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P%&' (&)' D*T+ % ,ision o- the ./man F/t/re in S$ace
Carl Sagan
For Sam, another wanderer,
May your generation see wonders undreamt.
SPACECRAFT EXPLORATO! OF T"E SOLAR S#STEM
!OTA$LE EARL# AC"E%EME!TS
&!TE' STATES
()*+ First s,ienti-i, dis,o.ery in s/a,e0%an Allen radiation 1elt 2E3/lorer (4
()*) First tele.ision images o- the Earth -rom s/a,e 2E3/lorer 54
()56 First s,ienti-i, dis,o.ery in inter/lanetary s/a,e 0 dire,t o1ser.ation o- the solar wind 2Mariner 64
()56 First s,ienti-i,ally su,,ess-ul /lanetary mission 2Mariner 6 to %enus4
()56 First astronomi,al o1ser.atory in s/a,e 2OSO0(4
()5+ First manned or1it o- another world 2A/ollo + to the Moon4
()5) First landing o- humans on another world 2A/ollo (( to the Moon4
()5) First sam/les returned to Earth -rom another world 2A/ollo (( to the Moon4
()7( First manned ro.ing .ehi,le on another world 2A/ollo (* to the Moon4
()7( First s/a,e,ra-t to or1it another /lanet 2Mariner ) to Mars4
()78 First -ly1y o- 9u/iter 2Pioneer (:4
()7; First dual0/lanet mission 2Mariner (: to %enus and Mer,ury4
()7; First -ly1y o- Mer,ury 2Mariner (:4
()75 First su,,ess-ul Mars landing< -irst s/a,e,ra-t to sear,h -or li-e on another /lanet 2%i=ing (4
()77 First -ly1ys o- Saturn 2Pioneer ((4
()+( First manned reusa1le s/a,e,ra-t 2STS0(4
()+:0+; First satellite to 1e retrie.ed, re/aired, and rede/loyed in s/a,e 2Solar Ma3imum Mission4
()+* First distant ,ometary en,ounter 2nternational Cometary E3/lorer to Comet >ia,o1ini0?immer4
()+5 First -ly1y o- &ranus 2%oyager 64
()+) First -ly1y o- !e/tune 2%oyager 64
())6 First dete,tion o- the helio/ause 2%oyager4
())6 First en,ounter with a main01elt asteroid 2>alileo to >as/ra4
()); First dete,tion o- a moon o- an asteroid 2>alileo to da4
SO%ET &!O!@R&SSA
()*7 First arti-i,ial satellite o- the Earth 2S/utni= (4
()*7 First animal in s/a,e 2S/utni= 64
()*) First s/a,e,ra-t to es,a/e the EarthAs gra.ity 2Luna (4
()*) First arti-i,ial /lanet o- the Sun 2Luna (4
()*) First s/a,e,ra-t to im/a,t another world 2Luna 6 to the Moon4
()*) First .iew o- the -ar side o- the moon 2Luna 84
()5( First human in s/a,e 2%osto= (4
()5( First human to or1it the Earth 2%osto= (4
()5(056 First s/a,e,ra-t to -ly 1y other /lanets 2%enera ( to %enus< Mars ( to Mars4
()58 First woman in s/a,e 2%osto= 54
()5; First multi0/erson s/a,e mission 2%os=hod (4
()5* First s/a,e Bwal=B 2%os=hod 64
()55 First s/a,e,ra-t to enter the atmos/here o- another /lanet 2%enera 8 to %enus4
()55 First s/a,e,ra-t to or1it another world 2Luna (: to the Moon4
()55 First su,,ess-ul so-t landing on another world 2Luna ) to the Moon4
()7: First ro1ot mission to return a sam/le -rom another world 2Luna (5 to the Moon4
()7: First ro.ing .ehi,le on another world 2Luna (7 to the Moon4
()7( First so-t landing on another /lanet 2Mars 8 to Mars4
()76 First s,ienti-i,ally su,,ess-ul landing on another /lanet 2%enera + to %enus4
()+:0+( First a//ro3imately year0long manned s/a,e-light 2,om/ara1le to Mars -light time4 2SoyuC 8*4
()+8 First -ull or1ital radar ma//ing o- another /lanet 2%enera (* to %enus4
()+* First 1alloon station de/loyed in the atmos/here o- another /lanet 2%ega ( to %enus4
()+5 First ,lose ,ometary en,ounter 2%ega ( to "alleyAs Comet4
()+5 First s/a,e station inha1ited 1y rotating ,rews 2Mir4
Contents
DanderersE an introdu,tion
Cha/ter (E #ou are here
Cha/ter 6E A1errations o- light
Cha/ter 8E The great demotions
Cha/ter ;E A uni.erse not made -or us
Cha/ter *E s there intelligent li-e on EarthF
Cha/ter 5E The trium/h o- %oyager
Cha/ter 7E Among the moons o- Saturn
Cha/ter +E The -irst new Planet
Cha/ter )E An Ameri,an shi/ at the -rontiers o- the Solar System
Cha/ter (:E Sa,red $la,=
Cha/ter ((E E.ening and Morning Star
Cha/ter (6E The >round Melts
Cha/ter (8E The >i-t o- A/ollo
Cha/ter (;E E3/loring other Dorlds and /rote,ting this one
Cha/ter (*E The >ates o- the Donder Dorld O/en
Cha/ter (5E S,aling "ea.en
Cha/ter (7E Routine nter/lanetary %iolen,e
Cha/ter (+E The Marsh o- Camarina
Cha/ter ()E Rema=ing the Planets
Cha/ter 6:E 'ar=ness
Cha/ter 6(E To the S=yG
Cha/ter 66E Ti/toeing through the Mil=y Day
A1out the Author
A,=nowledgments
Re-eren,es
#anderers+ %n 0ntrod/ction
$ut tell me, who are they, these wanderers . . .F HRA!ER MARA RLIE, BT"E FFT" ELE>#B 2()684
De were wanderers -rom the 1eginning. De =new e.ery stand o- tree -or a hundred miles.
Dhen the -ruits or nuts were ri/e, we were there. De -ollowed the herds in their annual
migrations. De reJoi,ed in -resh meat. through stealth, -eint, am1ush, and main0-or,e assault, a
-ew o- us ,oo/erating a,,om/lished what many o- us, ea,h hunting alone, ,ould not. De
de/ended on one another. Ma=ing it on our own was as ludi,rous to imagine as was settling
down.
Dor=ing together, we /rote,ted our ,hildren -rom the lions and the hyenas. De taught
them the s=ills they would need. And the tools. Then, as now, te,hnology was the =ey to our
sur.i.al.
Dhen the drought was /rolonged, or when an unsettling ,hill lingered in the summer air, our
grou/ mo.ed onHsometimes to un=nown lands. De sought a 1etter /la,e. And when we
,ouldnAt get on with the others in our little nomadi, 1and, we le-t to -ind a more -riendly
1un,h somewhere else. De ,ould always 1egin again.
For )).) /er,ent o- the time sin,e our s/e,ies ,ame to 1e, we were hunters and -oragers,
wanderers on the sa.annahs and the ste//es. There were no 1order guards then, no ,ustoms
o--i,ials. The -rontier was e.erywhere. De were 1ounded only 1y the Earth and the o,ean and
the s=yH/lus o,,asional grum/y neigh1ors.
Dhen the ,limate was ,ongenial, though, when the -ood was /lenti-ul, we were willing to stay
/ut. &nad.enturous. O.erweight. Careless. n the last ten thousand yearsHan instant in our
long historyH weA.e a1andoned the nomadi, -i-e. DeA.e domesti,ated the /lants and animals.
Dhy ,hase the -ood when you ,an ma=e it ,ome to youF
For all its material ad.antages, the sedentary li-e has le-t us edgy, un-ul-illed. E.en a-ter ;::
generations in .illages and ,ities, we ha.enAt -orgotten. The o/en road still so-tly ,alls, li=e a
nearly -orgotten song o- ,hildhood. De in.est -ar0o-- /la,es with a ,ertain roman,e. This
a//eal, sus/e,t, has 1een meti,ulously ,ra-ted 1y natural sele,tion as an essential element in
our sur.i.al. Long summers, mild winters, ri,h har.ests, /lenti-ul gameHnone o- them lasts
-ore.er. t is 1eyond our /owers to /redi,t the -uture. Catastro/hi, e.ents ha.e a way o-
snea=ing u/ on us, o- ,at,hing us unaware. #our own li-e, or your 1andAs, or e.en your s/e,iesA
might 1e owed to a restless -ewHdrawn, 1y a ,ra.ing they ,an hardly arti,ulate or understand,
to undis,o.ered lands and new worlds.
"erman Mel.ille, in Mo1y 'i,=, s/o=e -or wanderers in all e/o,hs and meridiansE B am
tormented with an e.erlasting it,h -or things remote. lo.e to sail -or1idden seas . . .B
To the an,ient >ree=s and Romans, the =nown world ,om/rised Euro/e and an attenuated
Asia and A-ri,a, all surrounded 1y an im/assa1le Dorld O,ean. Tra.elers might en,ounter
in-erior 1eings ,alled 1ar1arians or su/erior 1eings ,alled gods. E.ery tree had its dryad, e.ery
distri,t its legendary hero. $ut there were not .ery many gods, at least at -irst, /erha/s only a
-ew doCen. They li.ed on mountains, under the Earth, in the sea, or u/ there in the s=y. They
sent messages to /eo/le, inter.ened in human a--airs, and inter1red with us.
As time /assed, as the human e3/loratory ,a/a,ity hit its stride, there were sur/risesE
$ar1arians ,ould 1e -ully as ,le.er as >ree=s and Romans. A-ri,a and Asia were larger than
anyone had guessed. The Dorld O,ean was not im/assa1le. There were Anti/odes.( Three
new ,ontinents e3isted, had 1een settled 1y Asians in ages /ast, and the news had ne.er
rea,hed Euro/e. Also the gods were disa//ointingly hard to -ind.
The -irst large0s,ale human migration -rom the Old Dorld to the !ew ha//ened during
the last i,e age, around ((,*:: years ago, when the growing /olar i,e ,a/s shallowed the
o,eans and made it /ossi1le to wal= on dry land -rom Si1eria to Alas=a. A thousand years later,
we were in Tierra del Fuego, the southern ti/ o- South Ameri,a. Long 1e-ore Colum1us,
ndonesian argonauts in outrigger ,anoes e3/lored the western Pa,i-i,< /eo/le -rom $orneo
settled Madagas,ar< Egy/tians and Li1yans ,ir,umna.igated A-ri,a< and a great -leet o- o,ean
going Jun=s -rom Ming 'ynasty China ,riss,rossed the ndian O,ean, esta1lished a 1ase in
?anCi1ar, rounded the Ca/e o- >ood "o/e, and entered the Atlanti, O,ean. n the -i-teenth
through se.enteenth ,enturies, Euro/ean sailing shi/s dis,o.ered new ,ontinents 2new, at any
rate, to Euro/eans4 and ,ir,umna.igated the /lanet. n the eighteenth and nineteenth
,enturies, Ameri,an and Russian e3/lorers, traders, and settlers ra,ed west and east a,ross two
.ast ,ontinents to the Pa,i-i,. This Cest to e3/lore and e3/loit, howe.er thoughtless its agents
may ha.e 1een, has ,lear sur.i.al .alue. t is not restri,ted to any one nation or ethni, grou/. t
is an endowment that all mem1ers o- the human s/e,ies hold in ,ommon.
Sin,e we -irst emerged, a -ew million years ago in East A-ri,a, we ha.e meandered our
way around the /lanet. There are now /eo/le on e.ery ,ontinent and the remotest islands,
-rom /ole to /ole, -rom Mount E.erest to the 'ead Sea, on the o,ean 1ottoms and e.en,
o,,asionally, in residen,e 6:: miles u/Hhumans, li=e the gods o- old, li.ing in the s=y.
These days there seems to 1e nowhere le-t to e3/lore, at least on the land area o- the
Earth. %i,tims o- their .ery su,,ess the e3/lorers now /retty mu,h stay home.
%ast migrations o- /eo/leHsome .oluntary, most notH ha.e sha/ed the human
,ondition. More o- us -lee -rom war, o//ression, and -amine today than at any other time in
human history. As the EarthAs ,limate ,hanges in the ,oming de,ade. there are li=ely to 1e -ar
greater num1ers o- en.ironmental re-ugees. $etter /la,es will always ,all to us. Tides o- /eo/le
will ,ontinue to e11 and -low a,ross the /lanet. $ut the lands we run to now ha.e already
1een settled. Other /eo/le, o-ten unsym/atheti, to our /light, are there 1e-ore us.

Late in the !ineteenth Century, Lei1 >ru1er was growing u/ in an o1s,ure town in the
immense, /olyglot, an,ient Austro0"ungarian Em/ire. "is -ather sold -ish when he ,ould. $ut
times were o-ten hard. As a young man, the only honest em/loyment Lei1 ,ould -ind was
,arrying /eo/le a,ross the near1y ri.er $ug. The ,ustomer, male or -emale, would mount
Lei1As 1a,=< in his /riCed 1oots, the tools o- his trade, he would wade out in a shallow stret,h
o- the ri.er and deli.er his /assenger to the o//osite 1an=. Sometimes the water rea,hed his
waist. There were no 1ridges here, no -erry1oats. "orses might ha.e ser.ed the /ur/ose, 1ut
they had other uses. That le-t Lei1 and a -ew other young men li=e him. They had no other
uses. !o other wor= was a.aila1le. They would lounge a1out the ri.er1an=, ,alling out their
/ri,es, 1oasting to /otential ,ustomers a1out the su/eriority o- their drayage. They hired
themsel.es out li=e -our0-ooted animals.
donAt thin= that in all his young manhood Lei1 had .entured more than a hundred
=ilometers -rom his little hometown o- Sassow. $ut then, in ():;, he suddenly ran away to the
!ew Dorld to a.oid a murder ra/, a,,ording to one -amily legend. "e le-t his young wi-e
1ehind. "ow di--erent -rom his tiny 1a,=0water hamlet the great >erman /ort ,ities must ha.e
seemed, how .ast the o,ean, how strange the lo-ty s=ys,ra/ers and endless hu101u1 o- his
new land. De =now nothing o- his ,rossing, 1ut ha.e -ound the shi/As mani-est -or the Journey
underta=en later 1y his wi-e, Chaiya Joining Lei1 a-ter he had sa.ed enough to 1ring her o.er.
She tra.eled in the ,hea/est ,lass on the $ata.ia, a .essel o- "am1urg registry. ThereAs
something heart1rea=ingly terse a1out the do,umentE Can she read or writeF !o. Can she
s/ea= EnglishF !o. "ow mu,h money does she ha.eF ,an imagine her .ulnera1ility and her
shame as she re/lies, BOne dollar.B
She disem1ar=ed in !ew #or=, was reunited with Lei1, li.ed Just long enough to gi.e
1irth to my mother and her sister, and then died -rom B,om/li,ationsB o- ,hild1irth. n those
-ew years in Ameri,a, her name had sometimes 1een angli,iCed to Clara. A Kuarter ,entury
later, my mother named her own -irst1orn, a son, a-ter the mother she ne.er =new.
Our distant an,estors, wat,hing the stars, noted -i.e that did more than rise and set in stolid
/ro,ession, as the so0,alled B-i3edB stars did. These -i.e had a ,urious and ,om/le3 motion.
O.er the months they seemed to wander slowly among the stars. Sometimes they did loo/s.
Today we ,all them /lanets, the >ree= word -or wanderers. t was, imagine, a /e,uliarity our
an,estors ,ould relate to.
De =now now that the /lanets are not stars, 1ut other worlds, gra.itationally lashed to
the Sun. 9ust as the e3/loration o- the Earth was 1eing ,om/leted, we 1egan to re,ogniCe it as
one world among an un,ounted multitude o- others, ,ir,ling the Sun or or1iting the other
stars that ma=e u/ the Mil=y Day gala3y. Our /lanet and our solar system are surrounded 1y a
new world o,ean the de/ths o- s/a,e. t is no more im/assa1le than the last.
May1e itAs a little early. May1e the time is not Kuite yet. $ut those other worldsH
/romising untold o//ortunitiesH1e,=on.
n the last -ew de,ades, the &nited States and the -ormer So.iet &nion ha.e
a,,om/lished something stunning and histori,Hthe ,lose0u/ e3amination o- all those /oints
o- light, -rom Mer,ury to Saturn, that mo.ed our an,estors to wonder and to s,ien,e. Sin,e the
ad.ent o- su,,ess-ul inter/lanetary -light in ()56, our ma,hines ha.e -lown 1y, or1ited, or
landed on more than se.enty new worlds. De ha.e wandered among the wanderers. De ha.e
-ound .ast .ol,ani, eminen,es that dwar- the highest mountain on Earth< an,ient ri.er .alleys
on two /lanets enigmati,ally one too ,old and the other too hot -or running water< a giant
/lanet with an interior o- liKuid metalli, hydrogen into whi,h a thousand Earths would -it<
whole moons that ha.e melted< a ,loud0,o.ered /la,e with an atmos/here o- ,orrosi.e raids,
where e.en the high /lateaus are a1o.e the melting /oint o- lead an,ient sur-a,es on whi,h a
-aith-ul re,ord o- the .iolent -ormation o- the Solar System is engra.ed< re-ugee i,e worlds
-rom the trans/lutonian de/ths< e3Kuisitely /atterned ring systems, mar=ing the su1tle
harmonies o- gra.ity< and a world surrounded 1y ,louds o- ,om/le3 organi, mole,ules li=e
those that m the earliest history o- our /lanet led to the origin o- li-e. Silently, they or1it the
Sun, waiting.
De ha.e un,o.ered wonders undreamt 1y our an,estors who -irst s/e,ulated on the
nature o- those wandering lights in the night s=y. De ha.e /ro1ed the origins o- our /lanet
and oursel.es. $y dis,o.ering what else is /ossi1le, 1y ,oming -a,e to -a,e with alternati.e
-ates o- worlds more or less li=e our own, we ha.e 1egun to 1etter understand the Earth. E.ery
one o- these worlds is lo.ely and instru,ti.e. $ut, so -ar as we =now, they are also, e.ery one o-
them, desolate and 1arren. Out there, there are no B1etter /la,es.B So -ar, at least.
'uring the %i=ing ro1oti, mission, 1eginning in 9uly ()75, in a ,ertain sense s/ent a
year on Mars. e3amined the 1oulders and sand dunes, the s=y red e.en at high noon, the
an,ient ri.er .alleys, the soaring .ol,ani, mountains, the -ier,e wind erosion, the laminated
/olar terrain, the two dar= /otato0sha/ed moons. $ut there was no li-eHnot a ,ri,=et or a
1lade o- grass, or e.en, so -ar as we ,an tell -or sure, a mi,ro1e. These worlds ha.e not 1een
gra,ed, as ours has, 1y li-e. Li-e is a ,om/arati.e rarity. #ou ,an sur.ey doCens o- worlds and
-ind that on only one o- them does li-e arise and e.ol.e and /ersist.
"a.ing in all their li.es till then ,rossed nothing wider than a layer, Lei1 and Chaiya
graduated to ,rossing o,eans. They had one great ad.antageE On the other side o- the waters
there would 1e0in.ested with outlandish ,ustoms, it is trueHother human 1eings s/ea=ing
their language and sharing at least some o- their .alues, e.en /eo/le to whom they were
,losely related.
n our time weA.e ,rossed the Solar System and sent -our shi/s to the stars. !e/tune lies
a million times -arther -rom Earth than !ew #or= City is -rom the 1an=s o- the $ug. $ut there
are no distant relati.es, no humans, and a//arently no li-e waiting -or us on those other
worlds. !o letters ,on.eyed 1y re,ent LmigrLs hel/ us to understand the new landH only
digital data transmitted at the s/eed o- light 1y un-eeling, /re,ise ro1ot emissaries. They tell
us that these new worlds are not mu,h li=e home. $ut we ,ontinue to sear,h -or inha1itants.
De ,anAt hel/ it. Li-e loo=s -or li-e.
!o one on Earth, not the ri,hest among us, ,an a--ord the /assage< so we ,anAt /i,= u/
and lea.e -or Mars or Titan on a whim, or 1e,ause weAre 1ored, or out o- wor=, or dra-ted into
the army, or o//ressed, or 1e,ause, Justly or unJustly, weA.e 1een a,,used o- a ,rime. There
does not seem to 1e su--i,ient short0term /ro-it to moti.ate /ri.ate industry. - we humans
e.er go to these worlds, then, it will 1e 1e,ause a nation or a ,onsortium o- them 1elie.es it to
1e to its ad.antageHor to the ad.antage o- the human s/e,ies. 9ust now, there are a great
many matters /ressing in on us that ,om/ete -or the money it ta=es to send /eo/le to other
worlds.
ThatAs what this 1oo= is a1outE other worlds, what awaits us on them, what they tell us
a1out oursel.es, andHgi.en the urgent /ro1lems our s/e,ies now -a,esHwhether it ma=es
sense to go. Should we sol.e those /ro1lems -irstF Or are they a reason -or goingF
This 1oo= is, in many ways, o/timisti, a1out the human /ros/e,t. The earliest ,ha/ters
may at -irst sight seem to re.el o.ermu,h in our im/er-e,tions. $ut they lay an essential
s/iritual and logi,al -oundation -or the de.elo/ment o- my argument.
ha.e tried to /resent more than one -a,et o- an issue. There will 1e /la,es where
seem to 1e arguing with mysel-. am. Seeing some merit to more than one side, o-ten argue
with mysel-. ho/e 1y the last ,ha/ter it will 1e ,lear where ,ome out.
The /lan o- the 1oo= is roughly thisE De -irst e3amine the wides/read ,laims made o.er
all o- human history that our world and our s/e,ies are uniKue, and e.en ,entral to the
wor=ings and /ur/ose o- the Cosmos. De .enture through the Solar System in the -ootste/s o-
the latest .oyages o- e3/loration and dis,o.ery, and then assess the reasons ,ommonly
o--ered -or sending humans into s/a,e. n the last and most s/e,ulati.e /art o- the 1oo=,
tra,e how imagine that our long0term -uture in s/a,e will wor= itsel- out.
Pale $lue 'ot is a1out a new re,ognition, still slowly o.erta=ing us, o- our ,oordinates,
our /la,e in the &ni.erse and how, e.en i- the ,all o- the o/en road is muted in our time, a
,entral element o- the human -uture lies -ar 1eyond the Earth.

Cha$ter 1+ 2o/ are here
The entire Earth is 1ut a /oint, and the /la,e o- our own ha1itation 1ut a minute ,orner o- it.
HMARC&S A&REL&S, ROMA! EMPEROR, ME'TATO!S, $OOI ; 2CA. (7:4
As the astronomers unanimously tea,h, the ,ir,uit o- the whole earth, whi,h to us seems endless, ,om/ared with
the greatness o- the uni.erse has the li=eness o- a mere tiny /oint. HAMMA!&S MARCELL!&S ACA. 88:08)*,
T"E LAST MA9OR ROMA! "STORA!, ! T"E C"RO!CLE OF E%E!TS
The s/a,e,ra-t was a long way -rom home, 1eyond the or1it o- the outermost /lanet and high
a1o.e the e,li/ti, /laneHwhi,h is an imaginary -lat sur-a,e that we ,an thin= o- as something
li=e a ra,etra,= in whi,h the or1its o- the /lanets are mainly ,on-ined. The shi/ was s/eeding
away -rom the Sun at ;:,::: miles /er hour. $ut in early Fe1ruary o- ()):, it was o.erta=en 1y
an urgent message -rom Earth.
O1ediently, it turned its ,ameras 1a,= toward the now0distant /lanets. Slewing its s,an
/lat-orm -rom one s/ot in the s=y to another, it sna//ed 5: /i,tures and stored them in digital
-orm on its ta/e re,order. Then, slowly, in Mar,h, A/ril, and May, it radioed the data 1a,= to
Earth. Ea,h image was ,om/osed o- 5;:,::: indi.idual /i,ture elements 2B/i3elsB4, li=e the dots
in a news/a/er wire0/hoto or a /ointillist /ainting. The s/a,e,ra-t was 8.7 1illion miles away
-rom Earth, so -ar away that it too= et,h /i3el *M hours, tra.eling at the s/eed o- light, to
rea,h us. The /i,tures might ha.e 1een returned earlier, 1ut the 1ig radio teles,o/es in
Cali-ornia, S/ain, and Australia that re,ei.e these whis/ers -rom the edge o- the Solar System
had res/onsi1ilities to other shi/s that /ly the sea o- s/a,e among them, Magellan, 1ound -or
%enus, and >alileo on its tortuous /assage to 9u/iter.
%oyager ( was so high a1o.e the e,li/ti, /lane 1e,ause, in ()+(, it had made a ,lose
/ass 1y Titan, the giant moon o- Saturn. ts sister shi/, %oyager 6, was dis/at,hed on a
di--erent traJe,tory, within the e,li/ti, /lane, and so she was a1le to /er-orm her ,ele1rated
e3/lorations o- &ranus and !e/tune The two %oyager ro1ots ha.e e3/lored -our /lanets and
nearly si3ty moons. They are trium/hs o- human engineering an. one o- the glories o- the
Ameri,an s/a,e /rogram. They will he in the history 1oo=s when mu,h else a1out our time
-orgotten.
The %oyagers were guaranteed to wor= only until the Saturn en,ounter. thought it
might 1e a good idea, Just a-ter Saturn, to ha.e them ta=e one last glan,e homeward. From
Saturn, =new the Earth would a//ear too small -or %oyager to ma=e out any detail. Our
/lanet would 1e Just a /oint o- light, a lonely /i3el, hardly distinguisha1le -rom the many other
/oints o- light %oyager ,ould see, near1y /lanets and -ar0o-- suns. $ut /re,ise 1e,ause o- the
o1s,urity o- our world thus re.ealed, su,h /i,ture might 1e worth ha.ing.
Mariners had /ainsta=ingly ma//ed the ,oastlines o- the ,ontinents. >eogra/hers had
translated these -indings into ,harts and glo1es. Photogra/hs o- tiny /at,hes o- the Earth had
1een o1tained -irst 1y 1alloons and air,ra-t, then 1y ro,=ets in 1rie- 1allisti, -light, and at last
1y or1iting s/a,e,ra-tHgi.ing a /ers/e,ti.e li=e the one you a,hie.e 1y /ositioning your
eye1all a1out an in,h a1o.e a large glo1e. Dhile almost e.eryone is taught that the Earth is a
s/here with all o- us somehow glued to it 1y gra.ity, the reality o- our ,ir,umstan,e did not
really 1egin to sin= in until the -amous -rame0-illing A/ollo /hotogra/h o- the whole EarthH
the one ta=en 1y the A/ollo (7 astronauts on the last Journey o- humans to the Moon.
t has 1e,ome a =ind o- i,on o- our age. ThereAs Antar,ti,a at what Ameri,ans and
Euro/eans so readily regard as the 1ottom, and then all o- A-ri,a stret,hing u/ a1o.e itE #ou
,an see Ethio/ia, TanCania, and Ienya, where the earliest humans li.ed. At to/ right are Saudi
Ara1ia and what Euro/eans ,all the !ear East. 9ust 1arely /ee=ing out at the to/ is the
Mediterranean Sea, around whi,h so mu,h o- our glo1al ,i.iliCation emerged. #ou ,an ma=e
out the 1lue o- the o,ean, the yellow0red o- the Sahara and the Ara1ian desert, the 1rown0
green o- -orest and grassland.
And yet there is no sign o- humans in this /i,ture, not our rewor=ing o- the EarthAs
sur-a,e, not our ma,hines, not oursel.esE De are too small and our state,ra-t is too -ee1le to
1e seen 1y a s/a,e,ra-t 1etween the Earth and the Moon. From this .antage /oint, our
o1session with nationalism is nowhere in e.iden,e. The A/ollo /i,tures o- the whole Earth
,on.eyed to multitudes something well =nown to astronomersE On the s,ale o- worldsHto say
nothing o- stars or gala3iesHhumans are in,onseKuential, a thin -ilm o- li-e on an o1s,ure and
solitary lum/ o- ro,= and metal.
t seemed to me that another /i,ture o- the Earth, this one ta=en -rom a hundred
thousand times -arther away, might hel/ in the ,ontinuing /ro,ess o- re.ealing to oursel.es
our true ,ir,umstan,e and ,ondition. t had 1een well understood 1y the s,ientists and
/hiloso/hers o- ,lassi,al antiKuity that the Earth was a mere /oint in a .ast en,om/assing
Cosmos, 1ut no one had e.er seen it as su,h. "ere was our -irst ,han,e 2and /erha/s also our
last -or de,ades to ,ome4.
Many in !ASAAs %oyager ProJe,t were su//orti.e. $ut -rom the outer Solar System the
Earth lies .ery near the Sun, li=e a moth enthralled around a -lame. 'id we want to aim the
,amera so ,lose to the Sun as to ris= 1urning out the s/a,e,ra-tAs .idi,on systemF DouldnAt it
1e 1etter to delay until all the s,ienti-i, images -rom &ranus and !e/tune, i- the s/a,e,ra-t
lasted that long, were ta=enF
And so we waitedH and a good thing tooH-rom ()+( at Saturn, to ()+5 at &ranus, to
()+), when 1oth s/a,e,ra-t had /assed the or1its o- !e/tune and Pluto. At last the time ,ame
$ut there were a -ew instrumental ,ali1rations that needed to 1e done -irst, and we waited a
little longer. Although the s/a,e,ra-t were in the right s/ots, the instruments were still wor=ing
1eauti-ully, and there were no other /i,tures to ta=e, a -ew /roJe,t /ersonnel o//osed it. t
wasnAt s,ien,e, they said. Then we dis,o.ered that the te,hni,ians who de.ise and transmit the
radio ,ommands to %oyager were, in a ,ash0stra//ed !ASA, to 1e laid o-- immediately or
trans-erred to other Jo1s. - the /i,ture were to 1e ta=en, it had to 1e done right then. At the
last minute a,tually, in the midst o- the %oyager 6 en,ounter with !e/tune, the then !ASA
Administrator, Rear Admiral Ri,hard Truly, ste//ed in and made sure that these images were
o1tained. The s/a,e s,ientists Candy "ansen o- !ASAAs 9et Pro/ulsion La1oratory 29PL4 and
Carolyn Por,o o- &ni.ersity o- AriCona designed the ,ommand seKuen,e and ,al,ulated the
,amera e3/osure times.
So here they areHa mosai, o- sKuares laid down on to/ o- the /lanets and a
1a,=ground smattering o- more distant stars. De were a1le to /hotogra/h not only the Earth,
1ut also -i.e other o- the SunAs nine =nown /lanets. Mer,ury, the innermost, was lost in the
glare o- the Sun, and Mars and Pluto were too small, too dimly lit, and@or too -ar away. &ranus
and !e/tune are so dim that to re,ord their /resen,e reKuired long e3/osures< a,,ordingly,
their images were smeared 1e,ause o- s/a,e,ra-t motion. This is how the /lanets would loo=
to an alien s/a,eshi/ a//roa,hing the Solar System a-ter a long interstellar .oyage.
From this distan,e the /lanets seem only /oints o- light, smeared or unsmearedHe.en
through the high0resolution teles,o/e a1oard %oyager. They are li=e the /lanets seen with the
na=ed eye -rom the sur-a,e o- the EarthHluminous dots, 1righter than most o- the stars. O.er
a /eriod o- months the Earth, li=e the other /lanets, would seem to mo.e among the stars.
#ou ,annot tell merely 1y loo=ing at one o- these dots what itAs li=e, whatAs on it, what its /ast
has 1een, and whether, n this /arti,ular e/o,h, anyone li.es there.
$e,ause o- the re-le,tion o- sunlight o-- the s/a,e,ra-t, the Earth seems to 1e sitting in a
1eam o- light, as i- there were some s/e,ial signi-i,an,e to this small world. $ut itAs Just an
a,,ident o- geometry and o/ti,s. The Sun emits its radiation eKuita1ly in all dire,tions. "ad
the /i,ture 1een ta=en a little earlier or a little later, there would ha.e 1een no sun1eam
highlighting the Earth.
And why that ,erulean ,olorF The 1lue ,omes /artly -rom the sea, /artly -rom the s=y.
Dhile water in a glass is trans/arent, t a1sor1s slightly more red light than 1lue. - you ha.e
tens o- meters o- the stu-- or more, the red light is a1sor1ed out and what gets re-le,ted 1a,=
to s/a,e is mainly 1lue. n the same way, a short line o- sight through air seems /er-e,tly
trans/arent. !e.erthelessHsomething Leonardo da %in,i e3,elled at /ortrayingHthe more
distant the o1Je,t, the 1luer it seems. DhyF $e,ause the air s,atters 1lue light around mu,h
1etter than it does red. So the 1luish ,ast o- this dot ,omes -rom its thi,= 1ut trans/arent
atmos/here and its dee/ o,eans o- liKuid water. And the whiteF The Earth on an a.erage day
is a1out hal- ,o.ered with white water ,louds.
De ,an e3/lain the wan 1lueness o- this little world 1e,ause we =now it well. Dhether an
alien s,ientist newly arri.ed at the outs=irts o- our solar system ,ould relia1ly dedu,e o,eans
and ,louds and a thi,=ish atmos/here is less ,ertain. !e/tune, -or instan,e, is 1lue, 1ut ,hie-ly
-or di--erent reasons. From this distant .antage /oint, the Earth might not seem o- any
/arti,ular interest.
$ut -or us, itAs di--erent. Loo= again at that dot. ThatAs here. ThatAs home. ThatAs us. On it
e.eryone you lo.e, e.eryone you =now, e.eryone you e.er heard o-, e.ery human 1eing who
e.er was, li.ed out their li.es. The aggregate o- our Joy and su--ering, thousands o- ,on-ident
religions, ideologies, and e,onomi, do,trines, e.ery hunter and -orager, e.ery hero and
,oward, e.ery ,reator and destroyer o- ,i.iliCation, e.er =ing and /easant, e.ery young ,ou/le
in lo.e, e.ery moth and -ather, ho/e-ul ,hild, in.entor and e3/lorer, e.ery tea,her o- morals,
e.ery ,orru/t /oliti,ian, e.ery Bsu/erstar,N e.ery Bsu/reme leader,B e.ery saint and sinner in the
history o- our s/e,ies li.ed thereHon a mote o- dust sus/ended in a sun1eam.
The Earth is a .ery small stage in a .ast ,osmi, arena. Thin= o- the ri.ers o- 1lood s/illed 1y
all those generals and em/erors so that, in glory and trium/h, they ,ould 1e,ome momentary
masters o- a -ra,tion o- a dot. Thin= o- the endless .isited 1y the inha1itants o- one ,orner o-
this /i3el the s,ar,ely distinguisha1le inha1itants o- some other ,orner, how -reKuent their
misunderstandings, how eager they are to =ill one another, how -er.ent their hatreds.
Our /osturings, our imagined sel-0im/ortan,e, the delusion that we ha.e some /ri.ileged
/osition in the &ni.erse, are ,hallenged 1y this /oint o- /ale light. Our /lanet is a lonely s/e,=
in the great en.elo/ing ,osmi, dar=. n our o1s,urity, in all this .astness, there is no hint that
hel/ will ,ome -rom elsewhere to sa.e us -rom oursel.es.
The Earth is the only world =nown so -ar to har1or li-e. There is nowhere else, at least in the
near -uture, to whi,h our s/e,ies ,ould migrate. %isit, yes. Settle, not yet. Li=e it or not, -or the
moment the Earth is where we ma=e our stand.
t has 1een said that astronomy is a hum1ling and ,hara,ter01uilding e3/erien,e. There is
/erha/s no 1etter demonstration o- the -olly o- human ,on,eits than this distant image o- our
tiny world. To me, it unders,ores our res/onsi1ility to deal more =indly with one another, and
to /reser.e and ,herish the /ale 1lue dot, the only home weA.e e.er =nown.
Cha$ter 2+ %berrations o- &ight
- man were ta=en away -rom the world, the rest would seem to 1e all astray, without aim or /ur/ose . . . and to
1e leading to nothing.
HFRA!CS $ACO!, DS'OM OF T"E A!CE!TS 2(5()4
Ann 'ruyan suggests an e3/erimentE Loo= 1a,= again at the /ale 1lue dot o- the /re,eding
,ha/ter. Ta=e a good long loo= at it. Stare at the dot -or any length o- time and then try to
,on.in,e yoursel- that >od ,reated the whole &ni.erse -or one o- the (: million or so s/e,ies
o- li-e that inha1it that s/e,= o- dust. !ow ta=e it a ste/ -urtherE magine that e.erything was
made Just -or a single shade o- that s/e,ies, or gender, or ethni, or religious su1di.ision. - this
doesnAt stri=e you as unli=ely, /i,= another dot. magine it to 1e inha1ited 1y a di--erent -orm
o- intelligent li-e. They, too, ,herish the notion o- a >od who has ,reated e.erything -or their
1ene-it. "ow seriously do you ta=e their ,laimF
OSEE T"AT STARFB
B#ou mean the 1right red oneFB his daughter as=s in return.
B#es. #ou =now, it might not 1e there anymore. t might 1e gone 1y nowHe3/loded or
something. ts light is still ,rossing s/a,e, Just rea,hing our eyes now. $ut we donAt see it as it
is. De see it as it was.B
Many /eo/le e3/erien,e a stirring sense o- wonder when they -irst ,on-ront this sim/le
truth. DhyF Dhy should it 1e so ,om/ellingF On our little world light tra.els, -or all /ra,ti,al
/ur/oses, instantaneously. - a light1ul1 is glowing, then o- ,ourse itAs /hysi,ally where we see
it, shining away. De rea,h out our hand and tou,h itE tAs there all right, and un/leasantly hot.
- the -ilament -ails, then the light goes out. De donAt see it in the same /la,e, glowing,
illuminating the room years a-ter the 1ul1 1rea=s and itAs remo.ed -rom its so,=et. The .ery
notion seems nonsensi,al. $ut i- weAre -ar enough away, an entire sun ,an go out and weAll
,ontinue to see it shining 1rightly< we wonAt learn o- its death, it may 1e, -or ages to ,omeHin
-a,t, -or how long it ta=es light, whi,h tra.els -ast 1ut not in-initely -ast, to ,ross the
inter.ening .astness.
The immense distan,es to the stars and the gala3ies mean that we see e.erything in
s/a,e in the /astHsome as they were 1e-ore the Earth ,ame to 1e. Teles,o/es are time
ma,hines. Long ago, when an early gala3y 1egan to /our light out into the surrounding
dar=ness, no witness ,ould ha.e =nown that 1illions o- years later some remote ,lum/s o- ro,=
and metal, i,e and organi, mole,ules would -all together to ma=e a /la,e ,alled Earth< or that
li-e would arise and thin=ing 1eings e.ol.e who would one day ,a/ture a little o- that gala,ti,
light, and try to /uCCle out what had sent it on its way.
And a-ter the Earth dies, some * 1illion years -rom now, a-ter it is 1urned to a ,ris/ or
e.en swallowed 1y the Sun, there will 1e other worlds and stars and gala3ies ,oming into
1eingHand they will =now nothing o- a /la,e on,e ,alled Earth.
t almost ne.er -eels li=e /reJudi,e. nstead, it seems -itting and JustHthe idea that, 1e,ause o-
an a,,ident o- 1irth, our grou/ 2whi,he.er one it is4 should ha.e a ,entral /osition in the so,ial
uni.erse. Among Pharaoni, /rin,elings and Plantagenet /retenders, ,hildren o- ro11er 1arons
and Central Committee 1ureau,rats, street gangs and ,onKuerors o- nations, mem1ers o-
,on-ident maJorities, o1s,ure se,ts, and re.iled minorities, this sel-0ser.ing attitude seems as
natural as 1reathing. t draws sustenan,e -rom the same /sy,hi, wells/rings as se3ism, ra,ism,
nationalism, and the other deadly ,hau.inisms that /lague our s/e,ies. &n,ommon strength
o- ,hara,ter is needed to resist the 1landishments o- those who assure us that we ha.e an
o1.ious, e.en >od0gi.en, su/eriority o.er our -ellows. The more /re,arious our sel-0esteem,
the greater our .ulnera1ility to su,h a//eals.
Sin,e s,ientists are /eo/le, it is not sur/rising that ,om/ara1le /retensions ha.e
insinuated themsel.es into the s,ienti-i, world.iew. ndeed, many o- the ,entral de1ates in the
history o- s,ien,e seem to 1e, in /art at least, ,ontests o.er whether humans are s/e,ial.
Almost always, the going0in assum/tion is that we are s/e,ial. A-ter the /remise is ,losely
e3amined, though, it turns outHin dishearteningly many ,asesHthat we are not.
Our an,estors li.ed out o- doors. They were as -amiliar with the night s=y as most o- us
are with our -a.orite tele.ision /rograms. The Sun, the Moon, the stars, and the /lanets all rose
in the east and set in the west, tra.ersing the s=y o.erhead in the interim. The motion o- the
hea.enly 1odies was not merely a di.ersion, eli,iting a re.erential nod and grunt< it was the
only way to tell the time o- day and the seasons. For hunters and gatherers, as well as -or
agri,ultural /eo/les, =nowing a1out the s=y was a matter o- li-e and death.
"ow lu,=y -or us that the Sun, the Moon, the /lanets, and the stars are /art o- some
elegantly ,on-igured ,osmi, ,lo,=wor=G t seemed to 1e no a,,ident. They were /ut here -or a
/ur/ose, -or our 1ene-it. Dho else ma=es use o- themF Dhat else are they good -orF
And i- the lights in the s=y rise and set around us, isnAt it e.ident that weAre at the ,enter
o- the &ni.erseF These ,elestial 1odiesHso ,learly su--used with unearthly /owers, es/e,ially
the Sun on whi,h we de/end -or light and heatH,ir,le us li=e ,ourtiers -awning on a =ing.
E.en i- we had not already guessed, the most elementary e3amination o- the hea.ens re.eals
that we are s/e,ial. The &ni.erse seems designed -or human 1eings. tAs di--i,ult to
,ontem/late these ,ir,umstan,es without e3/erien,ing stirrings o- /ride and reassuran,e. The
entire &ni.erse, made -or usG De must really 1e something.
This satis-ying demonstration o- our im/ortan,e, 1uttressed 1y daily o1ser.ations o- the
hea.ens, made the geo,entrist ,on,eit a trans,ultural truthHtaught in the s,hools, 1uilt into
the language, /art and /ar,el o- great literature and sa,red s,ri/ture. 'issenters were
dis,ouraged, sometimes with torture and death. t is no wonder that -or the .ast 1ul= o-
human history, no one Kuestioned it.
t was dou1tless the .iew o- our -oraging and hunting an,estors. The great astronomer
o- antiKuity, Claudius Ptolemaeus 2Ptolemy4, in the se,ond ,entury =new that the Earth was a
s/here, =new that its siCe was Ba /ointB ,om/ared to the distan,e o- the stars, and taught that
it lay Bright in the middle o- the hea.ens.B Aristotle, Plato, St. Augustine, St. Thomas AKuinas,
and almost all the great /hiloso/hers and s,ientists o- all ,ultures o.er the 8,::: years ending
in the se.enteenth ,entury 1ought into this delusion. Some 1usied themsel.es -iguring out
how the Sun, the Moon, the stars, and the /lanets ,ould 1e ,unningly atta,hed to /er-e,tly
trans/arent, ,rystalline s/heresHthe 1ig s/heres, o- ,ourse, ,entered on the EarthHthat would
e3/lain the ,om/le3 motions o- the ,elestial 1odies so meti,ulously ,hroni,led 1y generations
o- astronomers. And they su,,eededE Dith later modi-i,ations, the geo,entri, hy/othesis
adeKuately a,,ounted -or the -a,ts o- /lanetary motion as =nown in the se,ond ,entury, and
in the si3teenth.
From there it was only a slight e3tra/olation to an e.en more grandiose ,laimHthat the
B/er-e,tionB o- the world would 1e in,om/lete without humans, as Plato asserted in the
Timaeus. BMan . . . is all,B the /oet and ,leri, 9ohn 'onne wrote in (56*. B"e is not a /ie,e o-
the world, 1ut the world itsel-< and ne3t to the glory o- >od, the reason why there is a world.B
And yetHne.er mind how many =ings, /o/es, /hiloso/hers, s,ientists, and /oets
insisted on the ,ontraryHthe Earth through those millennia stu11ornly /ersisted in or1iting
the Sun. #ou might imagine an un,harita1le e3traterrestrial o1ser.er loo=ing down on our
s/e,ies o.er all that timeHwith us e3,itedly ,hattering, BThe &ni.erse is ,reated -or usG DeAre
at the ,enterG E.erything /ays homage to usGBHand ,on,luding that our /retensions are
amusing, our as/irations /atheti,, that this must 1e the /lanet o- the idiots.
$ut su,h a Judgment is too harsh. De did the 1est we ,ould. There was an unlu,=y
,oin,iden,e 1etween e.eryday a//earan,es and our se,ret ho/es. De tend not to 1e
es/e,ially ,riti,al when /resented with e.iden,e that seems to ,on-irm our /reJudi,es. And
there was little ,ounter.ailing e.iden,e.
n muted ,ounter/oint, a -ew dissenting .oi,es, ,ounseling humility and /ers/e,ti.e,
,ould 1e heard down through the ,enturies. At the dawn o- s,ien,e, the atomist /hiloso/hers
o- an,ient >ree,e and RomeH those who -irst suggested that matter is made o- atomsH
'emo,ritus, E/i,urus, and their -ollowers 2and Lu,retius, the -irst /o/ulariCer o- s,ien,e4
s,andalously /ro/osed many worlds and many alien li-e -orms, all made o- the same =inds o-
atoms as we. They o--ered -or our ,onsideration in-inities in s/a,e and time. $ut in the
/re.ailing ,anons o- the Dest, se,ular and sa,erdotal, /agan and Christian, atomist ideas were
re.iled. nstead, the hea.ens were not at all li=e our world. They were unaltera1le and
B/er-e,t.B The Earth was muta1le and B,orru/t.B The Roman statesman and /hiloso/her Ci,ero
summariCed the ,ommon .iewE Bn the hea.ens . . . there is nothing o- ,han,e or haCard, no
error, no -rustration, 1ut a1solute order, a,,ura,y, ,al,ulation and regularity.B
Philoso/hy and religion ,autioned that the gods 2or >od4 were -ar more /ower-ul than
we, Jealous o- their /rerogati.es and Kui,= to mete out Justi,e -or insu--era1le arrogan,e. At
the same time, these dis,i/lines had not a ,lue that their own tea,hing o- how the &ni.erse is
ordered was a ,on,eit and a delusion.
Philoso/hy and religion /resented mere o/inionHo/inion that might 1e o.erturned 1y
o1ser.ation and e3/erimentHas ,ertainty. This worried them not at all. That some o- their
dee/ly held 1elie-s might turn out to 1e mista=es was a /ossi1ility hardly ,onsidered. 'o,trinal
humility was to 1e /ra,ti,ed 1y others. Their own tea,hings were inerrant and n-alli1le. n
truth, they had 1etter reason to 1e hum1le than they =new.
