Humans could have the ability to travel to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn before the end of this century, according to research led by a team from Nasa.
The scientists’ paper outlines what we should be able to do over the coming decades and centuries based on Moore's Law, which is the idea that computing power doubles every two years.
Crewed missions to space to land on Mars and on asteroids as well as on Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons before the end of the 21st century could be followed in the 23rd century with flights to exoplanets – planets in other solar systems.
Trips to other galaxies are a little further away for us, but the boffins think even they will be possible by the end of the 24th century.
The report, led by a team from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is based on the speed of scientific and technological progress we’ve made since the start of the Space Age, as well as Moore’s Law.
By the end of this decade, robotic missions to the nearest exoplanets could be possible, and in the 2040s we could be sending robots up to 40 light years away.
A human crew could make it to the asteroid belt by the 2060s, and by the 2080s that could be followed by our arrival at Saturn and Jupiter, the researchers predict.
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The report warns that the success of this type of exploration is crucial to the survival of the human race, thanks to what it calls the Window of Peril.
“Beginning with the development and deployment of the first nuclear weapons near the end of World War II, humanity entered a ‘Window of Peril’ which will not be safely closed until robust off-world colonies become a reality,” the authors write.
“Our findings suggest the first human-crewed missions to land on Mars, selected Asteroid Belt objects and selected moons of Jupiter and Saturn can occur before the end of the 21st century.”
It adds: “Launches of human-crewed interstellar missions to exoplanet destinations within roughly 40 light years of the solar system are seen as possible during the 23rd century, and [the] launch of intragalactic missions by the end of the 24th century.
“An aggressive and sustained space exploration program, which includes colonisation, is thus seen as critical to the long-term survival of the human race.”
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