Where we’re going we don’t need roads

It’s easy to make predictions for 1, 2 or 5 years into the future. Let’s go 50 years into the future to the year 2069. How will life on our planet change by that time? How about our presence in our Solar System? Will we have the technology to consider travelling to another star systems?
Nancy Atkinson (Editor at Universe Today, writer for Seeker and author of “Incredible Stories From Space” and “Apollo 11: Eight Years to the Moon” (coming out in July 2019))

What will the world look like in 50 years? It’s anyone’s guess, as the state of future technology is so hard to predict. I’m guessing we’ll continue our attachment to our phones and computers, so much so that somehow, they’ll become integrated into our clothing as wearables or maybe even our bodies in some fashion. I truly hope the “Star Trek” vision of the future is a possibility, where we can eliminate poverty and live in relative harmony on our planet. As far as space travel, I always have maintained that getting humans to Mars is always ten years off into the future, no matter where we are in time. Hopefully in 50 years, we’re at least closer to the perpetual 10-year plan, but I’m actually not too hopeful. I’m predicting robotic missions will only improve to the point where we’ll have live video feeds from around the Solar System, which might preclude the need for humans to take the risks of traveling in space. The big question mark is our planet’s environment. Do we have the political will, the fortitude and sufficient technological advances to make changes now that will ensure that the air, water and land will continue to sustain humanity into the future? The choice is ours.

Graham Lau (Astrobiologist and Communicator of Science (also known as “The Cosmobiologist”))

I once heard an expert in computer science expound that, while many of us could guess about what might be happening in the world in 5 years, even the best scientists and engineers would often be wrong when asked to guess where we’d be several decades out. That said, here are just a few of my guesses at potential trajectories for our civilization by 2069:

– We’re now seeing effects from anthropogenically-driven climate change happening faster than many of us had previously expected. Intensification of storms and increased variability in the weather will likely continue to be driven by climate. The world will likely continue to heat, even if many nations start making drastic changes to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases. I think by 2069 that these things will have caused a lot more coastal erosion, property damage, dislocation of human populations, the extinction of amphibians and other at-risk species, and increased desertification in equatorial regions. However, I also think there may also be some positive to come from this as well. We may see new forests springing up, rapid speciation driven by organisms migrating into regions that were previously covered in ice most of the year, and increased vegetation coverage in Arctic regions. Along with the environmental costs and potential benefits of climate change, I think by 2069 we’ll see a lot more people globally accepting our role in the Earth system and we’ll see some of the earliest planet-wide efforts for humans to become better stewards of our biosphere.

– Although it would be nice to say that by 2069 we will have human colonies throughout the solar system and maybe even people travelling off to other stars, I don’t personally think this will be the case. I think by 2069, we will have seen the first human explorers on Mars and the beginnings of a Mars colony. I think we’ll have at least one colony on the Moon and many more people living, working, and even recreating in orbit of the Earth. But I think we’ll still be in the earliest steps of exploring our solar system and still preparing for our greater future in space. I think we’ll have sent spacecraft to land on Titan, Europa, and Enceladus by 2069; we’ll have landers operating in the high temperature and pressure environment of Venus; and I think we’ll have sent out at least one, but maybe several, robotic spacecraft intended to explore interstellar space and travel to the nearest star systems to relay data back to us.

– I think by 2069, we’ll have made positive confirmation of signs of life within the atmospheric biosignatures of exoplanets. We currently know of almost 4,000 confirmed exoplanets. By 2069, that number will likely have grown to well over 100,000. Although it is possible that we’re the only show in town, I personally believe that life must be more common in the universe. I think our explorations of the atmospheres of exoplanets has the greatest potential for revealing signs of extraterrestrial life in the coming decades. I think these detections will rapidly change how we view ourselves in the universe and has great implications for advancements in science, technology, philosophy, theology, art, and other facets of human life and culture.

– Medical science has been making amazing advancements over the previous decades and I think the future holds more of the same. By 2069, I think we’ll see genetic medicine, where you walk into a physician’s office, they run your genotype and check your current gene expression and proteins and metabolites, and then recommend a medicine that is tailored directly to you. I think we’ll also see the earliest large steps in advanced human longevity. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see life expectancies jump to 120-150 years for people living in developed nations by 2069. However, I don’t believe that we’ll have yet seen the “singularity” or the advent of an actual “transhuman” by that time. -A final note, a recent issue of the journal Futures has just been released that considers the future trajectory of our species within the context of astrobiology and the search for extraterrestrial life. All of the papers within this special issue are currently available for free (until April, 2019). You can find more information about the issue and links to each chapter here: https://www.bmsis.org/detectability-of-future-earth/

Joe Lennox (Teacher of space science, history and technology and former President of The New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame)

I believe that in 50 years we will have a base on the Moon and another n Mars. I think we will have developed some type f nuclear rocket fuel that will allow us to reach the distant planets with probes / satellites as opposed to human curation. I think Hubble and it’s succeeding space telescopes will discover countless moons and planets and maybe even solar systems that we are not aware of today. I believe we will have a giant leap in medical technology and research due to space based stem cell research and space based 3 D printing. The benefits to humanity will be massive and life changing.