$eginning with Co/erni,us in the middle si3teenth ,entury, the issue was -ormally Joined. The
/i,ture o- the Sun rather than the Earth at the ,enter o- the &ni.erse was understood to 1e
dangerous. O1ligingly, many s,holars were Kui,= to assure the religious hierar,hy that this
new-angled hy/othesis re/resented no serious ,hallenge to ,on.entional wisdom. n a =ind o-
s/lit01rain ,om/romise, the Sun0,entered system was treated as a mere ,om/utational
,on.enien,e, not an astronomi,al reality that is, the Earth was really at the ,enter o- the
&ni.erse, as e.ery1ody =new< 1ut i- you wished to /redi,t where 9u/iter would 1e on the
se,ond Tuesday o- !o.em1er the year a-ter ne3t, you were /ermitted to /retend that the Sun
was at the ,enter. Then you ,ould ,al,ulate away and not a--ront the Authorities.6
BThis has no danger in it,B wrote Ro1ert Cardinal $ellarmine, the -oremost %ati,an
theologian in the early se.enteenth ,entury, and su--i,es -or the mathemati,ians. $ut, to a--irm
that the Sun is really -i3ed in the ,enter o- the hea.ens and that the Earth re.ol.es .ery swi-tly
around the Sun is a dangerous thing, not only irritating the theologians and /hiloso/hers, 1ut
inJuring our holy -aith and ma=ing the sa,red s,ri/ture -alse.B
BFreedom o- 1elie- is /erni,ious,B $ellarmine wrote on another o,,asion. Bt is nothing 1ut the
-reedom to 1e wrong.B
$esides, i- the Earth was going around the Sun, near1y stars should seem to mo.e
against the 1a,=ground o- more distant stars as, e.ery si3 months, we shi-t our /ers/e,ti.e
-rom one side o- the EarthAs or1it to the other. !o su,h Bannual /aralla3B had 1een -ound. The
Co/erni,ans argued that this was 1e,ause the stars were e3tremely -ar awayHmay1e a million
times more distant than the Earth is -rom the Sun. Perha/s 1etter teles,o/es, in -uture times,
would -ind an annual /aralla3. The geo,entrists ,onsidered this a des/erate attem/t to sa.e a
-lawed hy/othesis, and ludi,rous on the -a,e o- it.
Dhen >alileo turned the -irst astronomi,al teles,o/e to the s=y, the tide 1egan to turn.
"e dis,o.ered that 9u/iter had a little retinue o- moons ,ir,ling it, the inner ones or1iting
-aster than the outer ones, Just as Co/erni,us had dedu,ed -or the motion o- the /lanets
a1out the Sun. "e -ound that Mer,ury and %enus went through /hases li=e the Moon
2showing they or1ited the Sun4. Moreo.er, the ,ratered Moon and the s/otted Sun ,hallenged
the /er-e,tion o- the hea.ens. This may in /art ,onstitute the sort o- trou1le Tertullian was
worried a1out thirteen hundred years earlier, when he /leaded, B- you ha.e any sense or
modesty, ha.e done with /rying into the regions o- the s=y, into the destiny and se,rets o- the
uni.erse.B
n ,ontrast, >alileo taught that we ,an interrogate !ature 1y o1ser.ation and
e3/eriment. Then, B-a,ts whi,h at -irst sight seem im/ro1a1le will, e.en on s,ant e3/lanation,
dro/ the ,loa= whi,h had hidden them and stand -orth in na=ed and sim/le 1eauty.B Are not
these -a,ts, a.aila1le e.en -or s=e/ti,s to ,on-irm, a surer insight into >odAs &ni.erse than all
the s/e,ulations o- the theologiansF $ut what i- these -a,ts ,ontradi,t the 1elie-s o- those who
hold their religion in,a/a1le o- ma=ing mista=esF The /rin,es o- the Chur,h threatened the
aged astronomer with torture i- he /ersisted in tea,hing the a1omina1le do,trine that the
Earth mo.ed. "e was senten,ed to a =ind o- house arrest -or the remainder o- his li-e.
A generation or two later, 1y the time saa, !ewton demonstrated that sim/le and
elegant /hysi,s ,ould Kuantitati.ely e3/lainHand /redi,tHall the o1ser.ed lunar and
/lanetary motions 2/ro.ided you assumed the Sun at the ,enter o- the Solar System4, the
geo,entrist ,on,eit eroded -urther.
n (76*, in an attem/t to dis,o.er stellar /aralla3, the /ainsta=ing English amateur
astronomer 9ames $radley stum1led on the a1erration o- light. The term Ba1erration,B
su//ose, ,on.eys something o- the une3/e,tedness o- the dis,o.ery. Dhen o1ser.ed o.er the
,ourse o- a year, stars were -ound to tra,e little elli/ses against the s=y. $ut all the stars were
-ound to do so. This ,ould not 1e stellar /aralla3, where we would e3/e,t a 1ig /aralla3 -or
near1y stars and an indete,ti1le one -or -araway stars. nstead, a1erration is similar to how
raindro/ -alling dire,tly down on a s/eeding auto seem to the /assenger, to 1e -alling at a
slant< the -aster the ,ar goes, the stee/er the slant. - the Earth were stationary at the ,enter o-
the &ni.erse. and not s/eeding in its or1it around the Sun, $radley would nor ha.e -ound the
a1erration o- light. t was a ,om/elling demonstration that the Earth re.ol.ed a1out the Sun. t
,on.in,ed most astronomers and some others 1ut not, $radley thought, the BAnti0
Co/erni,ans.B
$ut not until (+87 did dire,t o1ser.ations o- the stars /ro.e in the ,learest way that the
Earth is indeed ,ir,ling the Sun. The long0de1ated annual /aralla3 was at last dis,o.eredHnot
1y 1etter arguments, 1ut 1y 1etter instruments. $e,ause e3/laining what it means is mu,h
more straight-orward than e3/laining the a1erration o- light, its dis,o.ery was .ery im/ortant.
t /ounded the -inal nail into the ,o--in o- geo,entrism. #ou need only loo= at your -inger with
your le-t eye and then with your right and see it seem to mo.e. E.eryone ,an understand
/aralla3.
$y the nineteenth ,entury, all s,ienti-i, geo,entrists had 1een ,on.erted or rendered
e3tin,t. On,e most s,ientists had 1een ,on.in,ed, in-ormed /u1li, o/inion had swi-tly
,hanged, in some ,ountries in a mere three or -our generations. O- ,ourse, in the time o-
>alileo and !ewton and e.en mu,h later, there were still some who o1Je,ted, who tried to
/re.ent the new Sun0,entered &ni.erse -rom 1e,oming a,,e/ted, or e.en =nown. And there
were many who at least har1ored se,ret reser.ations.
$y the late twentieth ,entury, Just in ,ase there were any holdouts, we ha.e 1een a1le
to settle the matter dire,tly. DeA.e 1een a1le to test whether we li.e in an Earth0,entered
system with /lanets a--i3ed to trans/arent ,rystal s/heres, or in a Sun0,entered system with
/lanets ,ontrolled at a distan,e 1y the gra.ity o- the Sun. De ha.e, -or e3am/le, /ro1ed the
/lanets with radar. Dhen we 1oun,e a signal o-- a moon o- Saturn, we re,ei.e no radio e,ho
-rom a nearer ,rystal s/here atta,hed to 9u/iter. Our s/a,e,ra-t arri.e at their a//ointed
destinations with astonishing /re,ision, e3a,tly as /redi,ted 1y !ewtonian gra.itation. Dhen
our shi/s -ly to Mars, say, their instruments do not hear a tin=ling sound or dete,t shards o-
1ro=en ,rystal as they ,rash through the Bs/heresB thatHa,,ording to the authoritati.e
o/inions that /re.ailed -or millenniaH/ro/el %enus or the Sun ill their duti-ul motions a1out
the ,entral Earth.
Dhen %oyager ( s,anned the Solar System -rom 1eyond the outermost /lanet, it saw, Just
as Co/erni,us and >alileo had said we would, the Sun in the middle and the /lanets in
,on,entri, or1its a1out it. Far -rom 1eing the ,enter o- the &ni.erse, the Earth is Just one o-
the or1iting dots. !o longer ,on-ined to a single world, we are now a1le to rea,h out to others
and determine de,isi.ely what =ind o- /lanetary system we inha1it.
E.ery other /ro/osal, and their num1er is legion, to dis/la,e us -rom ,osmi, ,enter stage has
also 1een resisted, in /art -or similar reasons. De seem to ,ra.e /ri.ilege, merited not 1y our
wor=, 1ut 1y our 1irth, 1y the mere -a,t that, say, we are humans and 1orn on Earth. De might
,all it the anthro/o,entri,Hthe Bhuman0,enteredBH,on,eit.
This ,on,eit is 1rought ,lose to ,ulmination in the notion that we are ,reated in >odAs
imageE The Creator and Ruler o- the entire &ni.erse loo=s Just li=e me. My, what a ,oin,iden,e
"ow ,on.enient and satis-yingG The si3th0,entury0$.C. >reen /hiloso/her Xeno/hanes
understood the arrogan,e o- the /ers/e,ti.eE
BThe Ethio/ians ma=e their gods 1la,= and snu10nosed< the Thra,ians say theirs ha.e 1lue
eyes and red hair . . . #es, and i- o3en and horses or lions had hands, and ,ould /aint with their
hands, and /rodu,e wor=s o- art as men do, horses would /aint the -orms o- the gods li=e
horses, and o3en li=e o3en . . .B
Su,h attitudes were on,e des,ri1ed as B/ro.in,ialBHthe nai.e e3/e,tation that the
/oliti,al hierar,hies and so,ial ,on.entions o- an o1s,ure /ro.in,e e3tend to a .ast em/ire
,om/osed o- many di--erent traditions and ,ultures< that the -amiliar 1oondo,=s, our
1oondo,=s, are the ,enter o- the world. The ,ountry 1um/=ins =now almost nothing a1out
what else is /ossi1le. They -ail to gras/ the insigni-i,an,e o- their /ro.in,e or the di.ersity o-
the Em/ire. Dith ease, they a//ly their own standards and ,ustoms to the rest o- the /lanet.
$ut /lo//ed down in %ienna, say, or "am1urg, or !ew #or=, rue-ully they re,ogniCe how
limited their /ers/e,ti.e has 1een. They 1e,ome Bde/ro.in,ialiCed.B
Modern s,ien,e has 1een a .oyage into the un=nown, with a lesson in humility
waiting at e.ery sto/. Many /assengers would rather ha.e stayed home.
Cha$ter 3+ The 4reat Demotions
One /hiloso/her asserted that he =new the whole se,ret . . . "e sur.eyed the two ,elestial strangers -rom to/ to
toe, and maintained to their -a,es that their /ersons, their worlds, their suns, and their stars, were ,reated solely
-or the use o- man. At this assertion our two tra.elers let themsel.es -all against ea,h other, seiCed with a -it o- . . .
ine3tinguisha1le laughter.
00%OLTARE, MCROME>AS. A P"LOSOP"CAL "STOR# 2(7*64
n the se.enteenth ,entury there was still some ho/e that, e.en i- the Earth was not the ,enter
o- the &ni.erse, it might 1e the only Bworld.B $ut >alileoAs teles,o/e re.ealed that Bthe Moon
,ertainly does not /ossess a smooth and /olished sur-a,eB and that other worlds might loo=
BJust li=e the -a,e o- the Earth itsel-.B The Moon and the /lanets showed unmista=a1ly that
they had as mu,h ,laim to 1eing worlds as the Earth doesHwith mountains, ,raters,
atmos/heres, /olar i,e ,a/s, ,louds, and, in the ,ase o- Saturn, a daCCling, unheard0o- set o-
,ir,um-erential rings. A-ter millennia o- /hiloso/hi,al de1ate, the issue was settled de,isi.ely in
-a.or o- Bthe /lurality o- worlds.B They might 1e /ro-oundly di--erent -rom our /lanet. !one o-
them might 1e as ,ongenial -or li-e. $ut the Earth was hardly the only one.
This was the ne3t in the series o- >reat 'emotions, downli-ting e3/erien,es,
demonstrations o- our a//arent insigni-i,an,e, wounds that s,ien,e has, in its sear,h -or
>alileoAs -a,ts, deli.ered to human /ride.
Dell, some ho/ed, e.en i- the Earth isnAt at the ,enter o- the &ni.erse, the Sun is. The Sun is
our Sun. So the Earth is a//ro3imately at the ,enter o- the &ni.erse. Perha/s some o- our /ride
,ould in this way 1e sal.aged. $ut 1y the nineteenth ,entury, o1ser.ational astronomy had
made it ,lear that the Sun is 1ut one lonely star in a great sel-0gra.itating assem1lage o- suns
,alled the Mil=y Day >ala3y. Far -rom 1eing at the ,enter o- the >ala3y, our Sun with its
entourage o- dim and tiny /lanets lies in an undistinguished se,tor o- an o1s,ure s/iral arm.
De are thirty thousand light years -rom the Center.
Dell, our Mil=y Day is the only gala3y. The Mil=y Day >ala3y is one o- 1illions, /erha/s
hundreds o- 1illions o- gala3ies nota1le neither in mass nor in 1rightness nor in how its stars
are ,on-igured and arrayed. Some modern dee/ s=y /hotogra/hs show more gala3ies 1eyond
the Mil=y Day than stars within the Mil=y Day. E.ery one o- them is an island uni.erse
,ontaining /erha/s a hundred 1illion suns. Su,h an image is a /ro-ound sermon on humility.
Dell, then, at least our >ala3y is at the ,enter o- the &ni.erse. !o, this is wrong too. Dhen
the e3/ansion o- the &ni.erse was -irst dis,o.ered, many /eo/le naturally gra.itated to the
notion that the Mil=y Day was at the ,enter o- the e3/ansion, and all the other gala3ies
running away -rom us. De now re,ogniCe that astronomers on any gala3y would see all the
others running away . -rom them< unless they were .ery ,are-ul, they would all ,on,lude that
they were at the ,enter o- the &ni.erse. There is, in -a,t, no ,enter to the e3/ansion, no /oint
o- origin o- the $ig $ang, at least not in ordinary three0dimensional s/a,e.
Dell, e.en i- there are hundreds o- 1illions o- gala3ies, ea,h with hundreds o- 1illions o-
stars, no other star has /lanets. - there are n other /lanets 1eyond our Solar System, /erha/s
thereAs no other li-e in the &ni.erse. Our uniKueness might then 1e sa.ed. Sing /lanets are
small and -ee1ly shine 1y re-le,ted sunlight, theyAre hard to -ind. Although a//li,a1le
te,hnology is im/ro.ing wit 1reathta=ing s/eed, e.en a giant world li=e 9u/iter, or1iting the
nearest star, Al/ha Centauri, would still 1e di--i,ult to dete,t. ii our ignoran,e, the geo,entrists
-ind ho/e.
There was on,e a s,ienti-i, hy/othesisHnot Just well re,ei.ed 1ut /re.ailingHthat
su//osed our solar system to ha.e -ormed through the near ,ollision o- the an,ient Sun with
another star< the gra.itational tidal intera,tion /ulled out tendrils o- sunstu-- that Kui,=ly
,ondensed into /lanets. Sin,e s/a,e is mainly em/ty and near stellar ,ollisions most rare, it
was ,on,luded that -ew other /lanetary systems e3istH/erha/s only one, around that other
star that long ago ,o0/arented the worlds o- our solar system. Early in my studies, was
amaCed and disa//ointed that su,h a .iew had e.er 1een ta=en seriously, that -or /lanets o-
other stars, a1sen,e o- e.iden,e had 1een ,onsidered e.iden,e o- a1sen,e.
Today we ha.e -irm e.iden,e -or at least three /lanets or1iting an e3tremely dense star,
the /ulsar designated $(6*7P(6, a1out whi,h All say more later. And weA.e -ound, -or more
than hal- the stars with masses li=e the SunAs, that early in their ,areers theyAre surrounded 1y
great dis=s o- gas aid dust out o- whi,h /lanets seem to -orm. Other /lanetary systems now
loo= to 1e a ,osmi, ,ommon/la,e, may1e e.en worlds something li=e the Earth. De should 1e
a1le, in the ne3t -ew de,ades, to in.entory at least the larger /lanets, i- they e3ist, o- hundreds
o- near1y stars.
Dell, i- our /osition in s/a,e doesnAt re.eal our s/e,ial role, our /osition in time doesE
DeA.e 1een in the &ni.erse sin,e The $eginning 2gi.e or ta=e a -ew days4. DeA.e 1een gi.en
s/e,ial res/onsi1ilities 1y the Creator. t on,e seemed .ery reasona1le to thin= o- the &ni.erse
as 1eginning Just a little 1e-ore our ,olle,ti.e memory is o1s,ured 1y the /assage o- time and
the illitera,y o- our an,estors. >enerally s/ea=ing, thatAs hundreds or thousands o- years ago.
Religions that /ur/ort to des,ri1e the origin o- the &ni.erse o-ten s/e,i-yHim/li,itly or
e3/li,itlyHa date o- origin o- roughly su,h .intage, a 1irthday -or the world.
- you add u/ all the B1egatsB in >enesis, -or e3am/le, you get an age -or the EarthE
5,::: years old, /lus or minus a little. The uni.erse is said to 1e e3a,tly as old as the Earth. This
is still the standard o- 9ewish, Christian, and Moslem -undamentalists and is ,learly re-le,ted in
the 9ewish ,alendar.
$ut so young a &ni.erse raises an aw=ward KuestionE "ow is it that there are
astronomi,al o1Je,ts more than 5,::: light0years awayF t ta=es light a year to tra.el a light0
year, (:,::: years to tra.el (:,::: light0years, and so on. Dhen we loo= at the ,enter o- the
Mil=y Day >ala3y, the light we see le-t its sour,e 8:,::: years ago. The nearest s/iral gala3y
li=e our own, M8( in the ,onstellation Andromeda, is 6 million light0years away, so we are
seeing it as it was when the light -rom it set out on its long Journey to EarthH6 million years
ago. And when we o1ser.e distant Kuasars * 1illion light0years away, we are seeing them as
they were * 1illion years ago, 1e-ore the Earth was -ormed. 2They are, almost ,ertainly, .ery
di--erent today.4
-, des/ite this, we were to a,,e/t the literal truth o- su,h religious 1oo=s, how ,ould we
re,on,ile the dataF The only /lausi1le ,on,lusion, thin=, is that >od re,ently made all the
/hotons o- light arri.ing on the Earth in su,h a ,oherent -ormat as to mislead generations o-
astronomers into the misa//rehension that there are su,h things as gala3ies and Kuasars, and
intentionally dri.ing them to the s/urious ,on,lusion that the &ni.erse is .ast and old. This is
su,h a male.olent theology still ha.e di--i,ulty 1elie.ing that anyone, no matter how de.oted
to the di.ine ins/iration o- any religious 1oo=, ,ould seriously entertain it.
$eyond this, the radioa,ti.e dating o- ro,=s, the a1undan,e o- im/a,t ,raters on many
worlds, the e.olution o- the stars, and the e3/ansion o- the &ni.erse ea,h /ro.ides ,om/elling
and inde/endent e.iden,e that our &ni.erse is many 1illions o- years oldHdes/ite the
,on-ident assertions o- re.ered theologians that a world so old dire,tly ,ontradi,ts the word o-
>od, and that at any rate in-ormation on the antiKuity o- the world is ina,,essi1le e3,e/t to
-aith.8 These lines o- e.iden,e, as well, would ha.e to 1e manu-a,tured 1y a de,e/ti.e and
mali,ious deityHunless the world is mu,h older than the literalists in the 9udeo0Christian0
slami, religion su//ose. O- ,ourse, no su,h /ro1lem arises -or those many religious /eo/le
who treat the $i1le and the QurAan as histori,al and moral guides and great literature, 1ut who
re,ogniCe that the /ers/e,ti.e o- these s,ri/tures on the natural world re-le,ts the
rudimentary s,ien,e o- the time in whi,h they were written.
Ages rolled 1y 1e-ore the Earth 1egan. More ages will run their ,ourse 1e-ore it is
destroyed. A distin,tion needs to 1e drawn 1etween how old the Earth is 2around ;.* 1illion
years4 and how old the &ni.erse is 2a1out (* 1illion years sin,e the $ig $ang4. The immense
inter.al o- time 1etween the origin o- the &ni.erse and our e/o,h was two0thirds o.er 1e-ore
the Earth ,ame to 1e. Some stars and /lanetary systems are 1illions o- years younger, others
1illions o- years older. $ut in >enesis, ,ha/ter (, .erse (, the &ni.erse and the Earth are ,reated
on the same day. The "indu0$uddhist09ain religion tends not to ,on-ound the two e.ents.
As -or humans, weAre late,omers. De a//ear in the last instant o- ,osmi, time. The
history o- the &ni.erse till now was )).))+ /er,ent o.er 1e-ore our s/e,ies arri.ed on the
s,ene. n that .ast swee/ o- aeons, we ,ould not ha.e assumed any s/e,ial res/onsi1ilities -or
our /lanet, or li-e, or anything else. De were not here.
Dell, i- we ,anAt -ind anything s/e,ial a1out our /osition or our e/o,h, may1e thereAs
something s/e,ial a1out our motion. !ewton and all the other great ,lassi,al /hysi,ists held
that the .elo,ity o- the Earth in s/a,e ,onstituted a B/ri.ileged -rame o- re-eren,e.B ThatAs
a,tually what it was ,alled. Al1ert Einstein, a =een ,riti, o- /reJudi,e and /ri.ilege all his li-e,
,onsidered this Ba1soluteB /hysi,s a remnant o- an in,reasingly dis,redited Earth ,hau.inism. t
seemed to him that the laws o- !ature must 1e the same no matter what the .elo,ity or -rame
o- re-eren,e o- the o1ser.er. Dith this as his starting /oint, he de.elo/ed the S/e,ial Theory o-
Relati.ity. ts ,onseKuen,es are 1iCarre, ,ounter intuiti.e, and grossly ,ontradi,t ,ommon sense
H1ut only at .ery high s/eeds. Care-ul and re/eated o1ser.ations show that his Justly
,ele1rated theory is an a,,urate des,ri/tion o- how the world is made. Our ,ommonsense
intuitions ,an 1e mista=en. Our /re-eren,es donAt ,ount. De do not li.e in a /ri.ileged
re-eren,e -rame.
One ,onseKuen,e o- s/e,ial relati.ity is time dilationHthe slowing down o- time as the
o1ser.er a//roa,hes light s/eed. #ou ,an still -ind ,laims that time dilation a//lies to wat,hes
and elementary /arti,lesHand, /resuma1ly, to ,ir,adian and other rhythms in /lants, animals,
and mi,ro1esH1ut not to human 1iologi,al ,lo,=s. Our s/e,ies has 1een granted, it is
suggested, s/e,ial immunity -rom the laws o- !ature, whi,h must a,,ordingly 1e a1le to
distinguish deser.ing -rom undeser.ing ,olle,tions o- matter. 2n -a,t, the /roo- Einstein ga.e
-or s/e,ial, relati.ity admits no su,h distin,tions.4 The idea o- humans as e3,e/tions to
relati.ity seems another in,arnation o- the notion o- s/e,ial ,reationE
Dell, e.en i- our /osition, our e/o,h, our motion, and our world are not uniKue, may1e
we are. DeAre di--erent -rom the other animals. DeAre s/e,ially ,reated. The /arti,ular de.otion
o- the Creator o- the &ni.erse is e.ident in us. This /osition was /assionately de-ended on
religious and other grounds. $ut in the middle nineteenth ,entury Charles 'arwin showed
,on.in,ingly how one s/e,ies ,an e.ol.e into another 1y entirely natural /ro,esses, whi,h
,ome down to the heartless 1usiness o- !ature sa.ing the heredities that wor= and reJe,ting
those that donAt. BMan in his arrogan,e thin=s himsel- a great wor= worthy Ro-S the
inter/osition o- a deity,B 'arwin wrote telegra/hi,ally in his note1oo=. BMore hum1le and
thin= truer to ,onsider him ,reated -rom animals.B The /ro-ound and intimate ,onne,tions o-
humans with the other li-e -orms, on Earth ha.e 1een ,om/ellingly demonstrated in the late
twentieth ,entury 1y the new s,ien,e o- mole,ular 1iology.
n ea,h age the sel-0,ongratulatory ,hau.inisms are ,hallenged in yet another arena o-
s,ienti-i, de1ateHin this ,entury, -or e3am/le, in attem/ts to understand the nature o- human
se3uality, the e3isten,e o- the un,ons,ious mind, and the -a,t that many /sy,hiatri, illnesses
and ,hara,ter Bde-e,tsB ha.e a mole,ular origin. $ut alsoE
Dell, e.en i- weAre ,losely related to some o- the other animals, weAre di--erentHnot Just
in degree, 1ut in =indHon what really mattersE reasoning, sel-,ons,iousness, tool ma=ing,
ethi,s, altruism, religion, language, no1ility o- ,hara,ter. Dhile humans, li=e all animals, ha.e
traits that set them a/artHotherwise, how ,ould we distinguish one s/e,ies -rom anotherFH
human uniKueness has 1een e3aggerated, sometimes grossly so. Chim/s reason, are sel-0
,ons,ious, ma=e tools, show de.otion, and so on. Chim/s and humans ha.e )).5 /er,ent o-
their a,ti.e genes in ,ommon. 2Ann 'ruyan and run through the e.iden,e in our 1oo=
Shadows o- Forgotten An,estors.4
n /o/ular ,ulture, the .ery o//osite /osition is also em1ra,ed, although it too is dri.en
1y human ,hau.inism 2/lus a -ailure o- the imagination4E ChildrenAs stories and ,artoons ma=e
animals dress in ,lothes, li.e in houses, use =ni.es and -or=s, and s/ea=. The three 1ears slee/
in 1eds. The owl and the /ussy,at go to sea in a 1eauti-ul /ea0green 1oat. 'inosaur mothers
,uddle their young. Peli,ans deli.er the mail. 'ogs dri.e ,ars. A worm ,at,hes a thie-. Pets
ha.e human names. 'olls, nut,ra,=ers, ,u/s, and sau,ers dan,e and ha.e o/inions. The dish
runs away with the s/oon. n the Thomas the Tan= Engine series, we e.en ha.e
anthro/omor/hi, lo,omoti.es and railway ,ars, ,harmingly /ortrayed. !o matter what weAre
thin=ing a1out, animate or inanimate, we tend to in.est it with human traits. De ,anAt hel/
oursel.es. The images ,ome readily to mind. Children are ,learly -ond o- them.
Dhen we tal= a1out a BthreateningB s=y, a Btrou1ledB sea diamonds BresistingB 1eing
s,rat,hed, the Earth Battra,tingB /assing asteroid, or an atom 1eing Be3,ited,B we are again
drawn to a =ind o- animist world.iew. De rei-y. Some an,ient le.el o- our thin=ing endows
inanimate !ature with li-e, /assions, and -orethought.
The notion that the Earth is sel-0aware has lately 1een growing at the -ringes o- the
B>aiaB hy/othesis. $ut this was ,ommon/la,e 1elie- o- 1oth the an,ient >ree=s and the earl
Christians. Origen wondered whether Bthe earth also, a,,ording to its own nature, is
a,,ounta1le -or some sin.B A host o- an,ient s,holars thought the stars ali.e. This was also the
/osition o- Origen, o- St. Am1rose 2the mentor o- St. Augustine4, and e.en, in a more Kuali-ied
-orm, o- St. Thomas AKuinas. The Stoi, /hiloso/hi,al /osition on the SunAs nature was stated
1y Ci,ero, in the -irst ,entury $.C.E BSin,e the Sun resem1les those -ires whi,h are ,ontained in
the 1odies o- li.ing ,reatures, the Sun must also 1e ali.e.B
Animist attitudes in general seem to ha.e 1een s/reading re,ently. n a ()*; Ameri,an
sur.ey, 7* /er,ent o- /eo/le /olled were willing to state that the Sun is not ali.e< in ()+), only
8: /er,ent would su//ort so rash a /ro/osition. On whether an automo1ile tire ,an -eel
anything, ): /er,ent o- res/ondents denied it emotions in ()*;, 1ut only 78 /er,ent in ()+).
De ,an re,ogniCe here a short,omingHin some ,ir,umstan,es seriousHin our a1ility to
understand the world. Chara,teristi,ally, willy0nilly, we seem ,om/elled to /roJe,t our own
nature onto !ature. Although this may result in a ,onsistently distorted .iew o- the world, it
does ha.e one great .irtueH/roJe,tion is the essential /re,ondition -or ,om/assion.
O=ay, may1e weAre not mu,h, may1e weAre humiliatingly related t: a/es, 1ut at least
weAre the 1est there is. >od and angels aside, weAre the only intelligent 1eings in the &ni.erse.
One ,orres/ondent writes to me, B am as sure o- this as anything in my e3/erien,e. There is
no ,ons,ious li-e anywhere else in the &ni.erse. Man=ind thus returns to its right-ul /osition as
,enter o- the uni.erse.B "owe.er, /artly through the in-luen,e o- s,ien,e a,id s,ien,e -i,tion,
most /eo/le today, in the &nited States at least, reJe,t this /ro/ositionH-or reasons essentially
stated 1y the an,ient >ree= /hiloso/her Chrysi//usE BFor any human 1eing in e3isten,e to
thin= that there is nothing in the whole world su/erior to himsel- would 1e an insane /ie,e o-
arrogan,e.B
$ut the sim/le -a,t is that we ha.e not yet -ound e3traterrestrial li-e. De are in the earliest
stages o- loo=ing. The Kuestion is wide o/en. - had to guessHes/e,ially ,onsidering our
long seKuen,e o- -ailed would guess that the &ni.erse is -illed with 1eings -ar more
intelligent, tar more ad.an,ed than we are. $ut o- ,ourse might 1e wrong. Su,h a ,on,lusion
is at 1est 1ased on a /lausi1ility argument, deri.ed -rom the num1ers o- /lanets, the u1iKuity
o- organi, matter, the immense times,ales a.aila1le -or e.olution, and so on. t is not a
s,ienti-i, demonstration. The Kuestion is among the most -as,inating in all o- s,ien,e. As
des,ri1ed in this 1oo=, we are Just de.elo/ing the tools to treat it seriously.
Dhat a1out the related matter o- whether we are ,a/a1le o- ,reating intelligen,es smarter
than oursel.esF Com/uters routinely do mathemati,s that no unaided human ,an manage,
out/er-orm world ,ham/ions in ,he,=ers and grand masters in ,hess, s/ea= and understand
English and other languages, write /resenta1le short stories and musi,al ,om/ositions, learn
-rom their mista=es, and ,om/etently /ilot shi/s, air/lanes, and s/a,e,ra-t. Their a1ilities
steadily im/ro.e. TheyAre getting smaller, -aster, and ,hea/er. Ea,h year, the tide o- s,ienti-i,
ad.an,e la/s a little -urther ashore on the island o- human intelle,tual uniKueness with its
em1attled ,astaways. -, at so early a stage in our te,hnologi,al e.olution, we ha.e 1een a1le
to go so -ar in ,reating intelligen,e out o- sili,on and metal, what will 1e /ossi1le in the
-ollowing de,ades and ,enturiesF Dhat ha//ens when smart ma,hines are a1le to
manu-a,ture smarter ma,hinesF
Perha/s the ,learest indi,ation that the sear,h -or an unmerited /ri.ileged /osition -or
humans will ne.er 1e wholly a1andoned is what in /hysi,s and astronomy is ,alled the
Anthro/i, Prin,i/le. t would 1e 1etter named the Anthro/o,entri, Prin,i/le. t ,omes in
.arious -orms. The BDea=B Anthro/i, Prin,i/le merely notes that i- the laws o- !ature and the
/hysi,al ,onstantsHsu,h as the s/eed o- light, the ele,tri,al ,harge o- the ele,tron, the
!ewtonian gra.itational ,onstant, or Plan,=As Kuantum me,hani,al ,onstant had 1een
di--erent, the ,ourse o- e.ents leading to the origin o- humans would ne.er ha.e trans/ired.
&nder other laws and ,onstants, atoms would not hold together, stars would e.ol.e too
Kui,=ly to lea.e su--i,ient time -or li-e to e.ol.e on near1y /lanets, the ,hemi,al elements o-
whi,h li-e is made would ne.er ha.e 1een generated, and so on. 'i--erent laws, no humans.
There is no ,ontro.ersy a1out the Dea= Anthro/i, Prin,i/leE Change the laws and
,onstants o- !ature, i- you ,ould, and a .ery di--erent uni.erse may emergeHin many ,ases, a
uni.erse in,om/ati1le with li-e.; The mere -a,t that we e3ist im/lies 21ut does not im/ose4
,onstraints on the laws o- !ature. n ,ontrast, the .arious BStrongB Anthro/i, Prin,i/les go
mu,h -arther< some o- their ad.o,ates ,ome ,lose to dedu,ing that the laws o- !ature and the
.alues o- the /hysi,al ,onstants were esta1lished 2donAt as= how or 1y Dhom4 so that humans
would e.entually ,ome to 1e. Almost all o- the other /ossi1le uni.erses, they say, are
inhos/ita1le. n this way, the an,ient ,on,eit that the &ni.erse was made -or us is resus,itated.
To me it e,hoes 'r. Pangloss in %oltaireAs Candide, ,on.in,ed that this world, with all its
im/er-e,tions, is the 1est /ossi1le. t sounds li=e /laying my -irst hand o- 1ridge, winning,
=nowing that there are *; 1illion 1illion 1illion 2*.; X (:6+4 /ossi1le other hands that was
eKually li=ely to ha.e 1een dealt . . . and then -oolishly ,on,luding that a god o- 1ridge e3ists
and -a.ors me, a god who arranged the ,ards and the shu--le with my .i,tory -oreordained
-rom The $eginning. De do not =now how many other winning hands there are in the ,osmi,
de,=, how many other =inds o- uni.erses, laws o- !ature, and /hysi,al ,onstantsE that ,ould
also lead to li-e and ntelligen,e and /erha/s e.en delusions o- sel-0im/ortan,e. Sin,e we
=now ne3t to nothing a1out how the &ni.erse was madeHor e.en i- it was madeHitAs di--i,ult
to /ursue these notions /rodu,ti.ely.
%oltaire as=ed BDhy is there anythingFB EinsteinAs -ormulation was to as= whether >od had
any ,hoi,e in ,reating the &ni.erse. $ut i- the &ni.erse is in-initely oldHi- the $ig $ang some
(* 1illion years ago is only the most re,ent ,us/ in an in-inite series o- ,osmi, ,ontra,tions
and e3/ansionsHthen it was ne.er ,reated and the Kuestion o- why it is as it is is rendered
meaningless.
-, on the other hand, the &ni.erse has a -inite age, why is it the way it isF Dhy wasnAt it
gi.en a .ery di--erent ,hara,terF Dhi,h laws o- !ature go with whi,h othersF Are there meta0
laws s/e,i-ying the ,onne,tionsF Can we /ossi1ly dis,o.er themF O- all ,on,ei.a1le laws o-
gra.ity, say, whi,h ones ,an e3ist simultaneously with whi,h ,on,ei.a1le laws o- Kuantum
/hysi,s that determine the .ery e3isten,e o- ma,ros,o/i, matterF Are all laws we ,an thin= o-
/ossi1le, or is there only a restri,ted num1er that ,an somehow 1e 1rought into e3isten,eF
Clearly we ha.e not a glimmering o- how to determine whi,h laws o- !ature are B/ossi1leB and
whi,h are not. !or do we ha.e more than the most rudimentary notion o- what ,orrelations o-
natural laws are B/ermitted.B
For e3am/le, !ewtonAs uni.ersal law o- gra.itation s/e,i-ies that the mutual
gra.itational -or,e attra,ting two 1odies towards ea,h other is in.ersely /ro/ortional to the
sKuare o- how -ar they are a/art. #ou mo.e twi,e as -ar -rom the ,enter o- the Earth and you
weigh a Kuarter as mu,h< ten times -arther and you weigh only a hundredth o- your ordinary
weight< et,. t is this in.erse sKuare law that /ermits the e3Kuisite ,ir,ular and elli/ti,al or1its
o- /lanets around the Sun, and moons around the /lanetsHas well as the /re,ision traJe,tories
o- our inter/lanetary s/a,e,ra-t. - r is the distan,e 1etween the ,enters o- two masses, we say
that the gra.itational -or,e .aries as (@r6.
$ut i- this e3/onent were di--erentHi- the gra.itational law were (@r;, say, rather than
(@r6 Hthen the or1its would not ,lose< o.er 1illions o- re.olutions, the /lanets would s/iral in
and 1e ,onsumed in the -iery de/ths o- the Sun, or s/iral out and 1e lost to interstellar s/a,e.
- the &ni.erse were ,onstru,ted with an in.erse -ourth /ower law rather than an in.erse
sKuare law, soon there would 1e no /lanets -or li.ing 1eings to inha1it.
So o- all the /ossi1le gra.itational -or,e laws, why are we so lu,=y as to li.e in a uni.erse
s/orting a law ,onsistent with li-eF First o- ,ourse, weAre so Blu,=y,B 1e,ause i- we werenAt, we
wouldnAt 1e here to as= the Kuestion. t is no mystery that inKuisiti.e 1eings who e.ol.e on
/lanets ,an 1e -ound only in uni.erses that admit /lanets. Se,ond, the in.erse sKuare law is
not is the only one ,onsistent with sta1ility o.er 1illions o- years. Any /ower law less stee/
than (@r8 2(@r6.)) or (@r, -or e3am/le4 will =ee/ a /lanet in the .i,inity o- a ,ir,ular or1it e.en i-
itAs gi.en a sho.e. De ha.e a tenden,y to o.erloo= the /ossi1ility that other ,on,ei.a1le laws
o- !ature might also 1e ,onsistent with li-e.
$ut thereAs a -urther /ointE tAs not ar1itrary that we ha.e an in.erse sKuare law o-
gra.itation. Dhen !ewtonAs theory is understood in terms o- the more en,om/assing general
theory o- relati.ity, we re,ogniCe that the e3/onent o- the gra.ity law is 6 1e,ause the num1er
o- /hysi,al dimensions we li.e in is 8. All gra.ity laws arenAt a.aila1le, -ree -or a CreatorAs
,hoosing. E.en gi.en an in-inite num1er o- three0dimensional uni.erses -or some great god to
tin=er with, the gra.ity law would always la.e to 1e the law o- the in.erse sKuare. !ewtonian
gra.ity, we might say, is not a ,ontingent -a,et o- our uni.erse, 1ut a ne,essary one.
n general relati.ity, gra.ity is due to the dimensionality and ,ur.ature o- s/a,e. Dhen we
tal= a1out gra.ity we are tal=ing a1out lo,al dim/les in s/a,e0time. This is 1y no means
o1.ious and e.en a--ronts ,ommonsense notions. $ut when e3amined dee/ly, the ideas o-
gra.ity and mass are not se/arate matters, 1ut rami-i,ations o- the underlying geometry o-
s/a,e0time.
wonder i- something li=e this doesnAt a//ly generally to all anthro/i, hy/otheses. The
laws or /hysi,al ,onstants on whi,h our li.es de/end turn out to 1e mem1ers o- a ,lass,
/erha/s e.en a .ast ,lass, o- other laws and other /hysi,al ,onstantsH1ut some o- these are
also ,om/ati1le with a =ind o- li-e. O-ten we do not 2or ,annot4 wor= through what those
other uni.erses allow. $eyond that, not e.ery ar1itrary ,hoi,e o- a law o- !ature or a /hysi,al
,onstant may 1e a.aila1le, e.en to a ma=er o- uni.erses. Our understanding o- whi,h laws o-
!ature and whi,h /hysi,al ,onstants are u/ -or gra1s is -ragmentary at 1est.
Moreo.er, we ha.e no a,,ess to any o- those /utati.e alternati.e uni.erses. De ha.e no
e3/erimental method 1y whi,h anthro/i, hy/otheses may 1e tested. E.en i- the e3isten,e o-
su,h uni.erses were to -ollow -irmly -rom well0esta1lished theoriesHo- Kuantum me,hani,s or
gra.itation, sayHwe ,ould not 1e sure that there werenAt 1etter theories that /redi,t no
alternati.e uni.erses. &ntil that time ,omes, i- it e.er does, it seems to me /remature to /ut
-aith in the Anthro/i, Prin,i/le as an argument -or human ,entrality or uniKueness.
Finally, e.en i- the &ni.erse were intentionally ,reated to allow -or the emergen,e o- li-e or
intelligen,e, other 1eings may e3ist on ,ountless worlds. - so, it would 1e ,old ,om-ort to
anthro/o,entrists that we inha1it one o- the -ew uni.erses that allow li-e and intelligen,e.
There is something stunningly narrow a1out how the Anthro/i, Prin,i/le is /hrased. #es,
only ,ertain laws and ,onstants o- nature are ,onsistent with our =ind o- li-e. $ut essentially the
same laws and ,onstants are reKuired to ma=e a
ro,=. So why not tal= a1out a &ni.erse designed so ro,=s ,ould one day ,ome to 1e, and
strong and wea= Lithi, Prin,i/lesF - stones ,ould /hiloso/hiCe, imagine Lithi, Prin,i/les
would 1e at the intelle,tual -rontiers.
There are ,osmologi,al models 1eing -ormulated today in whi,h e.en the entire
&ni.erse is nothing s/e,ial. Andrei Linde, -ormerly o- the Le1ede. Physi,al nstitute in Mos,ow
and now at Stan-ord &ni.ersity, has in,or/orated ,urrent understanding o- the strong and
wea= nu,lear -or,es and Kuantum /hysi,s into a new ,osmologi,al model. Linde en.isions a
.ast Cosmos, mu,h larger than our &ni.erseH/erha/s e3tending to in-inity 1oth in s/a,e and
timeHnot the /altry (* 1illion light0years or so in radius and (* 1illion years in age whi,h are
the usual understanding. n this Cosmos there is, as here, a =ind o- Kuantum -lu-- in whi,h tiny
stru,turesH mu,h smaller than an ele,tronHare e.erywhere -orming, resha/ing, and
dissi/ating< in whi,h, as here, -lu,tuations in a1solutely em/ty s/a,e ,reate /airs o- elementary
/arti,lesHan ele,tron and a /ositron, -or e3am/le. n the -roth o- Kuantum 1u11les, the .ast
maJority remain su1mi,ros,o/i,. $ut a tiny -ra,tion in-late, grow, and a,hie.e res/e,ta1le
uni.ersehood. They are so -ar away -rom us, thoughHmu,h -arther than the (* 1illion light0
years that is the ,on.entional s,ale o- our uni.erseHthat, i- they e3ist, they a//ear to 1e
wholly ina,,essi1le and undete,ta1le.
Most o- these other uni.erses rea,h a ma3imum siCe and then ,olla/se, ,ontra,t to a
/oint, and disa//ear -ore.er. Others may os,illate. Still others may e3/and without limit. n
di--erent uni.erses there will 1e di--erent laws o- nature. De li.e, Linde argues, in one su,h
uni.erseHone in whi,h the /hysi,s is ,ongenial -or growth, in-lation, e3/ansion, gala3ies, stars,
worlds, li-e. De imagine our uni.erse to 1e uniKue, 1ut it is one o- an immense num1erH
/erha/s an in-inite num1erHo- eKually .alid, eKually inde/endent, eKually isolated uni.erses.
There will 1e li-e in some, and not in others. n this .iew the o1ser.a1le &ni.erse is Just a newly
-ormed 1a,=water o- a mu,h .aster, in-initely old, and wholly uno1ser.a1le Cosmos. -
something li=e this is right, e.en our residual /ride, /allid as it must 1e, o- li.ing in the only
uni.erse is denied to us.
May1e someday, des/ite ,urrent e.iden,e, a means will 1e de.ised to /eer into
adJa,ent uni.erses, s/orting .ery di--erent laws o- nature, and we will see what else is /ossi1le.
Or /erha/s inha1itants o- adJa,ent uni.erses ,an /eer into ours. O- ,ourse, in su,h
s/e,ulations we ha.e -ar e3,eeded the 1ounds o- =nowledge. $ut i- something li=e LindeAs
Cosmos is true, there isHamaCinglyHstill another de.astating de/ro.in,ialiCation awaiting us.
Our /owers are -ar -rom adeKuate to 1e ,reating uni.erses anytime soon. Strong
Anthro/i, Prin,i/le ideas are not amena1le to /roo- 2although LindeAs ,osmology does ha.e
some testa1le -eatures4. E3traterrestrial li-e aside, i- sel-0,ongratulatory /retensions to
,entrality ha.e now retreated to su,h 1astions im/er.ious to e3/eriment, then the seKuen,e o-
s,ienti-i, 1attles with human ,hau.inism would seem to ha.e 1een, at least largely, won.
The long0standing .iew, as summariCed 1y the /hiloso/her mmanuel Iant, that Bwithout
man . . . the whole o- ,reation would 1e a mere wilderness, a thing in .ain, and ha.e no -inal
endB is re.ealed to 1e sel-0indulgent -olly. A Prin,i/le o- Medio,rity seems to a//ly to all our
,ir,umstan,es. De ,ould not ha.e =nown 1e-orehand that the e.iden,e would 1e, so
re/eatedly and thoroughly, in,om/ati1le with the /ro/osition that human 1eings are at ,enter
stage in the &ni.erse. $ut most o- the de1ates ha.e now 1een settled de,isi.ely in -a.or o- a
/osition that, howe.er /ain-ul, ,an 1e en,a/sulated in a single senten,eE De ha.e not 1een
gi.en the lead in the ,osmi, drama.
Perha/s someone else has. Perha/s no one else has. n either ,ase, we ha.e good
reason -or humility.
Cha$ter 5+ % )ni6erse not made -or /s
The Sea o- Faith was on,e, too, at the -ull, and round earthAs shore
lay li=e the -olds o- a 1right girdle -urlAd
1ut now only hear ts melan,holy, long, withdrawing roar,
retreating, to the 1reath o- the night0wind,
down the .ast edges drear and na=ed shingles o- the world.
HMATT"ED AR!OL', B'O%ER $EAC"B 2(+574
Dhat a 1eauti-ul sunset,B we say, or BAm u/ 1e-ore sunrise.B !o matter what the s,ientists
allege, in e.eryday s/ee,h we o-ten ignore their -indings. De donAt tal= a1out the Earth
turning, 1ut a1out the Sun rising and setting. Try -ormulating it in Co/erni,an language.
Dould you say, B$illy, 1e home 1y the time the Earth has rotated enough so as to o,,ult the
Sun 1elow the lo,al horiConBF $illy would 1e long gone 1e-ore youAre -inished. De ha.enAt
1een a1le e.en to -ind a gra,e-ul lo,ution that a,,urately the "elio,entri, insight. De at the
,enter and e.erything else ,ir,ling us is 1uilt into our languages< we tea,h it to our ,hildren.
