On Saving Life

Something I’d talked about long ago still pertains today. Humans must bring life to the planets and the stars. It is necessary duty for a species such as ours.

At some point, probably in the distant future, but maybe much sooner, the Earth will become uninhabitable. Maybe the Sun will enter its shell burning stage, become a red giant star, and gobble up our world. Or, maybe a giant bolide will destroy our planet. Maybe a gamma ray burst will strike nearby, and vaporize the Earth’s surface. Whatever the cause may be, some day all life on our planet will, absolutely, go extinct.

We do not know whether there is life anywhere else in the universe. We have no conclusive evidence that it exists on other planets within our system, and we are just beginning to search for it on exoplanets. Though there is abundant speculation, and lots of places that look good for life (eg. Jupiter’s moon Europa), we have so far found it nowhere else. Speculation and statistical calculations are not good enough for proof. Until we find real living organisms on another celestial body, we must assume that there is no other life in the universe besides right here on Earth.

This banded iron formation is over 2.5 billion years old.  The gray part is composed of iron minerals, the red is composed of chert.  The whole thing was produced by ancient organisms during the Great Oxygenation Event.
This banded iron formation is over 2.5 billion years old. The gray part is composed of iron minerals, the red is composed of chert. The whole thing was produced by ancient organisms during the Great Oxygenation Event.

Therefore, we are the stewards! Life is incredibly precious. For example, scientist Robert Hazen at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s geophysical laboratory studied life’s effect on the Earth’s mineralogy. From a starting assortment of about 60 minerals in chondrite meteorites, asteroidal and planetary differentiation leads to an assortment of a few hundred distinct mineral species. This assortment is what we should expect to find on a lifeless planet like the Moon or Mars. Plate tectonics can bring this number up to around 1000, which may be what the early Earth possessed. However, life, primarily because it throws the atmosphere into a dynamic disequilibrium, drove that number up past 4000 species. Life made Earth into the most mineralogically diverse planet we know.

Since we are the only species that has the ability to willfully travel out into space, and will be the only one for the foreseeable future, it is our responsibility to bring life to the other planets. The first, obvious, spot to hit is our own Moon. As we set up temporary, then permanent bases on and within the Moon’s crust, we will then be sure that at least one other body in the universe now possesses a biological ecosystem. The next target should then be Mars. Eventually, we must project life past our own solar system.

So far that we know, our planet is the only place in the universe that harbors life. We should act like that is the truth, and play the part of “life steward.” Life is a miracle. We need to spread it throughout the universe, for it is the only material that gives the universe meaning. If and when the Earth is destroyed, then possibly all life in the universe will be destroyed along with it. We cannot let this happen.

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