‘Life on Earth is in peril. We have no future if we don’t go into space’

Stephen Hawking says robotic missions do not catch the public imagination in the same way as manned space missions. Photograph: Danita Delimont / Alamy/Alamy Experts including Stephen Hawking look at the value of human ad robotic spaceflight

Artificial intelligence could spell end of human race – Stephen Hawking

Robin McKie

Sunday 7 December 2014 06.58 EST

STEPHEN HAWKING

Physicist and cosmologist

Robotic missions are much cheaper and may provide more scientific information, but they don’t catch the public imagination in the same way, and they don’t spread the human race into space, which I’m arguing should be our long-term strategy. If the human race is to continue for another million years, we will have to boldly go where no one has gone before. Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers … I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go into space.

TIM PEAKE

British astronaut

There is no future for us on Earth. If we survive as a human species, it’s inevitable – we are going to have to leave the planet. Now that’s an awful long time away, we hope, but at some point we have to make the leap, and we have to find other resources in the universe – and that starts now. To me it’s an insurance policy. It’s also all about exploration – it’s in our natural psyche to want to explore, to push the boundaries and take the next steps.

Tim Peake is set to fly on a mission to the International Space Station in November next year.

JAMES VAN ALLEN

US space scientist

Only a tiny number of Earth’s six billion inhabitants are direct participants in human spaceflight. For the rest of us, the adventure is vicarious. At the end of the day, I ask myself whether the huge national commitment of technical talent to human spaceflight and the ever-present potential for the loss of precious human life are justifiable.

His work on the first US satellites revealed the existence of powerful radiation belts round the Earth, now known as the Van Allen radiation belts.

GERARD DEGROOT

Historian

Obscenely expensive manned missions mean that practical, Earth-based science suffers, as does the genuinely valuable satellite research so essential to the way we live today. It is no wonder that the most articulate opposition to the Apollo missions came from Nobel scientists who objected to the way their budgets were bled in order to fund an ego trip to the Moon.

Gerard DeGroot, professor of modern history at St Andrews University, is author of Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest.

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

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