As you may or may not know. Many world governments and institutions are spending billions of dollars each year in the pursuit of extraterrestrial life. In any form possible, from small microbes to intelligent life somewhere outside the boundaries of our own solar system.
The discovery of which would rewrite the history books and change our view of the universe forever.
Currently, there are dozens if not hundreds of earth-based observatories scanning the night sky to gather information about stars, nebula, exoplanets, and a whole host of outer space stuff.
Some telescope and radio telescopes are directly scanning the constellations for signals that might hint to an intelligent origin.
Currently, the James Webb Space Telescope is slated to launch in March 2021.
This orbital telescope will be able to peer further in the farthest reaches of the cosmos than ever before. It will be able to detect exoplanets orbiting other stars. Perhaps even make out some of its composition.
It is known that space-based telescopes are far more capable than their earth-based counterparts. This is due to the fact that in space there is no atmosphere to obscure the view of the delicate lenses.
To build such a highly precise instrument takes many years and the most brilliant engineers and scientists. Besides its colossal construction costs, it’s launch costs are also substantial.
This is where SpaceX Starship can play a huge role.
It will be capable of launching such delicate payloads at a fraction of the current costs. This would enable the launch of a multitude of telescopes.
It would also be possible to build giant telescopes in space that could be assembled in orbit. The James Webb Space Telescope consists of 20 hexagon shaped lenses to capture light from distant stars. With Starship, you could create a space-based telescoped with hundreds or perhaps even thousands of such lenses. They could be assembled in Geostationary orbit, away from the light reflections of the earth’s atmosphere.
Such a huge telescope would enable us to examine exoplanets in a level of detail that might reveal surface features. We might directly see if it has oceans or forests and thus confirm with a high degree of certainty that there is life in some form elsewhere besides earth. This would fundamentally change our understanding of ourselves and the universe.
Besides looking for life outside our solar system, Starship can also help to find life in our planetary backyard.
For starters, Elon Musk is planning on colonizing Mars as soon as it is technically possible. He aims to have 1 million people living and working on Mars by the year 2060. If there is life in some small, microbial form on Mars we are likely to find it once human settlers have arrived.
Besides Mars, there are some other candidates in our solar system that could harbor life. One such place is one of the moons of Jupiter, called Europa.
This moon is covered with a kilometers thick layer of ice. However, under the surface of this layer, the moon harbors most likely a liquid ocean. What makes this possible is the strong magnetic fields of Jupiter heating up the core of Europe which melts the subsurface ice. If this ocean indeed exists, then it is highly likely that it harbors marine life in some form still unknown to us.
With the help of Starship, a robotic mission could be sent to Europa to look for signs of life underneath its thick layer of ice. Perhaps even further into the future, a manned mission could be undertaken to Europa and the other Jovian moons. It might not be Starship itself that would make the manned journey to the Jovian system. The required spacecraft could be assembled in earth orbit. It could even have a rotating ring to generate artificial gravity by means of centrifugal forces. This would be needed to help astronauts cope with the negative side effects of weightlessness.
So we can conclude that SpaceX Starship can help substantially with the search for extraterrestrial life in our solar system and beyond.
Now to get a bit into the theme of the rendered artwork of this article.
Let us contemplate a little about the possibility of encountering intelligent extraterrestrial life right at our planetary doorstep.
When we take a look at how in Star Trek, Starfleet handles encounters with intelligent alien species that are not technologically advanced enough to venture out into space.
The Starfleet protocol would be to leave such alien civilization alone and let them develop into a space-faring civilization capable of the colonization of nearby star systems and light-speed travel.
It is not entirely impossible that we are such a civilization that more advanced alien species are avoiding contact with as we are not yet a proper space-fairing civilization.
Maybe some alien species are waiting for the moment we free ourselves from the bounds of earths gravity and engage in manned exploration of our solar system and perhaps nearby star system such as Alpha Centauri, which is around 4 light-years away and harbors a few exoplanets of its own.
Once Starship becomes operational, the human race will have a real chance of becoming a space-fairing civilization, capable of exploring our solar system as long as no extinction-level event happens in the next 100 years or so.
Starship would not get us to nearby stars even though Elon Musk so lovingly called it Starship. It would, however, jump-start the process of getting there.
Within 20 years nuclear fusion could become a viable and mature technology to power spacecraft capable of reaching 10% of light speed to reach Alpha Centauri within 100 years.
Perhaps then, when aliens are satisfied with our progress in space travel and our society as a whole, they would introduce themselves after which we can join a greater galactic family and live happily together. Perhaps this is Elon’s plan all along since he once claimed to be an alien in a twitter post 🙂