Always have I been a fan of fantasy and science fiction. Ever since the age of 7 when I would save my five bucks in quarters from doing chores around the house to buy the latest Animorphs book. These novellas, written rather brilliantly from a new point of view each book, gave me a baseline comprehension of the universe, and star travel, and the possibility of aliens at a very young age. Ive been fascinated with the idea of the human race breaking their gravity shackles, and living throughout the universe ever since. So, allow me to pontificate for a moment on how exactly I think this is gonna go down.
As with any human venture, economics is king. Incentive matters more than idealism. So, you ask, what would make advances in space travel and colonization worth it to humans? Privatization. Unleash the free market upon the solar system. Specifically Im talking about the moon. La Luna. The big swiss cheese. The united nations or similar earth government conglomerate could theoretically sell property on the moon to legitimize ownership claims. Logically then, private industry would step up to fill the truly atrocious 45 year gap in NASAs space exploration. They would plant their colonies, and flags, on the moon. This would effectively create several nations not under the socialist influence of earths governments. “But GRODY! Theres nothing on the moon! Its just a big dumb rock!” WRONG! the moon has one thing in abundance. Fuel. In the form of Helium-3 an isotope used in fusion reactions. With abundant fuel for their colonies, these new monarchies would have no trouble expanding their high tech cities’s mining operations with the platinum and titanium avalible on the moon. I have no doubt these corporations/nations/monarchies would attract the best and brightest the earth has to offer. The brain drain from earth would be catastrophic. Maybe the profit wouldn’t be immediate, but if history is any indication, the ones who snap up land do a lot better overall than the common rabble.
Naturally advances in robotics and computing would result from having safe haven for geniuses. Space stations, that could be built and launched into orbit with 17% of earths gravity, would be upgraded to something unrecognizable to the bucket of bolts we currently have orbiting earth. I have no doubts that with advances in fusion energy these stations could become entirely self sustaining. Recycle the air, recycle the water, the shit… Recycle everything. Once the space stations are fully functional and the economy of the moon is booming, there will inevitably be advances in ionic propulsion and warp drive technology. Mars will fall next, then the asteroid belt. Space exploration with the reward of precious metals and a Captain Kirk lifestyle will by this time become increasingly appealing. The nations of Earth will struggle to get some skin in the game, determined not to be outclassed by the technocratic nations of Luna.
Terraforming efforts will be redoubled. Specifically in nano robotics. The design I have in mind is similar to the Hexbug. (I like to watch cartoons gimme a break) With billions of tiny bugs, using wireless electricity from fusion plants, passively working to improve the environment for humans, terraforming nightmares would be a thing of the past. Scientific research would continue throughout the solar system. With or without humans. With the solar system conquered, the next step would logically be interstellar travel. I for one, don’t believe the speed of light can be broken. What is the solution then? Are people supposed to read books and play video games for centuries while we explore the universe looking for a habitable planet? Cryogenics. With current technology, cryogenics seems a much more likely solution to our travel woes than FTL. Its certainly poetic to think that as the sun engorges to swallow the earth, colonists who have been frozen for millennia are just stepping foot on an alien world ready build marvels and pump out babies to inhabit a fresh new world.
There you have it. The known universe has been made into the domain of man. Recourses of all stripes have been made abundant for everybody. Human culture is now free to develop anywhere and in any way it so chooses. I think its possible, if only people could stop obsessing over truly trivial matters.