Exceptional character

There were many great characters in the Sci-Fi genre. Which one in your opinion showed the best values like courage, leadership or integrity? Would it be Commander Adama from Battlestar Galactica, James T. Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek or maybe some other exceptional character?
Terry Virts (Speaker, author, consultant, former Astronaut)

There have been many great leaders in science fiction, but I think at the top of that list is Captain Kirk. He was always decisive, usually made the right decision and lead through some pretty terrible adversity. Once you got past some of the overacting drama he actually dealt with a very pressing and important social issues. He had a multi-racial crew which was unheard of at that time and he dealt with it seamlessly, he just accepted his crew for who they were, without even thinking of their race or even species. He dealt with all of the important political tensions of the day, between the US and the Soviet Union, the race riots in America and all kind of problems. The world could’ve really used a real life leader like Captain Kirk. In fact we could probably use him today, without the overacting 🙂

Mike Mongo (Author, astronaut teacher, science communicator)

For my money, there is no better leader in the myriad of science fiction universes than Buckaroo Banzai. In addition to good genes, a talent for conceptual physics, and the superlative focus and nerve of brain surgeons–as well as the moxie to lead a New Jersey bar band–Buckaroo Banzai knows his way around multiple dimensions, interplanetary existential crisis, and even bad puns. But above and beyond all this, there is one quality which makes Buckaroo Banzai a great character is Banzai’s natural good luck. Good luck is the earmark of all exceptional characters from science fiction and Buckaroo Banzai exemplifies it.

Paul Carr (Space Systems engineer at NASA, podcaster, blogger, investigator)

Well, o course Dr. Who comes to mind at once, but one of my favorite protagonists is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld witch, Granny Weatherwax. She is brave, wise, resourceful, and underneath that tough exterior, kind.

Andrew Rader (SpaceX engineer, MIT PhD, author)

Jean-Luc Picard probably has the best balance to leadership and integrity, but James T. Kirk is more flawed, emotional, and relatable in a human sort of way while generally still displaying strong leadership abilities. Overall, I would say Picard is a “better commander”, but James Kirk is more daring, risk-taking, and fun. Commander Adama is an extremely solid choice, balancing tough grit, integrity, and keen intellect, while preserving his humanity: sort of a good balance between Picard and Kirk, I would think.

Nicole Guggliucci (“Noisy astronomer”, blogger, educator, post-doc)

My take on James T. Kirk is that he is the very reason the Prime Directive was invented. If there was even one Kirk in our galaxy, we’d already know about the existence of other alien civilizations! He’s a hot mess.

I love Picard, as he is a truly good captain, but of these choices, my heart goes with Commander Adama (from the reboot BSG). Unlike the cheery Star Trek universe, he is tested in a very dark time and, though he makes harsh decisions at times, he holds up as one of the strongest captains in the fictional universes that I have loved.

I have to put in a shout out to a character who, though not my favorite captain, is the most entertaining to watch. That’s Captain Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space Nine. It feels like he’s just always on the edge of sliding into doing something that would be morally abhorrent to other Star Fleet captains, but he has enough integrity to always hold to the morals of the Federation while realizing that he has to be flexible to manage a station in a difficult situation. He is absolutely my favorite to watch because he is so passionate and even dangerous.

Erin Macdonald (Space Science Speaker, Educator, Consultant)

I would have to go with the Star Trek franchise, but a different captain, Captain Kathryn Janeway. In being flung across the galaxy unexpectedly with no contact to Starfleet and a crew suddenly torn apart from their homes and families, she met every challenge with strength, integrity, and leadership. She had no senior leadership with whom to consult and therefore had to stand by every decision and action she made. She stayed true to who she was, allowed herself to be vulnerable and human while at the same time imparting loyalty and trust among her crew. Some of the best episodes that demonstrate these hard decisions and her leadership include Latent Image, The 37s, and one of my personal favorites, Fair Haven (while a fun holodeck episode, it shows how lonely Captain Janeway is and the constant need to be a leader, not a friend to her crew).

Interplanetary games

According to some counts there are more than 8,000 indigenous sports and sporting games. What sports could we play on other objects in our Solar System? Which sports could we modify to accommodate conditions on other worlds (in example lower gravity)?
Fraser Cain (publisher at Universetoday.com, co-host of Astronomy Cast)

The obvious answer is human powered flight, of course, where you strap on a pair of wings and fly around in the low gravity of the Moon or Titan. But actually almost any sport would be fascinating to watch in low gravity environments. Just running would take an enormous amount of skill in lunar gravity, or basketball players making 8 meter jumps to dunk a basketball. Everything would be different in low gravity and totally worth watching for the sheer spectacle.