The world will shrink,
People will come closer,
They will fly up in the sky. And there will be peace.
Then, up there, wars will start again.
This is the prophecy of Nostradamus for us after the 3rd world war. It is still unclear if Nostradamus was a real or a false prophet. However, these words describe the beginning of space colonization.
Reasons to go to space Edit
There are a lot of reasons that motivated people to go and colonize new worlds. By looking to the known history, we can anticipate reasons for future actions.
What was the reason that started the space race? The two superpowers of that time, the USA and the Soviet Union, wanted both to show their supremacy. Space was seen as a good way to show their power. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. It was a very simple spacecraft, consisting of a huge battery and a beeper, sending a radio signal all over the world through four antennas. Then, the first astronaut, also a Soviet person, left to outer space. The USA lost at the beginning, but not for long. Later, NASA proved its superiority by sending men to the moon and creating the amazing Voyager probes. Then, once America was in the lead, it stopped developing new ambitious missions.
Today, NASA has some strong competitors, mainly ESA, the European space agency. NASA created Deep Impact, ESA launched Rosetta. NASA launched Galileo, ESA launched Juno. Also China, India and Japan are launching their own space vehicles. Since the competition is again on, we can expect new, greater space missions to be launched. And one day, we will see the superpowers racing to create inhabited bases on Moon and Mars. Competition is always a good thing.
The lack of competition can only slow the space expansion and end to stagnation.
Territory acquisition Edit
What drown the European powers to colonize America, Australia and to conquer Africa? The lust of power. Conquering new land in Europe was hard, maybe impossible, but each state could extend its own borders over the seas.
By contrast, a peace or neutrality treaty (like the treaty of Antarctica) will limit human expansion. In this case, we will only see research stations and limited expansion into space.
What made the Hispanics so interested in conquering Central America? The answer is gold. They fought for gold. Many asteroids have huge amounts of minerals and metals. mining them is still expensive, because of our lack of technology. But one day, if technology will allow, we will see many mining corporations spreading across Solar System. The first targets will be asteroids, where low gravity can make transportation much cheaper. But, once resources in the asteroids are entering a decay phase, miners will turn their attentions to Mercury and other larger objects, even the Kuiper Belt.
There are two major obstacles that will slow us down. The first one is the lack of technology, that makes space colonization so expensive. The second are Earth mining corporations, that will always look for a way to keep prices high and will fight against concurrency.
What motivated so many Europeans to go to America? The dream of freedom. They wished to have their own land, to be free from constricting moral laws and religious restrictions and to start a new life, on their own. If one day space colonization will be cheap enough, we will see this again.
And at some point, new colonies will break independent, just like states in North and South America did.
Globalization is an opposite trend. Maybe globalization will slow (or even stop) space colonization.
Steps in Solar System colonization Edit
The most logical steps in space colonization should be the following ones:
Research & mining settlements Edit
They will appear on Moon, on asteroids and on Mars first, but later also in other places. They will be strongly connected to Earth.
Massive settlements Edit
Slowly, population will increase, not on asteroids, but on larger bodies. As the number of residents increases, people will ask for more autonomy. And also, they will look for terraforming their new worlds. This step will look like the colonization of America by European powers.
This state will come at one moment, not to all settlements at the same time. Also, independence might occur before, during or after terraforming processes. It happened before and will certainly happen again.
Solar System phase Edit
Slowly, Earth states will cease to be superpowers. At that time, we will see stronger states on newly terraformed planets and moons. The most logical scenario is that the rocky planets will be controlled by stronger states. Maybe, we will see at that time Mercury, Venus, Earth Federation, Luna and Mars, while in the asteroid belt, smaller states will form. The moons surrounding gas giants will most probably form federations. Imagination can draw future political structures like Galileo Federation (Jupiter) or Cassini Federation (Saturn). But, beyond Neptune, it will be a different world. Small, obscure outlaw states could form there. Sects and rebel groups have so many Kuiper Belt objects to hide.
Colonization beyond Solar System Edit
We can expect space colonization to stop for a while at the borders of Solar System. New states will grow stronger until they will reach their limits.
Galaxy phase Edit
It is logical that, once humans will have strong colonies in Solar System, they will look for outer worlds. First, pioneers will try to reach nearby stars. Later, the existing states in Solar System will try to extend their domains. And also, it is highly plausible that some megacorporations will find an attractive idea to have their own states.
At first, we will see colonies in the star systems close to us, up to 10 light years. Terraforming processes will occur there.
An important change will be when spaceships will travel faster then light. At that point, colonization will stretch to outer worlds. Before this, pioneers tried to terraform any rocky planet or moon. Now, since settlers will have a huge variety of planets from where to chose, they will use only the best ones. This will continue until there will be settlements throughout the galaxy.
There will be a huge variety of states, from interstellar empires to small independent communities located on a Rough planet or a rough asteroid. For a while, there will be a huge variety of governments. Dictators and charismatic leaders will succeed, rise and fall. The galactic map will probably look like the world map in bronze-age, with empires, small states, city-states, tribes, migrating tribes and scattered villages.
However, this state will not keep on forever. Even if some small states are hidden by space distances, darkness or radiation belts, at some point the world will change and we will see entire galaxy divided into well-defined states, like Earth is today. And so, we will see a new cosmic expansion era.
Intergalactic phase Edit
Most probably, humans will not stop at the border of our Milky Way. But what will this lead to? The Universe is enormous. Fugitives (running away from law), pioneers (willing to make history) and leaders (trying to increase their domains) will look at outer galaxies and planets.
Given the immensity of space, we can see a paradox. For example, one empire will claim a whole galaxy, but will be unable to know what is on each planet and asteroid. Another state can exist inside that galaxy without even knowing of the empire. It will be a very interesting phase of human history.
But, at one time or another, things will have to change. The Universe is, according to most of scientists, not infinite, so we cannot run forever, unless we find a way to get to another universe. Even if we do travel through the multiverse, it also might not be infinite. Humans will spread across the Universe until they reach its limits.
Cosmic globalization Edit
This is the final phase of space colonization, at least in theory. As future states rise, they will strength their powers inside and outside their borders. It is like repeating history, only that this time it will lead to the largest states ever imagined. Mankind will come back to where we were before leaving Earth: globalization.
Possible failures Edit
Our route to the sky is threatened by many different obstacles:
- Violent incidents or diseases on Earth, before we even start it
- Violent incidents or deseases after we leave Earth
- Possible encounter with an intelligent alien race (see Alien life for details).
The further we go, the smaller the chances that mankind will be wiped out by a catastrophic event.