De are unre,onstru,ted geo,entrists hiding 1ehind a Co/erni,an .eneer.
n (588 the Roman Catholi, Chur,h ,ondemned >alileo -or tea,hing that the Earth goes
around the Sun. LetAs ta=e a ,loser loo= at this -amous ,ontro.ersy. n the /re-a,e to his 1oo=
,om/aring the two hy/othesesHan Earth0,entered and a Sun0,entered uni.erseH>alileo had
written,
OThe ,elestial /henomena will 1e e3amined, strengthening the Co/erni,an hy/othesis until it
might seem that this must trium/h a1solutely.N
And later in the 1oo= he ,on-essed,
O!or ,an e.er su--i,iently admire RCo/erni,us and his -ollowersS< they ha.e through sheer
-or,e o- intelle,t done su,h .iolen,e to their own senses as to /re-er what reason told them
o.er what sensi1le e3/erien,e /lainly showed them . . .N
The Chur,h de,lared, in its indi,tment o- >alileo,
OThe do,trine that the earth is neither the ,enter o- the uni.erse nor immo.a1le, 1ut mo.es
e.en with a daily rotation, is a1surd, and 1oth /sy,hologi,ally and theologi,ally -alse, and at
the least an error o- -aith.N
>alileo re/lied,
OThe do,trine o- the mo.ements o- the earth and the -i3ity o- the sun is ,ondemned on the
ground that the S,ri/tures s/ea= in many /la,es o- the sun mo.ing and the earth standing still
. . . t is /iously s/o=en that the S,ri/tures ,annot lie. $ut none will deny that they are
-reKuently a1struse and their true meaning di--i,ult to dis,o.er, and more than the 1are words
signi-y. thin= that in the dis,ussion o- natural /ro1lems we ought to 1egin not with the
S,ri/tures, 1ut with e3/eriments and demonstrations.N
$ut in his re,antation 29une 66, (5884 >alileo was made to say,
O"a.ing 1een admonished 1y the "oly O--i,e entirely to a1andon the -alse o/inion that the
Sun was the ,enter o- the uni.erse and immo.a1le, and that the Earth was not the ,enter o-
the same and that it mo.ed . . . ha.e 1een . . . sus/e,ted o- heresy, that is, o- ha.ing held and
1elie.ed that the Sun is the ,enter o- the uni.erse and immo.a1le, and that the Earth is not
the ,enter o- the same, and that it does mo.e . . . ( a1Jure with a sin,ere heart and un-eigned
-aith, ,urse and detest the same errors and heresies, and generally all and e.ery error and
se,t ,ontrary to the "oly Catholi, Chur,h.N
t too= the Chur,h until (+86 to remo.e >alileoAs wor= -rom its list o- 1oo=s whi,h Catholi,s
were -or1idden to read at the ris= o- dire /unishment o- their immortal souls.
Ponti-i,al disKuiet with modern s,ien,e has e11ed and -lowed sin,e the time o- >alileo. The
high0water mar= in re,ent history is the (+5; Sylla1us o- Errors o- Pius X, the /o/e who also
,on.ened the %ati,an Coun,il at whi,h the do,trine o- /a/al in-alli1ility was, at his insisten,e,
-irst /ro,laimed. "ere are a -ew e3,er/tsE
'i.ine re.elation is /er-e,t and, there-ore, it is not su1Je,t to ,ontinual and inde-inite /rogress
in order to ,orres/ond with the /rogress o- human reason . . . !o man is -ree to em1ra,e and
/ro-ess that religion whi,h he 1elie.es to 1e true, guided 1y the light o- reason . . . The Chur,h
has /ower to de-ine dogmati,ally the religion o- the Catholi, Chur,h to 1e the only true
religion . . . t is ne,essary e.en in the /resent day that the Catholi, religion shall 1e held as the
only religion o- the state, to the e3,lusion o- all other -orms o- worshi/ . . . The ,i.il li1erty o-
e.ery mode o- worshi/, and -ull /ower gi.en to all o- o/enly and /u1li,ly mani-esting their
o/inions and their ideas ,ondu,e more easily to ,orru/t the morals and minds o- the /eo/le . .
. The Roman Ponti-- ,annot and ought not to re,on,ile himsel- or agree with, /rogress,
li1eralism and modern ,i.iliCation.
To its ,redit, although 1elatedly and relu,tantly, the Chur,h in ())6 re/udiated its
denun,iation o- >alileo. t still ,annot Kuite 1ring itsel-, though, to see the signi-i,an,e o- its
o//osition. n a ())6 s/ee,h Po/e 9ohn Paul argued,
From the 1eginning o- the Age o- Enlightenment down to our own day, the >alileo ,ase has
1een a sort o- BmythB in whi,h the image -a1ri,ated out o- the e.ents is Kuite -ar remo.ed
-rom reality. n this /ers/e,ti.e, the >alileo ,ase was a sym1ol o- the Catholi, Chur,hAs
su//osed reJe,tion o- s,ienti-i, /rogress, or o- Bdogmati,B o1s,urantism o//osed to the -ree
sear,h -or truth.
$ut surely the "oly nKuisition ushering the elderly and in-irm >alileo in to ins/e,t the
instruments o- torture in the dungeons o- the Chur,h not only admits 1ut reKuires Just su,h an
inter/retation. This was not mere s,ienti-i, ,aution and restraint, a relu,tan,e to shi-t a
/aradigm until ,om/elling e.iden,e, su,h as the annual /aralla3, was a.aila1le. This was -ear o-
dis,ussion and de1ate. Censoring alternati.e .iews and threatening to torture their
/ro/onents 1etray a la,= o- -aith in the .ery do,trine and /arishioners that are ostensi1ly
1eing /rote,ted. Dhy were threats and >alileoAs house arrest neededF Cannot truth de-end
itsel- in its ,on-rontation with errorF
The Po/e does, though, go on to addE
The error o- the theologians o- the time, when they maintained the ,entrality o- the earth, was
to thin= that our understanding o- the /hysi,al worldAs stru,ture was in soiree way im/osed 1y
the literal sense o- Sa,red S,ri/tures.
"ere indeed ,onsidera1le /rogress has 1een madeHalthough /ro/onents o- -undamentalist
-aiths will 1e distressed to hear -rom the Ponti-- that Sa,red S,ri/ture is not always literally
true.
$ut i- the $i1le is not e.erywhere literally true, whi,h /arts are di.inely ins/ired and whi,h are
merely -alli1le and humanF As soon as we admit that there are s,ri/tural mista=es 2or
,on,essions to the ignoran,e o- the times4, then how ,an the $i1le 1e an inerrant guide to
ethi,s and moralsF Might se,ts and indi.iduals now a,,e/t as authenti, the /arts o- the $i1le
they li=e, and reJe,t those that are in,on.enient or 1urdensomeF Prohi1itions against murder,
say, are essential -or a so,iety to -un,tion, 1ut i- di.ine retri1ution -or murder is ,onsidered
im/lausi1le, wonAt more /eo/le thin= they ,an get away with itF
Many -elt that Co/erni,us and >alileo were u/ to no good and erosi.e o- the so,ial order.
ndeed any ,hallenge -rom any sour,e, to the literal truth o- the $i1le might ha.e su,h
,onseKuen,es. De ,an readily see how s,ien,e 1egan to ma=e /eo/le ner.ous. nstead o-
,riti,iCing those who /er/etuated the myths, /u1li, ran,or was dire,ted at those who
dis,redited them.
Our an,estors understood origins 1y e3tra/olating -rom their own e3/erien,e. "ow else ,ould
they ha.e done itF So the &ni.erse was hat,hed -rom a ,osmi, egg, or ,on,ei.ed in the se3ual
,ongress o- a mother god and a -ather god, or was a =ind o- /rodu,t o- the CreatorAs
wor=sho/H/erha/s the latest o- many -lawed attem/ts. And the &ni.erse was not mu,h
1igger than we see, and not mu,h older than our written or oral re,ords, and nowhere .ery
di--erent -rom /la,es that we =now.
DeA.e tended in our ,osmologies to ma=e things -amiliar. 'es/ite all our 1est e--orts, weA.e
not 1een .ery in.enti.e. n the Dest, "ea.en is /la,id and -lu--y, and "ell is li=e the inside o- a
.ol,ano. n many stories, 1oth realms are go.erned 1y dominan,e hierar,hies headed 1y gods
or de.ils. Monotheists tal=ed a1out the =ing o- =ings. n e.ery ,ulture we imagined something
li=e our own /oliti,al system running the &ni.erse. Few -ound the similarity sus/i,ious.
Then s,ien,e ,ame along and taught us that we are not the measure o- all things, that there
are wonders unimagined, that the &ni.erse is not o1liged to ,on-orm to what we ,onsider
,om-orta1le or /lausi1le. De ha.e learned something a1out the idiosyn,rati, nature o- our
,ommon sense. S,ien,e has ,arried human sel-0,ons,iousness to a higher le.el. This is surely a
rite o- /assage, a ste/ towards maturity. t ,ontrasts star=ly with the ,hildishness and nar,issism
o- our /re0Co/erni,an notions.
$ut why should we want to thin= that the &ni.erse was made -or usF Dhy is the idea so
a//ealingF Dhy do we nurture itF s our sel-0esteem so /re,arious that nothing short o- a
uni.erse ,ustom0made -or us will doF
O- ,ourse it a//eals to our .anity. BDhat a man desires, he also imagines to 1e true,B said
'emosthenes. BThe light o- -aith ma=es us see what we 1elie.e,B ,heer-ully admitted St.
Thomas AKuinas. $ut thin= there may 1e something else. ThereAs a =ind o- ethno,entrism
among /rimates. To whi,he.er little grou/ we ha//en to 1e 1orn, we owe /assionate lo.e and
loyalty. Mem1ers o- other grou/s are 1eneath ,ontem/t, deser.ing o- reJe,tion and hostility.
That 1oth grou/s are. o- the same s/e,ies, that to an outside o1ser.er they are .irtually
indistinguisha1le, ma=es no di--eren,e. This is ,ertainly the /attern among the ,him/anCees,
our ,losest relati.es in the animal =ingdom. Ann 'ruyan and ha.e des,ri1ed how this way o-
.iewing the world may ha.e made enormous e.olutionary sense a -ew million years ago,
howe.er dangerous it has 1e,ome today. E.en mem1ers o- hunter0gatherer grou/sHas -ar
-rom the te,hnologi,al -eats o- our /resent glo1al ,i.iliCation as it is /ossi1le -or humans to 1e
Hsolemnly des,ri1e their little 1and, whi,he.er it is, as Bthe /eo/le.B E.eryone else is
something di--erent, something less than human.
- this is our natural way o- .iewing the world, then it should o,,asion no sur/rise that e.ery
time we ma=e a nai.e Judgment a1out our /la,e in the &ni.erseHone untem/ered 1y ,are-ul
and s=e/ti,al s,ienti-i, e3aminationHwe almost always o/t -or the ,entrality o- our grou/ and
,ir,umstan,e. De want to 1elie.e, moreo.er, that these are o1Je,ti.e -a,ts, and not our
/reJudi,es -inding a san,tioned .ent.
So itAs not mu,h -un to ha.e a gaggle o- s,ientists in,essantly haranguing us with B#ouAre
ordinary, youAre unim/ortant your /ri.ileges are undeser.ed, thereAs nothing s/e,ial a1out
you.B E.en une3,ita1le /eo/le might, a-ter a while, grow annoyed at this in,antation and those
who insist on ,hanting it. t almost seems that the s,ientists are getting some weird satis-a,tion
out o- /utting humans down. Dhy ,anAt they -ind a way in whi,h weAre su/eriorF Li-t our
s/iritsG E3alt usG n su,h de1ates s,ien,e, with its mantra o- dis,ouragement, -eels ,old and
remote, dis/assionate, deta,hed, unres/onsi.e to human needs.
And, again, i- weAre not im/ortant, not ,entral, not the a//le o- >odAs eye, what is im/lied -or
our theologi,ally 1ased moral ,odesF The dis,o.ery o- our true 1earings in the Cosmos was
resisted -or so long and to su,h a degree that many tra,es o- the de1ate remain, sometimes
with the moti.es o- the geo,entrists laid 1are. "ere, -or e3am/le, is a re.ealing unsigned
,ommentary in the $ritish re.iew The S/e,tator in (+)6E
t is ,ertain enough that the dis,o.ery o- the helio,entri, motion o- the /lanets whi,h redu,ed
our earth to its /ro/er Binsigni-i,an,eB in the solar system, did a good deal to redu,e to a
similar 1ut -ar -rom /ro/er Binsigni-i,an,eB the moral /rin,i/les 1y whi,h the /redominant
ra,es o- the earth had hitherto 1een guided and restrained. Part o- this e--e,t was no dou1t
due to the e.iden,e a--orded that the /hysi,al s,ien,e o- .arious ins/ired writers was
erroneous instead o- 1eing in-alli1le,0a ,on.i,tion whi,h unduly shoo= the ,on-iden,e -elt
e.en in their moral and religious tea,hing. $ut a good deal o- it was due only to the mere
sense o- Binsigni-i,an,eB with whi,h man has ,ontem/lated himsel-, sin,e he has dis,o.ered
that he inha1its nothing 1ut a .ery o1s,ure ,orner o- the uni.erse, instead o- the ,entral world
round whi,h sun, moon, and stars ali=e re.ol.ed. There ,an 1e no dou1t that man may -eel
himsel-, and has o-ten -elt himsel-, a great deal too insigni-i,ant to 1e the o1Je,t o- any
/arti,ular di.ine training or ,are. - the earth 1e regarded as a sort o- ant0hill, and the li-e and
death o- human 1eings as the li-e and death o- so many ants whi,h run into and out o- so
many holes in sear,h o- -ood and sunlight, it is Kuite ,ertain that no adeKuate im/ortan,e will
1e atta,hed to the duties o- human li-e, and that a /ro-ound -atalism and ho/elessness,
instead o- new ho/e-ulness, will atta,h to human e--ort . . .
For the /resent at least, our horiCons are Kuite .ast enough . . . < till we ,an get used to the
in-inite horiCons we already ha.e, and not lose our 1alan,e so mu,h as we usually do in
,ontem/lating them, the yearning -or still wider horiCons is /remature.
Dhat do we really want -rom /hiloso/hy and religionF Palliati.esF Thera/yF Com-ortF 'o we
want reassuring -a1les or an understanding o- our a,tual ,ir,umstan,esF 'ismay that the
&ni.erse does not ,on-orm to our /re-eren,es seems ,hildish. #ou might thin= that grown0u/s
would 1e ashamed to /ut su,h disa//ointments into /rint. The -ashiona1le way o- doing this
is not to 1lame the &ni.erseHwhi,h seems truly /ointlessH1ut rather to 1lame the means 1y
whi,h we =now the &ni.erse, namely s,ien,e.
>eorge $ernard Shaw, in the /re-a,e to his /lay St. 9oan, des,ri1ed a sense o- s,ien,e /reying
on our ,redulity, -or,ing on us an alien world.iew, intimidating 1elie-E
n the Middle Ages, /eo/le 1elie.ed that the Earth was -lat, -or whi,h they had at least the
e.iden,e o- their sensesE we 1elie.e it to 1e round, not 1e,ause as many as one /er ,ent o- us
,ould gi.e the /hysi,al reason -or so Kuaint a 1elie-, 1ut 1e,ause modern s,ien,e has
,on.in,ed us that nothing that is o1.ious is true, and that e.erything that is magi,al,
im/ro1a1le, e3traordinary, giganti,, mi,ros,o/i,, heartless, or outrageous is s,ienti-i,.
A more re,ent and .ery instru,ti.e e3am/le is &nderstanding the PresentE S,ien,e and the
Soul o- Modern Man, 1y $ryan A//leyard, a $ritish Journalist. This 1oo= ma=es e3/li,it what
many /eo/le -eel, all o.er the world, 1ut are too em1arrassed to say. A//leyardAs ,andor is
re-reshing. "e is a true 1elie.er and will not let us slough o.er the ,ontradi,tions 1etween
modern s,ien,e and traditional religionE
BS,ien,e has ta=en away our religion,B he laments. And what sort o- religion is it that he longs
-orF One in whi,h Bthe human ra,e was the /oint, the heart, the -inal ,ause o- the whole
system. t /la,ed our sel.es de-initi.ely u/on the uni.ersal ma/.B . . . BDe were the end, the
/ur/ose, the rational a3le around whi,h the great aetherian shells rotated.B "e longs -or Bthe
uni.erse o- Catholi, orthodo3yB in whi,h Bthe ,osmos is shown to 1e a ma,hine ,onstru,ted
around the drama o- sal.ationBH1y whi,h A//leyard means that, des/ite e3/li,it orders to the
,ontrary, a woman and a man on,e ate o- an a//le, and that this a,t o- insu1ordination
trans-ormed the &ni.erse into a ,ontri.an,e -or o/erant0,onditioning their remote
des,endants.
$y ,ontrast, modern s,ien,e B/resents us as a,,idents. De are ,aused 1y the ,osmos, 1ut we
are not the ,ause o- it. Modem man is not -inally anything, he has no role in ,reation.B S,ien,e
is Bs/iritually ,orrosi.e, 1urning away an,ient authorities and traditions. t ,annot really ,o0
e3ist with anything.B . . . BS,ien,e, Kuietly and ine3/li,itly, is tal=ing us into a1andoning our
sel.es, our true sel.es.B t re.eals Bthe mute, alien s/e,ta,le o- nature.B . . . B"uman 1eings
,annot li.e with su,h a re.elation. The only morality le-t is that o- the ,onsoling lie.B Anything
is 1etter than gra//ling with the un1eara1le 1urden o- 1eing tiny.
n a /assage reminis,ent o- Plus X, A//leyard e.en de,ries the -a,t that Ba modern demo,ra,y
,an 1e e3/e,ted to in,lude a num1er o- ,ontradi,tory religious -aiths whi,h are o1liged to
agree on a ,ertain limited num1er o- general inJun,tions, 1ut no more. They must not 1urn
ea,h otherAs /la,es o- worshi/, 1ut they may deny, e.en a1use ea,h otherAs >od. This is the
e--e,ti.e, s,ienti-i, way o- /ro,eeding.B
$ut what is the alternati.eF O1durately to /retend to ,ertainty in an un,ertain worldF To ado/t
a ,om-orting 1elie- system, no matter how out o- =ilter with the -a,ts it isF - we donAt =now
whatAs real, how ,an we deal with realityF For /ra,ti,al reasons, we ,annot li.e too mu,h in
-antasyland. Shall we ,ensor one anotherAs religions and 1urn down one anotherAs /la,es o-
worshi/F "ow ,an we 1e sure whi,h o- the thousands o- human 1elie- systems should 1e,ome
un,hallenged, u1iKuitous, mandatoryF
These Kuotations 1etray a -ailure o- ner.e 1e-ore the &ni.erse its grandeur and magni-i,en,e,
1ut es/e,ially its indi--eren,e. S,ien,e has taught us that, 1e,ause we ha.e a talent -or
de,ei.ing oursel.es, su1Je,ti.ity may not -reely reign. This is one reason A//leyard so mistrusts
s,ien,eE t seems too reasoned, measured, and im/ersonal. ts ,on,lusions deri.e -rom the
interrogation o- !ature, and are not in all ,ases /redesigned to satis-y our wants. A//leyard
de/lores moderation. "e yearns -or inerrant do,trine, release -rom the e3er,ise o- Judgment,
and an o1ligation to 1elie.e 1ut not to Kuestion. "e has not gras/ed human -alli1ility. "e
re,ogniCes no need to institutionaliCe error0,orre,ting ma,hinery either in our so,ial
institutions or in our .iew o- the &ni.erse.
This is the anguished ,ry o- the in-ant when the Parent does not ,ome. $ut most /eo/le
e.entually ,ome to gri/s with reality, and with the /ain-ul a1sen,e o- /arents who will
a1solutely guarantee that no harm 1e-alls the little ones so long as they do what they are told.
E.entually most /eo/le -ind ways to a,,ommodate to the &ni.erseHes/e,ially when gi.en the
tools to thin= straight.
BAll that we /ass on to our ,hildrenB in the s,ienti-i, age, A//leyard ,om/lains, Bis the
,on.i,tion that nothing is true, -inal or enduring, in,luding the ,ulture -rom whi,h they
s/rang.B "ow right he is a1out the inadeKua,y o- our lega,y. $ut would it 1e enri,hed 1y
adding 1aseless ,ertaintiesF "e s,orns Bthe /ious ho/e that s,ien,e and religion are
inde/endent realms whi,h ,an easily 1e se/arated.B nstead, Bs,ien,e, as it is now, is a1solutely
not ,om/ati1le with religion.B
$ut isnAt A//leyard really saying that some religions now -ind it di--i,ult to ma=e un,hallenged
/ronoun,ements on the nature o- the world that are straight0out -alseF De re,ogniCe that
e.en re.ered religious leaders, the /rodu,ts o- their time as we are o- ours, may ha.e made
mista=es. Religions ,ontradi,t one another on small matters, su,h as whether we should /ut on
a hat or ta=e one o-- on entering a house o- worshi/, or whether we should eat 1ee- and
es,hew /or= or the other way around, all the way to the most ,entral issues, su,h as whether
there are no gods, one >od, or many gods.
S,ien,e has 1rought many o- us to that state in whi,h !athaniel "awthorne -ound "erman
Mel.illeE B"e ,an neither 1elie.e, nor 1e ,om-orta1le in his un1elie-.B Or 9ean09a,Kues
RousseauE BThey had not /ersuaded me, 1ut they had trou1led me. Their arguments had
sha=en me without e.er ,on.in,ing me . . . t is hard to /re.ent onesel- -rom 1elie.ing what
one so =eenly desires.B As the 1elie- systems taught 1y the se,ular and religious authorities are
undennined, res/e,t -or authority in general /ro1a1ly does erode. The lesson is ,learE E.en
/oliti,sS leaders must 1e wary o- em1ra,ing -alse do,trine. This is not a -ailing o- s,ien,e, 1ut
one o- its gra,es.
O- ,ourse, world.iew ,onsensus is ,om-orting, while ,lashes o- o/inion may 1e unsettling, and
demand more o- us. $ut unless we insist, against all e.iden,e, that our an,estors were /er-e,t,
the ad.an,e o- =nowledge reKuires us to unra.el and then restit,h the ,onsensus they
esta1lished.
n some res/e,ts, s,ien,e has -ar sur/assed religion in deli.ering awe. "ow is it that hardly any
maJor religion has loo=ed at s,ien,e and ,on,luded, BThis is 1etter than we thoughtG The
&ni.erse is mu,h 1igger than our /ro/hets said, grander, more su1tle, more elegant. >od
must 1e e.en greater than we dreamedBF nstead they say, B!o, no, noG My god is a little god,
and want him to stay that way.B A religion, old or new, that stressed the magni-i,en,e o- the
&ni.erse as re.ealed 1y modern s,ien,e might 1e a1le to draw -orth reser.es o- re.eren,e and
awe hardly ta//ed 1y the ,on.entional -aiths. Sooner or later, su,h a religion will emerge.
- you li.ed two or three millennia ago, there was no shame in holding that the &ni.erse was
made -or us. t was an a//ealing thesis ,onsistent with e.erything we =new< it was what the
most learned among us taught without Kuali-i,ation. $ut we ha.e -ound out mu,h sin,e then.
'e-ending su,h a /osition today amounts to will-ul disregard o- the e.iden,e, and a -light
-rom sel-0=nowledge.
Still, -or many o- us, these de/ro.in,ialiCations ran=le. E.en i- they do not -ully ,antA the day,
they erode ,on-iden,eHunli=e the ha//y anthro/o,entri, ,ertitudes, ri//ling with so,ial
utility, o- an earlier age. De long to 1e here -or a /ur/ose, e.en though, des/ite mu,h sel-0
de,e/tion, none is e.ident. BThe meaningless a1surdity o- li-e,B wrote Leo Tolstoy, Bis the only
in,ontesta1le =nowledge a,,essi1le to man.B Our time is 1urdened under the ,umulati.e
weight o- su,,essi.e de1un=ings o- our ,on,eitsE DeAre 9ohnny0,ome0latelies. De li.e in the
,osmi, 1oondo,=s. De emerged -rom mi,ro1es and mu,=. A/es are our ,ousins. Our thoughts
and -eelings are not -ully under our own ,ontrol. There may 1e mu,h smarter and .ery
di--erent 1eings elsewhere. And on to/ o- all this, weAre ma=ing a mess o- our /lanet and
1e,oming a danger to oursel.es.
The tra/door 1eneath our -eet swings o/en. De -ind oursel.es in 1ottomless -ree -all. De are
lost in a great dar=ness, and thereAs no one to send out a sear,h /arty. >i.en so harsh a reality,
o- ,ourse weAre tem/ted to shut our eyes and /retend that weAre sa-e and snug at home, that
the -all is only a 1ad dream.
De la,= ,onsensus a1out our /la,e in the &ni.erse. There is no generally agreed u/on long0
term .ision o- the goal o- our s/e,iesHother than, /erha/s, sim/le sur.i.al. Es/e,ially when
times are hard, we 1e,ome des/erate -or en,ouragement, unre,e/ti.e to the litany o- great
demotions and dashed ho/es, and mu,h more willing to hear that weAre s/e,ial, ne.er mind i-
the e.iden,e is /a/er0thin. - it ta=es a little myth and ritual to get us through a night that
seems endless, who among us ,annot sym/athiCe and understandF
$ut i- our o1Je,ti.e is dee/ =nowledge rather than shallow reassuran,e, the gains -rom this
new /ers/e,ti.e -ar outweigh the losses. On,e we o.er,ome our -ear o- 1eing tiny, we -ind
oursel.es on the threshold o- a .ast and awesome &ni.erse that utterly dwar-sHin time, in
s/a,e, and in /otentialHthe tidy anthro/o,entri, /ros,enium o- our an,estors. De gaCe a,ross
1illions o- light0years o- s/a,e to .iew the &ni.erse shortly a-ter the $ig $ang, and /lum1 the
-ine stru,ture o- matter. De /eer down into the ,ore o- our /lanet, and the 1laCing interior o-
our star. De read the geneti, language in whi,h is written the di.erse s=ills and /ro/ensities o-
e.ery 1eing on Earth. De un,o.er hidden ,ha/ters in the re,ord o- our own origins, and with
some anguish 1etter understand our nature and /ros/e,ts. De in.ent and re-ine agri,ulture,
without whi,h almost all o- us would star.e to death. De ,reate medi,ines and .a,,ines that
sa.e the li.es o- 1illions. De ,ommuni,ate at the s/eed o- light, and whi/ around the Earth in
an hour and a hal-. De ha.e sent doCens o- shi/s to more than se.enty worlds, and -our
s/a,e,ra-t to the stars. De are right to reJoi,e in our a,,om/lishments, to 1e /roud that our
s/e,ies has 1een a1le to see so -ar, and to Judge our merit in /art 1y the .ery s,ien,e that has
so de-lated our /retensions.
To our an,estors there was mu,h in !ature to 1e a-raid o-Hlightning, storms, earthKua=es,
.ol,anos, /lagues, drought, long winters. Religions arose in /art as attem/ts to /ro/itiate and
,ontrol, i- not mu,h to understand, the disorderly as/e,t o- !ature. The s,ienti-i, re.olution
/ermitted us to glim/se an underlying ordered &ni.erse in whi,h there was a literal harmony
o- the worlds 29ohannes Ie/lerAs /hrase4. - we understand !ature, there is a /ros/e,t o-
,ontrolling it or at least mitigating the harm it may 1ring. n this sense, s,ien,e 1rought ho/e.
Most o- the great de/ro.in,ialiCing de1ates were entered into with no thought -or their
/ra,ti,al im/li,ations. Passionate and ,urious humans wished to understand their a,tual
,ir,umstan,es, how uniKue or /edestrian they and their world are, their ultimate origins and
destinies, how the &ni.erse wor=s. Sur/risingly, some o- these de1ates ha.e yielded the most
/ro-ound /ra,ti,al 1ene-its. The .ery method o- mathemati,al reasoning that saa, !ewton
introdu,ed to e3/lain the motion o- the /lanets around the Sun has led to most o- the
te,hnology O- our modern world. The ndustrial Re.olution, -or all its short,omings, is still the
glo1al model o- how an agri,ultural nation ,an emerge -rom /o.erty. These de1ates ha.e
1read0and01utter ,onseKuen,es.
t might ha.e 1een otherwise. t might ha.e 1een that the 1alan,e lay elsewhere, that humans
1y and large did not want to yaw a1out a disKuieting &ni.erse, that we were unwilling to
hermit ,hallenges to the /re.ailing wisdom. 'es/ite determined resistan,e in e.ery age, it is
.ery mu,h to our ,redit that we ha.e allowed oursel.es to -ollow the e.iden,e, to draw
,on,lusions that at -irst seem dauntingE a &ni.erse so mu,h larger and older that our /ersonal
and histori,al e3/erien,e is dwar-ed and hum1led, a &ni.erse in whi,h, e.ery day, suns are
1orn and worlds o1literated, a &ni.erse in whi,h humanity, newly arri.ed, ,lings to an o1s,ure
,lod o- matter.
"ow mu,h more satis-ying had we 1een /la,ed in a garden ,ustom0made -or us, its other
o,,u/ants /ut there -or us to use as we saw -it. There is a ,ele1rated story in the Destern
tradition li=e this, e3,e/t that not Kuite e.erything was there -or us. There was one /arti,ular
tree o- whi,h we were not to /arta=e, a tree o- =nowledge. Inowledge and understanding and
wisdom were -or1idden to us in this story. De were to 1e =e/t ignorant. $ut we ,ouldnAt hel/
oursel.es. De were star.ing -or =nowledgeH,reated hungry, you might say. This was the
origin o- all our trou1les. n /arti,ular, it is why we no longer li.e in a gardenE De -ound out
too mu,h. So long as we were in,urious and o1edient, imagine, we ,ould ,onsole oursel.es
with our im/ortan,e and ,entrality, and tell oursel.es that we were the reason the &ni.erse
was made. As we 1egan to indulge our ,uriosity, though, to e3/lore, to learn how the &ni.erse
really is, we e3/elled oursel.es -rom Eden. Angels with a -laming sword were set as sentries at
the gates o- Paradise to 1ar our return. The gardeners 1e,ame e3iles and wanderers.
O,,asionally we mourn that lost world, 1ut that, it seems to me, is maudlin and sentimental.
De ,ould not ha//ily ha.e remained ignorant -ore.er.
There is in this &ni.erse mu,h o- what seems to he design. E.ery time we ,ome u/on it, we
1reathe a sigh o- relie-. De are -ore.er ho/ing to -ind, or at least sa-ely dedu,e, a 'esigner. $ut
instead, we re/eatedly dis,o.er that natural /ro,essesH,ollisional sele,tion o- worlds, say, or
natural sele,tion o- gene /ools, or e.en the ,on.e,tion /attern in a /ot o- 1oiling waterH,an
e3tra,t order out o- ,haos, and de,ei.e us into dedu,ing /ur/ose where there is none. n
e.eryday li-e, we o-ten senseHin the 1edrooms o- teenagers, or in national /oliti,sHthat
,haos is natural, and order im/osed -rom a1o.e. Dhile there are dee/er regularities in the
&ni.erse than the sim/le ,ir,umstan,es we generally des,ri1e as orderly, all that order, sim/le
and ,om/le3, seems to deri.e -rom laws o- !ature esta1lished at the $ig $ang 2or earlier4,
rather than as a ,onseKuen,e o- 1elated inter.ention 1y an im/er-e,t deity. B>od is to 1e
-ound in the detailsB is the -amous di,tum o- the >erman s,holar A1u Dar1urg. $ut, amid
mu,h elegan,e and /re,ision, the details o- li-e and the &ni.erse also e3hi1it ha/haCard, Jury0
rigged arrangements and mu,h /oor /lanning. Dhat shall we ma=e o- thisE an edi-i,e
a1andoned early in ,onstru,tion 1y the ar,hite,tF
The e.iden,e, so -ar at least and laws o- !ature aside, does not reKuire a 'esigner. May1e
there is one hiding, maddeningly unwilling to 1e re.ealed. Sometimes it seems a .ery slender
ho/e.
The signi-i,an,e o- our li.es and our -ragile /lanet is then determined only 1y our own wisdom
and ,ourage. De are the ,ustodians o- li-eAs meaning. De long -or a Parent to ,are -or us, to
-orgi.e us our errors, to sa.e us -rom our ,hildish mista=es. $ut =nowledge is /re-era1le to
ignoran,e. $etter 1y -ar to em1ra,e the hard truth than a reassuring -a1le.
- we ,ra.e some ,osmi, /ur/ose, then let us -ind oursel.es a worthy goal.
Cha$ter 7+ 0s there inteigent i-e on 'arth8
They Journeyed a long time and -ound nothing. At length they dis,erned a small light, whi,h was the Earth . . .
$ut they ,ould not -ind the smallest reason to sus/e,t that we and our -ellow ,itiCens o- this glo1e ha.e the
honor to e3ist.
H%OLTARE, MCROME>AS. A P"LOSOP"CAL "STOR# 2(7*64
There are /la,es, in and around our great ,ities, where the natural world has all 1ut
disa//eared. #ou ,an ma=e out streets and sidewal=s, autos, /ar=ing garages, ad.ertising
1ill1oards, monuments o- glass and steel, 1ut not a tree or a 1lade o- grass or any animalH
1esides, o- ,ourse, the humans. There are lots o- humans. Only when you loo= straight u/
through the s=ys,ra/er ,anyons ,an you ma=e out a star or a /at,h o- 1lueHreminders o-
what was there long 1e-ore humans ,ame to 1e. $ut the 1right lights o- the 1ig ,ities 1lea,h
out the stars, and e.en that /at,h o- 1lue is sometimes gone, tinted 1rown 1y industrial
te,hnology.
tAs not hard, going to wor= e.ery day in su,h a /la,e, to 1e im/ressed with oursel.es. "ow
weA.e trans-ormed the Earth -or our 1ene-it and ,on.enien,eG $ut a -ew hundred miles u/ or
down there are no humans. A/art -rom a thin -ilm o- li-e at the .ery sur-a,e o- the Earth, an
o,,asional intre/id s/a,e,ra-t, and some radio stati,, our im/a,t on the &ni.erse is nil. t
=nows nothing o- us.
#ouAre an alien e3/lorer entering the Solar System a-ter a long Journey through the 1la,=ness
o- interstellar s/a,e. #ou e3amine the /lanets o- this humdrum star -rom a-arHa /retty
hand-ul, some gray, some 1lue, some red, some yellow. #ouAre interested in what =inds o-
worlds these are, whether their en.ironments are stati, or ,hanging, and es/e,ially whether
there are li-e and intelligen,e. #ou ha.e no /rior =nowledge o- the Earth. #ouA.e Just
dis,o.ered its e3isten,e.
ThereAs a gala,ti, ethi,, letAs imagineE Loo= 1ut donAt tou,h. #ou ,an -ly 1y these worlds< you
,an or1it them< 1ut you are stri,tly -or1idden to land. &nder su,h ,onstraints, ,ould you -igure
out what the EarthAs en.ironment is li=e and whether anyone li.es thereF
As you a//roa,h, your -irst im/ression o- the whole Earth is white ,louds, white /olar ,a/s,
1rown ,ontinents, and some 1luish su1stan,e that ,o.ers two thirds o- the sur-a,e. Dhen you
ta=e the tem/erature o- this world -rom the in-rared radiation it emits, you -ind that most
latitudes are a1o.e the -reeCing /oint o- water, while the /olar ,a/s are 1elow -reeCing. Dater
is a .ery a1undant material in the &ni.erse< /olar ,a/s made o- solid water would 1e a
reasona1le guess, as well as ,louds o- solid and liKuid water.
#ou might also he tem/ted 1y the idea that the 1lue stu-- is enormous KuantitiesH
=ilometers dee/Ho- liKuid water. The suggestion is 1iCarre, though, at least as -ar as this solar
system is ,on,erned, 1e,ause sur-a,e o,eans o- liKuid water e3ist nowhere else. Dhen you
loo= in the .isi1le and near0in-rared s/e,trum -or telltale signatures o- ,hemi,al ,om/osition,
sure enough you dis,o.er water i,e in the /olar ,a/s, and enough water .a/or in the air to
a,,ount -or the ,louds< this is also Just the right amount that must e3ist 1e,ause o-
e.a/oration i- the o,eans are in -a,t made o- liKuid water. The 1iCarre hy/othesis is ,on-irmed.
The s/e,trometers -urther re.eal that the air on this world is one -i-th o3ygen, O6. !o other
/lanet in the Solar System has anything ,lose to so mu,h o3ygen. Dhere does it all ,ome
-romF The intense ultra.iolet light -rom the Sun 1rea=s water, "6:, down into o3ygen and
hydrogen, and hydrogen, the lightest gas, Kui,=ly es,a/es to s/a,e. This is a sour,e o- O6,
,ertainly, 1ut it doesnAt easily a,,ount -or so mu,h o3ygen.
Another /ossi1ility is that ordinary .isi1le light, whi,h the Sun /ours out in .ast amounts, is
used on Earth to 1rea= water a/artHe3,e/t that thereAs no =nown way to do this without li-e.
There would ha.e to 1e /lants, li-e0-orms ,olored 1y a /igment that strongly a1sor1s .isi1le
light, that =nows how to s/lit a water mole,ule 1y sa.ing u/ the energy o- two /hotons o-
light, that retains the " and e3,retes the O, and that uses the hydrogen thus li1erated to
synthesiCe organi, mole,ules. The /lants would ha.e to 1e s/read o.er mu,h o- the /lanet. All
this is as=ing a lot. - youAre a good s=e/ti,al s,ientist, so mu,h OC would not 1e /roo- o- li-e.
$ut it ,ertainly might 1e ,ause -or sus/i,ion.
Dith all that o3ygen youAre not sur/rised to dis,o.er oCone 2O84 in the atmos/here, 1e,ause
ultra.iolet light ma=es oCone out o- mole,ular o3ygen 2O64. The oCone then a1sor1s
dangerous ultra.iolet radiation. So i- the o3ygen is due to li-e, thereAs a ,urious sense in whi,h
the li-e is /rote,ting itsel-. $ut this li-e Bnight 1e mere /hotosyntheti, /lants. A high le.el o-
intelligen,e is not im/lied.
Dhen you e3amine the ,ontinents more ,losely, you -ind there are, ,rudely s/ea=ing, two
=inds o- regions. One shows the s/e,trum o- ordinary ro,=s and minerals as -ound on many
worlds. The other re.eals something unusualE a material, ,o.ering .ast areas, that strongly
a1sor1s red light. 2The Sun, o- ,ourse, shines in light o- all ,olors, with a /ea= in the yellow.4
This /igment might 1e Just the agent needed i- ordinary .isi1le light is 1eing used to 1rea=
water a/art and a,,ount -or the o3ygen in the air. tAs another hint, this time a little stronger, o-
li-e, not a 1ug here and there, 1ut a /lanetary sur-a,e o.er-lowing with li-e. The /igment is in
-a,t ,hloro/hyllE t a1sor1s 1lue light as well as red, and is res/onsi1le -or the -a,t that /lants
are green. Dhat youAre seeing is a densely .egetated /lanet.
So the Earth is re.ealed to /ossess three /ro/erties uniKue at least in this solar systemH
o,eans, o3ygen, li-e. tAs hard not to thin= theyAre related, the o,eans 1eing the sites o- origin,
and the o3ygen the /rodu,t, o- a1undant li-e.
Dhen you loo= ,are-ully at the in-rared s/e,trum o- the Earth, you dis,o.er the minor
,onstituents o- the air. n addition to water .a/or, thereAs ,ar1on dio3ide 2CO64, methane
2C";4, and other gases that a1sor1 the heat that the Earth tries to radiate away to s/a,e at
night. These gases warm the /lanet. Dithout them, the Earth would e.erywhere 1e 1elow the
-reeCing /oint o- water. #ouA.e dis,o.ered this worldAs greenhouse e--e,t.
Methane and o3ygen together in the same atmos/here is /e,uliar. The laws o- ,hemistry are
.ery ,learE n an e3,ess o- O6, C"; should 1e entirely ,on.erted into "6O and CO6, The
/ro,ess is so e--i,ient that not a single mole,ule in all the EarthAs atmos/here should 1e
methane. nstead, you -ind that one out o- e.ery million mole,ules is methane, ail immense
dis,re/an,y. Dhat ,ould it meanF
The only /ossi1le e3/lanation is that methane is 1eing inJe,ted into the EarthAs atmos/here so
Kui,=ly that its ,hemi,al rea,tion with OC ,anAt =ee/ /a,e. Dhere does all this methane ,ome
-romF May1e it see/s out o- the dee/ interior o- the EarthH1ut Kuantitati.ely this doesnAt
seem to wor=, and Mars and %enus donAt ha.e anything li=e this mu,h methane. The only
alternati.es are 1iologi,al, a ,on,lusion that ma=es no assum/tions a1out the ,hemistry o- li-e,
or what it loo=s li=e, 1ut -ollows merely -rom how unsta1le methane is in an o3ygen
atmos/here. n -a,t, the methane arises -rom su,h sour,es as 1a,teria in 1ogs, the ,ulti.ation
o- ri,e, the 1urning o- .egetation, natural gas -rom oil wells, and 1o.ine -latulen,e. n an
o3ygen atmos/here, methane is a sign o- li-e.
That the intimate intestinal a,ti.ities o- ,ows should 1e dete,ta1le -rom inter/lanetary s/a,e is
a little dis,on,erting, es/e,ially when so mu,h o- what we hold dear is not. $ut an alien
s,ientist -lying 1y the Earth would, at this /oint, 1e una1le to dedu,e 1ogs, ri,e, -ire, oil, or
,ows. 9ust li-e.
All the signs o- li-e that weA.e dis,ussed so -ar are due to ,om/arati.ely sim/le -orms 2the
methane in the rumens o- ,ows is generated 1y 1a,teria that homestead there4. "ad your
s/a,e,ra-t -lown 1y the Earth a hundred million years ago, in the age o- the dinosaurs when
there were no humans and no te,hnology, you would still ha.e seen o3ygen and oCone, they
,hloro/hyll /igment, and -ar too mu,h methane. At /resent, though, your instruments are
-inding signs not Just o- li-e, 1ut o- high te,hnologyHsomething that ,ouldnAt /ossi1ly ha.e
1een dete,ted e.en a hundred years agoE
#ou are dete,ting a /arti,ular =ind o- radio wa.e emanating -rom Earth. Radio wa.es donAt
ne,essarily signi-y li-e and intelligen,e Many natural /ro,esses generate them. #ouA.e already
-ound radio emissions -rom other, a//arently uninha1ited worldsHgenerated 1y ele,trons
tra//ed in the strong magneti, -ields o- /lanets, 1y ,haoti, motions at the sho,= -ront that
se/arates these magneti, -ields -rom the inter/lanetary magneti, -ield, and 1y lightning.
2Radio BwhistlersB usually swee/ -rom high notes to low, and then 1egin again.4 Some o- these
radio emissions are ,ontinuous< some ,ome in re/etiti.e 1ursts< some last a -ew minutes and
then disa//ear.
$ut this is di--erentE A /ortion o- the radio transmission -rom Earth is at Just the -reKuen,ies
where radio wa.es 1egin to lea= out o- the /lanetAs ionos/here, the ele,tri,ally ,harged region
a1o.e the stratos/here that re-le,ts and a1sor1s radio wa.es. There is a ,onstant ,entral
-reKuen,y -or ea,h transmission, added to whi,h is a modulated signal 2a ,om/le3 seKuen,e o-
ons and o--s4. !o ele,trons in magneti, -ields, no sho,= wa.es, no lightning dis,harges ,an
generate something li=e this. ntelligent li-e seems to 1e the only /ossi1le e3/lanation. #our
,on,lusion that the radio transmission is due to te,hnology on Earth holds no matter what the
ons and o--s meanE #ou donAt ha.e to de,ode the message to 1e sure it is a message. 2This
signal is really, let us su//ose, ,ommuni,ations -rom the &.S. !a.y to its distant nu,lear0armed
su1marines.4
So, as an alien e3/lorer, you would =now that at least one s/e,ies on Earth has a,hie.ed radio
te,hnology. Dhi,h one is itF The 1eings that ma=e methaneF Those that generate o3ygenF The
ones whose /igment ,olors the lands,a/e greenF Or some1ody else, some1ody more su1tle,
someone not otherwise dete,ta1le to a s/a,e,ra-t /lummeting 1yF To sear,h -or this
te,hnologi,al s/e,ies, you might want to e3amine the Earth at -iner and -iner resolutionH
see=ing, i- not the 1eings themsel.es, at least their arti-a,ts.
#ou loo= -irst with a modest teles,o/e, so the -inest detail you ,an resol.e is one or two
=ilometers a,ross. #ou ,an ma=e out no monumental ar,hite,ture, no strange -ormations, no
unnatural rewor=ing o- the lands,a/e, no signs o- li-e. #ou see a dense atmos/here in motion.
The a1undant water must e.a/orate and then rain 1a,= down. An,ient im/a,t ,raters,
a//arent on the EarthAs near1y Moon, are almost wholly a1sent. There must, then, 1e a set o-
/ro,esses where1y new land is ,reated and then eroded away in mu,h less time than the age
o- this world. Running water is im/li,ated. As you loo= with -iner and -iner de-inition you -ind
mountain ranges, ri.er .alleys, and many other indi,ations that the /lanet is geologi,ally
a,ti.e. There are also odd /la,es surrounded 1y .egetation, 1ut whi,h are themsel.es
denuded o- /lants. They loo= li=e dis,olored smudges on the lands,a/e.
Dhen you e3amine the Earth at a1out (::0meter resolution, e.erything ,hanges. The /lanet is
re.ealed to 1e ,o.ered with straight lines, sKuares, re,tangles, ,ir,lesHsometimes huddling
along ri.er 1an=s or nestling on the lower slo/es o- mountains, sometimes stret,hing o.er
/lains, 1ut rarely in deserts or high mountains, and a1solutely ne.er in the o,eans. Their
regularity, ,om/le3ity, and distri1ution would 1e hard to e3/lain e3,e/t 1y li-e and
intelligen,e, although a dee/er understanding o- -un,tion and /ur/ose might 1e elusi.e.
Perha/s you would ,on,lude only that the dominant li-e0-orms ha.e a simultaneous /assion
-or territoriality and Eu,lidean geometry. At this resolution you ,ould not see them, mu,h less
=now them.
Many o- the de.egetated smudges are re.ealed to ha.e an underlying ,he,=er1oard
geometry. These are the /lanets ,ities. O.er mu,h o- the lands,a/e, and not Just in the ,ities,
there is a /ro-usion o- straight lines, sKuares, re,tangles, ,ir,les. The dar= smudges o- the ,ities
are re.ealed to 1e highly geometriCed, with only a -ew /at,hes o- .egetationHthemsel.es
with highly regular 1oundariesHle-t inta,t. There are o,,asional triangles, and in one ,ity
there is e.en a /entagon.
Dhen you ta=e /i,tures at a meter resolution or 1etter, you -ind that the ,riss,rossing straight
lines within the ,ities and the long straight lines that Join them with other ,ities are -illed with
streamlined, multi,olored 1eings a -ew meters in length, /olitely running one 1ehind the
other, in long, slow orderly /ro,ession. They are .ery /atient. One stream o- 1eings sto/s so
another stream ,an ,ontinue at right angles. Periodi,ally, the -a.or is returned. At night, they
turn on two 1right lights in -ront so they ,an see where theyAre going. Some, a /ri.ileged -ew,
go into little houses when their wor=day is done and retire -or the night. Most are homeless
and slee/ in the streets.
