“Why We’ll Never Live In Space” by Sarah Scoles is the lead article in the October 2023 issue of Scientific American. This question is relevant with NASA proposing plans to establish colonies on the Moon and Elon Musk claiming that SpaceX will colonize Mars. Scoles points out that Biosphere 2, where people entered to live for two years, revealed that an encapsulated environment didn’t produce enough oxygen, water, or food for the inhabitants. Later experiments ran into psychological and personal conflicts for those involved. There are similar experiments planned in the United States, Kenya, Israel, and Oman. Does colonizing space make sense?
The problems of trying to survive in space are enormous. Scoles points out that studies of astronauts after spending some time in space show significant physiological damage. Immune systems falter, muscles shrink, and bone loss is so great that it outpaces bone growth. Eye damage, called neuro-ocular syndrome, is associated with space flight.
Radiation from various sources is the biggest problem of being in space. The Sun sends out a variety of radiations, all of which damage human tissue. The radiation of galactic cosmic rays is very difficult to stop. Followup reports on Biosphere 2 show many human problems in a self-contained environment. Those problems are not only physical issues of providing essentials for life but also psychological, social, and even re-entry issues. Medical studies of astronauts in the space station show significant physical and genetic damage. However, these studies involve fewer problems than would be faced in outer space. Biosphere 2 was on Earth, and the International Space Station is in low Earth orbit, where there is still some radiation protection.
When God created Earth, He gave us a more unique place than most of us realize. Science fiction ignores many issues involved in colonizing space. Even if we could overcome all of the obstacles, doesn’t spending tax money to address the challenges on this planet make more sense than sending a few people to Mars? We still have much to learn about life on Earth, and we need to work together to improve the lives of people on this planet. The teachings of Christ give us tools that enable us to do that.
— John N. Clayton © 2023
Reference: Scientific American