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Space travel: Scientists plan 1,000 year trip to distant planet | Science | News

Even if humanity is to solve Earth’s problems such as climate change, there is no way the planet will survive the sun’s inevitable expansion which will consume our planet in around three billion years. Despite the sizeable timeline, scientists are already beginning to come up with a plan to move out of the solar system and on to a new star system – specifically Proxima Centauri. Proxima Centauri is 4.25 lightyears away and orbiting it is Proxima b – a planet similar in size to Earth and far away enough from the star that conditions could be favourable to life.

Breakthrough Starshot – a project which will see a small spaceship powered by ground-based lasers – could theoretically travel at 25 percent the speed of light – 46,500 miles per second – completing the journey in just 40 years.

However, carrying humans with a heavier load is a completely different ballpark and it would take thousands of years to complete the 40 trillion mile journey, which is why scientists have established the idea of a “generation ship”, where people are born, give birth and die on the ship.

Andreas Hein, executive director of the nonprofit Initiative for Interstellar Studies, told One Zero: “We know that people can live in isolated areas, like islands, for hundreds or thousands of years; we know that in principle people can live in an artificial ecosystem.

“It’s a question of scaling things up. There are a lot of challenges, but no fundamental principle of physics is violated.”

Avi Loeb, a theoretical physicist at Harvard University, added: “There is no doubt that our future is in space. One way or another we’ll have to leave the Earth.

“At some point there will be a risk from an asteroid that will hit us, or eventually the Sun will heat up to the point that it will boil off all the oceans on Earth. Ultimately, to survive we will need to relocate.”

But with this comes an ethical dilemma. Although the first generation will choose to go on the millennia long journey, generations after that will have no choice but to live and die on the ship.

This means their fate will be decided from birth and will have little option on their future – including their careers and partners, to name just two.

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Neil Levy, a professor of philosophy at Macquarie University in Sydney and senior research fellow in ethics at Oxford University, wrote in an article for Aeon:“A generation ship can work only if most of the children born aboard can be trained to become the next generation of crew.

“They will have little or no choice over what kind of project they pursue.

“At best, they will have a range of shipboard careers to choose between: chef, gardener, engineer, pilot, and so on.”

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