At lastG #ouA.e dete,ted the sour,e o- all the te,hnology. the dominant li-e0-orms on the
/lanet. The streets o- the ,ities and the roadways o- the ,ountryside are e.idently 1uilt -or
their 1ene-it. #ou might 1elie.e that you were really 1eginning to understand li-e on Earth.
And /erha/s youAd 1e right.
- the resolution im/ro.ed Just a little -urther, youAd dis,o.er tiny /arasites that o,,asionally
enter and e3it the dominant organisms. They /lay some dee/er role, though, 1e,ause a
stationary dominant organism will o-ten start u/ again Just a-ter itAs rein-e,ted 1y a /arasite,
and sto/ again Just 1e-ore the /arasite is e3/elled. This is /uCCling. $ut no one said li-e on
Earth would 1e easy to understand.
All the images youA.e ta=en so -ar are in re-le,ted sunlightHthat is, on the day side o- the
/lanet. Something most interesting is re.ealed when you /hotogra/h the Earth at lightE The
/lanet is lit u/. The 1rightest region, near the Ar,ti, Cir,le, is illuminated 1y the aurora 1orealis
Hgenerated not 1y li-e , 1ut 1y ele,trons and /rotons -rom the Sun, 1eamed down 1y the
EarthAs magneti, -ield. E.erything else you see is due to li-e. The lights re,ogniCa1ly outline the
same ,ontinents you ,an ma=e out in daytime< and many ,orres/ond to ,ities youA.e already
ma//ed. The ,ities are ,on,entrated near ,oastlines. They tend to 1e s/arser in ,ontinental
interiors. Perha/s the dominant organisms are des/erate -or seawater 2or may1e o,eangoing
shi/s were on,e essential -or ,ommer,e and emigration4.
Some o- the lights, though, are not due to ,ities. n !orth A-ri,a, the Middle East, and Si1eria,
-or e3am/le, there are .ery 1right lights in a ,om/arati.ely 1arren lands,a/e due, it turns out,
to 1urno-- in oil and natural gas wells. n the Sea o- 9a/an on the day you -irst loo=, there is a
strange, triangular0sha/ed area o- light. n daytime it ,orres/onds to o/en o,ean. This is no
,ity. Dhat ,ould it 1eF t is in -a,t the 9a/anese sKuid -ishing -leet, using 1rilliant illumination
to attra,t s,hools o- sKuid u/ to their deaths. On other days, this /attern o- light wanders all
o.er the Pa,i-i, O,ean, see=ing /rey. n e--e,t, what you ha.e dis,o.ered here is sushi.
t seems so1ering to me that -rom s/a,e you ,an so readily dete,t some o- the odds and ends
o- li-e on EarthHthe gastrointestinal ha1its o- ruminants, 9a/anese ,uisine, the means o-
,ommuni,ating with nomadi, su1marines that ,arry death -or 6:: ,itiesHwhile so mu,h o-
our monumental ar,hite,ture, our greatest engineering wor=s, our e--orts to ,are -or one
another, are almost wholly in.isi1le. tAs a =ind o- /ara1le.
$y this /oint your e3/edition to the Earth must 1e ,onsidered highly su,,ess-ul. #ouA.e
,hara,teriCed the en.ironment< youA.e dete,ted li-e< youA.e -ound mani-estations o- intelligent
1eings< you may e.en ha.e identi-ied the dominant s/e,ies, the one trans-i3ed with geometry
and re,tilinearity. Surely this /lanet is worth a longer and more detailed study. ThatAs why
youA.e now inserted your s/a,e,ra-t into or1it around the Earth.
Loo=ing down on the /lanet, you un,o.er new /uCCles. All o.er the Earth, smo=esta,=s are
/ouring ,ar1on dio3ide and to3i, ,hemi,als into the air. So are the dominant 1eings who run
on the roadways. $ut ,ar1on dio3ide is a greenhouse gas. As you wat,h, the amount o- it in
the atmos/here in,reases steadily, year a-ter year. The same is true o- methane and other
greenhouse gases. - this =ee/s u/, the tem/erature o- the /lanet is going to in,rease.
S/e,tros,o/i,ally, you dis,o.er another ,lass o- mole,ules 1eing inJe,ted into the air, the
,hloro-luoro,ar1ons. !ot only are they greenhouse gases, 1ut they are also de.astatingly
e--e,ti.e in destroying the /rote,ti.e oCone layer.
#ou loo= more ,losely at the ,enter o- the South Ameri,an ,ontinent, whi,hHas you =now 1y
nowHis a .ast rain -orest. E.ery night you see thousands o- -ires. n the daytime, you -ind the
region ,o.ered with smo=e. O.er the years, all o.er the /lanet, you -ind less and less -orest and
more and more s,ru1 desert.
#ou loo= down on the large island o- Madagas,ar. The ri.ers are ,olored 1rown, generating a
.ast stain in the surrounding o,ean. This is to/soil 1eing washed out to sea at a rate so high
that in another -ew de,ades there will 1e none le-t. The same thing is ha//ening, you note, at
the mouths o- ri.ers all o.er the /lanet.
$ut no to/soil means no agri,ulture. n another ,entury, what will they eatF Dhat will they
1reatheF "ow will they ,o/e with a ,hanging and more dangerous en.ironmentF
From your or1ital /ers/e,ti.e, you ,an see that something has unmista=a1ly gone wrong. The
dominant organisms, whoe.er they areHwho ha.e gone to so mu,h trou1le to rewor= the
sur-a,eHare simultaneously destroying their oCone layer and their -orests, eroding their
to/soil, and /er-orming massi.e, un,ontrolled e3/eriments on their /lanetAs ,limate. "a.enAt
they noti,ed whatAs ha//eningF Are they o1li.ious to their -ateF Are they una1le to wor=
together on 1ehal- o- the en.ironment that sustains them allF
Perha/s, you thin=, itAs time to reassess the ,onJe,ture that thereAs intelligent li-e on Earth.
&oo"ing o- i-e esewhere+ % caibration.
S/a,e,ra-t -rom the Earth ha.e now -lown 1y doCens o- /lanets, moons, ,omets, and asteroids
HeKui//ed with ,ameras, instruments -or measuring heat and radio wa.es, s/e,trometers to
determine ,om/osition, and a host o- other de.i,es. De ha.e -ound not a hint o- li-e
anywhere else in the Solar System. $ut you might 1e s=e/ti,al a1out our a1ility to dete,t li-e
elsewhere, es/e,ially li-e di--erent -rom the =ind we =now. &ntil re,ently we had ne.er
/er-ormed the o1.ious ,ali1ration testE to -ly a modern inter/lanetary s/a,e,ra-t 1y the Earth
and see whether we ,ould dete,t oursel.es. This all ,hanged on 'e,em1er +, ()):.
>alileo is a !ASA s/a,e,ra-t designed to e3/lore the giant /lanet 9u/iter, its moons, and its
rings. tAs named a-ter the heroi, talian s,ientist who /layed so ,entral a role in to//ling the
geo,entri, /retension. t is he who -irst saw 9u/iter as a world, and who dis,o.ered its -our 1ig
moons. To get to 9u/iter, the s/a,e,ra-t had to -ly ,lose 1y %enus 2on,e4 and the Earth 2twi,e4
and 1e a,,elerated 1y the gra.ities o- these /lanetsHotherwise there wasnAt enough oom/h
to get it where it was going. This ne,essity o- traJe,tory design /ermitted us, -or the -irst time,
to loo= systemati,ally at the Earth -rom an alien /ers/e,ti.e.
>alileo /assed only )5: =ilometers 2a1out 5:: miles4 a1o.e the EarthAs sur-a,e. Dith some
e3,e/tionsHin,luding /i,tures showing -eatures -iner than ( =ilometer a,ross, and the images
o- the Earth at nightHmu,h o- the s/a,e,ra-t data des,ri1ed in this ,ha/ter were a,tually
o1tained 1y >alileo. Dith >alileo we were a1le to dedu,e an o3ygen atmos/here, water,
,louds, o,eans, /olar i,e, li-e, and intelligen,e. The use o- instruments and /roto,ols
de.elo/ed to e3/lore the /lanets to monitor the en.ironmental health o- our ownH
something !ASA is now doing in earnestHwas des,ri1ed 1y the astronaut Sally Ride as
BMission to Planet Earth.B
Other mem1ers o- the !ASA s,ienti-i, team who wor=ed with me on >alileoAs dete,tion o- li-e
on Earth were 'rs. D. Reid Thom/son, Cornell &ni.ersity< Ro1ert Carlson, 9PL< 'onald >urnett,
&ni.ersity o- owa< and Charles "ord, &ni.ersity o- Colorado.
Our su,,ess in dete,ting li-e on Earth with >alileo, without ma=ing any assum/tions
1e-orehand a1out what =ind o- li-e it must 1e, in,reases our ,on-iden,e that when we -ail to
-ind li-e on other /lanets, that negati.e result is meaning-ul. s this Judgment anthro/o,entri,,
geo,entri,, /ro.in,ialF donAt thin= so. DeAre not loo=ing only -or our =ind o- 1iology. Any
wides/read /hotosyntheti, /igment, any gas grossly out o- eKuili1rium with the rest o- the
atmos/here, any rendering o- the sur-a,e into highly geometriCed /atterns, any steady
,onstellation o- lights on the night hemis/here, any non0astro/hysi,al sour,es o- radio
emission would 1eto=en the /resen,e o- li-e. On Earth we ha.e -ound o- ,ourse only our ty/e,
1ut many other ty/es would ha.e 1een dete,ta1le elsewhere. De ha.e not -ound them. This
e3amination o- the third /lanet strengthens our tentati.e ,on,lusion that, o- all the worlds in
the Solar System, only ours is gra,ed 1y li-e.
De ha.e Just 1egun to sear,h. May1e li-e is hiding on Mars or 9u/iter, Euro/a or Titan. May1e
the >ala3y is -illed with worlds as ri,h in li-e as ours. May1e we are on the .erge o- ma=ing
su,h dis,o.eries. $ut in terms o- a,tual =nowledge, at this moment the Earth is uniKue. !o
other world is yet =nown to har1or e.en a mi,ro1e, mu,h less a te,hni,al ,i.iliCation.
Cha$ter 9+ The Tri/m$h o- ,oyager
They that go down to the sea in shi/s, that do 1usiness in great waters< these see the wor=s o- the Lord, and his
wonders in the dee/.
HPSALMS, (:7 2CA. (*: $.C4
The .isions we o--er our ,hildren sha/e the -uture. t matters what those .isions are. O-ten they
1e,ome sel-0-ul-illing /ro/he,ies. 'reams are ma/s.
do not thin= it irres/onsi1le to /ortray e.en the direst -utures< i- we are to a.oid them, we
must understand that they are /ossi1le. $ut where are the alternati.esF Dhere are the dreams
that moti.ate and ins/ireF De long -or realisti, ma/s o- a world we ,an 1e /roud to gi.e to
our ,hildren. Dhere are the ,artogra/hers o- human /ur/oseF Dhere are the .isions o-
ho/e-ul -utures, o- te,hnology as a tool -or human 1etterment and not a gun on hair trigger
/ointed at our headsF
!ASA, in its ordinary ,ourse o- doing 1usiness, o--ers su,h a .ision. $ut in the late ()+:s and
early A):s, many /eo/le saw the &.S. s/a,e /rogram as, instead, a su,,ession o- ,atastro/hesH
se.en 1ra.e Ameri,ans =illed on a mission whose main -un,tion was to /ut u/ a
,ommuni,ations satellite that ,ould ha.e 1een laun,hed at less ,ost without ris=ing any1ody<
a 1illion0dollar teles,o/e sent u/ with a 1ad ,ase o- myo/ia< a s/a,e,ra-t to 9u/iter whose
main antennaHessential -or returning data to EarthHdid not un-url< a /ro1e lost Just as it was
a1out to or1it Mars. Some /eo/le ,ringe e.ery time !ASA des,ri1es as e3/loration sending a
-ew astronauts 6:: miles u/ in a small ,a/sule that endlessly ,ir,les the Earth and goes
nowhere. Com/ared to the 1rilliant a,hie.ements o- ro1oti, missions, it is stri=ing how rarely
-undamental s,ienti-i, -indings emerge -rom manned missions. E3,e/t -or re/airing ine/tly
manu-a,tured or mal-un,tioning satellites, or laun,hing a satellite that ,ould Just as well ha.e
1een sent u/ in an unmanned 1ooster, the manned /rogram has, sin,e the ()7:s, seemed
una1le to generate a,,om/lishments ,ommensurate with the ,ost. Others loo=ed at !ASA as
a stal=ing horse -or grandiose s,hemes to /ut wea/ons into s/a,e, des/ite the -a,t that an
or1iting wea/on is in many ,ir,umstan,es a sitting du,=. And !ASA showed many sym/toms
o- an aging, arterios,leroti,, o.er,autious, unad.enturous 1ureau,ra,y. The trend is /erha/s
1eginning to 1e re.ersed.
$ut these ,riti,ismsHmany o- them surely .alidHshould not 1lind us to !ASA trium/hs in the
same /eriodE the -irst e3/loration o- the &ranus and !e/tune systems, the in0or1it re/air o-
the "u11le s/a,e teles,o/e, the /roo- that the e3isten,e o- gala3ies is ,om/ati1le with the $ig
$ang, the -irst ,lose0u/ o1ser.ations o- asteroids, ma//ing %enus /ole to /ole, monitoring
oCone de/letion, demonstrating the e3isten,e o- a 1la,= hole with the mass o- a 1illion suns at
the ,enter o- a near1y gala3y, and a histori, ,ommitment to Joint s/a,e endea.ors 1y the &.S.
and Russia.
There are -ar0rea,hing, .isionary, and e.en re.olutionary im/li,ations to the s/a,e /rogram.
Communi,ations satellites lin= u/ the /lanet, are ,entral to the glo1al e,onomy, and, through
tele.ision, routinely ,on.ey the essential -a,t that De li.e in a glo1al ,ommunity.
Meteorologi,al satellites /redi,t the weather, sa.e li.es in hurri,anes and tornados, and a.oid
many 1illions o- dollars in ,ro/ losses e.ery year. Military0re,onnaissan,e and treaty0
.eri-i,ation satellites ma=e nations and the glo1al ,i.iliCation more se,ure< in a world with tens
o- thousands o- nu,lear wea/ons, they ,alm the hotheads and /aranoids on all sides< they are
essential tools -or sur.i.al on a trou1led and un/redi,ta1le /lanet.
Earth0o1ser.ing satellites, es/e,ially a new generation soon to 1e de/loyed, monitor the
health o- the glo1al en.ironmentE greenhouse warming, to/soil erosion, oCone layer de/letion,
o,ean ,urrents, a,id rain, the e--e,ts o- -loods and droughts, and new dangers we ha.enAt yet
dis,o.ered. This is straight-orward /lanetary hygiene.
>lo1al /ositioning systems are now in /la,e so that your lo,ale is radio0triangulated 1y se.eral
satellites. "olding a small instrument the siCe o- a modern shortwa.e radio, you ,an read out
to high /re,ision your latitude and longitude. !o ,rashed air/lane, no shi/ in -og and shoals,
no dri.er in an un-amiliar ,ity need e.er 1e lost again.
Astronomi,al satellites /eering outward -rom EarthAs or1it o1ser.e with unsur/assed ,larityH
studying Kuestions ranging -rom the /ossi1le e3isten,e o- /lanets around near1y stars to the
origin and -ate o- the &ni.erse. Planetary /ro1es -rom ,lose range e3/lore the gorgeous array
o- other worlds in our solar system ,om/aring their -ates with ours.
All o- these a,ti.ities are -orward0loo=ing, ho/e-ul, stirring and ,ost0e--e,ti.e. !one o- them
reKuires BmannedB7 s/a,e-light. A =ey issue -a,ing the -uture o- !ASA and addressed in this
1oo= is whether the /ur/orted Justi-i,ations -or human s/a,e-light are ,oherent and
sustaina1le. s it worth the ,ostF
$ut -irst, letAs ,onsider the .isions o- a ho/e-ul -uture .ou,hsa-ed 1y ro1ot s/a,e,ra-t out
among the /lanets.
%oyager ( and %oyager 6 are the shi/s that o/ened the Solar System -or the human s/e,ies,
trail1laCing a /ath -or -uture generations. $e-ore their laun,h, in August and Se/tem1er ()77,
we were almost wholly ignorant a1out most o- the /lanetary /art o- the Solar System. n the
ne3t doCen years, they /ro.ided our -irst detailed, ,lose0u/ in-ormation on many new worlds
Hsome o- them /re.iously =nown only as -uCCy dis=s in the eye/ie,es o- ground01ased
teles,o/es, some merely as /oints o- light, and some whose .ery e3isten,e was unsus/e,ted.
They are still returning reams o- data.
These s/a,e,ra-t ha.e taught us a1out the wonders o- other worlds, a1out the uniKueness
and -ragility o- our own, a1out 1eginnings and ends. They ha.e gi.en us a,,ess to most o- the
Solar SystemH1oth in e3tent and in mass. They are the shi/s that -irst e3/lored what may 1e
homelands o- our remote des,endants.
&.S. laun,h .ehi,les are these days too -ee1le to get su,h a s/a,e,ra-t to 9u/iter and 1eyond in
only a -ew years 1y ro,=et /ro/ulsion alone. $ut i- weAre ,le.er 2and lu,=y4, thereAs something
else we ,an doE De ,an 2as >alileo also did, years later4 -ly ,lose to one world, and ha.e its
gra.ity -ling us on to the ne3t. A gra.ity assist, itAs ,alled. t ,osts us almost nothing 1ut
ingenuity. ltAs something li=e gra11ing hold o- a /ost on a mo.ing merry0go0round as it /asses
Hto s/eed you u/ and -ling you in some new dire,tion. The s/a,e,ra-tAs a,,eleration is
,om/ensated -or 1y a de,eleration in the /lanetAs or1ital motion around the Sun. $ut 1e,ause
the /lanet is so massi.e ,om/ared to the s/a,e,ra-t, it slows down hardly at all. Ea,h %oyager
s/a,e,ra-t /i,=ed u/ a .elo,ity 1oost o- nearly ;:,::: miles /er hour -rom 9u/iterAs gra.ity.
9u/iter in turn was slowed down in its motion around the Sun. $y how mu,hF Fi.e 1illion years
-rom now, when our Sun 1e,omes a swollen red giant, 9u/iter will 1e one millimeter short o-
where it would ha.e 1een had %oyager not -lown 1y it in the late twentieth ,entury.
%oyager 6 too= ad.antage o- a rare lining0u/ o- the /lanetsE A ,lose -ly1y o- 9u/iter
a,,elerated it on to Saturn, Saturn to &ranus, &ranus to !e/tune, and !e/tune to the stars.
$ut you ,anAt do this anytime you li=eE The /re.ious o//ortunity -or su,h a game o- ,elestial
1illiards /resented itsel- during the /residen,y o- Thomas 9e--erson. De were then only at the
horse1a,=, ,anoe, and sailing shi/ stage o- e3/loration. 2Steam1oats were the trans-orming
new te,hnology Just around the ,orner.4
Sin,e adeKuate -unds were una.aila1le, !ASAAs 9et Pro/ulsion La1oratory 29PL4 ,ould a--ord to
1uild s/a,e,ra-t that would wor= relia1ly only as -ar as Saturn. $eyond that, all 1ets were o--.
"owe.er, 1e,ause o- the 1rillian,e o- the engineering design and the -a,t that the 9PL
engineers who radioed instru,tions u/ to the s/a,e,ra-t got smarter -aster than the s/a,e,ra-t
got stu/idH1oth s/a,e,ra-t went on to e3/lore &ranus and !e/tune. These days they are
1road,asting 1a,= dis,o.eries -rom 1eyond the most distant =nown /lanet o- the Sun.
De tend to hear mu,h more a1out the s/lendors returned than the shi/s that 1rought
them, or the shi/wrights. t has al, ways 1een that way. E.en those history 1oo=s enamored o-
the .oyages o- Christo/her Colum1us do not tell us mu,h a1out the 1uilders o- the !ina, the
Pinta, and the Santa Maria, or a1out the /rin,i/le o- the ,ara.el. These s/a,e,ra-t, their
designers, 1uilders, na.igators, and ,ontrollers are e3am/les o- what s,ien,e and engineering,
set -ree -or well0de-ined /ea,e-ul /ur/oses, ,an a,,om/lish. Those s,ientists and engineers
should 1e role models -or an Ameri,a see=ing e3,ellen,e and international ,om/etiti.eness.
They should 1e on our stam/s.
At ea,h o- the -our giant /lanetsH9u/iter, Saturn, &ranus, and !e/tuneHone or 1oth
s/a,e,ra-t studied the /lanet itsel-, its rings, and its moons. At 9u/iter, in ()7), they 1ra.ed a
dose o- tra//ed ,harged /arti,les a thousand times more intense than what it ta=es to =ill a
human< en.elo/ed in all that radiation, they dis,o.ered the rings o- the largest /lanet, the -irst
a,ti.e .ol,anos outside Earth, and a /ossi1le underground o,ean on an airless worldHamong
a host o- sur/rising dis,o.eries. At Saturn, in ()+: and ()+(, they sur.i.ed a 1liCCard o- i,e and
-ound not a -ew new rings, 1ut thousands. They e3amined -roCen moons mysteriously melted
in the ,om/arati.ely re,ent /ast, and a large world with a /utati.e o,ean o- liKuid
hydro,ar1ons surmounted 1y ,louds o- organi, matter.
On 9anuary 6*, ()+5, %oyager 6 entered the &ranus system and re/orted a /ro,ession o-
wonders. The en,ounter lasted only a -ew hours, 1ut the data -aith-ully relayed 1a,= to Earth
ha.e re.olutioniCed our =nowledge o- the aKuamarine /lanet, its (* moons. its /it,h01la,=
rings, and its 1elt o- tra//ed high0energy ,harged /arti,les. On August 6*, ()+), %oyager 6
swe/t through the !e/tune system and o1ser.ed, dimly illuminated 1y the distant Sun,
=aleidos,o/i, ,loud /atterns and a 1iCarre moon on whi,h /lumes o- -ine organi, /arti,les
were 1eing 1lown a1out 1y the astonishingly thin air. And in ())6, ha.ing -lown 1eyond the
outermost =nown /lanet, 1oth %oyagers /i,=ed u/ radio emission thought to emanate -rom
the still remote helio/auseHthe /la,e where the wind -rom the Sun gi.es way to the wind
-rom the stars.
$e,ause weAre stu,= on Earth, weAre -or,ed to /eer at distant worlds through an o,ean o-
distorting air. Mu,h o- the ultra.iolet, in-rared, and radio wa.es they emit do not /enetrate our
atmos/here. tAs easy to see why our s/a,e,ra-t ha.e re.olutioniCed the study o- the Solar
SystemE De as,end to star= ,larity in the .a,uum o- s/a,e, and there a//roa,h our o1Je,ti.es,
-lying /ast them, as did %oyager, or or1iting them, or landing on their sur-a,es.
These s/a,e,ra-t ha.e returned -our trillion 1its o- in-ormation to Earth, the eKui.alent o-
a1out (::,::: en,y,lo/edia .olumes. des,ri1ed the %oyagers ( and 6 en,ounters with the
9u/iter system in Cosmos. n the -ollowing /ages, All say something a1out the Saturn, &ranus,
and !e/tune en,ounters.
9ust 1e-ore .oyager 6 was to en,ounter the &ranus system, the mission design had s/e,i-ied a
-inal maneu.er, a 1rie- -iring o- the on01oard /ro/ulsion system to /osition the s/a,e,ra-t
,orre,tly so it ,ould thread its way on a /reset /ath among the hurtling moons. $ut the ,ourse
,orre,tion /ro.ed unne,essary. The s/a,e,ra-t was already within 6:: =ilometers o- its
designed traJe,tory0a-ter a Journey along an ar,ing /ath * 1illion =ilometers long. This is
roughly the eKui.alent o- throwing a /in through the eye o- a needle *: =ilometers away, or
-iring your ri-le in Dashington and hitting the 1ullAs0eye in 'allas.
Mother lodes o- /lanetary treasure were radioed 1a,= to Earth. $ut Earth is so -ar away that 1y
the time the signal -rog !e/tune was gathered in 1y radio teles,o/es on our /lanet, the
re,ei.ed /ower was only (:0(5 watts 2-i-teen Ceros 1etween the de,imal /oint and the one4.
This wea= signal 1ears the same /ro, /ortion to the /ower emitted 1y an ordinary reading
lam/ as the diameter o- an atom 1ears to the distan,e -rom the Earth to the Moon. tAs li=e
hearing an amoe1aAs -ootste/.
The mission was ,on,ei.ed during the late ()5:s. t was -irst -unded in ()76. $ut it was not
a//ro.ed in its -inal -orm 2in,luding the en,ounters with &ranus and !e/tune4 until a-ter the
shi/s had ,om/leted their re,onnaissan,e o- 9u/iter. The two s/a,e,ra-t were li-ted o-- the
Earth 1y a nonreusa1le Titan@Centaur 1ooster ,on-iguration. Deighing a1out a ton, a %oyager
would -ill a small house. Ea,h draws a1out ;:: watts o- /owerH,onsidera1ly less than an
a.erage Ameri,an homeH-rom a generator that ,on.erts radioa,ti.e /lutonium into
ele,tri,ity. 2- it had to rely on solar energy, the a.aila1le /ower would diminish Kui,=ly as the
shi/ .entured -arther and -arther -rom the Sun Dere it not -or nu,lear /ower, %oyager would
ha.e returned no data at all -rom the outer Solar System, e3,e/t /erha/s a little -rom 9u/iter.4
The -low o- ele,tri,ity through the innards o- the s/a,e,ra-t would generate enough
magnetism to o.erwhelm the sensiti.e instrument that measures inter/lanetary magneti,
-ields. So the magnetometer is /la,ed at the end o- along 1oom, -ar -rom the o--ending
ele,tri,al ,urrents. Dith other /roJe,tions, it gi.es %oyager alter a slightly /or,u/ine
a//earan,e. Cameras, in-rared and ultra.iolet s/e,trometers, and an instrument ,alled a
/hoto/olarimeter are on a s,an /lat-orm that swi.els on ,ommand so these de.i,e ,an 1e
aimed at a target world. The s/a,e,ra-t must =now where Earth is i- the antenna is to 1e
/ointed /ro/erly and the data rere,ei.ed 1a,= home. t also needs to =now where the Sun is
and at least one 1right star, so it ,an orient itsel- in three dimensions and /oint /ro/erly
toward any /assing world. - you ,anAt /oint the ,ameras, it does no good to 1e a1le to return
/i,tures o.er 1illions o- miles.
Ea,h s/a,e,ra-t ,ost a1out as mu,h as a single modern strategi, 1om1er. $ut unli=e 1om1ers,
%oyager ,annot, on,e laun,hed, 1e returned to the hangar -or re/airs. The shi/As ,om/uters
and ele,troni,s are there-ore designed redundantly. Mu,h =ey ma,hinery, in,luding the
essential radio re,ei.er, had at least one 1a,=u/Hwaiting to 1e ,alled u/on should the hour o-
need e.er arri.e. Dhen either %oyager -inds itsel- in trou1le, the ,om/uters use 1ran,hed
,ontingen,y tree logi, to wor= out the a//ro/riate ,ourse o- a,tion. - that doesnAt wor=, the
shi/ radios home -or hel/.
As the s/a,e,ra-t Journeys in,reasingly -ar -rom Earth, the roundtri/ radio tra.el time also
in,reases, a//roa,hing ele.en hours 1y the time %oyager is at the distan,e o- !e/tune. Thus,
in ,ase o- emergen,y, the s/a,e,ra-t needs to =now how to /ut itsel- into a sa-e stand1y mode
while awaiting instru,tions -rom Earth. As it ages, more and more -ailures are e3/e,ted, 1oth in
its me,hani,al /arts and in its ,om/uter system, although there is no sign, e.en now, o- a
serious memory deterioration, some ro1oti, AlCheimerAs disease.
This is not to say that %oyager is /er-e,t. Serious mission0threatening, white0=nu,=le misha/s
did o,,ur. Ea,h time, s/e,ial teams o- engineersHsome o- whom had 1een with the %oyager
/rogram sin,e its in,e/tionHwere assigned to Bwor=B the /ro1lem. They would study the
underlying s,ien,e and draw u/on their /re.ious e3/erien,e with the -ailed su1systems. They
would e3/eriment with identi,al %oyager s/a,e,ra-t eKui/ment that had ne.er 1een laun,hed,
or e.en manu-a,ture a large num1er o- ,om/onents o- the sort that -ailed in order to gain
some statisti,al understanding o- the -ailure mode.
n A/ril ()7+, almost eight months a-ter laun,h, and while the shi/ was a//roa,hing the
asteroid 1elt, an omitted ground ,ommandHa human errorH,aused %oyager 6As on01oard
,om/uter to swit,h -rom the /rime radio re,ei.er to its 1a,=u/, 'uring the ne3t ground
transmission to the s/a,e,ra-t, the 1a,=u/ re,ei.er re-used to lo,= onto the signal -rom Earth.
A ,om/onent ,alled a tra,=ing loo/ ,a/a,itor had -ailed. A-ter se.en days in whi,h %oyager 6
was entirely out o- ,onta,t, its -ault /rote,tion so-tware suddenly ,ommanded the 1a,=u/
re,ei.er to 1e swit,hed o-- and the /rime re,ei.er to 1e swit,hed 1a,= on. MysteriouslyHto
this day, no one =nows whyHthe /rime re,ei.er -ailed moments later. t was ne.er heard -rom
again. To to/ it o--, the on01oard ,om/uter now -oolishly insisted on using the -ailed /rimary
re,ei.er. Through an unlu,=y ,on,atenation o- human and ro1oti, error, the s/a,e,ra-t was
now in real Jeo/ardy. !o one ,ould thin= o- a way to get %oyager 6 to re.ert to the 1a,=u/
re,ei.er. E.en i- it did, the 1a,=u/ re,ei.er ,ouldnAt re,ei.e the ,ommands -rom Earth, 1e,ause
o- that -ailed ,a/a,itor. There were many /roJe,t /ersonnel who -eared that all was lost.
$ut a-ter a wee= o- o1durate unres/onsi.eness to all ,ommands, instru,tions to swit,h
automati,ally 1etween re,ei.ers were a,,e/ted and /rogrammed into the s=ittish on1oard
,om/uter. 'uring that same wee= the 9PL engineers designed an inno.ati.e ,ommand
-reKuen,y ,ontrol /ro,edure to ma=e sure that essential orders would 1e understood 1y the
damaged 1a,=u/ re,ei.er.
The engineers were now a1le to re,ommuni,ate, at least in a rudimentary way, with the
s/a,e,ra-t. &n-ortunately the 1a,=u/ re,ei.er now turned giddy, 1e,oming e3tremely sensiti.e
to stray heat dum/ed when .arious ,om/onents o- the s/a,e,ra-t /owered u/ or down. n
the -ollowing months the 9PL engineers de.ised and ,ondu,ted tests that let them thoroughly
understand the thermal im/li,ations o- most s/a,e,ra-t o/erational modesE Dhat would
/re.ent and what would /ermit re,ei/t o- ,ommands -rom EarthF
Dith this in-ormation, the 1a,=u/ re,ei.er /ro1lem was entirely ,ir,um.ented. t su1seKuently
a,Kuired all the ,ommands sent -rom Earth on how to gather data in the 9u/iter, Saturn,
&ranus, and !e/tune systems. The engineers had sa.ed the mission. 2To 1e on the sa-e side,
during most o- %oyager 6As su1seKuent -light a nominal data0ta=ing seKuen,e -or the ne3t
/lanet to 1e en,ountered was always sitting in the on01oard ,om/utersHshould the
s/a,e,ra-t again 1e,ome dea- to entreaties -rom home.4
Another heart0wren,hing -ailure o,,urred Just a-ter %oyager 6 emerged -rom 1ehind Saturn
2as seen -rom the Earth4 in August ()+(. The s,an /lat-orm had 1een mo.ing -e.erishlyH
/ointing here and there among the rings, moons, and the /lanet itsel- during the all0too01rie-
moments o- ,lose a//roa,h. Suddenly, the /lat-orm Jammed. A stu,= s,an /lat-orm is a
maddening /redi,amentE =nowing that the s/a,e,ra-t is -lying /ast wonders that ha.e ne.er
1een witnessed, that we will not see again -or years or de,ades, and the in,urious s/a,e,ra-t
staring -i3edly o-- into s/a,e, ignoring e.erything.
The s,an /lat-orm is dri.en 1y a,tuators ,ontaining gear trains. So -irst the 9CL engineers ran
an identi,al ,o/y o- a -light a,tuator in a simulated mission. This a,tuator -ailed a-ter 8;+
turns< the a,tuator on the s/a,e,ra-t had -ailed a-ter 8*6 turns. The /ro1lem turned out to 1e
a lu1ri,ation -ailure. >ood to =now, 1ut what to do a1out itF Plainly, it would 1e im/ossi1le to
o.erta=e %oyager with ail oil,an.
The engineers wondered whether they ,ould restart the tailed a,tuator 1y alternate heating
and ,ooling< may1e the resulting thermal stresses would indu,e the ,om/onents o- the
a,tuator to e3/and and ,ontra,t at di--erent rates and unJam the system. They tested this
notion with s/e,ially manu-a,tured a,tuators in the la1oratory, and then Ju1ilantly -ound that
in this way they ,ould start the s,an /lat-orm u/ again in s/a,e. ProJe,t /ersonnel also de.ised
ways to diagnose any additional trend toward a,tuator -ailure early enough to wor= around
the /ro1lem. Therea-ter, %oyager 6As s,an /lat-orm wor=ed /er-e,tly. All the /i,tures ta=en in
the &ranus and !e/tune systems owe their e3isten,e to this wor=. The engineers had sa.ed
the day again.
%oyagers ( and 6 were designed to e3/lore the 9u/iter and Saturn systems only. t is true that
their traJe,tories would ,arry them on /ast &ranus and !e/tune, 1ut o--i,ially these /lanets
were ne.er ,ontem/lated as targets -or %oyager e3/lorationE The s/a,e,ra-t were not
su//osed to last that long. $e,ause o- our wish to -ly ,lose to the mystery world Titan,
%oyager ) was -lung 1y Saturn on a /ath that ,ould ne.er en,ounter any other =nown world< it
is %oyager 6 that -lew on to &ranus and !e/tune with 1rilliant su,,ess. At these immense
distan,es, sunlight is getting /rogressi.ely dimmer, and the radio signals transmitted to Earth
are getting /rogressi.ely -ainter. These were /redi,ta1le 1ut still .ery serious /ro1lems that
the 9PL engineers and s,ientists also had to sol.e.
$e,ause o- the low light le.els at &ranus and !e/tune, the %oyager tele.ision ,ameras were
o1liged to ta=e long time e3/osures. $ut the s/a,e,ra-t was hurtling so -ast through, say, the
&ranus system 2at a1out 8*,::: miles /er hour4 that the image would ha.e 1een smeared or
1lurred. To ,om/ensate, the entire s/a,e,ra-t had to 1e mo.ed during the time e3/osures to
,an,el out the motion, li=e /anning in the dire,tion o//osite yours while ta=ing a /hotogra/h
o- a street s,ene -rom a mo.ing ,ar. This may sound easy, 1ut itAs notE #ou ha.e to neutraliCe
the most inno,ent o- motions. At Cero gra.ity, the mere start and sto/ o- the on01oard ta/e
re,order ,an Jiggle the s/a,e,ra-t enough to smear the /i,ture.
This /ro1lem was sol.ed 1y sending u/ ,ommands to the s/a,e,ra-tAs little ro,=et engines
2,alled thrusters4, ma,hines o- e3Kuisite sensiti.ity. Dith a little /u-- o- gas at the start and sto/
o- ea,h data0ta=ing seKuen,e, the thrusters ,om/ensated -or the ta/e0re,order Jiggle 1y
turning the entire s/a,e,ra-t Just a little. To deal with the low radio /ower re,ei.ed at Earth,
the engineers de.ised a new and more e--i,ient way to re,ord and transmit the data, and the
radio teles,o/es on Earth were ele,troni,ally lin=ed together with others to in,rease their
sensiti.ity. O.erall, the imaging system wor=ed, 1y many ,riteria, 1etter at &ranus and
!e/tune than it did at Saturn or e.en at 9u/iter.
%oyager may not yet 1e done e3/loring. There is, o- ,ourse, a ,han,e that some .ital
su1system will -ail tomorrow, 1ut as -ar as the radioa,ti.e de,ay o- the /lutonium /ower
sour,e is ,on,erned, the two %oyager s/a,e,ra-t should 1e a1le to return data to Earth
roughly through the year 6:(*.
%oyager is an intelligent 1eingH/art ro1ot, /art human. t e3tends the human senses to -ar0o--
worlds. For sim/le tas=s and short0term /ro1lems, it relies on its own intelligen,e< 1ut -or more
,om/le3 tas=s and longer0term /ro1lems, it turns to the ,olle,ti.e intelligen,e and e3/erien,e
o- the 9PL engineers. This trend is sure to grow. The %oyagers em1ody the te,hnology o- the
early ()7:s< i- s/a,e,ra-t were designed -or su,h a mission today, they would in,or/orate
stunning ad.an,es in arti-i,ial intelligen,e, in miniaturiCation, in data0/ro,essing s/eed, in the
a1ility to sel-0diagnose and re/air, and in the /ro/ensity to learn -rom e3/erien,e They would
also 1e mu,h ,hea/er.
n the many en.ironments too dangerous -or /eo/le, on Earth as well as in s/a,e, the -uture
1elongs to ro1ot0human /artnershi/s that will re,ogniCe the two %oyagers as ante,edents and
/ioneers. For nu,lear a,,idents, mine disasters, undersea e3/loration and ar,haeology,
manu-a,turing, /rowling the interiors o- .ol,anos, and household hel/, to name only a -ew
/otential a//li,ations, it ,ould ma=e an enormous di--eren,e to ha.e a ready ,or/s o- smart,
mo1ile, ,om/a,t, ,ommanda1le ro1ots that ,an diagnose and re/air their own mal-un,tions.
There are li=ely to 1e many more o- this tri1e in the near -uture.
t is ,on.entional wisdom now that anything 1uilt 1y the go.ernment will 1e a disaster. $ut the
two %oyager s/a,e,ra-t were 1uilt 1y the go.ernment 2in /artnershi/ with that other
1uga1oo, a,ademia4. They ,ame in at ,ost, on time, and .astly e3,eeded their design
s/e,i-i,ationsHas well as the -ondest dreams o- their ma=ers. See=ing not to ,ontrol, threaten,
wound, or destroy, these elegant ma,hines re/resent the e3/loratory /art o- our nature set
-ree to roam the Solar System and 1eyond. This =ind o- te,hnology, the treasures it un,o.ers
-reely a.aila1le to all humans e.erywhere, has 1een, o.er the last -ew de,ades, one o- the -ew
a,ti.ities o- the &nited States admired as mu,h 1y those who a1hor many o- its /oli,ies as 1y
those who agree with it on e.ery issue. %oyager ,ost ea,h Ameri,an less than a /enny a year
-rom laun,h to !e/tune en,ounter. Missions to the /lanets are one o- those thingsHand
mean this not Just -or the &nited States, 1ut -or the human s/e,iesHthat we do 1est.
Cha$ter :+ %mong the !oons o- Sat/rn
Seat thysel- sultani,ally among the moons o- Saturn.
H"ERMA! MEL%LLE, MO$# 'CI, C"APTER (:7 2(+*(4
There is a world, midway in siCe 1etween the Moon and Mars, where the u//er air is ri//ling
with ele,tri,ityHstreaming in -rom the ar,hety/i,al ringed /lanet ne3t door, where the
/er/etual 1rown o.er,ast is tinged with an odd 1urnt orange, and where the .ery stu-- o- li-e
-alls out o- the s=ies onto the un=nown sur-a,e 1elow. t is so -ar away that light ta=es more
than an hour to get there -rom the Sun. S/a,e,ra-t ta=e years. Mu,h a1out it is still a mystery
Hin,luding whether it holds great o,eans. De =now Just enough, though, to re,ogniCe that
within rea,h may 1e a /la,e where ,ertain /ro,esses ate today wor=ing themsel.es out that
aeons ago on Earth led to the origin o- li-e.
On our own world a long0standingHand in some res/e,ts Kuite /romisingHe3/eriment
has 1een under way on the e.olution o- matter. The oldest =nown -ossils are a1out 8.5 1illion
years old. O- ,ourse, the origin o- li-e had to ha.e ha//ened well 1e-ore that. $ut ;.6 or ;.8
1illion years ago the Earth was 1eing so ra.aged 1y the -inal stages o- its -ormation that li-e
,ould not yet ha.e ,ome into 1eingE Massi.e ,ollisions were melting the sur-a,e, turning the
o,eans into steam and dri.ing any atmos/here that had a,,umulated sin,e the last im/a,t o--
into s/a,e. So around ; 1illion years ago, there was a -airly narrow windowH/erha/s only a
hundred million years wide in whi,h our most distant an,estors ,ame to 1e. On,e ,onditions
/ermitted, li-e arose -ast. Somehow. The -irst li.ing things .ery li=ely were ine/t, -ar less
,a/a1le than the most hum1le mi,ro1e ali.e todayH/erha/s Just 1arely a1le to ma=e ,rude
,o/ies o- themsel.es. $ut natural sele,tion, the =ey /ro,ess -irst ,oherently des,ri1ed 1y
Charles 'arwin, is an instrument o- su,h enormous /ower that -rom the most modest
1eginnings there ,an emerge all the ri,hness and 1eauty o- the 1iologi,al world.
Those -irst li.ing things were made o- /ie,es, /arts, 1uilding 1lo,=s whi,h had to ,ome into
1eing on their ownHthat is, dri.en 1y the laws o- /hysi,s and ,hemistry on a li-eless Earth. The
1uilding 1lo,=s o- all terrestrial li-e are ,alled organi, mole,ules, mole,ules 1ased on ,ar1on.
O- the stu/endous Slum1er o- /ossi1le organi, mole,ules, .ery -ew are used at the heart o-
li-e. The two most im/ortant ,lasses are the amino a,ids, the 1uilding 1lo,=s o- /roteins, and
the nu,leotide 1ases, the 1uilding 1lo,=s o- the nu,lei, a,ids. Mist 1e-ore the origin o- li-e,
where did these mole,ules ,ome -romF There are only two /ossi1ilitiesE -rom the outside or
-rom the inside. De =now that .astly more ,omets and asteroids were hitting the Earth than
do so today, that these small worlds are ri,h storehouses o- ,om/le3 organi, mole,ules, and
that some o- these mole,ules es,a/ed 1eing -ried on im/a,t. "ere Am des,ri1ing homemade,
not im/orted, goodsE the organi, mole,ules generated in the air and waters o- the /rimiti.e
Earth.
&n-ortunately, we donAt =now .ery mu,h a1out the ,om/osition o- the early air, and organi,
mole,ules are -ar easier to ma=e in some atmos/heres than in others. There ,ouldnAt ha.e
1een mu,h o3ygen, 1e,ause o3ygen is generated 1y green /lants and there werenAt any green
/lants yet. There was /ro1a1ly more hydrogen, 1e,ause hydrogen is .ery a1undant in the
&ni.erse and es,a/es -rom the u//er atmos/here o- the Earth into s/a,e 1etter than any
other atom 21e,ause itAs so light4. - we ,an imagine .arious /ossi1le early atmos/heres, we
,an du/li,ate them in the la1oratory, su//ly some energy, and see whi,h organi, mole,ules
are made and in what amounts. Su,h e3/eriments ha.e o.er the years /ro.ed /ro.o,ati.e and
/romising. $ut our ignoran,e o- initial ,onditions limits their rele.an,e.
Dhat we need is a real world whose atmos/here still retains some o- those hydrogen0ri,h
gases, a world in other res/e,ts something li=e the Earth, a world in whi,h the organi, 1uilding
1lo,=s o- li-e are 1eing massi.ely generated in our own time, a world we ,an go to to see= our
own 1eginnings. There is only one su,h world in the Solar System.+ That world is Titan, the 1ig
moon o- Saturn. tAs a1out *,(*: =ilometers 28,6:: miles4 in diameter, a little less than hal- the
siCe o- the Earth. t ta=es (5 o- our days to ,om/lete one or1it o- Saturn.
!o world is a /er-e,t re/li,a o- any other, and in at least one im/ortant res/e,t Titan is .ery
di--erent -rom the /rimiti.e EarthE $eing so -ar -rom the Sun, its sur-a,e is e3tremely ,old, -ar
1elow the -reeCing /oint o- water, around (+:T 1elow Cero Celsius. So while the Earth at the
time o- the origin o- li-e was, as now, mainly o,ean0,o.ered, /lainly there ,an 1e no o,eans o-
liKuid water on Titan. 2O,eans made o- other stu-- are a di--erent story, as we shall see.4 The
low tem/eratures /ro.ide an ad.antage, though, 1e,ause on,e mole,ules are synthesiCed on
Titan, they tend to sti,= aroundE The higher the tem/erature, the -aster mole,ules -all to
/ie,es. On Titan the mole,ules that ha.e 1een raining down li=e manna -rom hea.en -or the
last ; 1illion years might still 1e there, largely unaltered, dee/0-roCen, awaiting the ,hemists
-rom Earth.
The in.ention o- the teles,o/e in the se.enteenth ,entury led to the dis,o.ery o- many new
worlds. n (5(: >alileo -irst s/ied the -our large satellites o- 9u/iter. t loo=ed li=e a miniature
solar system, the little moons ra,ing around 9u/iter as the /lanets were thought 1y Co/erni,us
to or1it the Sun. t was another 1low to the geo,entrists. Forty0-i.e years later, the ,ele1rated
'ut,h /hysi,ist Christianus "uygens dis,o.ered a moon mo.ing a1out the /lanet Saturn and
named it Titan.) t was a dot o- light a 1illion miles away, gleaming in re-le,ted sunlight. From
the time o- its dis,o.ery, when Euro/ean men wore long ,urly wigs, to world Dar , when
Ameri,an men ,ut their hair down to stu11le, almost nothing more was dis,o.ered a1out
Titan e3,e/t the -a,t it had a ,urious, tawny ,olor. >round01ased teles,o/es ,ould, e.en in
/rin,i/le, 1arely ma=e out some enigmati, detail. The S/anish astronomer 9. Comas Sola
re/orted at the turn o- the twentieth ,entury some -aint and indire,t e.iden,e o- an
atmos/here.
n a way, grew u/ with Titan. did my do,toral dissertation at the &ni.ersity o- Chi,ago under
the guidan,e o- >erard P. Iui/er, the astronomer who made the de-initi.e dis,o.ery that Titan
has an atmos/here. Iui/er was 'ut,h and in a dire,t line o- intelle,tual des,ent -rom
Christianus "uygens. n ()(;, while ma=ing a s/e,tros,o/i, e3amination o- Titan, Iui/er was
astonished to -ind the ,hara,teristi, s/e,tral -eatures o- the gas methane. Dhen he /ointed
the teles,o/e at Titan, there was the signature o- methane.(: Dhen he /ointed it away, not a
hint o- methane. $ut moons were not su//osed to hold onto siCa1le atmos/heres, and the
EarthAs Moon ,ertainly doesnAt. Titan ,ould retain an atmos/here, Iui/er realiCed, e.en though
its gra.ity was less than EarthAs, 1e,ause its u//er atmos/here is .ery ,old. The mole,ules
sim/ly arenAt mo.ing -ast enough -or signi-i,ant num1ers to a,hie.e es,a/e .elo,ity and
tri,=le away to s/a,e.
