Terraforming our neighboring planets (with a huge nod and a wink to the late great Carl Sagan.)
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(Terraform def.: Transform a planet to be more Earthlike and hospitable to earth creatures, mankind in particular.)
Our neighboring planets, one closer and one further from our sun can not merely teach us much about Earth, they may well serve as colonies for humans. They will not, in the future of our lifetimes, serve as locations for excess Earth population, unless one can pay several millions of dollars for a ticket.
We can, however, ready our neighboring planets for our arrival, and eventual colonization/residence.
This would, or should be dependent upon our finding no extant life on these worlds. I fear that such considerations will prove secondary to Mankindís need to survive an asteroid impact upon Earth, as well as the commercial possibilities within our solar system.
Venus may well prove to be more amenable to terraforming than Mars. Doses of high-temp algae, such as those shown to live near deep oceanic volcanic formations, could prove to be the transformers we seek. It would be incumbent upon us to assure no preexisting life would be threatened by our actions, but the example of the American Indians illustrates that this might not be our first priority.
Mars offers another opportunity, both for the presence of life and our propensity to kill what differs from us, particularly if it stands in the way of our plans.
The outer moons of our Solar System provide more opportunities for the existence of life- follow the water; life, as we know it, Jim, follows water.
2001, A Space Odyssey and its disappointing sequels have displayed a propensity for Mankind to fall short of His goals in space. Goddamit, Man should have been on his way to fucking Jupiter by now, but the shit that got us to the moon is rusting in south Florida!
Do you want some economic stimulus? Letís build some spacecraft that can go somewhere and return, without depending on fragile ceramic tiles.
I want my grandchild to e-mail me from orbit from Io or Titan, or just moon me from Uranus.
Space- the final frontier. Letís stop dicking around and get there!
Fiction to follow,
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do."
- Ralph 'Where's Waldo' Emerson
"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like. And I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."
- Bilbo Baggins