What will life be like 100 years from now?
What will life be like in the year 2107? Will humans be living on Mars? Will we be nuking asteroids hurtling our way? Patrick Moore reveals his vision of a century of challenges, discoveries - and extraordinary voyages
Wednesday 08 November 2006
Speculation can be dangerous, especially when science is at the mercy of power-drunk politicians. I have done my best here to indicate what I think may happen, provided that there are no more global wars. I may be wide of the mark in many cases, and, of course, we cannot control nature: who knows when we may see the next supernova, or experience the outbreak of a volcanic eruption? Time will tell.
Very few of my present readers will be here in 2107, but their children and grandchildren will - hopefully, this article will ignite their imagination and vision of the future.
Discovery of a Neptune-sized planet far beyond the Kuiper Belt, a band of small icy bodies, or "builders' debris" left over from the birth of the Solar System some 5 billion years ago, located beyond the orbit of Neptune. After heated discussion, the new planet is named Thanatos, after the mythological god of death. Its discovery and the gravitational field it generates explains the Pioneer Anomaly - the unexpected deviation from the expected trajectory for very distant spacecraft - as well as the highly eccentric orbits of certain minor astronomical bodies such as Sedna.
The mysterious dark matter of the Universe, which comprises about 85 per cent of all matter but cannot be seen, is partly explained. MACHOs - massive compact halo objects, a candidate for dark matter - are investigated with new analytical equipment used on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile and the Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. MACHOs prove to be quark stars with extensive atmospheres; their densities are much higher than neutron stars, and they are very numerous. The VLT survey locates hundreds of MACHOs in our Milky Way galaxy and in the Magellanic Clouds.
Britain's newly elected government looks at restoring the Royal Greenwich Observatory. Also this year, initial steps are taken in constructing the Incredibly Large Telescope (ILT). A joint venture involving the European Southern Observatory, Nasa, Japan and the Chinese Institute of Astronomy, ILT is the largest ground-based telescope yet.
Preliminary lunar base set up in the Mare Frigoris of the Moon, in preparation for permanent human habitation; first a medical centre is established there. The first radio telescope is set up on the far side of the Moon, where conditions are totally radio-quiet. It soon begins to identify quasars and starburst galaxies at distances of over 13.6 thousand million light years away from Earth - objects from a time not that long after the Big Bang.
Completion of the ILT set up at the Fred Hoyle Observatory in Tibet. During initial testing it identifies Earth-mass planets around the stars Epsilon Eridani and Delta Pavonis, providing direct images and showing that their atmospheres are oxygen-rich. The presence of oxygen is a strong indicator of the presence of life.
Rho Cassiopeiae explodes as a hypernova and peaks at magnitude -8. X-ray emissions and neutrino showers are picked up by observatories on Earth, in space and on the Moon. A search for gravitational waves is initiated - they were predicted by Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity in 1915 but remained largely theoretical. In most northern-hemisphere observatories, routine work is suspended so that attention can be focused upon Rho Cassiopeiae.
Gravitational waves detected. Theorists in London, Cambridge and Tokyo show that the acceleration of the expanding Universe is due to slight variations in the value of the gravitational constant, and that the present phase of expansion is likely to be succeeded by a period of contraction ending in what may be called a new Big Bang.
Nuclear device deliberately exploded close to the asteroid Apophis, in order to divert the space-based object and prevent its collision with the Earth in 2036. Though this experiment is successful, the future movements of Apophis will be carefully monitored by the Lunar Observatory and by the VLT and ILT. Apophis seems to be a monolithic body, making it even more of a threat.
First manned expedition to Mars; there is a controlled landing on its moon Deimos (a natural space station) followed by the astronauts' descent to Mars itself in the Martian Module. Rovers Spirit and Opportunity found to be fully functional once given new batteries. Solar radiation levels are found to be tolerable.
Onset of prolonged solar minimum with few sunspots or coronal mass ejections (CMEs). This marks the start of the end of global warming on Earth. Theory predicts an interim period, followed by a phase of global cooling. Conditions similar to those of the Little Ice Age (1645-1715) are expected towards the end of the century.
First major "city" on Mars (Port Lowell) leads to plans for new settlements. Life is found in newly discovered seas below the Martian surface. The most advanced life forms resemble jellyfish that were common in Earth's oceans hundreds of millions of years ago. Tests show that the Martian jellyfish are not poisonous; indeed, they are, in fact, edible - a rich source of nutrition for the human colony.
Manned landings on Halley's Comet at the time of perihelion - its closest approach to the Sun. No bacteria are found, weakening Fred Hoyle's argument that new diseases and epidemics on Earth could have been spread by rocks entering the Earth's atmosphere from space. Transmitters attached to the comet will allow tracking all around its orbit; recording devices will send back data about Kuiper Belt objects and the remote planet Thanatos, with its three known satellites. .
New settlement completed in the Hellas basin on Mars (Port Antoniadi), including an observatory equipped with the ULT (Unbelievably Large Telescope). Martian scientists receive the first artificial signal from space found to come from a planet orbiting Epsilon Eridani. Attempts to interpret the signal are not successful. Reply sent.
Space elevator completed and linked with the orbiting ACS (Arthur Clarke Station). Fossil fuels are now almost obsolete and monitoring by the ACS shows that atmospheric pollution has been dramatically reduced.
Celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the space age (4 October 1957 according to the Earth calendar) are followed by hostilities between the American Federation and the Sino-Japanese Confederacy. The crisis was sparked by a dispute regarding the issue of licences for mining rights of asteroids. Martian colonists declare a UDI (Universal Declaration of Independence).
You can read the original version of this article in the November issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine - the world's only astronomy magazine and CD package, on sale now, priced £4.25.
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