'aniel "arris, a student o- Iui/erAs, showed de-initi.ely that Titan is red. May1e we were
loo=ing at a rusty sur-a,e, li=e that o- Mars. - you wanted to learn more a1out Titan, you ,ould
also measure the /olariCation o- sunlight re-le,ted o-- it. Ordinary sunlight is un/olariCed.
9ose/h %e.er=a, now a -ellow -a,ulty mem1er at Cornell &ni.ersity, was my graduate student
at "ar.ard &ni.ersity, and there-ore, so to s/ea=, a grandstudent o- Iui/erAs. n his do,toral
wor=, around ()7:, he measured the /olariCation o- Titan and -ound that it ,hanged as the
relati.e /ositions o- Titan, the Sun, and the Earth ,hanged. $ut the ,hange was .ery di--erent
-rom that e3hi1ited 1y, say, the Moon. %e.er=a ,on,luded that the ,hara,ter o- this .ariation
was ,onsistent with e3tensi.e ,louds or haCe on Titan. Dhen we loo=ed at it through the
teles,o/e, we werenAt seeing its sur-a,e. De =new nothing a1out what the sur-a,e was li=e. De
had no idea how -at 1elow the ,louds the sur-a,e was.
So, 1y the early ()7:s, as a =ind o- lega,y -rom "uygens and his line o- intelle,tual des,ent, we
=new at least that Titan has a dense methane0ri,h atmos/here, and that itAs /ro1a1le
en.elo/ed 1y a reddish ,loud .eil or aerosol haCe. $ut what =ind o- ,loud is redF $y the early
()7:s my ,olleague $ishun Ihare and had 1een doing e3/eriments at Cornell in whi,h we
irradiated .arious methane0ri,h atmos/heres with &ltra.iolet light or ele,trons and were
generating reddish or 1rownish solids< the stu-- would ,oat the interiors o- our rea,tion
.essels. t seemed to me that, i- methane0ri,h Titan had red01rown ,louds, those ,louds might
.ery well 1e similar to what we were ma=ing in the la1oratory. De ,alled this material tholin,
a-ter a >ree= word -or Bmuddy.B At the 1eginning we had yen little idea what it was made o-. t
was some organi, stew made 1y 1rea=ing a/art our starting mole,ules, and allowing the
atomsH,ar1on, hydrogen, nitrogenHand mole,ular -ragments to re,om1ine.
The word Borgani,B ,arries no im/utation o- 1iologi,al origin< -ollowing long0standing
,hemi,al usage dating 1a,= mots than a ,entury, it merely des,ri1es mole,ules 1uilt out o- ,ar
1on atoms 2e3,luding a -ew .ery sim/le ones su,h as ,ar1on mono3ide, CO, and ,ar1on
dio3ide, CO64. Sin,e li-e on Earth is 1ased oil organi, mole,ules, and sin,e there was a time
1e-ore there was li-e on Earth, some /ro,ess must ha.e made organi, mole,ules on our /lanet
1e-ore the time o- the -irst organism. Something sitar, /ro/osed, might 1e ha//ening on
Titan today.
The e/o,hal e.ent in our understanding o- Titan was the arri.al in ()+: and ()+( o- the
%oyager ( and 6 s/a,e,ra-t in the Saturn system. The ultra.iolet, in-rared, and radio
instruments re.ealed the /ressure and tem/erature through the atmos/hereH-rom the
hidden sur-a,e to the edge o- s/a,e. De learned how high the ,loud to/s are. De -ound that
the air on Titan is ,om/osed mainly o- nitrogen, !6, as on the Earth today. The other /rin,i/al
,onstituent is, as Iui/er -ound, methane. C"; the starting material -rom whi,h ,ar1on01ased
organi, mole,ules are generated there.
A .ariety o- sim/le organi, mole,ules was -ound, /resent as gases, mainly hydro,ar1ons and
nitriles. The most ,om/le3 o- them ha.e -our Bhea.yB 2,ar1on and@or nitrogen4 atoms.
"ydro,ar1ons are mole,ules ,om/osed o- ,ar1on and hydrogen atoms only, and are -amiliar
to us as natural gas, /etroleum, and wa3es. 2TheyAre Kuite di--erent -rom ,ar1ohydrates, su,h
as sugars and star,h, whi,h also ha.e o3ygen atoms.4 !itriles are mole,ules with a ,ar1on and
nitrogen atom atta,hed in a /arti,ular way. The 1est =nown nitrile is "C!, hydrogen ,yanide, a
deadly gas -or humans. $ut hydrogen ,yanide is im/li,ated in the ste/s that on Earth led to
the origin o- li-e.
Finding these sim/le organi, mole,ules in TitanAs u//er atmos/hereHe.en i- /resent only in a
/art /er million or a /art /er 1illionHis tantaliCing. Could the atmos/here o- the /rime.al
Earth ha.e 1een similarF ThereAs a1out ten times more air oil Titan than there is on Earth
today, 1ut the early Earth may well ha.e had a denser atmos/here.
Moreo.er, %oyager dis,o.ered an e3tensi.e region o- energeti, ele,trons and /rotons
surrounding Saturn, tra//ed 1y the /lanetAs magneti, -ield. 'uring the ,ourse o- its or1ital
motion around Saturn, Titan 1o1s in and out o- this magnetos/here. $eams o- ele,trons 2/lus
solar ultra.iolet light4 -all on the u//er air o- Titan, Just as ,harged /arti,les 2/lus solar
ultra.iolet light4 were inter,e/ted 1y the atmos/here o- the /rimiti.e Earth.
So itAs a natural thought to irradiate the a//ro/riate mi3ture o- nitrogen and methane with
ultra.iolet light or ele,trons at .ery low /ressures, and -ind out what more ,om/le3 mole,ules
,an 1e made. Can we simulate whatAs going on in TitanAs high atmos/hereF n our la1oratory
at CornellHwith my ,olleague D. Reid Thom/son /laying a =ey roleHweA.e re/li,ated some
o- TitanAs manu-a,ture o- organi, gases. The sim/lest hydro,ar1ons on Titan are manu-a,tured
1y ultra.iolet light -rom the Sun. $ut -or all the other gas /rodu,ts, those made most readily
1y ele,trons in the la1oratory ,orres/ond to those dis,o.ered 1y %oyager on Titan, and in the
same /ro/ortions. The ,orres/onden,e is one to one. The ne3t most a1undant gases that
weA.e -ound in the la1oratory will 1e loo=ed -or in -uture studies o- Titan. The most ,om/le3
organi, gases we ma=e ha.e si3 or se.en ,ar1on and@or nitrogen atoms. These /rodu,t
mole,ules are on their way to -orming tholins.
De had ho/ed -or a 1rea= in the weather as %oyager ( a//roa,hed Titan. A long distan,e
away, it a//eared as a tiny dis=< at ,losest a//roa,h, our ,ameraAs -ield o- .iew was -illed 1y a
small /ro.in,e o- Titan. - there had 1een a 1rea= in the haCe and ,louds, e.en only a -ew miles
a,ross, as we s,anned the dis= we would ha.e seen something o- its hidden sur-a,e. $ut there
was no hint o- a 1rea=. This world is so,=ed in. !o one on Earth =nows whatAs on TitanAs
sur-a,e. And an o1ser.er there, loo=ing u/ ill ordinary .isi1le light, would ha.e no idea o- the
glories that await u/on as,ending through the haCe and 1eholding Saturn and its magni-i,ent
rings.
From measurements 1y %oyager, 1y the nternational &ltra.iolet E3/lorer o1ser.atory in Earth
or1it, and 1y ground01ased teles,o/es, we =now a -air amount a1out the orange01rown haCe
/arti,les that o1s,ure the sur-a,eE whi,h ,olors o- light they li=e to a1sor1, whi,h ,olors they
/retty mu,h let /ass through them, how mu,h they 1end, the light that does /ass through
them, and how 1ig they are. 2TheyAre mostly the siCe o- the /arti,les in ,igarette smo=e.4 The
Bo/ti,al /ro/ertiesB will de/end, o- ,ourse, on the ,om/osition o- the haCe /arti,les.
n ,olla1oration with Edward Ara=awa o- Oa= Ridge !ational La1oratory in Tennessee, Ihare
and ha.e measured the o/ti,al /ro/erties o- Titan tholin. t turns out to 1e a dead ringer -or
the real Titan haCe. !o other ,andidate material, mineral or organi,, mat,hes the o/ti,al
,onstants o- Titan. So we ,an -airly ,laim to ha.e 1ottled the haCe o- TitanH-ormed high in its
atmos/here, slowly -alling out, and a,,umulating in ,o/ious amounts on its sur-a,e. Dhat is
this stu-- made o-F
tAs .ery hard to =now the e3a,t ,om/osition o- a ,om/le3 organi, solid. For e3am/le, the
,hemistry o- ,oal is still not -ully understood, des/ite a long0standing e,onomi, in,enti.e. $ut
weA.e -ound out some things a1out Titan tholin. t ,ontains many o- the essential 1uilding
1lo,=s o- li-e on Earth. ndeed, i- you dro/ Titan tholin into water you ma=e a large num1er o-
amino a,ids, the -undamental ,onstituents o- /roteins, and nu,leotide 1ases also, the 1uilding
1lo,=s o- '!A and R!A. Some o- the amino a,ids so -ormed are wides/read in li.ing things
on Earth. Others are o- a ,om/letely di--erent sort. A ri,h array o- other organi, mole,ules is
/resent also, some rele.ant to li-e, some not. 'uring the /ast -our 1illion years, immense
Kuantities o- organi, mole,ules sedimented out o- the atmos/here onto the sur-a,e o- Titan. -
itAs all dee/0-roCen and un,hanged in the inter.ening aeons, the amount a,,umulated should
1e at least tens o- meters 2a hundred -eet4 thi,=< outside estimates /ut it at a =ilometer dee/.
$ut at (+:TC 1elow the -reeCing /oint o- water, you might .ery well thin= that amino a,ids will
ne.er 1e made. 'ro//ing tholins into water may 1e rele.ant to the early Earth, 1ut not, it
would seem, to Titan. "owe.er, ,omets and asteroids must on o,,asion ,ome ,rashing into the
sur-a,e o- Titan. 2The other near1y moons o- Saturn show a1undant im/a,t ,raters, and the
atmos/here o- Titan isnAt thi,= enough to /re.ent large, high0s/eed o1Je,ts -rom rea,hing the
sur-a,e.4 Although weA.e ne.er seen the sur-a,e o- Titan, /lanetary s,ientists ne.ertheless
=now something a1out its ,om/osition. The a.erage density o- Titan lies 1etween the density
o- i,e and the density o- ro,=. Plausi1ly it ,ontains 1oth. ,e and ro,= are a1undant on near1y
worlds, some o- whi,h are made o- nearly /ure ri,e. - the sur-a,e o- Titan is i,y, a high0s/eed
,ometary im/a,t will tem/orarily melt the i,e. Thom/son and estimate that any gi.en s/ot
on TitanAs sur-a,e has a 1etter than *:0*: ,han,e o- ha.ing on,e 1een melted, with an a.erage
li-etime o- the im/a,t melt and slurry o- almost a thousand years.
This ma=es -or a .ery di--erent story. The origin o- li-e on Earth seems to ha.e o,,urred in
o,eans and shallow tide/ools. Li-e on Earth is made mainly o- water, whi,h /lays an essential
/hysi,al and ,hemi,al role. ndeed, itAs hard, -or us water01esotted ,reatures to imagine li-e
without water. - on our /lanet the origin o- li-e too= less than a hundred million years, is there
any ,han,e that on Titan it too= a thousandF Dith tholins mi3ed into liKuid water0e.en -or
only a thousand years the sur-a,e o- Titan may 1e mu,h -urther along toward the origin o- li-e
than we thought.
'es/ite all this we understand /iti-ully little a1out Titan. This was 1rought home -or,e-ully to
me at a s,ienti-i, sym/osium on Titan held in Toulouse, Fran,e, and s/onsored 1y the
Euro/ean S/a,e Agen,y 2ESA4. Dhile o,eans o- liKuid water are im/ossi1le on Titan, o,eans o-
liKuid hydro,ar1ons are not. Clouds o- methane 2C";4, the most a1undant hydro,ar1on, are
e3/e,ted not -ar a1o.e the sur-a,e. Ethane 2C6"54, the ne3t most a1undant hydro,ar1on,
must ,ondense out at the sur-a,e in the same way that water .a/or 1e,omes a liKuid near the
sur-a,e o- the Earth, where the tem/erature is generally 1etween the -reeCing and melting
/oints. %ast o,eans o- liKuid hydro,ar1ons should ha.e a,,umulated o.er the li-etime o- Titan.
They would lie -ar 1eneath the haCe and ,louds. $ut that doesnAt mean they would 1e wholly
ina,,essi1le to usH1e,ause radio wa.es readily /enetrate the atmos/here o- Titan and its
sus/ended, slowly -alling -ine /arti,les.
n Toulouse, 'uane O. Muhleman o- the Cali-ornia nstitute o- Te,hnology des,ri1ed to
us the .ery di--i,ult te,hni,al -eat o- transmitting a set o- radio /ulses -rom a radio teles,o/e in
Cali-orniaAs MoJa.e 'esert, so they rea,h Titan, /enetrate through the haCe and ,louds to its
sur-a,e, are re-le,ted 1a,= into s/a,e, and then returned to Earth. "ere, the greatly en-ee1led
signal is /i,=ed u/ 1y an array o- radio teles,o/es near So,orro, !ew Me3i,o. >reat. - Titan
has a ro,=y or i,y sur-a,e, a radar /ulse re-le,ted o-- its sur-a,e should 1e dete,ta1le on Earth.
$ut i- Titan were ,o.ered with hydro,ar1on o,eans, Muhleman shouldnAt see a thingE LiKuid
hydro,ar1ons are 1la,= to these radio wa.es, and no e,ho would ha.e 1een returned to Earth.
n -a,t, MuhlemanAs giant radar system sees a re-le,tion when some longitudes o- Titan are
turned toward Earth, and not at other longitudes. All right, you might say, so Titan has o,eans
and ,ontinents, and it was a ,ontinent that re-le,ted the signals 1a,= to Earth. $ut i- Titani, in
this res/e,t li=e the EarthH-or some meridians 2through Euro/e and A-ri,a, say4 mainly
,ontinent, and -or others 2through the ,entral Pa,i-i,, say4 mainly o,eanHthen we must
,on-ront another /ro1lemE
The or1it o- Titan around Saturn is not a /er-e,t ,ir,le. itAs noti,ea1ly sKuashed out, or
elli/ti,al. - Titan has e3tensi.e o,eans, though, the giant /lanet Saturn around whi,h it or1its
will raise su1stantial tides on Titan, and the resulting tidal -ri,tion will ,ir,ulariCe TitanAs or1it in
mu,h less than the age o- the Solar System. n a ()+6 s,ienti-i, /a/er ,alled BThe Tide in the
Seas o- Titan,B Stanley 'ermott, now at the &ni.ersity o- Florida, and argued that -or this
reason Titan must 1e either an all0o,ean or an all0land world. Otherwise the tidal -ri,tion in
/la,es where the o,ean is shallow would ha.e ta=en its toll. La=es and islands might 1e
/ermitted, 1ut anything more and Titan would ha.e a .ery di--erent or1it than the one we see.
De ha.e, then, three s,ienti-i, argumentsHone ,on,luding that this world is almost entirely
,o.ered with hydro,ar1on o,eans, another that itAs a mi3 o- ,ontinents and o,eans, and a third
reKuiring us to ,hoose, ,ounseling that Titan ,anAt ha.e e3tensi.e o,eans and e3tensi.e
,ontinents at the same time. t will 1e interesting to see what the answer turns out to 1e.
Dhat A.e Just told you is a =ind o- s,ienti-i, /rogress re/ort. Tomorrow there might 1e a new
-inding that ,lears u/ these mysteries and ,ontradi,tions. May1e thereAs something wrong with
MuhlemanAs radar results, although itAs hard to see what it might 1eE "is system tells him heAs
seeing Titan when itAs nearest, when he ought to 1e seeing Titan. May1e thereAs something
wrong with 'ermottAs and my ,al,ulation a1out the tidal e.olution o- the or1it o- Titan, 1ut no
one has 1een a1le to -ind any errors so -ar. And itAs $ard to see how ethane ,an a.oid
,ondensing out at the sur-a,e o- Titan. May1e, des/ite the low tem/eratures, o.er 1illions o-
years thereAs 1een a ,hange in the ,hemistry< may1e some ,om1ination o- ,omets im/a,ting
-rom the s=y and .ol,anoes and other te,toni, e.ents, hel/ed along 1y ,osmi, rays, ,an
,ongeal liKuid hydro,ar1ons, turning them into some ,om/le3 organi, solid that re-le,ts radio
wa.es 1a,= to s/a,e. Or may1e something re-le,ti.e to radio wa.es is -loating on the o,ean
sur-a,e. $ut liKuid hydro,ar1ons are .ery underdenseE E.ery =nown organi, solid, unless
e3tremely -rothy, would sin= li=e a stone in the seas o- Titan.
'ermott and now wonder whether, when we imagined ,ontinents and o,eans on Titan, we
were too trans-i3ed 1y our e3/erien,e on our own world, too Earth0,hau.inist in our thin=ing.
$attered, ,ratered terrain and a1undant im/a,t 1asins ,o.er other moons in the Saturn
system. - we /i,tured liKuid hydro,ar1ons slowly a,,umulating on one o- those worlds, we
would wind u/ not with glo1al o,eans, 1ut with isolated large ,raters -illed, although not to
the 1rim, with liKuid hydro,ar1ons. Many ,ir,ular seas o- /etroleum, some o.er a hundred
miles a,ross, would 1e s/lattered a,ross the sur-a,eH1ut no /er,e/ti1le wa.es would 1e
stimulated 1y distant Saturn and, it is ,on.entional to thin=, no shi/s, no swimmers, no sur-ers,
and no -ishing. Tidal -ri,tion should, we ,al,ulate, 1e negligi1le in su,h a ,ase, and TitanAs
stret,hed0out, elli/ti,al or1it would not ha.e 1e,ome so ,ir,ular. De ,anAt =now -or sure until
we start getting radar or near0in-rared images o- the sur-a,e. $ut /erha/s this is the resolution
o- our dilemmaE Titan as a world o- large ,ir,ular hydro,ar1on la=es, more o- them in some
longitudes than in others.
Should we e3/e,t an i,y sur-a,e ,o.ered with dee/ tholin sediments, a hydro,ar1on o,ean
with at most a -ew organi, en,rusted islands /o=ing u/ here and there, a world o- ,rater la=es,
or something more su1tle that we ha.enAt yet -igured outF This isnAt Just an a,ademi, Kuestion,
1e,ause thereAs a real s/a,e,ra-t 1eing designed to go to Titan. n a Joint !ASA@ESA /rogram,
a s/a,e,ra-t ,alled Cassini will 1e laun,hed in O,to1er ())7Hi- all goes well. Dith two -ly1ys
o- %enus, one o- Earth, and one o- 9u/iter -or gra.itational assists, the shi/ will, a-ter a se.en0
year .oyage, 1e inJe,ted into or1it around Saturn. Ea,h time the s/a,e,ra-t ,omes ,lose to
Titan, the moon will 1e e3amined 1y an array o- instruments, in,luding radar. $e,ause Cassini
will 1e so mu,h ,loser to Titan, it will 1e a1le to resol.e many details on TitanAs sur-a,e
indete,ta1le to MuhlemanAs /ioneering Earth01ased system. tAs also li=ely that the sur-a,e ,an
1e .iewed in the near in-rared. Ma/s o- the hidden sur-a,e o- Titan may 1e in our hands
sometime in the summer o- 6::;.
Cassini is also ,arrying an entry /ro1e, -ittingly ,alled "uygens, whi,h will deta,h itsel- -rom
the main s/a,e,ra-t and /lummet into TitanAs atmos/here. A great /ara,hute will 1e de/loyed.
The instrument /a,=age will slowly settle through the organi, haCe down into the lower
atmos/here, through the methane ,louds. t will e3amine organi, ,hemistry as it des,ends,
andHi- it sur.i.es the landingHon the sur-a,e o- this world as well.
!othing is guaranteed. $ut the mission is te,hni,ally -easi1le, hardware is 1eing 1uilt, an
im/ressi.e ,oterie o- s/e,ialists, in,luding many young Euro/ean s,ientists, are hard at wor=
on it, and all the nations res/onsi1le seem ,ommitted to the /roJe,t. Perha/s it will a,tually
,ome a1out. Perha/s winging a,ross the 1illion miles o- inter.ening inter/lanetary s/a,e will
1e, in the not too distant -uture. news a1out how -ar along the /ath to li-e Titan has ,ome.
Cha$ter ;+ The First <ew Panet
im/lore you, you do not ho/e to 1e a1le to gi.e the reasons -or the num1er o- /lanets, do youF This worry has
1een resol.ed . . .
H 9O"A!!ES IEPLER, EPTOME OF COPER!CA! ASTRO!OM#, $OOI ; @ (56(
$e-ore we in.ented ,i.iliCation, our an,estors li.ed mainly in the o/en, out under the s=y.
$e-ore we de.ised arti-i,ial lights and atmos/heri, /ollution and modern -orms o- no,turnal
entertainment, we wat,hed the stars. There were /ra,ti,al ,alendri,al reasons, o- ,ourse, 1ut
there was more to it than that. E.en today, the most Jaded ,ity dweller ,an 1e une3/e,tedly
mo.ed u/on en,ountering a ,lear night s=y studded with thousands o- twin=ling stars. Dhen
it ha//ens to me a-ter all these years, it still ta=es my 1reath away.
n e.ery ,ulture, the s=y and the religious im/ulse are intertwined. lie 1a,= in an o/en -ield
and the s=y surround me. Am o.er/owered 1y its s,ale. tAs so .ast and so -ar away that my
own insigni-i,an,e 1e,omes /al/a1le. $ut donAt -eel reJe,ted 1y the s=y. Am a /art o- it, tiny,
to 1e sure, 1ut e.erything is tiny ,om/ared to that o.erwhelming immensity, And when
,on,entrate on the stars, the /lanets, and their motions, ha.e an irresisti1le sense o-
ma,hinery, ,lo,=wor=, elegant /re,ision wor=ing on a s,ale that, howe.er lo-ty our as/irations,
dwar-s and hum1les us.
Most o- the great in.entions in human historyH-rom stone tools and the domesti,ation o- -ire
to written languageHwere made 1y un=nown 1ene-a,tors. Our institutional memory o- long0
gone e.ents is -ee1le. De do not =now the name o- that an,estor who -irst noted that /lanets
were di--erent -rom stars. She or he must ha.e li.ed tens, /erha/s e.en hundreds o- thousands
o- years ago. $ut e.entually /eo/le all o.er the world understood that -i.e, no more, o- the
1right /oints o- light that gra,e the night s=y 1rea= lo,=ste/ with the others o.er a /eriod o-
months, mo.ing strangely0almost as i- they had minds o- their own.
Sharing the odd a//arent motion o- these /lanets were the Sun and Moon, ma=ing se.en
wandering 1odies in all. These se.en were im/ortant to the an,ients, and they named them
a-ter gods not any old gods, 1ut the main gods, the ,hie- gods, the ones who tell other gods
2and mortals4 what to do. One o- the /lanets, 1right and slow0mo.ing, was named 1y the
$a1ylonians a-ter Mardu=, 1y the !orse a-ter Odin, 1y the >ree=s a-ter ?eus, and 1y the
Romans a-ter 9u/iter, in ea,h ,ase the =ing o- the gods. The -aint, -ast0mo.ing one that was
ne.er -ar -rom the Sun the Romans named Mer,ury, a-ter the messenger o- the gods< the most
1rilliant o- them was named %enus, a-ter the goddess o- lo.e and 1eauty< the 1lood red one
Mars, a-ter the god o- war< and the most sluggish o- the 1un,h Saturn, a-ter the god o- time.
These meta/hors and allusions were the 1est our an,estors ,ould doE They /ossessed no
s,ienti-i, instruments 1eyond the na=ed eye, they were ,on-ined to the Earth, and they had no
idea that it, too, is a /lanet.
Dhen it got to 1e time to design the wee=Ha /eriod o- time, unli=e the day, month, and year,
with no intrinsi, astronomi,al signi-i,an,eHit was assigned se.en days, ea,h named a-ter one
o- the se.en anomalous lights in the night s=y. De ,an readily ma=e out the remnants o- this
,on.ention. n English, Saturday is SaturnAs day. Sunday and MoRoSnday are ,lear enough.
Tuesday through Friday are named a-ter the gods o- the Sa3on and =indred Teutoni, in.aders
o- Celti,@Roman $ritainE Dednesday, -or e3am/le, is OdinAs 2or DodinAs4 day, whi,h would 1e
more a//arent i- we /ronoun,ed it as itAs s/elled, BDednAs 'ayB< Thursday is ThorAs day< Friday
is the day o- Freya, goddess o- lo.e. The last day o- the wee= stayed Roman, the rest o- it
1e,ame >erman.
n all Roman,e languages, su,h as Fren,h, S/anish, and talian, the ,onne,tion is still more
o1.ious, 1e,ause they ; deri.e -rom an,ient Latin, in whi,h the days o- the wee= were named
2in order, 1eginning with Sunday4 a-ter the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mer,ury, 9u/iter, %enus, and
Saturn. 2The SunAs day 1e,ame the LordAs day.4 They ,ould ha.e named the days in order o- the
1rightness o- the ,orres/onding astronomi,al 1odiesHthe Sun, the Moon, %enus, 9u/iter,
Mars, Saturn, Mer,ury 2and thus Sunday, Monday, Friday, Thursday, Tuesday, Saturday,
Dednesday4H1ut they did not. - the days o- the wee= in Roman,e languages had 1een
ordered 1y distan,e -rom the Sun, the seKuen,e would 1e Sunday, Dednesday, Friday,
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. !o one =new the order o- the /lanets, though, 1a,=
when we were naming /lanets, gods, and days o- the wee=. The ordering o- the days o- the
wee= seems ar1itrary, although /erha/s it does a,=nowledge the /rima,y o- the Sun.
This ,olle,tion o- se.en gods, se.en days, and se.en worlds the Sun, the Moon, and the -i.e
wandering /lanets entered the /er,e/tions o- /eo/le e.erywhere. The num1er se.en 1egan to
a,Kuire su/ernatural ,onnotations. There were se.en Bhea.ens,B the trans/arent s/heri,al
shells, ,entered on the Earth, that were imagined to ma=e these worlds mo.e. The outermost
Hthe se.enth hea.enHis where the B-i3edB stars were imagined to reside. There are Se.en
'ays o- Creation 2i- we in,lude >odAs day o- rest4, se.en ori-i,es to the head, se.en .irtues,
se.en deadly sins, se.en e.il demons in Sumerian myth. se.en .owels in the >ree= al/ha1et
2ea,h a--iliated with a /lanetary god4, Se.en >o.ernors o- 'estiny a,,ording to the "ermetists,
Se.en >reat $oo=s o- Mani,haeism, Se.en Sa,raments, Se.en Sages o- An,ient >ree,e, and
se.en al,hemi,al B1odiesB 2gold, sil.er, iron, mer,ury, lead, tin, and ,o//erHgold still
asso,iated with the Sun, sil.er with the Moon, iron with Mars, et,.4. The se.enth son o- a
se.enth son is endowed with su/ernatural /owers. Se.en is a Blu,=yB num1er. n the !ew
TestamentAs $oo= o- Re.elations, se.en seals on a s,roll are o/ened, se.en trum/ets are
sounded, se.en 1owls are -illed. St. Augustine o1s,urely argued -or the mysti, im/ortan,e o-
se.en on the grounds that three Bis the -irst whole num1er that is oddB 2what a1out oneF4,
B-our the -irst that is e.enB 2what a1out twoF4, and Bo- these . . . se.en is ,om/osed.B And so
on. E.en in our time these asso,iations linger.
The e3isten,e e.en o- the -our satellites o- 9u/iter that >alileo dis,o.eredHhardly /lanetsH
was dis1elie.ed on the grounds that it ,hallenged the /re,eden,e o- the num1er se.en. As
a,,e/tan,e o- the Co/erni,an system grew, the Earth was added to the list o- /lanets, and the
Sun and Moon were remo.ed. Thus, there seemed to 1e only si3 /lanets 2Mer,ury, %enus,
Earth, Mars, 9u/iter, and Saturn4. So learned a,ademi, arguments were in.ented showing why
there had to 1e si3. For e3am/le, si3 is the -irst B/er-e,tB num1er, eKual to the sum o- its
di.isors 2( P 6 P 84. Q.E.'. And anyway, there were only si3 days o- ,reation, not se.en. Peo/le
-ound ways to a,,ommodate -rom se.en /lanets to si3.
As those ade/t at numerologi,al mysti,ism adJusted to the Co/erni,an system, this sel-0
indulgent mode o- thin=ing s/illed o.er -rom /lanets to moons. The Earth had one moon<
9u/iter had the -our >alilean moons. That made -i.e. Clearly one was missing. 2'onAt -orgetE Si3
is the -irst /er-e,t num1er.4 Dhen "uygens dis,o.ered Titan in (5**, he and many others
,on.in,ed themsel.es that it was the lastE Si3 /lanets, si3 moons, and >odAs in "is "ea.en.
The historian o- s,ien,e . $ernard Cohen o- "ar.ard &ni.ersity has /ointed out that "uygens
a,tually ga.e u/ sear,hing -or other moons 1e,ause it was a//arent, -rom su,h arguments,
that no more were to 1e -ound. Si3teen years later, ironi,ally with "uygens in attendan,e, >. '.
Cassim(6 o- the Paris O1ser.atory dis,o.ered a se.enth moonHa/etus, a 1iCarre world with
one hemis/here 1la,= and the other white, in an or1it e3terior to TitanAs. Shortly a-ter, Cassim
dis,o.ered Rhea, the ne3t Saturnian moon interior to Titan.
"ere was another o//ortunity -or numerology, this time harnessed to the /ra,ti,al tas= o-
-lattering /atrons. Cassim added u/ the num1er o- /lanets 2si34 and the num1er o- satellites
2eight4 and got -ourteen. !ow it so ha//ened that the man who 1uilt CassimAs o1ser.atory -or
him and /aid his salary was Louis X% o- Fran,e, the Sun Iing. The astronomer /rom/tly
B/resentedB these two new moons to his so.ereign and /ro,laimed that LouisAs B,onKuestsB
rea,hed to the ends o- the Solar System. 'is,reetly, Cassim then 1a,=ed o-- -rom loo=ing -or
more moons< Cohen suggests he was a-raid one more might now o--end LouisHa monar,h
not to 1e tri-led with, who would shortly 1e throwing his su1Je,ts into dungeons -or the ,rime
o- 1eing Protestants. Twel.e years later, though, Cassim returned to the sear,h and -oundH
dou1tless with a measure o- tre/idationHanother two moons. 2t is /ro1a1ly a good thing
that we ha.e not ,ontinued in this .ein< otherwise Fran,e would ha.e 1een 1urdened 1y
se.enty0some0odd $our1on =ings named Louis.4
Dhen ,laims o- new worlds were made in the late eighteenth ,entury, the -or,e o- su,h
numerologi,al arguments had mu,h dissi/ated. Still, it was with a real sense o- sur/rise that
/eo/le heard in (7+( a1out a new /lanet, dis,o.ered through the teles,o/e. !ew moons were
,om/arati.ely unim/ressi.e, es/e,ially a-ter the -irst si3 or eight. $ut that there were new
/lanets to 1e -ound and that humans had de.ised the means to do so were 1oth ,onsidered
astonishing, and /ro/erly so. - there is one /re.iously un=nown /lanet, there may 1e many
moreHin this solar system and in others. Dho ,an tell what might 1e -ound i- a multitude o-
new worlds are hiding in the dar=F
The dis,o.ery was made not e.en 1y a /ro-essional astronomer 1ut 1y Dilliam "ers,hel, a
musi,ian whose relati.es had ,ome to $ritain with the -amily o- another angli-ied >erman, the
reigning monar,h and -uture o//ressor o- the Ameri,an ,olonists, >eorge . t 1e,ame
"ers,helAs wish to ,all the /lanet >eorge 2B>eorgeAs Star,B a,tually4, a-ter his /atron. 1ut,
/ro.identially, the name didnAt sti,=. 2Astronomers seem to ha.e 1een .ery 1usy 1uttering u/
=ings.4 nstead, the /lanet that "ers,hel -ound is ,alled &ranus 2an ine3hausti1le sour,e o-
hilarity renewed in ea,h generation o- English0s/ea=ing nine0year0olds4. t is named a-ter the
an,ient s=y god who, a,,ording to >ree= myth, was SaturnAs -ather and thus the grand-ather o-
the Olym/ian gods.
De no longer ,onsider the Sun and Moon to 1e /lanets, and ignoring the ,om/arati.ely
insigni-i,ant asteroids and ,omets, ,ount &ranus as the se.enth /lanet in order -rom the Sun
2Mer,ury, %enus, Earth, Mars, 9u/iter, Saturn, &ranus, !e/tune, Pluto4. t is the -irst /lanet
un=nown to the an,ients. The -our outer, 9o.ian, /lanets turn out to 1e .ery di--erent -rom the
-our inner, terrestrial, /lanets. Pluto is a se/arate ,ase.
As the years /assed and the Kuality o- astronomi,al instruments un/ro.ed, we 1egan to learn
more a1out distant &ranus. Dhat re-le,ts the dim sunlight 1a,= to us is no solid sur-a,e, 1ut
atmos/here and ,louds Just as -or Titan, %enus, 9u/iter Saturn, and !e/tune. The air on &ranus
is made o- hydrogen and helium, the two sim/lest gases. Methane and other hydro,ar1ons
are also /resent. 9ust 1elow the ,louds .isi1le to Earth1ound o1ser.ers is a massi.e
atmos/here with enormous Kuantities o- ammonia, hydrogen sul-ide, and, es/e,ially, water.
At de/th on 9u/iter and Saturn, the /ressures are so great that atoms sweat ele,trons, and the
air 1e,omes a metal. That does not seem to ha//en on less massi.e &ranus, 1e,ause the
/ressures at de/th are less. Still dee/er, dis,o.ered only 1y its su1tle tugs on &ranusA moons,
wholly ina,,essi1le to .iew, under the ,rushing weight o- the o.erlying atmos/here, is a ro,=y
sur-a,e. A 1ig Earthli=e /lanet is hiding down there, swathed in an immense 1lan=et o- air.
The EarthAs sur-a,e tem/erature is due to the sunlight it inter,e/ts. Turn o-- the Sun and the
/lanet soon ,hillsHnot to tri-ling Antar,ti, ,old, not Just so ,old that the o,eans -reeCe, 1ut to
a ,old so intense that the .ery air /re,i/itates out, -orming a ten0meter0thi,= layer o- o3ygen
and nitrogen snows ,o.ering the whole /lanet. The little 1it o- energy that tri,=les u/ -rom the
EarthAs hot interior would 1e insu--i,ient to melt these snows. For 9u/iter, Saturn, and !e/tune
itAs di--erent. ThereAs a1out as mu,h heat /ouring out -rom their interiors as they a,Kuire -rom
the warmth o- the distant Sun. Turn o-- the Sun, and they would 1e only a little a--e,ted.
$ut &ranus is another story. &ranus is an anomaly among the 9o.ian /lanets. &ranus is li=e the
EarthE ThereAs .ery little intrinsi, heat /ouring out. De ha.e no good understanding o- why
this should 1e, why &ranusHwhi,h in many res/e,ts is so similar to !e/tuneHshould la,= a
/otent sour,e o- internal heat. For this reason, among others, we ,annot say we understand
what is going on in the dee/ interiors o- these mighty worlds.
&ranus is lying on its side as it goes around the Sun. n the ()):s. the south /ole is heated 1y
the Sun, and it is this /ole that Earth1ound o1ser.ers at the end o- the twentieth ,entury see
when they loo= at &ranus. t ta=es &ranus +; Earth years to ma=e one ,ir,uit o- the Sun. So in
the 6:8:s, the north /ole will 1e sunward 2and Earthward4. n the 6:7:s the south /ole will 1e
/ointing to the Sun on,e again. n 1etween, Earth1ound astronomers will 1e loo=ing mainly at
eKuatorial latitudes.
All the other /lanets s/in mu,h more u/right in their or1its. !o one is sure o- the reason -or
&ranusA anomalous s/in< the most /romising suggestion is that sometime in its early history,
1illions o- years ago, it was stru,= 1y a rogue /lanet, a1out the siCe o- the Earth, in a highly
e,,entri, or1it. Su,h a ,ollision, i- it e.er ha//ened, must ha.e wor=ed mu,h tumult in the
&ranus system< -or all we =now, there may 1e other .estiges o- an,ient ha.o, still le-t -or us to
-ind. $ut &ranusA remoteness tends to guard its mysteries.
n ()77 a team o- s,ientists led 1y 9ames Elliot, then o- Cornell &ni.ersity, a,,identally
dis,o.ered that, li=e Saturn, &ranus has rings. The s,ientists were -lying o.er the ndian O,ean
in a s/e,ial !ASA air/laneHthe Iui/er Air1orne O1ser.atoryHto witness the /assage o-
&ranus in -ront o- a star. 2Su,h /assages, or o,,ultations as theyAre ,alled, ha//en -rom time to
time, /re,isely 1e,ause &ranus slowly mo.es with res/e,t to the distant stars.4 The o1ser.ers
were sur/rised to -ind that the star win=ed on and o-- se.eral times Just 1e-ore it /assed
1ehind &ranus and its atmos/here, then se.eral times more Just a-ter it emerged. Sin,e the
/atterns o- win=ing on and o-- were the same 1e-ore and a-ter o,,ultation, this -inding 2and
mu,h su1seKuent wor=4 has led to the dis,o.ery o- nine .ery thin, .ery dar= ,ir,um/lanetary
rings, gi.ing &ranus the a//earan,e o- a 1ullAs0eye in the s=y.
Surrounding the rings, Earth1ound o1ser.ers understood were the ,on,entri, or1its o- the -i.e
moons then =nownE Miranda, Ariel, &m1riel, Titania, and O1eron. TheyAre named a-ter
,hara,ters in Sha=es/eareAs A Midsummer !ightAs 'ream and The Tem/est, and in Ale3ander
Po/eAs The Ra/e o- the Lo,=. Two o- them were -ound 1y "ers,hel himsel-. The innermost o-
the -i.e, Miranda, was dis,o.ered as re,ently as ();+, 1y my tea,her >. P. Iui/er.(8 remem1er
how great an a,hie.ement the dis,o.ery o- a new moon o- &ranus was ,onsidered 1a,= then.
The near0in-rared light re-le,ted 1y all -i.e moons su1seKuently re.ealed the s/e,tral signature
o- ordinary water i,e on their Sur-a,es. And no wonderH&ranus is so -ar -rom the Sun that it is
no 1righter there at noontime than it is a-ter sunset on Earth. The tem/eratures are -rigid. Any
water must 1e -roCen.
A re.olution in our understanding o- the &ranus systemHthe /lanet, its rings, and its moonsH
1egan on 9anuary 6;, ()+5. On that day, a-ter a Journey o- +M years, the %oyager 6 s/a,e,ra-t
sailed .ery near to Miranda, and hit the 1ullAs0eye in the s=y. &ranusA gra.ity then -lung it on to
!e/tune. The s/a,e,ra-t returned ;,8:: ,lose0u/ /i,tures o- the &ranus system and a wealth
o- other data.
&ranus was -ound to 1e surrounded 1y an intense radiation 1elt, ele,trons and /rotons
tra//ed 1y the /lanetAs magneti, -ield. %oyager -lew through this radiation 1elt, measuring the
magneti, -ield and the tra//ed ,harged /arti,les as it went. t also dete,tedHin ,hanging
tim1res, harmonies, and nuan,e, 1ut mainly in -ortissimoHa ,a,o/hony o- radio wa.es
generated 1y the s/eeding, tra//ed /arti,les. Something similar was dis,o.ered on 9u/iter
and Saturn and would 1e later -ound at !e/tuneH1ut always with a theme and ,ounter/oint
,hara,teristi, o- ea,h world.
On Earth the magneti, and geogra/hi,al /oles are Kuite ,lose together. On &ranus the
magneti, a3is and the a3is o- rotation are tilted away -rom ea,h other 1y some 5: degrees. !o
one yet understands whyE Some ha.e suggested that we are ,at,hing &ranus in a re.ersal o- its
north and south magneti, /oles, as /eriodi,ally ha//ens on Earth. Others /ro/ose that this
too is the ,onseKuen,e o- that mighty, an,ient ,ollision that =no,=ed the /lanet o.er. $ut we
do not =now.
&ranus is emitting mu,h more ultra.iolet light than itAs re,ei.ing -rom the Sun, /ro1a1ly
generated 1y ,harged /arti,les lea=ing out o- the magnetos/here and stri=ing its u//er
atmos/here. From a .antage /oint in the &ranus system, the s/a,e,ra-t e3amined a 1right star
win=ing on and o-- as the rings o- &ranus /assed 1y. !ew -aint dust 1ands were -ound. From
the /ers/e,ti.e o- Earth, the s/a,e,ra-t /assed 1ehind &ranus< so the radio signals it was
transmitting 1a,= home /assed tangentially through the &ranian atmos/here, /ro1ing itHto
1elow its methane ,louds. A .ast and dee/ o,ean, /erha/s +,::: =ilometers thi,=, o- su/er0
heated liKuid water -loating in the air is in-erred 1y some.
Among the /rin,i/al glories o- the &ranus en,ounter were the /i,tures. Dith %oyagerAs
two tele.ision ,ameras, we dis,o.ered ten new moons, determined the length o- the day in
the ,louds o- &ranus 2a1out (7 hours4, and studied a1out a doCen rings. The most s/e,ta,ular
/i,tures were those returned -rom the -i.e larger, /re.iously =nown moons o- &ranus,
es/e,ially the smallest o- them, Iui/erAs Miranda. ts sur-a,e is a tumult o- -ault .alleys, /arallel
ridges, sheer ,li--s, low mountains, im/a,t ,raters, and -roCen -loods o- on,e0molten sur-a,e
material. This turmoiled lands,a/e is une3/e,ted -or a small, ,old, i,y world so distant -rom
the Sun. Perha/s the sur-a,e was melted and rewor=ed in some long0gone e/o,h when a
gra.itational resonan,e 1etween &ranus, Miranda, and Ariel /um/ed energy -rom the near1y
/lanet into MirandaAs interior. Or /erha/s we are seeing the results o- the /rimordial ,ollision
that is thought to ha.e =no,=ed &ranus o.er. Or, Just ,on,ei.a1ly, may1e Miranda was on,e
utterly destroyed, dismem1ered, 1lasted into smithereens 1y a wild ,areening world, with
many ,ollision -ragments still le-t in MirandaAs or1it. The shards and remnants, slowly ,olliding,
gra.itationally attra,ting one another, may ha.e re0aggregated into Just su,h a Jum1led,
/at,hy, un-inished world as Miranda is today.
For me, thereAs something eerie a1out the /i,tures o- dus=y Miranda, 1e,ause ,an
remem1er so well when it U.as only a -aint /oint o- light almost lost in the glare o- &ranus,
dis,o.ered through great di--i,ulty 1y dint o- the astronomerAs s=ills and /atien,e. n only hal-
a li-etime it has gone -rom an undis,o.ered world to a destination whose an,ient and
idiosyn,rati, se,rets ha.e 1een at least /artially re.ealed.
Cha$ter 9+ %n %merican shi$ at the -rontiers o- the Soar System
. . . 1y the shore o- TritonAs La=e . . .
will ,lear my 1reast o- se,rets.
HE&RP'ES, O! 2CA. ;(8 $.C.4
!e/tune was the -inal /ort o- ,all in %oyager 6As grand tour o- the Solar System. &sually, it is
thought o- as the /enultimate /lanet, with Pluto the outermost. $ut 1e,ause o- PlutoAs
stret,hed0out, elli/ti,al or1it, !e/tune has lately 1een the outermost /lanet, and will remain
so until ())). Ty/i,al tem/eratures in its u//er ,louds are a1out 06;:TC, 1e,ause it is so -ar
-rom the warming rays o- the Sun. t would 1e ,older still e3,e/t -or the heat welling u/ -rom
its interior. !e/tune glides along the hem o- interstellar night. t is so -ar away that, in its s=y,
the Sun a//ears as little more than an e3tremely 1right star.
"ow -arF So -ar away that it has yet to ,om/lete a single tri/ around the Sun, a !e/tunian
year, sin,e its dis,o.ery in (+;5.(; tAs so -ar away that it ,annot 1e seen with the na=ed eye.
tAs so -ar away that it ta=es lightH-aster than whi,h nothing ,an goHmore than -i.e hours to
get -rom !e/tune to Earth.
Dhen %oyager 6 ra,ed through the !e/tune system in ()+), its ,ameras, s/e,trometers,
/arti,le and -ield dete,tors, and other instruments were -e.erishly e3amining the /lanet, its
moons, and its rings. The /lanet itsel-, li=e its ,ousins 9u/iter, Saturn, and &ranus, is a giant.
E.ery /lanet is an Earthli=e world at heartH1ut the -our gas giants wear ela1orate,
,um1ersome disguises. 9u/iter and Saturn are great gas worlds with relati.ely small ro,=y and
i,y ,ores. $ut &ranus and !e/tune are -undamentally ro,= and i,e worlds swaddled in dense
atmos/heres that hide them -rom .iew.
!e/tune is -our times 1igger than the Earth. Dhen we loo= down on its ,ool, austere 1lueness,
again we are seeing only atmos/here and ,loudsHno solid sur-a,e. Again, the atmos/here is
made mainly o- hydrogen and helium, with a little methane and tra,es o- other hydro,ar1ons.
There may also 1e some nitrogen. The 1right ,louds, whi,h seem to 1e methane ,rystals, -loat
a1o.e thi,=, dee/er ,louds o- un=nown ,om/osition. From the motion o- the ,louds we
dis,o.ered -ier,e winds, a//roa,hing the lo,al s/eed o- sound. A >reat 'ar= S/ot was -ound,
,uriously at almost the same latitude as the >reat Red S/ot on 9u/iter. The aCure ,olor seems
a//ro/riate -or a /lanet named a-ter the god o- the sea.
