We must take care of our planet, it is very beautiful and still absolutely liveable
Fantasies of humans touching down on Mars is now more like a reachable dream. Recently there have also been talks of a human colony on the moon. However lucrative this possibility might be for a vast number of space enthusiasts, we should think twice, according to Michel Mayor, an astrophysicist who was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics this year for discovering the first planet orbiting a sun-like star outside of our solar system.
The reality is, while we're lost in dreams about settling down in another rock, we're messing up our very own Earth. "If we are talking about exoplanets, things should be clear: We will not migrate there," Mayor said in an interview. He said he felt the need to "kill all the statements that say, 'OK, we will go to a liveable planet if one day life is not possible on Earth.'"
Mayor is an expert on the exoplanet front, and all of the known exoplanets, or planets outside of our solar system, are too far away to feasibly travel to, he said. "Even in the very optimistic case of a liveable planet that is not too far, say a few dozen light-years, which is not a lot, it's in the neighbourhood, the time to go there is considerable," he added.
Two of this year's Nobel winners in Physics, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz have been successful in the exciting search of exoplanets. In October 1995 they announced the first discovery of a planet outside our solar system, an exoplanet, orbiting a solar-type star in our home galaxy, the Milky Way. Using novel instruments at the Haute-Provence Observatory in southern France, they detected a gas giant similar to Jupiter, which they named 51 Pegasi b. This discovery started a revolution in astronomy and over 4,000 exoplanets have so far been found in the Milky Way, but apparently, none of them can be feasibly reached.
Stephen Kane, a professor of planetary astrophysics at the University of California in Riverside, agrees with Mayor. "The sad reality is that, at this point in human history, all stars are effectively at a distance of infinity," Kane lamented. "We struggle very hard as a species to reach the Earth's moon."
We might be able to send people to Mars in the next 50 years, but "I would be very surprised if humanity made it to the orbit of Jupiter within the next few centuries," he said. Since the distance to the nearest star outside of our solar system is about 70,000 times greater than the distance to Jupiter, "all-stars are effectively out of reach. So that's where we stand, firmly on the Earth, and unlikely to change for a very, very long time."
Mayor said: "We must take care of our planet, it is very beautiful and still absolutely liveable."