.
Experts estimate that the earth’s sustainable human population is around 2 billion people. Humanity currently consumes resources at a rate 50% faster than the earth can produce them. That is to say that in a 12-month period, humanity consumes an amount of resources that it took the earth 18 months to produce. This unsustainable level of consumption will only increase as the world’s population continues to rise.
In addition to yesterday’s comments, Hawking has called for a new era of human exploration in recent years. He likens space exploration today to European voyages to the America’s 500 years ago.
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“Spreading out into space will have an even greater effect. It will completely change the future of the human race and maybe determine whether we have any future at all,” Hawking said.
But, any future in space hinges on present research from earth, and space exploration budgets have been cut in recent years due to economic woes. NASA’s planetary science budget, seen as a crucial program for finding habitable planets in space, was reduced by over $300 million this year.
Even with reduced funding, the quest for other habitable planets has not disappeared. Russia recently signed a deal with the European Space Agency that will make them partners in the ExoMars project. The project is one of the latest attempts to discover whether or not there is life on Mars. Eventually, the project plans to send a manned mission to Mars. Before that, ExoMars will send rovers to the planet to gather information about its geochemical structure. Much of the research will analyze potential hazards and habitability risks for future manned missions to Mars.
Aside from Mars, scientists currently estimate that the closest habitable planet is around 13 light years away from earth.
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Hawking also toured a stem-cell lab in while in LA. Hawking was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when he was 21 years old. On the tour, Hawking got to view microscopic stem cells through a projector screen while talking with researchers about their latest findings on the disease he suffers from.
Hawking, 71, is credited with bringing modern physics to the masses during his lifetime. His book A Brief History of Time has sold over 10 million copies since 1998.