Surrounding this dimly lit, ,hilly, stormy, remote world isHhere alsoHa system o- rings, ea,h
,om/osed o- innumera1le or1iting o1Je,ts ranging in siCe -rom the -ine /arti,les in ,igarette
smo=e to small tru,=s. Li=e the rings o- the other 9o.ian /lanets, those o- !e/tune seem to 1e
e.anes,entHit is ,al,ulated that gra.ity and solar radiation will disru/t them in mu,h less than
the age o- the Solar System. - they are destroyed Kui,=ly, we must see them only 1e,ause they
were made re,ently. $ut how ,an rings 1e madeF
The 1iggest moon in the !e/tune system is ,alled Triton.(* !early si3 o- our days are reKuired
-or it to or1it !e/tune, whi,hHalone among 1ig moons in the Solar SystemHit does in the
o//osite dire,tion to whi,h its /lanet s/ins 2,lo,=wise i- we say !e/tune rotates
,ounter,lo,=wise4. Triton has a nitrogen0ri,h atmos/here, somewhat similar to TitanAs< 1ut,
1e,ause the air and haCe are mu,h thinner, we ,an see its sur-a,e. The lands,a/es are .aried
and s/lendid. This is a world o- i,esHnitrogen i,e, methane i,e, /ro1a1ly underlain 1y more
-amiliar water i,e and ro,=. There are im/a,t 1asins, whi,h seem to ha.e 1een -looded with
liKuid 1e-ore re-reeCing 2so there on,e were la=es on Triton4< im/a,t ,raters< long ,riss,rossing
.alleys< .ast /lains ,o.ered 1y -reshly -allen nitrogen snow< /u,=ered terrain that resem1les the
s=in o- a ,antalou/e< and more or less /arallel, long, dar= strea=s that seem to ha.e 1een
1lown 1y the wind and then de/osited on the i,y sur-a,e des/ite how s/arse TritonAs
atmos/here is 2a1out (@(:,::: the thi,=ness o- the EarthAs4.
All the ,raters on Triton are /ristineHas i- stam/ed out 1y some .ast milling de.i,e. There are
no slum/ed walls or muted relie-. E.en with the /eriodi, -alling and e.a/oration o- snow, it
seems that nothing has eroded the sur-a,e o- Triton in 1illions o- years. So the ,raters that
were gouged out during the -ormation o- Triton must ha.e all 1een -illed in and ,o.ered o.er
1y some early glo1al resur-a,ing e.ent. Triton or1its !e/tune in the o//osite dire,tion to
!e/tuneAs rotationHunli=e the situation with the Earth and its moon, and with most o- the
large moons in the Solar System. - Triton had -ormed out o- the same s/inning dis= that made
!e/tune, it ought to 1e going around !e/tune in the same dire,tion that !e/tune rotates. So
Triton was not made -rom the original lo,al ne1ula around !e/tune, 1ut arose somewhere
elseH/erha/s -ar 1eyond PlutoHand was 1y ,han,e gra.itationally ,a/tured when it /assed
too ,lose to !e/tune. This e.ent should ha.e raised enormous solid01ody tides in Triton,
melting the sur-a,e and swee/ing away all the /ast to/ogra/hy.
n some /la,es the sur-a,e is as 1right and white as -reshly -allen Antar,ti, snows 2and may
o--er a s=iing e3/erien,e unri.aled in all the Solar System4. Elsewhere thereAs a tint, ranging
-rom /in= to 1rown. One /ossi1le e3/lanationE Freshly -allen snows o- nitrogen, methane, and
other hydro,ar1ons are irradiated 1y solar ultra.iolet light and 1y ele,trons tra//ed in the
magneti, -ield o- !e/tune, through whi,h Triton /lows. De =now that su,h irradiation will
,on.ert the snows 2li=e the ,orres/onding gases4 to ,om/le3, dar=, reddish organi, sediments,
i,e tholinsHnothing ali.e, 1ut here too ,om/osed o- some o- the mole,ules im/li,ated in the
origin o- li-e on Earth -our 1illion years ago.
n lo,al winter, layers o- i,e and snow 1uild u/ on the sur-a,e. 2Our winters, mer,i-ully, are only
; /er,ent as long.4 Through the s/ring, they are slowly trans-ormed, more and more reddish
organi, mole,ules a,,umulating. $y summertime, the i,e and snow ha.e e.a/orated< the
gases so released migrate hal-way a,ross the /lanet to the winter hemis/here and there ,o.er
the sur-a,e with i,e and snow again. $ut the reddish organi, mole,ules do not .a/oriCe and
are not trans/ortedHa lag de/osit, they are ne3t winter ,o.ered o.er 1y new snows, whi,h are
in turn irradiated, and 1y the -ollowing summer the a,,umulation is thi,=er. As time goes on,
su1stantial amounts o- organi, matter are 1uilt u/ on the sur-a,e o- Triton, whi,h may a,,ount
-or its deli,ate ,olor mar=ings.
The strea=s 1egin in small, dar= sour,e regions, /erha/s when the warmth o- s/ring and
summer heats su1sur-a,e .olatile snows. As they .a/oriCe, gas ,omes gushing out as in a
geyser, 1lowing o-- less0.olatile sur-a,e snows and dar= organi,s. Pre.ailing low0s/eed winds
,arry away the dar= organi,s, whi,h slowly sediment out o- the thin air, are de/osited on the
ground, and generate the a//earan,e o- the strea=s. This, at least, is one re,onstru,tion o-
re,ent Tritonian history.
Triton may ha.e large, seasonal /olar ,a/s o- smooth nitrogen i,e underlying layers o- dar=
organi, materials. !itrogen snows seem re,ently to ha.e -allen at the eKuator. Snow-alls,
geysers, wind1lown organi, dust, and high0altitude haCes were entirely une3/e,ted on a world
with so thin an atmos/here.
Dhy is the air so thinF $e,ause Triton is so -ar -rom the Sun. Dere you somehow to /i,= this
world u/ and mo.e it into or1it around Saturn, the nitrogen and methane i,es would Kui,=ly
e.a/orate, a mu,h denser atmos/here o- gaseous nitrogen and methane would -orm, and
radiation would generate an o/aKue tholin haCe. t would 1e,ome a world .ery li=e Titan.
Con.ersely, i- you mo.ed Titan into or1it a1out !e/tune, almost all its atmos/here would
-reeCe out as snows and i,es, the tholin would -all out and not 1e re/la,ed, the air would ,lear,
and the sur-a,e would 1e,ome .isi1le in ordinary light. t would 1e,ome a world .ery li=e
Triton.
These two worlds are not identi,al. The interior o- Titan seems to ,ontain mu,h more i,e than
that o- Triton, and mu,h less ro,=. TitanAs diameter is almost twi,e that o- Triton. Still, i- /la,ed
at the same distan,e -rom the Sun they would loo= li=e sisters. Alan Stern o- the Southwest
Resear,h nstitute suggests that they are two mem1ers o- a .ast ,olle,tion o- small worlds ri,h
in nitrogen and methane that -ormed in the early Solar System. Pluto, yet to 1e .isited 1y a
s/a,e,ra-t, a//ears to 1e another mem1er o- this grou/. Many more may await dis,o.ery
1eyond Pluto. The thin atmos/heres and i,y sur-a,es o- all these worlds are 1eing irradiatedH
1y ,osmi, rays, i- nothing else and nitrogenHri,h organi, ,om/ounds are 1eing -ormed. t
loo=s as i- the stu-- o- li-e is sitting not Just on Titan, 1ut throughout the ,old, dimly lit outer
rea,hes o- our /lanetary system.
Another ,lass o- small o1Je,ts has re,ently 1een dis,o.ered, whose or1its ta=e themHat least
/art o- the timeH1eyond !e/tune and Pluto. Sometimes ,alled minor /lanets or asteroids,
they are more li=ely to 1e ina,ti.e ,omets 2with no tails, o- ,ourse< so -ar -rom the Sun, their
i,es ,annot readily .a/oriCe4. $ut they are mu,h 1igger than the run0o-0the0mill ,omets we
=now. They may 1e the .anguard o- a .ast array o- small worlds that e3tends -rom the or1it o-
Pluto hal-way to the nearest star. The innermost /ro.in,e o- the Oort Comet Cloud, o- whi,h
these new o1Je,ts may 1e mem1ers, is ,alled the Iui/er $elt, a-ter my mentor >erard Iui/er,
who -irst suggested that it should e3ist. Short0/eriod ,ometsHli=e "alleyAsHarise in the Iui/er
$elt, res/ond to gra.itational tugs, swee/ into the inner /art o- the Solar System, grow their
tails, and gra,e our s=ies.
$a,= in the late nineteenth ,entury, these 1uilding 1lo,=s o- worldsHthen mere hy/othesesH
were ,alled B/lanetesimals.B The -la.or o- the word is, su//ose, something li=e that o-
Bin-initesimalsBE #ou need an in-inite num1er o- them to ma=e anything. tAs not Kuite that
e3treme with /lanetesimals, although a .ery large num1er o- them would 1e reKuired to
ma=e a /lanet. For e3am/le, trillions o- 1odies ea,h a =ilometer in siCe would 1e needed to
,oales,e to ma=e a /lanet with the mass o- the Earth. On,e there were mu,h larger num1ers
o- worldlets in the /lanetary /art o- the Solar System. Most o- them are now goneHeJe,ted
into interstellar s/a,e, -allen into the Sun, or sa,ri-i,ed in the great enter/rise o- 1uilding
moons and /lanets. $ut out 1eyond !e/tune and Pluto the dis,ards, the le-to.ers that were
ne.er aggregated into worlds, may 1e waitingHa -ew largish ones in the (::0=ilometer range,
and stu/e-ying num1ers o- =ilometer0siCed and smaller 1odies /e//ering the outer Solar
System all the way out to the Oort Cloud.
n this sense there are /lanets 1eyond !e/tune and PlutoH1ut they are not nearly as 1ig as
the 9o.ian /lanets, or e.en Pluto. Larger worlds may, -or all we =now, also 1e hiding in the dar=
1eyond Pluto, worlds that ,an /ro/erly 1e ,alled /lanets. The -arther away they are, the less
li=ely it is that we would ha.e dete,ted them. They ,annot lie Just 1eyond !e/tune, though<
their gra.itational tugs would ha.e /er,e/ti1ly altered the or1its o- !e/tune and Pluto, and
the Pioneer (: and (( and %oyager ( and 6 s/a,e,ra-t.
The newly dis,o.ered ,ometary 1odies 2with names li=e ())6Q$ and ())8FD4 are not /lanets
in this sense. - our dete,tion threshold has Just en,om/assed them, many more o- them
/ro1a1ly remain to 1e dis,o.ered in the outer Solar SystemHso -ar away that theyAre hard to
see -rom Earth, so distant that itAs a long Journey to get to them. $ut small, Kui,= shi/s to Pluto
and 1eyond are within our a1ility. t would ma=e good sense to dis/at,h one 1y Pluto and its
moon Charon, and then, i- we ,an, to ma=e a ,lose /ass 1y one o- the deniCens o- the Iui/er
Comet $elt.
The ro,=y Earthli=e ,ores o- &ranus and !e/tune seem to ha.e a,,reted -irst, and then
gra.itationally attra,ted massi.e amounts o- hydrogen and helium gas -rom the an,ient
ne1ula out o- whi,h the /lanets -ormed. Originally, they li.ed in a hailstorm. Their gra.ities
were Just su--i,ient to eJe,t i,y worldlets, when they ,ame too ,lose, -ar out 1eyond the realm
o- the /lanets, to /o/ulate the Oort Comet Cloud. 9u/iter and Saturn 1e,ame gas giants 1y
the same /ro,ess. $ut their gra.ities were too strong to /o/ulate the Oort CloudE ,e worlds
that ,ame ,lose to them were gra.itationally /it,hed out o- the Solar System entirelyH
destined to wander -ore.er in the great dar= 1etween the stars.
So the lo.ely ,omets that on o,,asion rouse us humans to wonder and to awe, that ,rater the
sur-a,es o- inner /lanets and outer moons, and that now and then endanger li-e on Earth
would 1e un=nown and unthreatening had &ranus and !e/tune not grown to 1e giant worlds
-our and a hal- 1illion years ago.
This is the /la,e -or a 1rie- interlude on /lanets -ar 1eyond !e/tune and Pluto, /lanets o-
other stars.
Many near1y stars are surrounded 1y thin dis=s o- or1iting gas and dust, o-ten e3tending to
hundreds o- astronomi,al units 2A&4 -rom the lo,al star 2the outermost /lanets, !e/tune and
Pluto, are a1out ;: A& -rom our Sun4. #ounger Sun0li=e stars are mu,h more li=ely to ha.e
dis=s than older ones. n some ,ases, thereAs a hole in the ,enter o- the dis= as in a
/honogra/h re,ord. The hole e3tends out -rom the star to /erha/s 8: or ;: A&. This is true,
-or e3am/le, -or the dis=s surrounding the stars %ega and E/silon Eridam. The hole in the dis=
surrounding $eta Pi,toris e3tends to only (* A& -rom the star. There is a real /ossi1ility that
these inner, dust0-ree Cones ha.e 1een ,leaned u/ 1y /lanets that re,ently -ormed there.
ndeed, this swee/ing0out /ro,ess is /redi,ted -or the early history o- our /lanetary system. As
o1ser.ations im/ro.e, /erha/s we will see telltale details in the ,on-iguration o- dust and dust0
-ree Cones that will indi,ate the /resen,e o- /lanets too small and dar= to 1e seen dire,tly.
S/e,tros,o/i, data suggest that these dis=s are ,hurning and that matter is -alling in on the
,entral starsH/erha/s -rom ,omets -ormed in the dis=, de-le,ted 1y the unseen /lanets, and
e.a/orating as they a//roa,h too ,lose to the lo,al sun.
$e,ause /lanets are small and shine 1y re-le,ted light, they tend to 1e washed out in the glare
o- the lo,al sun. !e.ertheless, many e--orts are now under way to -ind -ully -ormed /lanets
around near1y starsH1y dete,ting a -aint 1rie- dimming o- starlight as a dar= /lanet
inter/oses itsel- 1etween the star and the o1ser.er on Earth< or 1y sensing a -aint wo11le in
the motion o- the star as itAs tugged -irst one way and then another 1y an otherwise in.isi1le
or1iting ,om/anion. S/a,e1orne te,hniKues will 1e mu,h more sensiti.e. A 9o.ian /lanet
going around a near1y star is a1out a 1illion times -ainter than its sun< ne.ertheless, a new
generation o- ground01ased teles,o/es that ,an ,om/ensate -or the twin=ling in the EarthAs
atmos/here may soon 1e a1le to dete,t su,h /lanets in only a -ew hoursA o1ser.ing time. A
terrestrial /lanet o- a neigh1oring star is a hundred times -ainter still< 1ut it now seems that
,om/arati.ely ine3/ensi.e s/a,e,ra-t, a1o.e the EarthAs atmos/here, might 1e a1le to dete,t
other Earths. !one o- these sear,hes has su,,eeded yet, 1ut we are ,learly on the .erge o-
1eing a1le to dete,t at least 9u/iter0siCed /lanets around the nearest starsHi- there are any to
1e -ound.
A most im/ortant and serendi/itous re,ent dis,o.ery is o- a 1ona -ide /lanetary system
around an unli=ely star, some (,8:: light0years away, -ound 1y a most une3/e,ted te,hniKueE
The /ulsar designated $(6*7P(6 is a ra/idly rotating neutron star, an un1elie.a1ly dense sun,
the remnant o- a massi.e star that su--ered a su/erno.a e3/losion. t s/ins, at a rate measured
to im/ressi.e /re,ision, on,e e.ery :.::56(+*8()8++(+7 se,onds. This /ulsar is /ushing
(:,::: r/m.
Charged /arti,les tra//ed in its intense magneti, -ield generate radio wa.es that are ,ast
a,ross the Earth, a1out (5: -li,=ers a se,ond. Small 1ut dis,erni1le ,hanges in the -lash rate
were tentati.ely inter/reted 1y Ale3ander DolsC,Can, now at Pennsyl.ania State &ni.ersity, in
())(Has a tiny re-le3 motion o- the /ulsar in res/onse to the /resen,e o- /lanets. n ()); the
/redi,ted mutual gra.itational intera,tions o- these /lanets were ,on-irmed 1y DolsC,Can
-rom a study o- timing residuals at the mi,rose,ond le.el o.er the inter.ening years. The
e.iden,e that these are truly new /lanets and not starKua=es on the neutron star sur-a,e 2or
something4 is now o.erwhelmingHor, as DolsC,Can /ut it, Birre-uta1leB< a new solar system is
Bunam1iguously identi-ied.B &nli=e all the other te,hniKues, the /ulsar timing method ma=es
,lose0in terrestrial /lanets ,om/arati.ely easy and more distant 9o.ian /lanets ,om/arati.ely
di--i,ult to dete,t.
Planet C, some 6.+ times more massi.e than the Earth, or1its the /ulsar e.ery )+ days at a
distan,e o- :.;7 astronomi,al units(5 2A&4< Planet $, with a1out 8.; Earth masses, has a 570
Earth0day year at :.85 A&. A smaller world, Planet A, still ,loser to the star, with a1out :.:(*
Earth masses, is at :.() A&. Crudely s/ea=ing, Planet $ is roughly at the distan,e o- Mer,ury
-rom our Sun< Planet C is midway 1etween the distan,es o- Mer,ury and %enus< and interior to
1oth o- them is Planet A, roughly the mass o- the Moon at a1out hal- Mer,uryAs distan,e -rom
our Sun. Dhether these /lanets are the remnants o- an earlier /lanetary system that somehow
sur.i.ed the su/erno.a e3/losion that /rodu,ed the /ulsar, or whether they -ormed -rom the
resulting ,ir,umstellar a,,retion dis= su1seKuent to the su/erno.a e3/losion, we do not =now.
$ut in either ,ase, we ha.e now learned that there are other Earths.
The energy /ut out 1y $(6*7P(6 is a1out ;.7 times that o- gun. $ut, unli=e the Sun, most
o- this is not in .isi1le light, 1ut in a -ier,e hurri,ane o- ele,tri,ally ,harged /arti,les. Su//ose
that these /arti,les im/inge on the /lanets and heat them. Then, e.en a /lanet at ( A& would
ha.e a sur-a,e around 6+: Celsius degrees a1o.e the normal 1oiling /oint o- water, greater
than the tem/erature o- %enus.
These dar= and 1roiling /lanets do not seem hos/ita1le -or li-e. $ut there may 1e others,
-arther -rom $(6*7P(6, that are. 2"ints o- at least one ,ooler, outer world in the $(6*7P(6
system e3ist.4 O- ,ourse, we donAt e.en =now that su,h worlds would retain their atmos/heres<
/erha/s any atmos/heres were stri//ed away in the su/erno.a e3/losion, i- they date 1a,=
that -ar. $ut we do seem to 1e dete,ting a re,ogniCa1le /lanetary system. Many more are
li=ely to 1e,ome =nown in ,oming de,ades, around ordinary Sun0li=e stars as well as white
dwar-s, /ulsars, and other end states o- stellar e.olution.
E.entually, we will ha.e a list o- /lanetary systemsHea,h /erha/s with terrestrials and
9o.ians and may1e new ,lasses o- /lanets. De will e3amine these worlds, s/e,tros,o/i,ally and
in other ways. De will 1e sear,hing -or new Earths and other li-e.
On none o- the worlds in the outer Solar System did %oyager -ind signs o- li-e, mu,h less
intelligen,e. There was organi, Matter galoreHthe stu-- o- li-e, the /remonitions o- li-e,
/erha/s 1ut as -ar as we ,ould see, no li-e. There was no o3ygen in their atmos/heres, and no
gases /ro-oundly out o- ,hemi,al eKuili1rium, as methane is in the EarthAs o3ygen. Many o-
the worlds were /ainted with su1tle ,olors, 1ut none with su,h distin,ti.e, shar/ a1sor/tion
-eatures as ,hloro/hyll /ro.ides o.er mu,h o- the EarthAs sur-a,e. On .ery -ew worlds was
%oyager a1le to resol.e details as small as a =ilometer a,ross. $y this standard, it would not
ha.e dete,ted e.en our own te,hni,al ,i.iliCation had it 1een trans/lanted to the outer Solar
System. $ut -or what itAs worth, we -ound no regular /atterning, no geometriCation, no /assion
-or small ,ir,les, triangles, sKuares, or re,tangles. There were no ,onstellations o- steady /oints
o- light on the night hemis/heres. There were no signs o- a te,hni,al ,i.iliCation rewor=ing the
sur-a,e o- any o- these worlds.
The 9o.ian /lanets are /roli-i, 1road,asters o- radio wa.esHgenerated in /art 1y the
a1undant tra//ed and 1eamed ,harged /arti,les in their magneti, -ields, in /art 1y lightning,
and in /art 1y their hot interiors. $ut none o- this emission has the ,hara,ter o- intelligent li-e
Hor so it seems to the e3/erts in the -ield.
O- ,ourse our thin=ing may 1e too narrow. De may 1e missing something. For e3am/le,
there is a little ,ar1on dio3ide in the atmos/here o- Titan, whi,h /uts its nitrogen@methane
atmos/here out o- ,hemi,al eKuili1rium. thin= the CO6 is /ro.ided 1y the steady /itter0
/atter o- ,omets -alling into TitanAs atmos/hereH1ut may1e not. May1e thereAs something on
the sur-a,e una,,ounta1ly generating CO6 in the -a,e o- all that methane.
The sur-a,es o- Miranda and Triton are unli=e anything else we =now. There are .ast ,he.ron0
sha/ed land-orms and ,riss,rossing straight lines that e.en so1er /lanetary geologists on,e
mis,hie.ously des,ri1ed as Bhighways.B De thin= we 21arely4 understand these land-orms in
terms o- -aults and ,ollisions, 1ut o- ,ourse we might 1e wrong.
The sur-a,e stains o- organi, matterHsometimes, as on Triton, deli,ately huedHare attri1uted
to ,harged /arti,les /rodu,ing ,hemi,al rea,tions in sim/le hydro,ar1on i,es, generating
more ,om/le3 organi, materials, and all this ha.ing nothing to do with the intermediation o-
li-e. $ut o- ,ourse we might 1e wrong.
The ,om/le3 /attern o- radio stati,, 1ursts, and whistles that we re,ei.e -rom all -our 9o.ian
/lanets seems, in a general way, e3/li,a1le 1y /lasma /hysi,s and thermal emission. 2Mu,h o-
the detail is not yet well understood.4 $ut o- ,ourse we might 1e wrong.
De ha.e -ound nothing on doCens o- worlds so ,lear and stri=ing as the signs o- li-e -ound 1y
the >alileo s/a,e,ra-t in its /assages 1y the Earth. Li-e is a hy/othesis o- last resort. #ou in.o=e
it only when thereAs no other way to e3/lain what you see. - had to Judge, would say that
thereAs no li-e on any o- the worlds weA.e studied, e3,e/t o- ,ourse our own. $ut might 1e
wrong, and, right or wrong, my Judgment is ne,essarily ,on-ined to this Solar System. Perha/s
on some new mission weAll -ind something di--erent, something stri=ing, something wholly
ine3/li,a1le with the ordinary tools o- /lanetary s,ien,eHand tremulously, ,autiously, we will
in,h toward a 1iologi,al e3/lanation. "owe.er, -or now nothing reKuires that we go down
su,h a /ath. So -ar, the only li-e in the Solar System is that whi,h ,omes -rom Earth. n the
&ranus and !e/tune systems, the only sign o- li-e has 1een %oyager itsel-.
As we identi-y the /lanets o- other stars, as we -ind other worlds o- roughly the siCe and mass
o- the Earth, we will s,rutiniCe them -or li-e. A dense o3ygen atmos/here may 1e dete,ta1le
e.en on a world weA.e ne.er imaged. As -or the Earth, that may 1y itsel- 1e a sign o- li-e. An
o3ygen atmos/here with a//re,ia1le Kuantities o- methane would almost ,ertainly 1e a sign
o- li-e, as would modulated radio emission. Someday, -rom o1ser.ations o- our /lanetary
system or another, the news o- li-e elsewhere may 1e announ,ed o.er the morning ,o--ee.
The .oyager s/a,e,ra-t are 1ound -or the stars. They are on es,a/e traJe,tories -rom the Solar
System, 1arreling along at almost a million miles a day. The gra.itational -ields o- 9u/iter,
Saturn, &ranus, and !e/tune ha.e -lung them at su,h high s/eeds that they ha.e 1ro=en the
1onds that on,e tied them to the Sun.
"a.e they le-t the Solar System yetF The answer de/ends .ery mu,h on how you de-ine the
1oundary o- the SunAs realm. - itAs the or1it o- the outermost good0siCed /lanet, then the
%oyager s/a,e,ra-t are already long gone< there are /ro1a1ly no undis,o.ered !e/tunes. -
you mean the outermost /lanet, it may 1e that there are otherH/erha/s Triton0li=eH/lanets
-ar 1eyond !e/tune and Pluto< i- so, %oyager ( and %oyager 6 are still within the Solar System.
- you de-ine the outer limits o- the Solar System as the helio/auseHwhere the inter/lanetary
/arti,les and magneti, -ields are re/la,ed 1y their interstellar ,ounter/artsHthen neither
%oyager has yet le-t the Solar System, although they may do so in the ne3t -ew de,ades.(7 $ut
i- your de-inition o- the edge o- the Solar System is the distan,e at whi,h our star ,an no
longer hold worlds in or1it a1out it, then the %oyagers will not lea.e the Solar System -or
hundreds o- ,enturies.
Dea=ly gras/ed 1y the SunAs gra.ity, in e.ery dire,tion in the s=y, is that immense horde o- a
trillion ,omets or more, the /ort Cloud. The two s/a,e,ra-t will -inish their /assage through
the Oort ,loud in another 6:,::: years or so. Then, at last, ,om/leting their long good01ye to
the Solar System, 1ro=en -ree o- the gra.itational sha,=les that on,e 1ound them to the Sun,
the %oyagers will ma=e -or the o/en sea o- interstellar s/a,e. only then will Phase Two o- their
mission 1egin.
Their radio transmitters long dead, the s/a,e,ra-t will wander -or ages in the ,alm, ,old
interstellar 1la,=nessHwhere there is almost nothing to erode them. On,e out o- the Solar
System, they will remain inta,t -or a 1illion years or more, as they ,ir,umna.igate the ,enter o-
the Mil=y Day gala3y.
De do not =now whether there are other s/a,e0-aring ,i.iliCations in the Mil=y Day. -
they do e3ist, we do not =now how a1undant they are, mu,h less where they are. $ut there is
at least a ,han,e that sometime in the remote -uture one o- the %oyagers will 1e inter,e/ted
and e3amined 1y an alien ,ra-t.
A,,ordingly, as ea,h %oyager le-t Earth -or the /lanets and the stars, it ,arried with it a
golden /honogra/h re,ord en,ased in a golden, mirrored Ja,=et ,ontaining, among other
things< greetings in *) human languages and one whale language< a (60minute sound essay
in,luding a =iss, a 1a1yAs ,ry, and an EE> re,ord o- the meditations o- a young woman in lo.e<
((5 en,oded /i,tures, on our s,ien,e, our ,i.iliCation, and oursel.es< and ): minutes o- the
EarthAs greatest hitsHEastern and Destern, ,lassi,al and -ol=, in,luding a !a.aJo night ,hant, a
9a/anese sha=uha,hi /ie,e, a Pygmy girlAs initiation song, a Peru.ian wedding song, a 8,:::0
year0old ,om/osition -or the ,hAin ,alled BFlowing Streams,B $a,h, $eetho.en, MoCart,
Stra.ins=y, Louis Armstrong, $lind Dillie 9ohnson, and Chu,= $erryAs B9ohnny $. >oode.B
S/a,e is nearly em/ty. There is .irtually no ,han,e that one o- the %oyagers will e.er enter
another solar systemHand this is true e.en i- e.ery star in the s=y is a,,om/anied 1y /lanets.
The instru,tions on the re,ord Ja,=ets, written in what we 1elie.e to 1e readily ,om/rehensi1le
s,ienti-i, hierogly/hi,s, ,an 1e read, and the ,ontents o- the re,ords understood, only i- alien
1eings, somewhere in the remote -uture, -ind %oyager in the de/ths o- interstellar s/a,e. Sin,e
1oth %oyagers will ,ir,le the ,enter o- the Mil=y Day >ala3y essentially -ore.er, there is /lenty
o- time -or the re,ords to 1e -oundHi- thereAs anyone out there to do the -inding.
De ,annot =now how mu,h o- the re,ords they would understand. Surely the greetings will 1e
in,om/rehensi1le, 1ut their intent may not 1e. 2De thought it would 1e im/olite not to say
hello.4 The hy/otheti,al aliens are 1ound to 1e .ery di--erent -rom usHinde/endently e.ol.ed
on another world. Are we really sure they ,ould understand anything at all o- our messageF
E.ery time -eel these ,on,erns stirring, though, reassure mysel-. Dhate.er the
in,om/rehensi1ilities o- the %oyager re,ord, any alien shi/ that -inds it will ha.e another
standard 1y whi,h to Judge us. Ea,h %oyager is itsel- a message. n their e3/loratory intent, in
the lo-ty am1ition o- their o1Je,ti.es, in their utter la,= o- intent to do harm, and in the
1rillian,e o- their design and /er-orman,e, these ro1ots s/ea= eloKuently -or us.
$ut 1eing mu,h more ad.an,ed s,ientists and engineers than weHotherwise they would
ne.er 1e a1le to -ind and retrie.e the small, silent s/a,e,ra-t in interstellar s/a,eH/erha/s the
aliens would ha.e no di--i,ulty understanding what is en,oded on these golden re,ords.
Perha/s they would re,ogniCe the tentati.eness o- our so,iety, the mismat,h 1etween our
te,hnology and our wisdom. "a.e we destroyed oursel.es sin,e laun,hing %oyager, they
might wonder, or ha.e we gone on to greater thingsF
Or /erha/s the re,ords will ne.er 1e inter,e/ted. Perha/s no one in -i.e 1illion years will e.er
,ome u/on them. Fi.e 1illion years is a long time. n -i.e 1illion years, all humans will ha.e
1e,ome e3tin,t or e.ol.ed into other 1eings, none o- our arti-a,ts will ha.e sur.i.ed on Earth,
the ,ontinents will ha.e 1e,ome unre,ogniCa1ly altered or destroyed, and the e.olution o- the
Sun will ha.e 1urned the Earth to a ,ris/ or redu,ed it to a whirl o- atoms.
Far -rom home, untou,hed 1y these remote e.ents, the %oyagers, 1earing the memories o- a
world that is no more, will -ly on.
Cha$ter 10+ Sacred (ac"
'ee/ s=y is, o- all .isual im/ressions, the nearest a=in to a -eeling.
HSAM&EL TA#LOR COLER'>E, !OTE$OOIS 2(+:*4
The 1lue o- a ,loudless May morning, or the reds and oranges o- a sunset at sea, ha.e roused
humans to wonder, to /oetry, and to s,ien,e. !o matter where on Earth we li.e, no matter
what our language, ,ustoms, or /oliti,s, we share a s=y in ,ommon. Most o- us e3/e,t that
aCure 1lue and would, -or good reason, 1e stunned to wa=e u/ one sunrise to -ind a ,loudless
s=y that was 1la,= or yellow or green. 2nha1itants o- Los Angeles and Me3i,o City ha.e grown
a,,ustomed to 1rown s=ies, and those o- London and Seattle to gray onesH1ut e.en they still
,onsider 1lue the /lanetary norm.4
And yet there are worlds with 1la,= or yellow s=ies, and may1e e.en green. The ,olor o- the
s=y ,hara,teriCes the world. Plo/ me down on any /lanet in the Solar System< without sensing
the gra.ity, without glim/sing the ground, let me ta=e a Kui,= loo= at the Sun and s=y, and
,an, thin=, /retty well tell you where am. That -amiliar shade o- 1lue, interru/ted here and
there 1y -lee,y white ,louds, is a signature o- our world. The Fren,h ha.e an e3/ression, sa,re0
1leuG, whi,h translates roughly as B>ood hea.ensGB(+ Literally, it means Bsa,red 1lueGB ndeed.
- there e.er is a true -lag o- Earth, this should 1e its ,olor.
$irds -ly through it, ,louds are sus/ended in it, humans admire and routinely tra.erse it, light
-rom the Sun and stars -lutters through it. $ut what is itF Dhat is it made o-F Dhere does it
endF "ow mu,h o- it is thereF Dhere does all that 1lue ,ome -romF - itAs a ,ommon/la,e -or
all humans, i- it ty/i-ies our world, surely we should =now something a1out it. Dhat is the s=yF
n August ()*7, -or the -irst time, a human 1eing rose a1o.e the 1lue and loo=ed aroundH
when 'a.id Simons, a retired Air For,e o--i,er and a /hysi,ian, 1e,ame the highest human in
history. Alone, he /iloted a 1alloon to an altitude o- o.er (::,::: -eet 28: =ilometers4 and
through his thi,= windows glim/sed a di--erent s=y. !ow a /ro-essor at the &ni.ersity o-
Cali-ornia Medi,al S,hool in r.ine, 'r. Simons re,alls it was a dar=, dee/ /ur/le o.erhead. "e
had rea,hed the transition region where the 1lue o- ground le.el is 1eing o.erta=en 1y the
/er-e,t 1la,= o- s/a,e.
Sin,e SimonsA almost -orgotten -light, /eo/le o- many nations ha.e -lown a1o.e the
atmos/here. t is now ,lear -rom re/eated and dire,t human 2and ro1oti,4 e3/erien,e that in
s/a,e the daytime s=y is 1la,=. The Sun shines 1rightly on your shi/. The Earth 1elow you is
1rilliantly illuminated. $ut the s=y a1o.e is 1la,= as night.
"ere is the memora1le des,ri/tion 1y #uri >agarin o- what he saw on the -irst s/a,e-light o-
the human s/e,ies, a1oard %osto= (, on A/ril (6, ()5(E
The s=y is ,om/letely 1la,=< and against the 1a,=ground o- this 1la,= s=y the stars a//ear
somewhat 1righter and more distin,t. The Earth has a .ery ,hara,teristi,, .ery 1eauti-ul 1lue
halo, whi,h is seen well when you o1ser.e the horiCon. There is a smooth ,olor transition -rom
tender 1lue, to 1lue, to dar= 1lue and /ur/le, and then to the ,om/letely 1la,= ,olor o- the
s=y. t is a .ery 1eauti-ul transition.
Clearly, the daylit s=yHall that 1lueH is somehow ,onne,ted with the air. $ut as you loo=
a,ross the 1rea=-ast ta1le, your ,om/anion is not 2usually4 1lue< the ,olor o- the s=y must 1e a
/ro/erty not o- a little air, 1ut o- a great deal. - you loo= ,losely at the Earth -rom s/a,e, you
see it surrounded 1y a thin 1and o- 1lue, as thi,= as the lower atmos/here< indeed, it is the
lower atmos/here. At the to/ o- that 1and you ,an ma=e out the 1lue s=y -ading into the
1la,=ness o- s/a,e. This is the transition Cone that Simons was the -irst to enter and >agarin
the -irst to o1ser.e -rom a1o.e. n routine s/a,e-light, you start at the 1ottom o- the 1lue,
/enetrate entirely through it a -ew minutes a-ter li-to--< and then enter that 1oundless realm
where a sim/le 1reath o- air is im/ossi1le without ela1orate li-e0su//ort systems. "uman li-e
de/ends -or its .ery e3isten,e on that 1lue s=y. De are right to ,onsider it tender and sa,red.
De see the 1lue in daytime 1e,ause sunlight is 1oun,ing o-- the air around and a1o.e us. On
a ,loudless night, the s=y is 1la,= 1e,ause there is no su--i,iently intense sour,e o- light to 1e
re-le,ted o-- the air. Somehow, the air /re-erentially 1oun,es 1lue light down to us. "owF
The .isi1le light -rom the Sun ,omes in many ,olorsH.iolet, 1lue, green, yellow, orange, redH
,orres/onding to light o- di--erent wa.elengths. 2A wa.elength is the distan,e -ront ,rest to
,rest as the wa.e tra.els through air or s/a,e.4 %iolet and 1lue light wa.es ha.e the shortest
wa.elengths< orange and red the longest. Dhat we /er,ei.e as ,olor is how our eyes and
1rains read the wa.elengths o- light. 2De Might Just as reasona1ly translate wa.elengths o-
light into, say, heard tones rather than seen ,olorsH1ut thatAs not how our senses e.ol.ed.4
Dhen all those rain1ow ,olors o- the s/e,trum are mi3ed together, as in sunlight, they seem
almost white. These wa.es tra.el together in eight minutes a,ross the inter.ening )8 million
miles 2(*: million =ilometers4 o- s/a,e -rom the Sun to the Earth. They stri=e the atmos/here,
whi,h is made mostly o- nitrogen and o3ygen mole,ules. Some wa.es are re-le,ted 1y the air
1a,= into s/a,e. Some are 1oun,ed around 1e-ore the light rea,hes the ground and they ,an
1e dete,ted 1y a /assing eye1all. 2Also, some 1oun,e o-- ,louds or the ground 1a,= into
s/a,e.4 This 1oun,ing around o- light wa.es in the atmos/here is ,alled Bs,attering.B
$ut not all wa.es are eKually well s,attered 1y the mole,ules o- air. Da.elengths that are mu,h
longer than the siCe o- the mole,ules are s,attered less< they s/ill o.er the mole,ules, hardly
in-luen,ed 1y their /resen,e. Da.elengths that are ,loser to the siCe o- the mole,ules are
s,attered snore. And wa.es ha.e trou1le ignoring o1sta,les as 1ig as they are. 2#ou ,an see
this in water wa.es s,attered 1y the /ilings o- /iers, or 1athtu1 wa.es -rom a dri//ing -au,et
en,ountering a ru11er du,=.4 The shorter wa.elengths, those that we sense as .iolet and 1lue
light, are more e--i,iently s,attered than the longer wa.elengths, those that we sense as
orange and red light. Dhen we loo= u/ on a ,loudless day and admire the 1lue s=y, we are
witnessing the /re-erential s,attering o- the short wa.es in sunlight. This is ,alled Rayleigh
s,attering, a-ter the English /hysi,ist who o--ered the -irst ,oherent e3/lanation -or it.
Cigarette smo=e is 1lue -or Just the same reasonE The /arti,les that ma=e it u/ are a1out as
small as the wa.elength o- 1lue light.
So why is the sunset redF The red o- the sunset is whatAs le-t o- sunlight a-ter the air s,atters
the 1lue away. Sin,e the atmos/here is a thin shell o- gra.itationally 1ound gas surrounding
the solid Earth, sunlight must /ass through a longer slant /ath o- air at sunset 2or sunrise4 than
at noon. Sin,e the .iolet and 1lue wa.es are s,attered e.en more during their now0longer
/ath through the air than when the Sun is o.erhead, what we see when we loo= toward the
Sun is the residueHthe wa.es o- sunlight that are hardly s,attered away at all, es/e,ially the
oranges and reds. A 1lue s=y ma=es a red sunset. 2The noontime Sun seems yellowish /artly
1e,ause it emits slightly more yellow light than other ,olors, and /artly 1e,ause, e.en with the
Sun o.erhead, some 1lue light is s,attered out o- the sun1eams 1y the EarthAs atmos/here.4
t is sometimes said that s,ientists are unromanti,, that their /assion to -igure out ro1s the
world o- 1eauty and mystery. $ut is it not stirring to understand how the world a,tually wor=s
Hthat white light is made o- ,olors, that ,olor is the way we /er,ei.e the wa.elengths o- light,
that trans/arent air re-le,ts light, that in so doing it dis,riminates among the wa.es, and that
the s=y is 1lue -or the same reason that the sunset is redF t does no harm to the roman,e o-
the sunset to =now a little 1it a1out it.
Sin,e most sim/le mole,ules are a1out the same siCe 2roughly a hundred millionth o- a
,entimeter4, the 1lue o- the EarthAs s=y doesnAt mu,h de/end on what the air is made o-Has
long as the air doesnAt a1sor1 the light. O3ygen and nitrogen mole,ules donAt a1sor1 .isi1le
light< they only 1oun,e it away in some other dire,tion. Other mole,ules, though, ,an go11le
u/ the light. O3ides o- nitrogenH/rodu,ed in automoti.e engines and in the -ires o- industry
Hare a sour,e o- the mur=y 1rown ,oloration o- smog. O3ides o- nitrogen 2made -rom o3ygen
and nitrogen4 do a1sor1 light. A1sor/tion, as well as s,attering, ,an ,olor a s=y.
Other worlds, other s=iesE Mer,ury, the EarthAs Moon, and most satellites o- the other /lanets
are small worlds< 1e,ause o- their -ee1le gra.ities, they are una1le to retain their atmos/heres
Hwhi,h instead tri,=le o- into s/a,e. The near0.a,uum o- s/a,e then rea,hes the ground.
Sunlight stri=es their sur-a,es unim/eded, neither s,attered nor a1sor1ed along the way. The
s=ies o- these worlds are 1la,=, e.en at noon. This has 1een witnessed -irsthand so -ar 1y only
(6 humans, the lunar landing ,rews o- A/ollos ((, (6, and (;0(7.
A -ull list o- the satellites in the Solar System, =nown as o- this writing, is gi.en in the
a,,om/anying ta1le. 2!early hal- o- them were dis,o.ered 1y %oyager.4 All ha.e 1la,= s=iesH
e3,e/t Titan o- Saturn and /erha/s Triton o- !e/tune, whi,h are 1ig enough to ha.e
atmos/heres. And all asteroids as well.
%enus has a1out ): times more air than Earth. t isnAt mainly o3ygen and nitrogen as hereHitAs
,ar1on dio3ide. $ut ,ar1on dio3ide doesnAt a1sor1 .isi1le light either. Dhat would the s=y loo=
li=e -rom the sur-a,e o- %enus i- %enus had no ,louds. Dith so mu,h atmos/here in the way,
not only are .iolet and 1lue wa.es s,attered, 1ut all the other ,olors as well0green yellow,
orange, red. The air is so thi,=, though, that hardly any 1lue light ma=es it to the ground< itAs
s,attered 1a,= to s/a,e 1y su,,essi.e 1oun,es higher u/. Thus, the light that does rea,h the
ground should 1e strongly reddened0li=e an Earth sunset all o.er the s=y. Further, sul-ur in the
high ,louds will stain the s=y yellow. Pi,tures ta=en 1y the So.iet %enera landers ,on-irm that
the s=ies o- %enus are a =ind o- yellow0orange.
Si=ty>two words -or the third mienni/m+ Inown moons o- the /lanets 2and one asteroid4,
listed in order o- distan,e -rom their /lanet
Earth, (
Mars, 6
da, (
9u/iter, (5
Saturn, (+
&ranus, (*
!e/tune, +
Pluto, (
Moon
Pho1os
'a,tyl
Metis
Pan
Cordelia
!aiad
Charon
'eimos
Adrastea
Atlas
O/helia
Thalassa
Amalthea
Prometheus
$ian,a
'es/ina
The1e
Pandora
Cressida
>alatea
o
E/imetheus
'esdemona
Larissa
Euro/a
9anus
9uliet
Proteus
>anymede
Mimas
Portia
Triton
Callisto
En,eladus
Rosalind
!ereid
Leda
Tethys
$elinda
"imalia
Telesto
Pu,=
Lysithea
Caly/so
Miranda
Elara
'iane
Ariel
Anan=e
"elene
&m1riel
Carme
Rhea
Titania
Pasi/hae
Titan
O1eron
Sino/e
"y/erion
a/etus
Phoe1e
Mars is a di--erent story. t is a smaller world than Earth, with a mu,h thinner atmos/here. The
/ressure at the sur-a,e o- Mars is, in -a,t, a1out the same as the altitude in the EarthAs
stratos/here to whi,h Simons rose. So we might e3/e,t the Martian s=y to 1e 1la,= or /ur/le0
1la,=. The -irst ,olor /i,ture -rom the sur-a,e o- Mars was o1tained in 9uly ()75 1y the
Ameri,an %i=ing ( landerHthe -irst s/a,e,ra-t to tou,h down su,,ess-ully on the sur-a,e o-
the Red Planet. The digital data were duti-ully radioed -rom Mars 1a,= to Earth, and the ,olor
/i,ture assem1led 1y ,om/uter. To the sur/rise o- all the s,ientists and no1ody else, that -irst
image, released to the /ress, showed the Martian s=y to 1e a ,om-orta1le, homey 1lueH
im/ossi1le -or a /lanet with so insu1stantial an atmos/here. Something had gone wrong.
The /i,ture on your ,olor tele.ision set is a mi3ture o- three mono,hrome images, ea,h in a
di--erent ,olor o- lightHred, green, and 1lue. #ou ,an see this method o- ,olor ,om/ositing in
.ideo /roJe,tion systems, whi,h /roJe,t se/arate 1eams o- red, green, and 1lue light to
generate a -ull0,olor /i,ture 2in,luding yellows4. To get the right ,olor, your set needs to mi3 or
1alan,e these three mono,hrome images ,orre,tly. - you turn u/ the intensity o-, say, 1lue,
the /i,ture will a//ear too 1lue. Any /i,ture returned -rom s/a,e reKuires a similar ,olor
1alan,e. Considera1le dis,retion is sometimes le-t to the ,om/uter analysts in de,iding this
1alan,e. The hi=ing analysts were not /lanetary astronomers, and with this -irst ,olor /i,ture
-rom Mars they sim/ly mi3ed the ,olors until it loo=ed Bright.B De are so ,onditioned 1y our
e3/erien,e on Earth that Bright,B o- ,ourse, means a 1lue s=y. The ,olor o- the /i,ture was soon
,orre,tedHusing ,olor ,ali1ration standards /la,ed -or this .ery /ur/ose on 1oard the
s/a,e,ra-tHand the resulting ,om/osite showed no 1lue s=y at all< rather it was something
1etween o,hre and /in=. !ot 1lue, 1ut hardly /ur/le01la,= either.
This is the right ,olor o- the Martian s=y. Mu,h o- the sur-a,e o- Mars is desertHand red
1e,ause the sands are rus=. There are o,,asional .iolent sandstorms that li-t -ine /arti,les -rom
the sur-a,e high into the atmos/here. t ta=es a long time -or them to -all out, and 1e-ore the
s=y has -ully ,leaned itsel-, thereAs always another sandstorm. >lo1al or near0glo1al sandstorms
o,,ur almost e.ery Martian year. Sin,e rusty /arti,les are always sus/ended in this s=y, -uture
generations o- humans, 1orn and li.ing out their li.es on Mars, will ,onsider that salmon ,olor
to 1e as natural and -amiliar as we ,onsider our homey 1lue. From a single glan,e at the
daytime s=y, theyAll /ro1a1ly 1e a1le to tell how long itAs 1een sin,e the last 1ig sandstorm.
The /lanets in the outer Solar SystemH9u/iter, Saturn, &ranus, and !e/tuneH are
o- a di--erent sort. These are huge worlds with giant atmos/heres made mainly o- hydrogen
and helium. Their solid sur-a,es are so dee/ inside that no sunlight /enetrates there at all.
'own there, the s=y is 1la,=, with no /ros/e,t o- a sunriseHnot e.er. The /er/etual starless
night is /erha/s illuminated on o,,asion 1y a 1olt o- lightning. $ut higher in the atmos/here,
where the sunlight rea,hes, a mu,h more 1eauti-ul .ista awaits.
On 9u/iter, a1o.e a high0altitude haCe layer ,om/osed o- ammonia 2rather than water4 i,e
/arti,les, the s=y is almost 1la,=. Farther down, in the 1lue s=y region, are multi,olored ,louds
Hin .arious shades o- yellow01rown, and o- un=nown ,om/osition. 2The ,andidate materials
in,lude sul-ur, /hos/horus, and ,om/le3 organi, mole,ules.4 E.en -arther down, the s=y will
a//ear red01rown, e3,e/t that the ,louds there are o- .arying thi,=nesses, and where they are
thin, you might see a /at,h o- 1lue. Still dee/er, we gradually return to /er/etual night.
Something similar is true on Saturn, 1ut the ,olors there are more muted.
&ranus and es/e,ially !e/tune ha.e an un,anny, austere 1lue ,olor through whi,h ,loudsH
some o- them a little whiterHare ,arried 1y high0s/eed winds. Sunlight rea,hes a
,om/arati.ely ,lean atmos/here ,om/osed mainly o- hydrogen and helium 1ut also ri,h in
methane. Long /aths o- methane a1sor1 yellow and es/e,ially red light and let the green and
1lue -ilter through. A thin hydro,ar1on haCe remo.es a little 1lue. There may 1e a de/th
where the s=y is greenish.
Con.entional wisdom holds that the a1sor/tion 1y methane and the Rayleigh s,attering o-
sunlight 1y the dee/ atmos/here together a,,ount -or the 1lue ,olors on &ranus and
!e/tune. $ut analysis o- %oyager data 1y Ie.in $aines o- 9PL seems to show that these ,auses
are insu--i,ient. A//arently .ery dee/Hmay1e in the .i,inity o- hy/othesiCed ,louds o-
hydrogen sul-ideHthere is an a1undant 1lue su1stan,e. So -ar no one has 1een a1le to -igure
out what it might 1e. $lue materials are .ery rare in !ature. As always ha//ens in s,ien,e, the
old mysteries are dis/elled only to 1e re/la,ed 1y new ones. Sooner or later weAll -ind out the
answer to this one, too.
All worlds with non1la,= s=ies ha.e atmos/heres. - youAre standing on the sur-a,e and thereAs
an atmos/here thi,= enough to see, thereAs /ro1a1ly a way to -ly through it. DeAre now
sending our instruments to -ly in the .ariously ,olored s=ies o- other worlds. Someday we will
go oursel.es.
Para,hutes ha.e already 1een used in the atmos/heres o- %enus and Mars, and are /lanned
-or 9u/iter and Titan. n ()+* two Fren,h0So.iet 1alloons sailed through the yellow s=ies o-
%enus. The %ega ) 1alloon, a1out ; meters a,ross, dangled an instrument /a,=age (8 meters
1elow. The 1alloon in-lated in the night hemis/here, -loated a1out *; =ilometers a1o.e the
sur-a,e, and transmitted data -or almost two Earth days 1e-ore its 1atteries -ailed. n that time
it tra.eled ((,5:: =ilometers 2nearly 7,::: miles4 o.er the sur-a,e o- %enus, -ar 1elow. The
%ega 6 1alloon had an almost identi,al /ro-ile. The atmos/here o- %enus has also 1een used
-or aero1ra=ingH,hanging the Magellan s/a,e,ra-tAs or1it 1y -ri,tion with the dense air< this is
a =ey -uture te,hnology -or ,on.erting -ly1y s/a,e,ra-t to Mars into or1iters and landers.
A Mars mission, s,heduled to 1e laun,hed in ())+, and led 1y Russia, in,ludes an enormous
Fren,h hot air 1alloonHloo=ing something li=e a .ast Jelly-ish, a Portuguese man0o-0war. tAs
designed to sin= to the Martian sur-a,e e.ery ,hilly twilight and rise high when heated 1y
sunlight the ne3t day. The winds are so -ast that, i- all goes well, it will 1e ,arried hundreds o-
=ilometers ea,h day, ho//ing and s=i//ing o.er the north /ole. n the early morning, when
,lose to the ground, it will o1tain .ery high resolution /i,tures and other data. The 1alloon has
an instrumental guide0ro/e, essential -or its sta1ility, ,on,ei.ed and designed 1y a /ri.ate
mem1ershi/ organiCation 1ased in Pasadena, Cali-ornia, The Planetary So,iety.
Sin,e the sur-a,e /ressure on Mars is a//ro3imately that at an altitude o- (::,::: -eet on
Earth, we =now we ,an -ly air/lanes there. The &06, -or e3am/le, or the SR07( $la,=1ird
routinely a//roa,hes su,h low /ressures. Air,ra-t with e.en larger wings/ans ha.e 1een
designed -or Mars.
The dream o- -light and the dream o- s/a,e tra.el are twins, ,on,ei.ed 1y similar .isionaries,
de/endent on allied te,hnologies, and e.ol.ing more or less in tandem. As ,ertain /ra,ti,al
and e,onomi, limits to -light on Earth are rea,hed, the /ossi1ility arises o- -lying through the
multihued s=ies o- other worlds.
t is now almost /ossi1le to assign ,olor ,om1inations, 1ased on the ,olors o- ,louds and s=y,
to e.ery /lanet in the Solar SystemH-rom the sul-ur0stained s=ies o- %enus and the rusty s=ies
o- Mars to the aKuamarine o- &ranus and the hy/noti, and unearthly 1lue o- !e/tune. Sa,re0
Jaunt, sa,re0rouge, sa,re0.ert. Perha/s they will one day adorn the -lags o- distant human
out/osts in the Solar System, in that time when the new -rontiers are swee/ing out -rom the
Sun to the stars, and the e3/lorers are surrounded 1y the endless 1la,= o- s/a,e. Sa,re0noir.
Cha$ter 11+ '6ening and !orning Star
This is another world
whi,h is not o- men.
HL $A, BQ&ESTO! A!' A!SDER ! T"E MO&!TA!SB 2C"!A, TA!> '#!AST#, CA. 78:4
#ou ,an see it shining 1rilliantly in the twilight, ,hasing the Sun down 1elow the western
horiCon. &/on -irst glim/sing it ea,h night, /eo/le were a,,ustomed to ma=e a wish 2Bu/on a
starB4. Sometimes the wish ,ame true.
Or you ,an s/y it in the east 1e-ore dawn, -leeing the rising Sun. n these two
in,arnations, 1righter than anything else in the s=y e3,e/t only the Sun and the Moon it was
=nown as the e.ening and the morning star. Our an,estors did not re,ogniCe it was a world,
the same world, ne.er too -ar -rom the Sun 1e,ause it is in an or1it a1out it interior to the
EarthAs. 9ust 1e-ore sunset or Just a-ter sunrise, we ,an sometimes see it near some -lu--y white
,loud, and then dis,o.er 1y the ,om/arison that %enus has a ,olor, a /ale lemon0yellow.
#ou /eer through the eye/ie,e o- a teles,o/eHe.en a 1ig teles,o/e, e.en the largest
o/ti,al teles,o/e on EarthHand you ,an ma=e out no detail at all. O.er the months, you see a
-eatureless dis= methodi,ally going through /hases, li=e the MoonE ,res,ent %enus, -ull %enus,
gi11ous %enus, new %enus. There is not a hint o- ,ontinents or o,eans.
Some o- the -irst astronomers to see %enus through the teles,o/e immediately
re,ogniCed that they were e3amining a world enshrouded 1y ,louds. The ,louds, we now
=now, are dro/lets o- ,on,entrated sul-uri, a,id, stained yellow 1y a little elemental sul-ur.
They lie high a1o.e the ground. n ordinary .isi1le light thereAs no hint o- what this /lanetAs
sur-a,e, some *: =ilometers 1elow the ,loud to/s, is li=e, and -or ,enturies the 1est we had
were wild guesses.
#ou might ,onJe,ture that i- we ,ould ta=e a mu,h -iner loo= there might 1e 1rea=s in
the ,louds, re.ealing day 1y day, in 1its and /ie,es, the mysterious sur-a,e ordinarily hidden
-rom our .iew. Then the time o- guesses would 1e o.er. The Earth is on a.erage hal- ,loud0
,o.ered. n the early days o- %enus e3/loration, we saw no reason that %enus should 1e (::
/er,ent o.er,ast. - instead it was only ): /er,ent, or e.en )) /er,ent, ,loud0,o.ered, the
transient /at,hes o- ,learing might tell us mu,h.
n ()5: and ()5(, Mariners ( and 6, the -irst Ameri,an s/a,e,ra-t designed to .isit %enus, were
1eing /re/ared. There were those, li=e me, who thought the shi/s should ,arry .ideo ,ameras
so they ,ould radio /i,tures 1a,= to Earth. The same te,hnology would 1e used a -ew years
later when Rangers 7, +, and ) would /hotogra/h the Moon on the way to their ,rash landings
Hthe last ma=ing a 1ullAs0eye in the ,rater Al/honsus. $ut time was short -or the %enus
mission, and ,ameras were hea.y. There were those who maintained that ,ameras werenAt
really s,ienti-i, instruments, 1ut rather ,at,h0as0,at,h0,an, raCCle0daCCle, /andering to the
/u1li,, and una1le to answer a single straight-orward, well0/osed s,ienti-i, Kuestion. thought
mysel- that whether there are 1rea=s in the ,louds was one su,h Kuestion. argued that
,ameras ,ould also answer Kuestions that we were too dum1 e.en to /ose. argued that
/i,tures were the only way to show the /u1li,Hwho were, a-ter all, -ooting the 1illHthe
e3,itement o- ro1oti, missions. At any rate, no ,amera was -lown, and su1seKuent missions
ha.e, -or this /arti,ular world, at least /artly .indi,ated that JudgmentE E.en at high resolution
-rom ,lose -ly1ys, in .isi1le light it turns out there are no 1rea=s in the ,louds o- %enus, any
more than in the ,louds o- Titan.() These worlds are /ermanently o.er,ast.
n the ultra.iolet there is detail, 1ut due to transient /at,hes o- high0altitude o.er,ast, -ar
a1o.e the main ,loud de,=. The high ,louds ra,e around the /lanet mu,h -aster than the
/lanet itsel- turnsE su/er0rotation. De ha.e an e.en smaller ,han,e o- seeing the sur-a,e in the
ultra.iolet.
Dhen it 1e,ame ,lear that the atmos/here o- %enus was mu,h thi,=er than the air on EarthH
as we now =now, the /ressure at the sur-a,e is ninety times what it is hereHit immediately
-ollowed that in ordinary .isi1le light we ,ould not /ossi1ly see the sur-a,e, e.en i- there were
1rea=s in the ,louds. Dhat little sunlight is a1le to ma=e its tortuous way through the dense
atmos/here to the sur-a,e would 1e re-le,ted 1a,=, all right< 1ut the /hotons would 1e so
Jum1led 1y re/eated s,attering o-- mole,ules in the lower air that no image o- sur-a,e -eatures
,ould 1e retained. t would 1e li=e a BwhiteoutB in /olar snowstorm. "owe.er, this e--e,t,
intense Rayleigh s,attering, de,lines ra/idly with in,reasing wa.elength< in the near0in-rared, it
was easy to ,al,ulate, you ,ould see the sur-a,e i- there were 1rea=s in the ,louds or i- the
,louds were trans/arent there.
So in ()7: 9im Polla,=, 'a.e Morrison, and went to the M,'onald O1ser.atory o- the
&ni.ersity o- Te3as to try to o1ser.e %enus in the near0in-rared. De Bhy/ersensitiCedB our
emulsions< the good old0-ashioned6: glass /hotogra/hi, /lates were treated with ammonia,
and sometimes heated or 1rie-ly illuminated, 1e-ore 1eing e3/osed at the teles,o/e to light
-rom %enus. For a time the ,ellars o- M,'onald O1ser.atory ree=ed o- ammonia. De too=
many /i,tures. !one showed any detail. De ,on,luded that either we hadnAt gone -ar enough
into the in-rared or the ,louds o- %enus were o/aKue and un1ro=en in the near in-rared.
More than 6: years later, the >alileo s/a,e,ra-t, ma=ing a ,lose -ly1y o- %enus, e3amined it
with higher resolution and sensiti.ity, and at wa.elengths a little -urther into the in-rared than
we were a1le to rea,h with our ,rude glass emulsions. >alileo /hotogra/hed great mountain
ranges. De already =new o- their e3isten,e, though< a mu,h more /ower-ul te,hniKue had
earlier 1een em/loyedE radar. Radio wa.es e--ortlessly /enetrate the ,louds and thi,=
atmos/here o- %enus, 1oun,e o-- the sur-a,e, and return to Earth, where they are gathered in
and used to ma=e a /i,ture. The -irst wor= had 1een done, ,hie-ly, 1y. Ameri,an ground01ased
radar at 9PLAs >oldstone tra,=ing station in the MoJa.e 'esert and at the Are,i1o O1ser.atory
in Puerto Ri,o, o/erated 1y Cornell &ni.ersity.
Then the &.S. Pioneer (6, the So.iet %enera (* and F5 and the &.S. Magellan missions inserted
radar teles,o/es into or1it around %enus and ma//ed the /la,e /ole to /ole. Ea,h s/a,e,ra-t
would transmit a radar signal to the sur-a,e and then ,at,h it as it 1oun,ed 1a,=. From how
re-le,ti.e ea,h /at,h o- sur-a,e was and how long it too= the signal to return 2shorter -rom
mountains, longer -rom .alleys4, a detailed ma/ o- the entire sur-a,e was slowly and
/ainsta=ingly ,onstru,ted.
The world so re.ealed turns out to 1e uniKuely s,ul/ted 1y la.a -lows 2and, to a mu,h lesser
degree, 1y wind4, as des,ri1ed in the ne3t ,ha/ter. The ,louds and atmos/here o- %enus ha.e
now 1e,ome trans/arent to us, and another world has 1een .isited 1y the doughty ro1ot
e3/lorers -rom Earth. Our e3/erien,e with %enus is now 1eing a//lied elsewhereHes/e,ially
to Titan, where on,e again im/enetra1le ,louds hide an enigmati, sur-a,e, and radar is
1eginning to gi.e us hints o- what might lie 1elow.
%enus had long 1een thought o- as our sister world. t is the nearest /lanet to the Earth. t has
almost the same mass, siCe, density, and gra.itational /ull as the Earth does. tAs a little ,loser
to the Sun than the Earth, 1ut its 1right ,louds re-le,t more sunlight 1a,= to s/a,e than our
,louds do. As a -irst guess you might .ery well imagine that, under those un1ro=en ,louds,
%enus was rather li=e Earth. Early s,ienti-i, s/e,ulation in,luded -etid swam/s ,rawling with
monster am/hi1ians, li=e the Earth in the Car1oni-erous Period< a world desert< a glo1al
/etroleum sea< and a seltCer o,ean dotted here and there with limestone0en,rusted islands.
Dhile 1ased on some s,ienti-i, data, these OmodelsB o- %enusHthe -irst dating -rom the
1eginnings o- the ,entury, the se,ond -rom the ()8:s, and the last two -rom the raid0()*:sH
were little more than s,ienti-i, roman,es, hardly ,onstrained 1y the s/arse data a.aila1le.
Then, in ()*5, a re/ort was /u1lished in The Astro/hysi,al 9ournal 1y Cornell ". Mayer and his
,olleagues. They had /ointed a newly ,om/leted radio teles,o/e, 1uilt in /art -or ,lassi-ied
resear,h, on the roo- o- the !a.al Resear,h La1oratory in Dashington, '.C., at %enus and
measured the -lu3 o- radio wa.es arri.ing at Earth. This was not radarE !o radio wa.es were
1oun,ed o-- %enus. This was listening to radio wa.es that %enus on its own emits to s/a,e.
%enus turned out to 1e mu,h 1righter than the 1a,=ground o- distant stars and gala3ies. This
in itsel- was not .ery sur/rising. E.ery o1Je,t warmer than a1solute Cero 20678TC4 gi.es o--
radiation throughout the ele,tromagneti, s/e,trum, in,luding the radio region. #ou, -or
e3am/le, emit radio wa.es at an e--e,ti.e or B1rightnessB tem/erature o- a1out 8*TC, and i-
you were in surroundings ,older than you are, a sensiti.e radio teles,o/e ,ould dete,t the
-aint radio wa.es you are transmitting in all dire,tions. Ea,h o- us is a sour,e o- ,old stati,.
Dhat was sur/rising a1out MayerAs dis,o.ery was that the 1rightness tem/erature o- %enus is
more than 8::TC, -ar higher than the sur-a,e tem/erature o- the Earth or the measured
in-rared tem/erature o- the ,louds o- %enus. Some /la,es on %enus seemed at least 6::T
hotter than the normal 1oiling /oint o- water. Dhat ,ould this meanF
Soon there was a deluge o- e3/lanations. argued that the high radio 1rightness tem/erature
was a dire,t indi,ation o- a hot sur-a,e, and that the high tem/eratures were due to a massi.e
,ar1on dio3ide@water .a/or greenhouse e--e,tHin whi,h some sunlight is transmitted through
the ,louds and heats the Sur-a,e, 1ut the sur-a,e e3/erien,es enormous di--i,ulty in radiating
1a,= to s/a,e 1e,ause o- the high in-rared o/a,ity o- ,ar1on dio3ide and water .a/or. Car1on
dio3ide a1sor1s at a range o- wa.elengths through the in-rared, 1ut there seemed to 1e
BwindowsB 1etween the CO6 a1sor/tion 1ands through whi,h the sur-a,e ,ould readily ,ool
o-- to s/a,e. Dater .a/or, though, a1sor1s at in-rared -reKuen,ies that ,orres/ond in /art to
the windows in the ,ar1on dio3ide o/a,ity. The two gases together, it seemed to me, ,ould
/retty well a1sor1 almost all the in-rared emission, e.en i- there was .ery little water .a/orH
something li=e two /i,=et -en,es, the slats o- one 1eing -ortuitously /ositioned to ,o.er the
ga/s o- the other.
There was another .ery di--erent ,ategory o- e3/lanation, in whi,h the high 1rightness
tem/erature o- %enus had nothing to do with the ground. The sur-a,e ,ould still 1e tem/erate,
,lement, ,ongenial. t was /ro/osed that some region in the atmos/here o- %enus or in its
surrounding magnetos/here emitted these radio wa.es to s/a,e. Ele,tri,al dis,harges 1etween
water dro/lets in the %enus ,louds were suggested. A glow dis,harge in whi,h ions and
ele,trons re,om1ined at twilight and dawn in the u//er atmos/here was o--ered. A .ery dense
ionos/here had its ad.o,ates, in whi,h the mutual a,,eleration o- un1ound ele,trons 2B-ree0
-ree emissionB4 ga.e o-- radio wa.es. 2One /ro/onent o- this idea e.en suggested that the high
ioniCation reKuired was due to an a.erage o- (:,::: times greater radioa,ti.ity on %enus than
on EarthH/erha/s -rom a re,ent nu,lear war there.4 And, in the light o- the dis,o.ery o-
radiation -rom 9u/iterAs magnetos/here, it was natural to suggest that the radio emission ,ame
-rom an immense ,loud o- ,harged /arti,les tra//ed 1y some hy/otheti,al .ery intense
%enusian magneti, -ield.
n a series o- /a/ers /u1lished in the middle ()5:s, many in ,olla1oration with 9im Polla,=,6(
these ,on-li,ting models o- a high hot emitting region and a ,old sur-a,e were su1Je,ted to a
,riti,al analysis. $y then we had two im/ortant new ,luesE the radio s/e,trum o- %enus, and
the Mariner 6 e.iden,e that the radio emission was more intense at the ,enter o- the dis= o-
%enus than toward its edge. $y ()57 we were a1le to e3,lude the alternati.e models with
some ,on-iden,e, and ,on,lude that the sur-a,e o- %enus was at a s,or,hing and un0Earthli=e
tem/erature, in e3,ess o- ;::TC. $ut the argument was in-erential, and there were many
intermediate ste/s. De longed -or a more dire,t measurement.
n O,to1er ()57H,ommemorating the tenth anni.ersary o- S/utni= (Hthe So.iet %enera ;
s/a,e,ra-t dro//ed an entry ,a/sule into the ,louds o- %enus. t returned data -rom the hot
lo.er atmos/here, 1ut did not sur.i.e to the sur-a,e. One day later, the &nited States
s/a,e,ra-t Mariner * -lew 1y %enus, its radio transmission to Earth s=imming the atmos/here
at /rogressi.ely greater de/ths. The rate o- -ading o- the signal ga.e in-ormation a1out
atmos/heri, tem/eratures. Although there seemed to 1e some dis,re/an,ies 2later resol.ed4
1etween the two sets o- s/a,e,ra-t data, 1oth ,learly indi,ated that the sur-a,e o- %enus is
.ery hot.
Sin,e then a /rogression o- So.iet %enera s/a,e,ra-t and one ,luster o- Ameri,an s/a,e,ra-t
-rom the Pioneer (6 mission ha.e entered the dee/ atmos/here or landed on the sur-a,e and
measured dire,tlyHessentially 1y sti,=ing out a thermometerHthe sur-a,e and near0sur-a,e
tem/eratures. They turn out to 1e a1out ;7:TC, almost )::TF. Dhen su,h -a,tors as ,ali1ration
errors o- terrestrial radio teles,o/es and sur-a,e emissi.ity are ta=en into a,,ount, the old
radio o1ser.ations and the new dire,t s/a,e,ra-t measurements turn out to 1e in good
a,,ord.
Early So.iet landers were designed -or an atmos/here somewhat li=e our own. They were
,rushed 1y the high /ressures li=e a tin ,an in the gras/ o- a ,ham/ion arm wrestler, or a
Dorld Dar su1marine in the Tonga Tren,h. Therea-ter, So.iet %enus entry .ehi,les were
hea.ily rein-or,ed, li=e modern su1marines, and su,,ess-ully landed on the searing sur-a,e.
Dhen it 1e,ame ,lear how dee/ the atmos/here is and how thi,= the ,louds, So.iet designers
1e,ame ,on,erned that the sur-a,e might 1e /it,h01la,=. %eneras ) and (: were eKui//ed
with -loodlights. They /ro.ed unne,essary. A -ew /er,ent o- the sunlight that -alls on the to/
o- the ,louds ma=es it through to the sur-a,e, and %enus is a1out as 1right as on a ,loudy day
on Earth.
The resistan,e to the idea o- a hot sur-a,e on %enus ,an, su//ose, 1e attri1uted to our
relu,tan,e to a1andon the notion that the nearest /lanet is hos/ita1le -or li-e, -or -uture
e3/loration, and /erha/s e.en, in the longer term, -or human settlement. As it turns out there
are no Car1oni-erous swam/s no glo1al oil or seltCer o,eans. nstead, %enus is a sti-ling,
1rooding in-erno. There are some deserts, 1ut itAs mainly a world o- -roCen la.a seas. Our
ho/es are un-ul-illed. The ,all o- this world is now more muted than in the early days o-
s/a,e,ra-t e3/loration, when almost anything was /ossi1le and our most romanti, notions
a1out %enus might, -or all we then =new, 1e realiCed.
Many s/a,e,ra-t ,ontri1uted to our /resent understanding o- %enus. $ut the /ioneering
mission was Mariner 6. Mariner ( -ailed at laun,h andHas they say o- a ra,ehorse with a
1ro=en legHhad to 1e destroyed. Mariner 6 wor=ed 1eauti-ully and /ro.ided the =ey early
radio data on the ,limate o- %enus. t made in-rared o1ser.ations o- the /ro/erties o- the
,louds. On its way -rom Earth to %enus, it dis,o.ered and measured the solar windHthe
stream o- ,harged /arti,les that -lows outward -rom the Sun, -illing the magnetos/heres o- any
/lanets in its way, 1lowing 1a,= the tails o- ,omets, and esta1lishing the distant helio/ause.
Mariner 6 was the -irst su,,ess-ul /lanetary /ro1e, the shi/ that ushered in the age o-
/lanetary e3/loration.
tAs still in or1it around the Sun, e.ery -ew hundred days still a//roa,hing, more or less
tangentially, the or1it o- %enus. Ea,h time that ha//ens, %enus isnAt there. $ut i- we wait long
enough, %enus will one day 1e near1y and Mariner 6 will 1e a,,elerated 1y the /lanetAs gra.ity
into some Kuite di--erent or1it. &ltimately, Mariner 6, li=e some /lanetesimal -rom ages /ast,
will 1e swe/t u/ 1y another /lanet, -all into the Sun, or 1e eJe,ted -rom the Solar System.
&ntil then, this har1inger o- the age o- /lanetary e3/loration, this minus,ule arti-i,ial /lanet,
will ,ontinue silently or1iting the Sun. tAs a little as i- Colum1usAs -lagshi/, the Santa Maria,
were still ma=ing regular runs with a ghostly ,rew a,ross the Atlanti, 1etween CadiC and
"is/aniola. n the .a,uum o- inter/lanetary s/a,e, Mariner 6 should 1e in mint ,ondition -or
many generations.
My wish on the e.ening and morning star is thisE that late in the twenty0-irst ,entury some
great shi/, on its regular gra.ity0assisted transit to the outer Solar System, inter,e/ts this
an,ient dereli,t and hea.es it a1oard, so it ,an 1e dis/layed in a museum o- early s/a,e
te,hnologyHon Mars, /erha/s, or Euro/a, or a/etus.
Cha$ter 12+ The gro/nd mets

Midway 1etween Thera and Therasia, -ires 1ro=e -orth -rom the sea and ,ontinued -or -our days, so that the
whole sea 1oiled and 1laCed, and the -ires ,ast u/ an island whi,h was gradually ele.ated as though 1y le.ers . . .
A-ter the ,essation o- the eru/tion, the Rhodians, at the time o- their maritime su/rema,y, were -irst to .enture
u/on the s,ene and to ere,t on the island a tem/le.
HSTRA$O, >EO>RAP"# 2CA. 7 $.C4
All o.er the Earth, you ,an -ind a =ind o- mountain with one stri=ing and unusual -eature. Any
,hild ,an re,ogniCe itE The to/ seems sheared or sKuared o--E - you ,lim1 to the summit or -ly
o.er it, you dis,o.er that the mountain has a hole or ,rater at its /ea=. n some mountains o-
this sort, the ,raters are small< in others, they are almost as 1ig as the mountain itsel-.
O,,asionally, the ,raters are -illed with water. Sometimes theyAre -illed with a more amaCing
liKuidE #ou ti/toe (: the edge, and see .ast, glowing la=es o- yellow0red liKuid and -ountains
o- -ire. These holes in the to/s o- mountains are ,alled ,alderas, a-ter the word B,aldron,B and
the mountains on whi,h they sit are =nown, o- ,ourse, as .ol,anosHa-ter %ul,an, the Roman
god o- -ire. There are /erha/s 5:: a,ti.e .ol,anos dis,o.ered on Earth. Some, 1eneath the
o,eans, are yet to 1e -ound.
A ty/i,al .ol,ani, mountain loo=s sa-e enough. !atural .egetation runs u/ its sides. Terra,ed
-ields de,orate its -lan=s. "amlets and shrines nestle at its 1ase. And yet, without warning, a-ter
,enturies o- lassitude, the mountain may e3/lode. $arrages o- 1oulders, torrents o- ash dro/
out o- the s=y. Ri.ers o- molten ro,= ,ome /ouring down its sides. All o.er the Earth /eo/le
imagined that an a,ti.e .ol,ano was an im/risoned giant or demon struggling to get out.
The eru/tions o- Mt. St. "elens and Mt. Pinatu1o are re,ent reminders, 1ut e3am/les ,an 1e
-ound throughout history. n ():6 a hot, glowing .ol,ani, ,loud swe/t down the slo/es o- Mt.
Pelee and =illed 8*,::: /eo/le in the ,ity o- St. Pierre on the Cari11ean island o- MartiniKue.
Massi.e mud-lows -rom the eru/tion o- the !e.ado del RuiC .ol,ano in ()+* =illed more than
6*,::: Colom1ians. The eru/tion o- Mt. %esu.ius in the -irst ,entury 1uried in ash the ha/less
inha1itants o- Pom/eii and "er,ulaneum and =illed the intre/id naturalist Pliny the Elder as he
made his way u/ the side o- the .ol,ano, intent on arri.ing at a 1etter understanding o- its
wor=ings. 2Pliny was hardly the lastE Fi-teen .ol,anologists ha.e 1een =illed in sundry .ol,ani,
eru/tions 1etween ()7) and ())8.4 The Mediterranean island o- Santorin 2also ,alled Thera4 is
in reality the only /art a1o.e water o- the rim o- a .ol,ano now inundated 1y the sea.66 The
e3/losion o- the Santorin .ol,ano in (568 $.C. may, some historians thin=, ha.e hel/ed destroy
the great Minoan ,i.iliCation on the near1y island o- Crete and ,hanged the 1alan,e o- /ower
in early ,lassi,al ,i.iliCation. This disaster may 1e the origin o- the Atlantis legend as related 1y
Plato, in whi,h a ,i.iliCation was destroyed Bin a single day and night o- mis-ortune.B t must
ha.e 1een easy 1a,= then to thin= that a god was angry.
%ol,anos ha.e naturally 1een regarded with -ear and awe. Dhen medie.al Christians .iewed
the eru/tion o- Mt. "e=la in ,eland and saw ,hurning -ragments o- so-t la.a sus/ended o.er
the summit, they imagined they were seeing the souls o- the damned awaiting entran,e to
"ell. BFear-ul howlings, wee/ing and gnashing o- teeth,B Bmelan,holy ,ries and loud wailingsB
were duti-ully re/orted. The glowing red la=es and sul-urous gases within the "e=la ,aldera
were thought to 1e a real glim/se into the underworld and a ,on-irmation o- -ol= 1elie-s in
"ell sand, 1y symmetry, in its /artner, "ea.en4.
A .ol,ano is, in -a,t, an a/erture to an underground realm mu,h .aster than the thin sur-a,e
layer that humans inha1it, and -ar more hostile. The la.a that eru/ts -rom a .ol,ano is liKuid
ro,=Hro,= raised to its melting /oint, generally around (:::TC. The la.a emerges -rom a hole
in the Earth< as it ,ools and solidi-ies, it generates and later rema=es the -lan=s o- a .ol,ani,
mountain.
The most .ol,ani,ally a,ti.e lo,ales on Earth tend to 1e along ridges on the o,ean -loor and
island ar,sHat the Jun,tion o- two great /lates o- o,eani, ,rustHeither se/arating -rom ea,h
other, or one sli//ing under the other. On the sea-loor there are long Cones o- .ol,ani,
eru/tionsHa,,om/anied 1y swarms o- earthKua=es and /lumes o- a1yssal smo=e and hot
waterHthat we a are Just 1eginning to o1ser.e with ro1ot and manned su1mersi1le .ehi,les.
Eru/tions o- la.a must mean that the EarthAs interior is e3tremely hot. ndeed, seismi, e.iden,e
shows that, only a -ew hundred =ilometers 1eneath the sur-a,e, nearly the entire 1ody o- the
Earth is at least slightly molten. The interior o- the Earth is hot, in /art, 1e,ause radioa,ti.e
elements there, su,h as uranium, gi.e o-- heat as they de,ay< and in /art 1e,ause the Earth
retains some o- the original heat released in its -ormation, when many small worlds -ell
together 1y their mutual gra.ity to ma=e the Earth, and when iron dri-ted down to -orm our
/lanetAs ,ore.
The molten ro,=, or magma, rises through -issures in the surrounding hea.ier solid ro,=s. De
,an imagine .ast su1terranean ,a.erns -illed with glowing, red, 1u11ling, .is,ous liKuids that
shoot u/ toward the sur-a,e i- a suita1le ,hannel is 1y ,han,e /ro.ided. The magma, ,alled
la.a as it /ours out o- the summit ,aldera, does indeed arise -rom the underworld. The souls o-
the damned ha.e so -ar eluded dete,tion.
On,e the .ol,ano is -ully 1uilt -rom su,,essi.e out/ourings, and the la.a is no longer s/ewing
u/ into the ,aldera, then it 1e,omes Just li=e any other mountainHslowly eroding 1e,ause o-
rain-all and wind1lown de1ris and, e.entually, the mo.ement o- ,ontinental /lates a,ross the
EarthAs sur-a,e. B"ow many years ,an a mountain e3ist 1e-ore it is washed to the seaFB as=ed
$o1 'ylan in the 1allad B$lowing in the Dind.B The answer de/ends on whi,h /lanet weAre
tal=ing a1out. For the Earth, itAs ty/i,ally a1out ten million years. So mountains, .ol,ani, and
otherwise, must 1e 1uilt on the same times,ale< otherwise the Earth would 1e e.erywhere
smooth as Iansas.68 %ol,ani, e3/losions ,an /un,h .ast Kuantities o- matterHmainly -ine
dro/lets o- sul-uri, a,idHinto the stratos/here. There, -or a year or two, they re-le,t sunlight
1a,= to s/a,e and ,ool the Earth. This ha//ened re,ently with the Phili//ine .ol,ano, Mt.
Pinatu1o, and disastrously in (+(*0(5 a-ter the eru/tion o- the ndonesian .ol,ano Mt.
Tam1ora, whi,h resulted in the -amine0ridden Byear without a summer.B A .ol,ani, eru/tion in
Tau/o, !ew ?ealand, in the year (77 ,ooled the ,limate o- the Mediterranean, hal- a world
away, and dro//ed -ine /arti,les onto the >reenland i,e ,a/. The e3/losion o- Mt. MaCama in
Oregon 2whi,h le-t the ,aldera now ,alled Crater La=e4 in ;+:8 $.C. had ,limati, ,onseKuen,es
throughout the northern hemis/here. Studies o- .ol,ani, e--e,ts on the ,limate were on the
in.estigati.e /ath that e.entually led to the dis,o.ery o- nu,lear winter. They /ro.ide
im/ortant tests o- our use o- ,om/uter models to /redi,t -uture ,limate ,hange. %ol,ani,
/arti,les inJe,ted into the u//er air are also an additional ,ause o- thinning o- the oCone layer.
So a large .ol,ani, e3/losion in some un-reKuented and o1s,ure /art o- the world ,an alter
the en.ironment on a glo1al s,ale. $oth in their origins and in their e--e,ts, .ol,anos remind us
o- how .ulnera1le we are to minor 1ur/s and sneeCes in the EarthAs internal meta1olism, and
how im/ortant it is -or us to understand how this su1terranean heat engine wor=s.
n the -inal stages o- -ormation o- the EarthHas well as the Moon, Mars, and %enusH im/a,ts
1y small worlds are thought to ha.e generated glo1al magma o,eans. Molten ro,= -looded
the /re0e3isting to/ogra/hy. >reat -loods, tidal wa.es =ilometers high, o- -lowing, red0hot
liKuid magma welled u/ -rom the interior and /oured o.er the sur-a,e o- the /lanet, 1urying
e.erything in their /athE mountains, ,hannels, ,raters, /erha/s e.en the last e.iden,e o- mu,h
earlier, more ,lement times. The geologi,al odometer was reset. All a,,essi1le re,ords o-
sur-a,e geology 1egin with the last glo1al magma -lood. $e-ore the, ,ool and solidi-y, o,eans
o- la.a may 1e hundreds or e.en thousands o- =ilometers thi,=. n our time, 1illions o- years
later, the sur-a,e o- su,h a world may 1e Kuiet, ina,ti.e, with no hint o- ,urrent .ul,anism. Or
there may 1eHas on EarthHa -ew small0s,ale 1ut a,ti.e reminders o- an e/o,h when the
entire sur-a,e was -looded with liKuid ro,=.
n the early days o- /lanetary geology, ground01ased teles,o/i, o1ser.ations were all the data
we had. A -er.ent de1ate had 1een running -or hal- a ,entury on whether the ,raters o- the
Moon were due to im/a,ts or .ol,anos. A -ew low mounds with summit ,alderas were -ound
Halmost ,ertainly lunar .ol,anos. $ut the 1ig ,ratersH1owl or /an0sha/ed and sitting on the
-lat ground and not the to/s o- mountainsHwere a di--erent story. Some geologists saw in
them similarities with ,ertain highly eroded .ol,anos on Earth. Others did not. The 1est
,ounter0argument was that we =now there are asteroids and ,omets that -ly /ast the Moon<
they must hit it sometimes< and the ,ollisions must ma=e ,raters. O.er the history o- the Moon
a large num1er o- su,h ,raters should ha.e 1een /un,hed out. So i- the ,raters we see are not
due to im/a,ts, where then are the im/a,t ,ratersF De now =now -rom dire,t la1oratory
e3amination o- lunar ,raters that they are almost entirely o- im/a,t origin. $ut ; 1illion years
ago this little world, nearly dead today, was 1u11ling and ,hurning away, dri.en 1y /rime.al
.ul,anism -rom sour,es o- internal heat now long gone.
n !o.em1er ()7(, !ASAAs Mariner ) s/a,e,ra-t arri.ed at Mars to -ind the /lanet ,om/letely
o1s,ured 1y a glo1al dust storm. Almost the only -eatures to 1e seen were -our ,ir,ular s/ots
rising out o- the reddish mur=. $ut there was something /e,uliar a1out themE They had holes
in their to/s. As the storm ,leared, we were a1le to see unmista=a1ly that we had 1een
.iewing -our huge .ol,ani, mountains /enetrating through the dust ,loud, ea,h ,a//ed 1y a
great summit ,aldera.
A-ter the storm dissi/ated, the true s,ale o- these .ol,anos 1e,ame ,lear. The largestH
a//ro/riately named Olym/us Mons, or Mt. Olym/us, a-ter the home o- the >ree= godsHis
more than 6* =ilometers 2roughly (* miles4 high, dwar-ing not only the largest .ol,ano on
Earth 1ut also the largest mountain o- any sort, Mt. E.erest, whi,h stands ) =ilometers a1o.e
the Ti1etan /lateau. There are some 6: large .ol,anos on Mars, 1ut none so massi.e as
Olym/us Mons, whi,h has a .olume a1out (:: times that o- the largest .ol,ano on Earth,
Mauna Loa in "awaii.
$y ,ounting the a,,umulated im/a,t ,raters 2made 1y small im/a,ting asteroids, and readily
distinguished -rom summit ,alderas4 on the -lan=s o- the .ol,anos, estimates o- their ages ,an
1e deri.ed. Some Martian .ol,anos turn out to 1e a -ew 1illion years old, although none dates
1a,= to the .ery origin o- Mars, a1out ;.* 1illion years ago. Some, in,luding Olym/us Mons,
are ,om/arati.ely newH/erha/s only a -ew hundred million years old. t is ,lear that
enormous .ol,ani, e3/losions o,,urred early in Martian history, /erha/s /ro.iding an
atmos/here mu,h denser than the one Mars holds today. Dhat would the /la,e ha.e loo=ed
li=e i- we had .isited it thenF
Some .ol,ani, -lows on Mars 2-or e3am/le, in Cer1erus4 -ormed as re,ently as 6:: million
years ago. t is, su//ose, e.en /ossi1leHalthough there is no e.iden,e either wayHthat
Olym/us Mons, the largest .ol,ano we =now a1out -or ,ertain in the Solar System, will 1e
a,ti.e again. %ol,anologists, a /atient sort, would dou1tless wel,ome the e.ent.
n ()):0)8 the Magellan s/a,e,ra-t returned sur/rising radar data a1out the land-orms o-
%enus. Cartogra/hers /re/ared ma/s o- almost the entire /lanet, with -ine detail down to
a1out (:: meters, the goal0line0to0goal0line distan,e in an Ameri,an -oot1all stadium. More
data were radioed home 1y Magellan than 1y all other /lanetary missions ,om1ined. Sin,e
mu,h o- the o,ean -loor remains une3/lored 2e3,e/t /erha/s -or still0,lassi-ied data a,Kuired
1y the &.S. and So.iet na.ies4, we may =now more a1out the sur-a,e to/ogra/hy o- %enus
than a1out any other /lanet, Earth in,luded. Mu,h o- the geology o- %enus is unli=e anything
seen on Earth or anywhere else. Planetary geologists ha.e gi.en these land-orms names, 1ut
that doesnAt mean we -ully understand how theyAre -ormed.
$e,ause the sur-a,e tem/erature o- %enus is almost ;7:TC 2)::TF4, the ro,=s there are mu,h
,loser to their melting /oints than are those at the sur-a,e o- the Earth. Ro,=s 1egin to so-ten
and -low at mu,h shallower de/ths on %enus than on Earth. This is .ery li=ely the reason that
many geologi,al -eatures on %enus seem to 1e /lasti, and de-ormed.
The /lanet is ,o.ered 1y .ol,ani, /lains and highland /lateaus. The geologi,al ,onstru,ts
in,lude .ol,ani, ,ones, /ro1a1le shield .ol,anos, and ,alderas. There are many /la,es where
we ,an see that la.a has eru/ted in .ast -loods. Some /lains -eatures ranging to o.er 6::
=ilometers in siCe are /lay-ully ,alled Bti,=sB and Bara,hnoidsB 2whi,h translates roughly as
Bs/iderli=e thingsB4H1e,ause they are ,ir,ular de/ressions surrounded 1y ,on,entri, rings,
while long, s/indly sur-a,e ,ra,=s e3tend radially out -rom the ,enter. Odd, -lat B/an,a=e
domesBHa geologi,al -eature un=nown on Earth, 1ut /ro1a1ly a =ind o- .ol,anoHare /erha/s
-ormed 1y thi,=, .is,ous la.a slowly -lowing uni-ormly in all dire,tions. There are many
e3am/les o- more irregular la.a -lows. Curious ring stru,tures ,alled B,oronaeB range u/ to
some 6,::: =ilometers a,ross. The distin,ti.e la.a -lows on sti-ling hot %enus o--er u/ a ri,h
menu o- geologi,al mysteries.
The most une3/e,ted and /e,uliar -eatures are the sinuous ,hannelsHwith meanders and
o31ows, loo=ing Just li=e ri.er .alleys on Earth. The longest are longer than the greatest ri.ers
on Earth. $ut it is mu,h too hot -or liKuid water on %enus. And we ,an tell -rom the a1sen,e o-
small im/a,t ,raters that the atmos/here has 1een this thi,=, dri.ing as great a greenhouse
e--e,t, -or as long as the /resent sur-a,e has 1een in e3isten,e. 2- it had 1een mu,h thinner,
intermediate0siCed asteroids would not ha.e 1urned u/ on entry into the atmos/here, 1ut
would ha.e sur.i.ed to e3,a.ate ,raters as they im/a,t this /lanetAs sur-a,e.4 La.a -lowing
downhill does ma=e sinuous ,hannels 2sometimes under the ground, -ollowed 1y ,olla/se o-
the roo- o- the ,hannel4. $ut e.en at the tem/eratures o- %enus, the la.as radiate heat, ,ool,
slow, ,ongeal, and sto/. The magma -reeCes solid. La.a ,hannels ,annot go e.en (: /er,ent o-
the length o- the long %enus ,hannels 1e-ore they solidi-y. Some /lanetary geologists thin=
there must 1e a s/e,ial thin, watery, in.is,id la.a generated on %enus. $ut this is a s/e,ulation
su//orted 1y no other data, and a ,on-ession o- our ignoran,e.
The thi,= atmos/here mo.es sluggishly< 1e,ause itAs so dense, though, itAs .ery good at li-ting
and mo.ing -ine /arti,les. There are wind strea=s on %enus, largely emanating -rom im/a,t
,raters, in whi,h the /re.ailing winds ha.e s,oured /iles o- sand and dust and /ro.ided a sort
o- weather .ane im/rinted on the sur-a,e. "ere and there we seem to see -ields o- sand dunes,
and /ro.in,es where wind erosion has s,ul/ted .ol,ani, land-orms. These aeolian /ro,esses
ta=e /la,e in slow motion, as i- at the 1ottom o- the sea. The winds are -ee1le at the sur-a,e o-
%enus. t may ta=e only a so-t gust to raise a ,loud o- -ine /arti,les, 1ut in that sti-ling in-erno a
gust is hard to ,ome 1y.
There are many im/a,t ,raters on %enus, 1ut nothing li=e the num1er on the Moon or Mars.
Craters smaller than a -ew a,ross are oddly missing. The reason is understoodE Small asteroids
and ,omets are 1ro=en u/ on entry into the dense %enus atmos/here 1e-ore they ,an hit the
sur-a,e. The o1ser.ed ,uto-- in ,rater siCe ,orres/onds .ery well to the /resent density o- the
atmos/here o- %enus. Certain irregular s/lot,hes seen on the Magellan images are thought to
1e the remains o- im/a,tors that 1ro=e u/ in the thi,= air 1e-ore they ,ould gouge out a
,rater.
Most o- the im/a,t ,raters are remar=a1ly /ristine and well /reser.ed< only a -ew /er,ent o-
them ha.e 1een engul-ed 1y su1seKuent la.a -lows. The sur-a,e o- %enus as re.ealed 1y
Magellan is .ery young. There are so -ew im/a,t ,raters that e.erything older than a1out *::
million years6; must ha.e 1een eradi,atedHon a /lanet almost ,ertainly ;.* 1illion years old.
There is only one /lausi1le erosi.e agent adeKuate -or what we seeE .ul,anism. All o.er the
/lanet ,raters, mountains, and other geologi,al -eatures ha.e 1een inundated 1y seas o- la.a
that on,e welled u/ -rom the inside, -lowed -ar, and -roCe.
A-ter e3amining so young a sur-a,e ,o.ered with ,ongealed magma, you might wonder i-
there are any a,ti.e .ol,anos le-t. !one has 1een -ound -or ,ertain, 1ut there are a -ewH-or
e3am/le, one ,alled Maat MonsHthat a//ear to 1e surrounded 1y -resh la.a and whi,h may
indeed still 1e ,hurning and 1el,hing. There is some e.iden,e that the a1undan,e o- sul-ur
,om/ounds in the high atmos/here .aries with time, as i- .ol,anos at the sur-a,e were
e/isodi,ally inJe,ting these materials into the atmos/here. Dhen the .ol,anos are Kuies,ent,
the sul-ur ,om/ounds sim/ly -all out o- the air. ThereAs also dis/uted e.iden,e o- lightning
/laying around the mountainto/s o- %enus, as sometimes ha//ens on a,ti.e .ol,anos on
Earth. $ut we do not =now -or ,ertain whether there is ongoing .ul,anism on %enus. ThatAs a
matter -or -uture missions.
Some s,ientists 1elie.e that until a1out *:: million years ago the %enus sur-a,e was almost
entirely de.oid o- land-orms. Streams and o,eans o- molten ro,= were relentlessly /ouring out
o- the interior, -illing in and ,o.ering o.er any relie- that had managed to -orm. "ad you
/lummeted down through the ,louds in that long0ago time, the sur-a,e would ha.e 1een
nearly uni-orm and -eatureless. At night the lands,a/e would ha.e 1een hellishly glowing -rom
the red heat o- molten la.a. n this .iew, the great internal heat engine o- %enus, whi,h
su//lied ,o/ious amounts o- magma to the sur-a,e until a1out *:: million years ago, has now
turned o--. The /lanetary heat engine has -inally run down.
n another /ro.o,ati.e theoreti,al model, this one 1y the geo/hysi,ist 'onald Tur,otte, %enus
has /late te,toni,s li=e the EarthAs 1ut it turns o-- and on. Right now, he /ro/oses, the /late
te,toni,s are o--< B,ontinentsB do not mo.e along the sur-a,e, do not ,rash into one another,
do not there1y raise mountain ranges, and are not later su1du,ted into the dee/ interior. A-ter
hundreds o- millions o- years o- Kuies,en,e, though, /late te,toni,s always 1rea=s out and
sur-a,e -eatures are -looded 1y la.a, destroyed 1y mountain 1uilding, su1du,ted, and
otherwise o1literated. The last su,h 1rea=out ended a1out *:: million years ago, Tur,otte
suggests, and e.erything has 1een Kuiet sin,e. "owe.er, the /resen,e o- ,oronae may signi-y
Hon times,ales that are geologi,ally in the near -utureHthat massi.e ,hanges on the sur-a,e
o- %enus are a1out to 1rea= out again.
E.en more une3/e,ted than the great Martian .ol,anos or the magma0-looded sur-a,e o-
%enus is what awaited us when the %oyager ( s/a,e,ra-t en,ountered lo, the innermost o- the
-our large >alilean moons o- 9u/iter, in Mar,h ()7). There we -ound a strange, small,
multihued world /ositi.ely awash in .ol,anos. As we wat,hed in astonishment, eight a,ti.e
/lumes /oured gas and -ine /arti,les u/ into the s=y. The largest, now ,alled PeleHa-ter the
"awaiian .ol,ano goddessH/roJe,ted a -ountain o- material 6*: =ilometers into s/a,e, higher
a1o.e the sur-a,e o- o than some astronauts ha.e .entured a1o.e the Earth. $y the time
%oyager 6 arri.ed at o, -our months later, Pele had turned itsel- o--, although si3 o- the other
/lumes were still a,ti.e, at least one new /lume had 1een dis,o.ered, and another ,aldera,
named Surt, had ,hanged its ,olor dramati,ally.
The ,olors o- o, e.en though e3aggerated in !ASAAs ,olor0enhan,ed images, are li=e none
elsewhere in the Solar System. The ,urrently -a.ored e3/lanation is that the onian .ol,anos
are dri.en not 1y u/welling molten ro,=, as on the Earth, the Moon, %enus, and Mars, 1ut 1y
u/welling sul-ur dio3ide and molten sul-ur. The sur-a,e is ,o.ered with .ol,ani, mountains,
.ol,ani, ,alderas, .ents, and la=es o- molten sul-ur. %arious -orms and ,om/ounds o- sul-ur
ha.e 1een dete,ted on the sur-a,e o- o and in near1y s/a,eHthe .ol,anos 1low some o- the
sul-ur o-- o altogether.6* These -indings ha.e suggested to some an underground sea o-
liKuid sul-ur that issues to the sur-a,e at /oints o- wea=ness, generates a shallow .ol,ani,
mound, tri,=les downhill, and -reeCes, its -inal ,olor determined 1y its tem/erature on
eru/tion.
On the Moon or Mars, you ,an -ind many /la,es that ha.e ,hanged little in a 1illion years. On
o, in a ,entury, mu,h o- the sur-a,e should 1e re-looded, -illed in or washed away 1y new
.ol,ani, -lows. Ma/s o- o will then Kui,=ly 1e,ome o1solete, and ,artogra/hy o- o will ha.e
1e,ome a growth industry.
All this seems to -ollow readily enough -rom the %oyager o1ser.ations. The rate at whi,h the
sur-a,e is ,o.ered o.er 1y ,urrent .ol,ani, -lows im/lies massi.e ,hanges in *: or (:: years, a
/redi,tion that lu,=ily ,an 1e tested. The %oyager images o- to ,an 1e ,om/ared with mu,h
/oorer images ta=en 1y ground01ased teles,o/es *: years earlier, and 1y the "u11le S/a,e
Teles,o/e (8 years later. The sur/rising ,on,lusion seems to 1e that the 1ig sur-a,e mar=ings
on o ha.e hardly ,hanged at all. Clearly, weAre missing something.
A .ol,ano in one sense re/resents the insides o- a /lanet gushing out, a wound that e.entually
heals itsel- 1y ,ooling, only to 1e re/la,ed 1y new stigmata. 'i--erent worlds ha.e di--erent
insides. The dis,o.ery o- liKuid0sul-ur .ul,anism on o was a little li=e -inding that an old
a,Kuaintan,e, when ,ut, 1leeds green. #ou had no idea su,h di--eren,es were /ossi1le. "e
seemed so ordinary.
De are naturally eager to -ind additional signs o- .ul,anism on other worlds. On Euro/a, the
se,ond o- the >alilean moons o- 9u/iter and oAs neigh1or, there are no .ol,ani, mountains at
all< 1ut molten i,eHliKuid waterHseems to ha.e gushed to the sur-a,e through an enormous
num1er o- ,riss,rossing dar= mar=ings 1e-ore -reeCing. And -urther out, among the moons o-
Saturn, there are signs that liKuid water has gushed u/ -rom the interior and wi/ed away
im/a,t ,raters. Still, we ha.e ne.er seen anything that might /lausi1ly 1e an i,e .ol,ano in
either the 9u/iter or Saturn systems. On Triton, we may ha.e o1ser.ed nitrogen or methane
.ul,anism.
The .ol,anos o- other worlds /ro.ide a stirring s/e,ta,le. They enhan,e our sense o- wonder,
our Joy in the 1eauty and di.ersity o- the Cosmos. $ut these e3oti, .ol,anos /er-orm another
ser.i,e as wellE They hel/ us to =now the .ol,anos o- our own worldHand /erha/s will hel/
one day e.en to /redi,t their eru/tions. - we ,annot understand whatAs ha//ening in other
,ir,umstan,es, where the /hysi,al /arameters are di--erent, how dee/ ,an our understanding
1e o- the ,ir,umstan,e o- most ,on,ern to usF A general theory o- .ul,anism must ,o.er all
,ases. Dhen we stum1le u/on .ast .ol,ani, eminen,es on a geologi,ally Kuiet Mars< when we
dis,o.er the sur-a,e o- %enus wi/ed ,lean only yesterday 1y -loods o- magma< when we -ind a
world melted not 1y the heat o- radioa,ti.e de,ay, as on Earth, 1ut 1y gra.itational tides
e3erted 1y near1y worlds< when we o1ser.e sul-ur rather than sili,ate .ul,anism< and when we
1egin to wonder, in the moons o- the outer /lanets, whether we might 1e .iewing water,
ammonia, nitrogen, or methane .ul,anismHthen we are learning what else is /ossi1le.
Cha$ter 13+ The 4i-t o- %$oo
The gates o- "ea.en are o/en wide<
o-- ride . . .
HC"A& T?A& 2ATTR$&TE' TO C"A& #&A!4, BT"E !!E SO!>S,B SO!> %, BT"E >REAT LOR' OF L%ESB 2C"!A,
CA. T"R' CE!T&R# $.C.4
tAs a sultry night in 9uly. #ouA.e -allen aslee/ in the arm,hair. A1ru/tly, you startle awa=e,
disoriented. The tele.ision set is on, 1ut not the sound. #ou strain to understand what youAre
seeing. Two ghostly white -igures in ,o.eralls and helmets are so-tly dan,ing under a /it,h0
1la,= s=y. They ma=e strange little s=i//ing motions, whi,h /ro/el them u/ward amid 1arely
/er,e/ti1le ,louds o- dust. $ut something is wrong. They ta=e too long to ,ome down.
En,um1ered as they are, they seem to 1e -lying a little. #ou ru1 your eyes, 1ut the dreamli=e
ta1leau /ersists.
O- all the e.ents surrounding A/ollo ((As landing on the Moon on 9uly 6:, ()5), my most .i.id
re,olle,tion is its unreal Kuality. !eil Armstrong and $uCC Aldrin shu--led along the gray, dusty
lunar sur-a,e, the Earth looming large in their s=y, while Mi,hael Collins, now the MoonAs own
moon, or1ited a1o.e them in lonely .igil. #es, it was an astonishing te,hnologi,al a,hie.ement
and a trium/h -or the &nited States. #es, the astronauts dis/layed death0de-ying ,ourage. #es,
as Armstrong said as he -irst alighted, this was a histori, ste/ -or the human s/e,ies. $ut i- you
turned o-- the 1y0/lay 1etween Mission Control and the Sea o- TranKuility, with its deli1erately
mundane and routine ,hatter, and stared into that 1la,=0and0white tele.ision monitor, you
,ould glim/se that we humans had entered the realm o- myth and legend.
De =new the Moon -rom our earliest days. t was there when our an,estors des,ended -rom
the trees into the sa.annahs, when we learned to wal= u/right, when we -irst de.ised stone
tools, when we domesti,ated -ire, when we in.ented agri,ulture and 1uilt ,ities and set out to
su1due the Earth. Fol=lore and /o/ular songs ,ele1rate a mysterious ,onne,tion 1etween the
Moon and lo.e. The word BmonthB and the se,ond day o- the wee= are 1oth named a-ter the
Moon. ts wa3ing and waningH-rom ,res,ent to -ull to ,res,ent to newHwas widely
understood as a ,elestial meta/hor o- death and re1irth. t was ,onne,ted with the o.ulation
,y,le o- women, whi,h has nearly the same /eriodHas the word BmenstruationB 2Latin mensis
V month, -rom the word Bto measureB4 reminds us. Those who slee/ in moonlight go mad< the
,onne,tion is /reser.ed in the English word Blunati,.B n the old Persian story, a .iCier
renowned -or his wisdom is as=ed whi,h is more use-ul, the Sun or the Moon. BThe Moon,B he
answers, B1e,ause the Sun shines in daytime when itAs light out anyway.B Es/e,ially when we
li.ed out0o-0doors, it was a maJorHi- oddly intangi1leH/resen,e in our li.es.
The Moon was a meta/hor -or the unattaina1leE B#ou /light as well as= -or the Moon,B they
used to say. Or B#ou ,an no more do that than -ly to the Moon.B For most o- our history, e.e
had no idea what it was. A s/iritF A godF A thingF t didnAt loo= li=e something 1ig -ar away,
1ut more li=e something small near1yHsomething the siCe o- a /late, may1e, hanging in the
s=y a little a1o.e our heads. An,ient >ree= /hiloso/hers de1ated the /ro/osition Bthat the
Moon is e3a,tly as large as it loo=sB 21etraying a ho/eless ,on-usion 1etween linear and
angular siCe4. Dal=ing on the Moon would ha.e seemed a s,rew1all idea< it made more sense
to imagine somehow ,lim1ing u/ into the s=y on a ladder or on the 1a,= o- a giant 1ird,
gra11ing the Moon, and 1ringing it down to Earth. !o1ody e.er su,,eeded, although there
were myths a/lenty a1out heroes who had tried.
!ot until a -ew ,enturies ago did the idea o- the Moon as a /la,e, a Kuarter0million miles
away, gain wide ,urren,y. And in that 1rie- -li,=er o- time, weA.e gone -rom the earliest ste/s in
understanding the MoonAs nature to wal=ing and Joy0riding on its sur-a,e. De ,al,ulated how
o1Je,ts mo.e in s/a,e< liKue-ied o3ygen -rom the air< in.ented 1ig ro,=ets, telemetry, relia1le
ele,troni,s, inertial guidan,e, and mu,h else. Then we sailed out into the s=y.
was lu,=y enough to 1e in.ol.ed in the A/ollo /rogram, 1ut donAt 1lame /eo/le who thin=
the whole thing was -a=ed in a "ollywood mo.ie studio. n the late Roman Em/ire, /agan
/hiloso/hers had atta,=ed Christian do,trine on the as,ension to "ea.en o- the 1ody o- Christ
and on the /romised 1odily resurre,tion o- the deadH1e,ause the -or,e o- gra.ity /ulls down
all Bearthly 1odies.B St. Augustine reJoinedE B- human s=ill ,an 1y some ,ontri.an,e -a1ri,ate
.essels that -loat, out o- metals whi,h sin=. . . how mu,h more ,redi1le is it that >od, 1y some
hidden mode o- o/eration, should e.en more ,ertainly e--e,t that these earthly masses 1e
eman,i/atedB -rom the ,hains that 1ind them to EarthF That humans should one day dis,o.er
su,h a Bmode o- o/erationB was 1eyond imagining. Fi-teen hundred years later, we
eman,i/ated oursel.es.
The a,hie.ement eli,ited an amalgam o- awe and ,on,ern. Some remem1ered the story o- the
Tower o- $a1el. Some, orthodo3 Moslems among them, -elt setting -oot on the MoonAs sur-a,e
to 1e im/uden,e and sa,rilege. Many greeted it as a turning /oint in history.
The Moon is no longer unattaina1le. A doCen humans, all Ameri,ans, ha.e made those odd
1ounding motions they ,alled Bmoonwal=sB on the ,run,hy, ,ratered, an,ient gray la.aH
1eginning on that 9uly day in ()5). $ut sin,e ()76, no one -rom any nation has .entured 1a,=.
ndeed, none o- us has gone anywhere sin,e the glory days o- A/ollo e3,e/t into low Earth
or1itHli=e a toddler who ta=es a -ew tentati.e ste/s outward and then, 1reathless, retreats to
the sa-ety o- his motherAs s=irts.
On,e u/on a time, we soared into the Solar System. For a -ew years. Then we hurried 1a,=.
DhyF Dhat ha//enedF Dhat was A/ollo really a1outF
The s,o/e and auda,ity o- 9ohn IennedyAs May 6*, ()5( message to a Joint session o-
Congress on B&rgent !ational !eedsBHthe s/ee,h that laun,hed the A/ollo /rogramH
daCCled me. De would use ro,=ets not yet designed and alloys not yet ,on,ei.ed, na.igation
and do,=ing s,hemes not yet de.ised, in order to send a man to an un=nown worldHa world
not yet e3/lored, not e.en in a /reliminary way, not e.en 1y ro1otsHand we would 1ring him
sa-ely 1a,=, and we would do it 1e-ore the de,ade was o.er. This ,on-ident /ronoun,ement
was made 1e-ore any Ameri,an had e.en a,hie.ed Earth or1it.
As a newly minted Ph.'., a,tually thought all this had something ,entrally to do with s,ien,e.
$ut the President did not tal= a1out dis,o.ering the origin o- the Moon, or e.en a1out
1ringing sam/les o- it 1a,= -or study. All he seemed to 1e interested in was sending someone
there and 1ringing him home. t was a =ind o- gesture. IennedyAs s,ien,e ad.isor, 9erome
Diesner, later told me he had made a deal with the PresidentE - Iennedy would not ,laim that
A/ollo was a1out s,ien,e, then he. Diesner, would su//ort it. So i- not s,ien,e, whatF
The A/ollo /rogram is really a1out /oliti,s, others told me. This sounded more /romising.
!onaligned nations would 1e tem/ted to dri-t toward the So.iet &nion i- it was ahead in
s/a,e e3/loration, i- the &nited States showed insu--i,ient Bnational .igor.B didnAt -ollow. "ere
was the &nited States, ahead o- the So.iet &nion in .irtually e.ery area o- te,hnologyHthe
worldAs e,onomi,, military, and, on o,,asion, e.en moral leaderHand ndonesia would go
Communist 1e,ause #uri >agarin 1eat 9ohn >lenn to Earth or1itF DhatAs so s/e,ial a1out
s/a,e te,hnologyF Suddenly understood.
Sending /eo/le to or1it the Earth or ro1ots to or1it the Sun reKuires ro,=etsH1ig, relia1le,
/ower-ul ro,=ets. Those same ro,=ets ,an 1e used -or nu,lear war. The same te,hnology that
trans/orts a man to the Moon ,an ,arry nu,lear warheads hal-way around the world. The
same te,hnology that /uts an astronomer and a teles,o/e in Earth or1it ,an also /ut u/ a
laser B1attle station.B E.en 1a,= then, there was -an,i-ul tal= in military ,ir,les, East and Dest,
a1out s/a,e as the new Bhigh ground,B a1out the nation that B,ontrolledB s/a,e B,ontrollingB
the Earth. O- ,ourse strategi, ro,=ets were already 1eing tested on Earth. $ut hea.ing a
1allisti, missile with a dummy warhead into a target Cone in the middle o- the Pa,i-i, O,ean
doesnAt 1uy mu,h glory. Sending /eo/le into s/a,e ,a/tures the attention and magination o-
the world.
#ou wouldnAt s/end the money to laun,h astronauts -or this reason alone, 1ut o- all the ways
o- demonstrating ro,=et /oten,y, this one wor=s 1est. t was a rite o- national manhood< the
sha/e o- the 1oosters made this /oint readily understood without anyone a,tually ha.ing to
e3/lain it. The ,ommuni,ation seemed to 1e transmitted -rom un,ons,ious mind to
un,ons,ious mind without the higher mental -a,ulties ,at,hing a whi-- o- what was going on.
My ,olleagues todayHstruggling -or e.ery s/a,e s,ien,e dollarHmay ha.e -orgotten how
easy it was to get money -or Bs/a,eB in the glory days o- A/ollo and Just 1e-ore. O- many
e3am/les, ,onsider this e3,hange 1e-ore the 'e-ense A//ro/riations Su1,ommittee o- the
"ouse o- Re/resentati.es in ()*+, only a -ew months a-ter S/utni= (. Air For,e Assistant
Se,retary Ri,hard E. "orner is testi-ying< his interlo,utor is Re/. 'aniel 9. Flood 2'emo,rat o-
Pennsyl.ania4E
"OR!ERE Dhy is it desira1le -rom the military /oint o- .iew to ha.e a man on the moonF
Partly, -rom the ,lassi, /oint o- .iew, 1e,ause it is there. Partly 1e,ause we might 1e a-raid that
the &.S.S.R. might get one there -irst and realiCe ad.antages whi,h we had not anti,i/ated
e3isted there . . .
FLOO'E - we ga.e you all the money you said was ne,essary, regardless o- how mu,h it was,
,an you in the Air For,e hit the moon with something, anything, 1e-ore ChristmasF
"OR!ERE -eel sure we ,an. There is always a ,ertain amount o- ris= in this =ind o-
underta=ing, 1ut we -eel that we ,an do that< yes, sir.
FLOO'E "a.e you as=ed any1ody in the Air For,e or the 'e/artment o- 'e-ense to gi.e you
enough money,
hardware, and /eo/le, starting at midnight tonight, to ,hi/ a. /ie,e out o- that 1all o- green
,heese -or a Christmas /resent to &n,le SamF "a.e you as=ed -or thatF
"OR!ERE De ha.e su1mitted su,h a /rogram to the O--i,e o- the Se,retary o- 'e-ense. t is
,urrently under ,onsideration.
FLOO'E am -or gi.ing it to them as o- this minute, Mr. Chairman, with our su//lemental,
without waiting -or some1ody downtown to ma=e u/ his mind to as= -or it. - this man means
what he says and i- he =nows what he is tal=ing a1outHand thin= he doesHthen this
,ommittee should not wait -i.e minutes more today. De should gi.e him all the money and all
the hardware and all the /eo/le he wants, regardless o- what any1ody else says or wants, and
tell him to go u/ on to/ o- some hill and do it without any Kuestion.
Dhen President Iennedy -ormulated the A/ollo /rogram, the 'e-ense 'e/artment had a slew
o- s/a,e /roJe,ts under de.elo/mentHways o- ,arrying military /ersonnel u/ into s/a,e,
means o- ,on.eying them around the Earth, ro1ot wea/ons on or1iting /lat-orms intended to
shoot down satellites and 1allisti, missiles o- other nations. A/ollo su//lanted these /rograms.
They ne.er rea,hed o/erational status. A ,ase ,an 1e made then that A/ollo ser.ed another
/ur/oseHto mo.e the &.S.HSo.iet s/a,e ,om/etition -rom a military to a ,i.ilian arena. There
are some who 1elie.e that Iennedy intended A/ollo as a su1stitute -or an anus ra,e in s/a,e.
May1e.
For me, the most ironi, to=en o- that moment in history is the /laKue signed 1y President
Ri,hard M. !i3on that A/ollo (( too= to the Moon. t readsE BDe ,ame in /ea,e -or all
man=ind.B As the &nited States was dro//ing 7M megatons o- ,on.entional e3/losi.es on
small nations in Southeast Asia, we ,ongratulated oursel.es on our humanityE De would harm
no one on a li-eless ro,=. That /laKue is there still, atta,hed to the 1ase o- the A/ollo (( Lunar
Module, on the airless desolation o- the Sea o- TranKuility. - no one distur1s it, it will still 1e
reada1le a million years -rom now.
Si3 more missions -ollowed A/ollo ((, all 1ut one o- whi,h su,,ess-ully landed on the lunar
sur-a,e. A/ollo (7 was the -irst to ,arry a s,ientist. As soon as he got there, the /rogram was
,an,eled. The -irst s,ientist and the last human to land on the Moon were the same /erson.
The /rogram had already ser.ed its /ur/ose that 9uly night in ()5). The hal-0doCen
su1seKuent missions were Just momentum.
A/ollo was not mainly a1out s,ien,e. t was not e.en mainly a1out s/a,e. A/ollo was a1out
ideologi,al ,on-rontation and nu,lear warHo-ten des,ri1ed 1y su,h eu/hemisms as world
Bleadershi/B and national B/restige.B !e.ertheless, good s/a,e s,ien,e was done. De now
=now mu,h more a1out the ,om/osition, age, and history o- the Moon and the origin o- the
lunar land-orms. De ha.e made /rogress in understanding where the Moon ,ame -rom. Some
o- us ha.e used lunar ,ratering statisti,s to 1etter understand the Earth at the time o- the
origin o- li-e. $ut more im/ortant than any o- this, A/ollo /ro.ided an aegis, an um1rella
under whi,h 1rilliantly engineered ro1ot s/a,e,ra-t were dis/at,hed throughout the Solar
System, ma=ing that /reliminary re,onnaissan,e o- doCens o- worlds. The o--s/ring o- A/ollo
ha.e now rea,hed the /lanetary -rontiers.
- not -or A/olloHand, there-ore, i- not -or the /oliti,al /ur/ose it ser.edH dou1t whether
the histori, Ameri,an e3/editions o- e3/loration and dis,o.ery throughout the Solar System
would ha.e o,,urred, The Mariners, %i=ings, Pioneers, %oyagers ,and >alileo are among the
gi-ts o- A/ollo. Magellan and Cassini are more distant des,endants. Something similar is true
-or the /ioneering So.iet e--orts in Solar System e3/loration, in,luding the -irst so-t landings o-
ro1ot s/a,e,ra-tHLuna ), Mars 8, %enera +0on other worlds.
A/ollo ,on.eyed a ,on-iden,e, energy, and 1readth o- .ision that did ,a/ture the imagination
o- the world. That too was /art o- its /ur/ose. t ins/ired an o/timism a1out te,hnology, an
enthusiasm -or the -uture. - we ,ould -ly to the Moon, as so many ha.e as=ed, what else were
we ,a/a1le o-F E.en those who o//osed the /oli,ies and a,tions o- the &nited StatesHe.en
those who thought the worst o- usHa,=nowledged the genius and heroism o- the A/ollo
/rogram. Dith A/ollo, the &nited States tou,hed greatness.
Dhen you /a,= your 1ags -or a 1ig tri/, you ne.er =now whatAs in store -or you. The A/ollo
astronauts on their way to and -rom the Moon /hotogra/hed their home /lanet. t was a
natural thing to do, 1ut it had ,onseKuen,es that -ew -oresaw. For the -irst time, the
inha1itants o- Earth ,ould see their world -rom a1o.eHthe whole Earth, the Earth in ,olor, the
Earth as an e3Kuisite s/inning white and 1lue 1all set against the .ast dar=ness o- s/a,e. Those
images hel/ed awa=en our slum1ering /lanetary ,ons,iousness. They /ro.ide in,ontesta1le
e.iden,e that we all share the same .ulnera1le /lanet. They remind us o- what is im/ortant
and what is not. They were the har1ingers o- %oyagerAs /ale 1lue dot.
De may ha.e -ound that /ers/e,ti.e Just in time, Just as our te,hnology threatens the
ha1ita1ility o- our world. Dhate.er the reason we -irst mustered the A/ollo /rogram, howe.er
mired it was in Cold Dar nationalism and the instruments o- death, the ines,a/a1le
re,ognition o- the unity and -ragility o- the Earth is its ,lear and luminous di.idend, the
une3/e,ted -inal gi-t o- A/ollo. Dhat 1egan in deadly ,om/etition has hel/ed us to see that
glo1al ,oo/eration is the essential /re,ondition -or o- sur.i.al.
Tra.el is 1roadening.
tAs time to hit the road again.
Cha$ter 15+ '=$oring other #ords and $rotecting this one
The /lanets, in their .arious stages o- de.elo/ment, are su1Je,ted to the same -ormati.e -or,es that o/erate on
our earth, and ha.e, there-ore, the same geologi, -ormation, and /ro1a1ly li-e, o- our own /ast, and /erha/s
-uture< 1ut -urther than this, these -or,es are a,ting, in some ,ases, under totally di--erent ,onditions -rom those
under whi,h they o/erate on the earth, and hen,e must e.ol.e -orms di--erent -rom those e.er =nown to man.
The .alue o- su,h material as this to the ,om/arati.e s,ien,es is too o1.ious to need dis,ussion.
HRO$ERT ". >O''AR', !OTE$OOI 2():74
For the -irst time in my li-e, saw the horiCon as a ,ur.ed line. t was a,,entuated 1y a thin seam o- dar= 1lue
light0our atmos/here. O1.iously, this was not the Bo,eanB o- air had 1een told it was so many times in my li-e.
was terri-ied 1y its -ragile a//earan,e.
H&LF MER$OL', >ERMA! SPACE S"&TTLE ASTRO!A&T 2()++4
Dhen you loo= down at the Earth -rom or1ital altitudes, you see a lo.ely, -ragile world
em1edded in 1la,= .a,uum. $ut /eering at a /ie,e o- the Earth through a s/a,e,ra-t /orthole
is nothing li=e the Joy o- seeing it entire against the 1a,=dro/ o- 1la,=, orH1etterHswee/ing
a,ross your -ield o- .iew as you -loat in s/a,e unen,um1ered 1y a s/a,e,ra-t. The -irst human
to ha.e this e3/erien,e was Ale3ei Leono., who on Mar,h (+, ()5*, le-t %os=hod 6 in the
original s/a,e Bwal=BE B loo=ed down at the Earth,B he re,alls, Band the -irst thought that
,rossed my mind was UThe world is round, a-ter all.A n one glan,e ,ould see -rom >i1raltar to
the Cas/ian Sea . . . -elt li=e a 1irdHwith wings, and a1le to -ly.B
Dhen you .iew the Earth -rom -arther away, as the A/ollo astronauts did, it shrin=s in a//arent
siCe, until nothing 1ut a little geogra/hy remains. #ouAre stru,= 1y how sel-0,ontained it is. An
o,,asional hydrogen atom lea.es< a /itter0/atter o- ,ometary dust arri.es. Sunlight, generated
in the immense, silent thermonu,lear engine dee/ in the solar interior, /ours out o- the Sun in
all dire,tions, and the Earth inter,e/ts enough o- it to /ro.ide a little illumination and enough
heat -or our modest /ur/oses. A/art -rom that, this small world is on its own.
From the sur-a,e o- the Moon you ,an see it, /erha/s as a ,res,ent, e.en its ,ontinents now
indistin,t. And -rom the .antage /oint o- the outermost /lanet it is a mere /oint o- /ale light.
From Earth or1it, you are stru,= 1y the tender 1lue ar, o- the horiConHthe EarthAs thin
atmos/here seen tangentially. #ou ,an understand why there is no longer su,h a thing as a
lo,al en.ironmental /ro1lem. Mole,ules are stu/id. ndustrial /oisons, greenhouse gases, and
su1stan,es that atta,= the /rote,ti.e oCone layer, 1e,ause o- their a1ysmal ignoran,e, do not
res/e,t 1orders. They are o1li.ious o- the notion o- national so.ereignty. And so, due to the
almost mythi, /owers o- our te,hnology 2and the /re.alen,e o- short0term thin=ing4, we are
1eginningHon Continental and on /lanetary s,alesHto /ose a danger to oursel.es. Plainly, i-
these /ro1lems are to 1e sol.ed, it will reKuire many nations a,ting in ,on,ert o.er many
years.
Am stru,= again 1y the irony that s/a,e-lightH,on,ei.ed in tile ,auldron o- nationalist ri.alries
and hatredsH1rings with it a stunning transnational .ision. #ou s/end e.en a little time
,ontem/lating the Earth -rom or1it and the most dee/ly engrained nationalisms 1egin to
erode. They seem the sKua11les o- mites on a /lum.
- weAre stu,= on one world, weAre limited to a single ,ase< we donAt =now what else is /ossi1le.
ThenHli=e an art -an,ier -amiliar only with Fayoum tom1 /aintings, a dentist who =nows only
molars, a /hiloso/her trained merely in !eoPlatonism, a linguist who has studied only
Chinese, or a /hysi,ist whose =nowledge o- gra.ity is restri,ted to -alling 1odies on EarthHour
/ers/e,ti.e is -oreshortened, our insights narrow, our /redi,ti.e a1ilities ,ir,ums,ri1ed. $y
,ontrast, when we e3/lore other worlds, what on,e seemed the only way a /lanet ,ould 1e
turns out to 1e somewhere in the middle range o- a .ast s/e,trum o- /ossi1ilities. Dhen we
loo= at those other worlds, we 1egin to understand what ha//ens when we ha.e too mu,h o-
one thing or too little o- another. De learn how a /lanet ,an go wrong. De gain a new
understanding, -oreseen 1y the s/a,e-light /ioneer Ro1ert >oddard, ,alled ,om/arati.e
/lanetology.
The e3/loration o- other worlds has o/ened our eyes in the study o- .ol,anos, earthKua=es,
and weather. t may one day ha.e /ro-ound im/li,ations -or 1iology, 1e,ause all li-e on Earth
is 1uilt on a ,ommon 1io,hemi,al master /lan. The dis,o.ery o- a single e3traterrestrial
organismHe.en something as hum1le as a 1a,teriumHwould re.olutioniCe our
understanding o- li.ing things. $ut the ,onne,tion 1etween e3/loring other worlds and
/rote,ting this one is most e.ident in the study o- EarthAs ,limate and the 1urgeoning threat
to that ,limate that our te,hnology /oses. Other worlds /ro.ide .ital insights a1out what
dum1 things not to do on Earth.
Three /otential en.ironmental ,atastro/hesHall o/erating on a glo1al s,aleHha.e re,ently
1een un,o.eredE oCone layer de/letion, greenhouse warming, and nu,lear winter. All three
dis,o.eries, it turns out, ha.e strong ties to the e3/loration o- the /lanets.
2(4 t was distur1ing to -ind that an inert material with all sorts o- /ra,ti,al a//li,ationsHit
ser.es as the wor=ing -luid in re-rigerators and air ,onditioners, as aerosol /ro/ellant -or
deodorants and other /rodu,ts, as lightweight -oamy /a,=aging -or -ast -oods, and as a
,leaning agent in mi,roele,troni,s, to name only a -ew0,an /ose a danger to li-e on Earth.
Dho would ha.e -iguredF
The mole,ules in Kuestion are ,alled ,hloro-luoro,ar1ons 2CFCs4. Chemi,ally, theyAre e3tremely
inert, whi,h means theyAre in.ulnera1leHuntil they -ind themsel.es u/ in the oCone layer,
where theyAre 1ro=en a/art 1y ultra.iolet light -rom the Sun. The ,hlorine atoms thus li1erated
atta,= and 1rea= down the /rote,ti.e oCone, letting more ultra.iolet light rea,h the ground.
This in,reased ultra.iolet intensity ushers in a ghastly /ro,ession o- /otential ,onseKuen,es
in.ol.ing not Just s=in ,an,er and ,atara,ts, 1ut wea=ening o- the human immune system and,
most dangerous o- all, /ossi1le harm to agri,ulture and to /hotosyntheti, organisms at the
1ase o- the -ood ,hain on whi,h most li-e on Earth de/ends.
Dho dis,o.ered that CFCs /osed a threat to the oCone layerF Das it the /rin,i/al
manu-a,turer, the 'uPont Cor/oration, e3er,ising ,or/orate res/onsi1ilityF Das it the
En.ironmental Prote,tion Agen,y /rote,ting usF Das it the 'e/artment o- 'e-ense de-ending
usF !o, it was two .ory0tower, white0,oated uni.ersity s,ientists wor=ing on something elseH
Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina o- the &ni.ersity o- Cali-ornia, r.ine. !ot e.en an .y
League uni.ersity. !o one instru,ted them to loo= -or dangers to the en.ironment. They were
/ursuing -undamental resear,h. They were s,ientists -ollowing their own interests. Their names
should 1e =nown to e.ery s,hool,hild.
n their original ,al,ulations, Rowland and Molina used rate ,onstants o- ,hemi,al rea,tions
in.ol.ing ,hlorine and other halogens that had 1een measured in /art with !ASA su//ort.
Dhy !ASAF $e,ause %enus has ,hlorine and -luorine mole,ules in its atmos/here, and
/lanetary aeronomers had wanted to understand whatAs ha//ening there.
Con-irming theoreti,al wor= on the role o- CFCs in oCone de/letion was soon done 1y a grou/
led 1y Mi,hael M,Elroy at "ar.ard "ow is it they had all these 1ran,hing networ=s o- halogen
,hemi,al =ineti,s in their ,om/uter ready to goF $e,ause they were wor=ing on the ,hlorine
and -luorine ,hemistry o- the atmos/here o- %enus. %enus hel/ed ma=e and hel/ed ,on-irm
the dis,o.ery that the EarthAs oCone layer is in danger. An entirely une3/e,ted ,onne,tion was
-ound 1etween the atmos/heri, /hoto,hemistries o- the two /lanets. A result o- im/ortan,e
to e.eryone on Earth emerged -rom what might well ha.e seemed the most 1lue0s=y, a1stra,t,
im/ra,ti,al =ind o- wor=, understanding the ,hemistry o- minor ,onstituents in the u//er
atmos/here o- another world.
ThereAs also a Mars ,onne,tion. Dith %i=ing we -ound the sur-a,e o- Mars to 1e a//arently
li-eless and remar=a1ly de-i,ient e.en in sim/le organi, mole,ules. $ut sim/le organi,
mole,ules ought to 1e there, 1e,ause o- the im/a,t o- organi,0ri,h meteorites -rom the
near1y asteroid 1elt. This de-i,ien,y is widely attri1uted to the la,= o- oCone on Mars. The
%i=ing mi,ro1iology e3/eriments -ound that organi, matter ,arried -rom Earth to Mars and
s/rin=led on Martian sur-a,e dust is Kui,=ly o3idiCed arid destroyed. The materials in the dust
that do the destru,tion are mole,ules something li=e hydrogen /ero3ideHwhi,h we use as an
antise/ti, 1e,ause it =ills mi,ro1es 1y o3idiCing there, &ltra.iolet light -rom the Sun stri=es the
sur-a,e o- Mars unim/eded 1y an oCone layer< i- any organi, matter were there, it would 1e
Kui,=ly destroyed 1y the ultra.iolet light itsel- and its o3idation /rodu,ts. Thus /art o- the
reason the to/most layers o- Martian soil are antise/ti, is that Mars has an oCone hole o-
/lanetary dimensionsH1y itsel- a use-ul ,autionary tale -or us, who are 1usily thinning and
/un,turing our oCone layer.
264 >lo1al warming is /redi,ted to -ollow -rom the in,reasing greenhouse e--e,t ,aused largely
1y ,ar1on dio3ide generated in the 1urning o- -ossil -uelsH1ut also -rom the 1uildu/ o- other
in-rared0a1sor1ing gases 2o3ides o- nitrogen, methane, those same CFCs, and other
mole,ules4.
Su//ose that we ha.e a three0dimensional general ,ir,ulation ,om/uter model o- the EarthAs
,limate. ts /rogrammers ,laim itAs a1le to /redi,t what the Earth will 1e li=e i- thereAs more o-
one atmos/heri, ,onstituent or less o- another. The model does .ery well at B/redi,tingB the
/resent ,limate. $ut there is a nagging worryE The model has 1een BtunedB so it will ,ome out
rightHthat is, ,ertain adJusta1le /arameters are ,hosen, not -rom -irst /rin,i/les o- /hysi,s,
1ut to get the right answer. This is not e3a,tly ,heating, 1ut i- we a//ly the same ,om/uter
model to rather di--erent ,limati, regimesHdee/ glo1al warming, -or instan,eHthe tuning
might then 1e ina//ro/riate. The model might 1e .alid -or todayAs ,limate, 1ut not
e3tra/olata1le to others.
One way to test this /rogram is to a//ly it to the .ery di--erent ,limates o- other /lanets. Can
it /redi,t the stru,ture o- the atmos/here on Mars and the ,limate thereF The weatherF Dhat
a1out %enusF - it were to -ail these test ,ases, we would 1e right in mistrusting it when it
ma=es /redi,tions -or our own /lanet. n -a,t, ,limate models now in use do .ery well in
/redi,ting -rom -irst /rin,i/les o- /hysi,s the ,limates on %enus and Mars.
On Earth, huge u/wellings o- molten la.a are =nown and attri1uted to su/er/lumes
,on.e,ting u/ -rom the dee/ mantle and generating .ast /lateaus o- -roCen 1asalt. A
s/e,ta,ular e3am/le o,,urred a1out a hundred million years ago, and added /erha/s ten
times the /resent ,ar1on dio3ide ,ontent to the atmos/here, indu,ing su1stantial glo1al
warming. These /lumes, it is thought, o,,ur e/isodi,ally throughout EarthAs history. Similar
mantle u/welling seem to ha.e o,,urred on Mars and %enus. There are sound /ra,ti,al
reasons -or us to want to understand how a maJor ,hange to the EarthAs sur-a,e and ,limate
,ould suddenly arri.e unannoun,ed -rom hundreds o- =ilometers 1eneath our -eet.
Some o- the most im/ortant re,ent wor= on glo1al warming has 1een done 1y 9ames "ansen
and his ,olleagues at the >oddard nstitute -or S/a,e S,ien,es, a !ASA -a,ility in !ew #or=
City. "ansen de.elo/ed one o- the maJor ,om/uter ,limate models and em/loyed it to /redi,t
what will ha//en to our ,limate as the greenhouse gases ,ontinue to 1uild u/. "e has 1een in
the -ore-ront o- testing these models against an,ient ,limates o- the Earth. 2'uring the last i,e
ages, it is o- interest to note, more ,ar1on dio3ide and methane are stri=ingly ,orrelated with
higher tem/eratures.4 "ansen ,olle,ted a wide range o- weather data -rom this ,entury and
last, to see what a,tually ha//ened to the glo1al tem/erature, and then ,om/ared it to the
,om/uter modelAs /redi,tions o- what should ha.e ha//ened. The two agree to within the
errors o- measurement and ,al,ulation, res/e,ti.ely. "e ,ourageously testi-ied 1e-ore Congress
in the -a,e o- a /oliti,ally generated order -rom the Dhite "ouse O--i,e o- Management and
$udget 2this was in the Reagan years4 to e3aggerate the un,ertainties and minimiCe the
dangers. "is ,al,ulation on the e3/losion o- the Phili//ine .ol,ano Mt. Pinatu1o and his
/redi,tion o- the resulting tem/orary de,line in the EarthAs tem/erature 2a1out hal- a degree
Celsius4 were right on the money. "e has 1een a -or,e in ,on.in,ing go.ernments worldwide
that glo1al warming is something to 1e ta=en seriously.
"ow did "ansen get interested in the greenhouse e--e,t in the -irst /la,eF "is do,toral thesis
2at the &ni.ersity o- owa in ()574 was a1out %enus. "e agreed that the high radio 1rightness
o- %enus is due to a .ery hot sur-a,e, agreed that greenhouse gases =ee/ the heat in, 1ut
/ro/osed that heat -rom the interior rather than sunlight was the /rin,i/al energy sour,e. The
Pioneer (6 mission to %enus in ()7+ dro//ed entry /ro1es into the atmos/here< they showed
dire,tly that the ordinary greenhouse e--e,tHthe sur-a,e heated 1y the Sun and the heat
retained 1y the 1lan=et o- airHwas the o/erati.e ,ause. $ut itAs %enus that got "ansen
thin=ing a1out the greenhouse e--e,t.
Radio astronomers, you note, -ind %enus to 1e an intense sour,e o- radio wa.es. Other
e3/lanations o- the radio emission -ail. #ou ,on,lude that the sur-a,e must 1e ridi,ulously hot.
#ou try to understand where the high tem/eratures ,ome -rom and are led ine3ora1ly to one
or another =ind o- greenhouse e--e,t. 'e,ades later you -ind that this training has /re/ared
you to understand and hel/ /redi,t an une3/e,ted threat to our glo1al ,i.iliCation. =now
many other instan,es where s,ientists who -irst tried to /uCCle out the atmos/heres o- other
worlds are ma=ing im/ortant and highly /ra,ti,al dis,o.eries a1out this one. The other /lanets
are a su/er1 training ground -or students o- the Earth. They reKuire 1oth 1readth and de/th
o- =nowledge, and they ,hallenge the imagination.
Those who are s=e/ti,al a1out ,ar1on dio3ide greenhouse warming might /ro-ita1ly note the
massi.e greenhouse e--e,t on %enus. !o one /ro/oses that %enusAs greenhouse e--e,t deri.es
-roth im/rudent %enusians who 1urned too mu,h ,oal, dro.e -uel0ine--i,ient autos, and ,ut
down their -orests. My /oint is di--erent. The ,limatologi,al history o- our /lanetary neigh1or,
an otherwise Earthli=e /lanet on whi,h the sur-a,e 1e,ame hot enough to melt tin or lead, is
worth ,onsideringHes/e,ially 1y those who say that the in,reasing greenhouse e--e,t on
Earth will 1e sel-0,orre,ting, that we donAt really ha.e to worry a1out it, or 2you ,an see this in
the /u1li,ations o- some grou/s that ,all themsel.es ,onser.ati.e4 that the greenhouse e--e,t
itsel- is a Bhoa3.B
284 !u,lear winter is the /redi,ted dar=ening and ,ooling o- the EarthHmainly -rom -ine
smo=e /arti,les inJe,ted into the atmos/here -rom the 1urning o- ,ities and /etroleum
-a,ilitiesHthat is /redi,ted to -ollow a glo1al thermonu,lear war. A .igorous s,ienti-i, de1ate
ensued on Just how serious nu,lear winter might 1e. The .arious o/inions ha.e now
,on.erged. All three0dimensional general ,ir,ulation ,om/uter models /redi,t that the glo1al
tem/eratures resulting -rom a worldwide thermonu,lear war would 1e ,older than those in
the Pleisto,ene i,e ages. The im/li,ations -or our /lanetary ,i.iliCationHes/e,ially through the
,olla/se o- agri,ultureHare .ery dire. t is a ,onseKuen,e o- nu,lear war that was somehow
o.erloo=ed 1y the ,i.il and military authorities o- the &nited States, the So.iet &nion, $ritain,
Fran,e, and China when they de,ided to a,,umulate well o.er 5:,::: nu,lear wea/ons.
Although itAs hard to 1e ,ertain a1out su,h things, a ,ase ,an 1e made that nu,lear Dinter
/layed a ,onstru,ti.e role 2there were other ,auses, o- ,ourse4 in ,on.in,ing the nu,lear0
armed nations, es/e,ially the So.iet &nion, o- the -utility o- nu,lear war.
!u,lear winter was -irst ,al,ulated and named in ()+6@+8 1y a grou/ o- -i.e s,ientists, to
whi,h Am /roud to 1elong. This team was gi.en the a,ronym TTAPS 2-or Ri,hard P. Tur,o, 2e.en
$. Toon, Thomas A,=erman, 9ames Polla,=, and mysel-4. O- the -i.e TTAPS s,ientists, two were
/lanetary s,ientists, and the other three had /u1lished many /a/ers in /lanetary s,ien,e, The
earliest intimation o- nu,lear winter ,ame during that same Mariner ) mission to Mars, when
there was a glo1al dust storm and we were una1le to see the sur-a,e o- the /lanet< the
in-rared s/e,trometer on the s/a,e,ra-t -ound the high atmos/here to 1e warmer and the
sur-a,e ,older than they ought to ha.e 1een. 9im Polla,= and sat down and tried to ,al,ulate
how that ,ould ,ome a1out. O.er the su1seKuent twel.e years, this line o- inKuiry led -rom
dust storms on Mars to .ol,ani, aerosols on Earth to the /ossi1le e3tin,tion o- the dinosaurs
1y im/a,t dust to nu,lear winter. #ou ne.er =now where s,ien,e will ta=e you.
Planetary s,ien,e -osters a 1road interdis,i/linary /oint o- .iew that /ro.es enormously hel/-ul
in dis,o.ering and attem/ting to de-use these looming en.ironmental ,atastro/hes. Dhen
you ,ut your teeth on other worlds, you gain a /ers/e,ti.e a1out the -ragility o- /lanetary
en.ironments and a1out what other, Kuite di--erent, en.ironments are /ossi1le. There may
well 1e /otential glo1al ,atastro/hes still to 1e un,o.ered. - there are, 1et /lanetary
s,ientists will /lay a ,entral role in understanding them.
O- all the -ields o- mathemati,s, te,hnology, and s,ien,e, the one with the greatest
international ,oo/eration 2as determined 1y how o-ten the ,o0authors o- resear,h /a/ers hail
-rom two or more ,ountries4 is the -ield ,alled BEarth and s/a,e s,ien,es.B Studying this world
and others, 1y its .ery nature, tends to 1e non0lo,al, non0nationalist, non0,hau.inist. %ery
rarely do /eo/le go into these -ields 1e,ause they are internationalists. Almost always, they
enter -or other reasons, and then dis,o.er that s/lendid wor=, wor= that ,om/lements their
own, is 1eing done 1y resear,hers in other nations< or that to sol.e a /ro1lem, you need data
or a /ers/e,ti.e 2a,,ess to the southern s=y, -or e3am/le4 that is una.aila1le in your ,ountry.
And on,e you e3/erien,e su,h ,oo/erationHhumans -rom di--erent /arts o- the /lanet
wor=ing in a mutually intelligi1le s,ienti-i, language as /artners on matters o- ,ommon
,on,ernHitAs hard not to imagine it ha//ening on other, nons,ienti-i, matters. mysel-
,onsider this as/e,t o- Earth and s/a,e s,ien,es as a healing and uni-ying -or,e in world
/oliti,s< 1ut, 1ene-i,ial or not, it is ines,a/a1le.
Dhen loo= at the e.iden,e, it seems to me that /lanetary e3/loration is o- the most
/ra,ti,al and urgent utility -or us here on Earth. E.en i- we were not roused 1y the /ros/e,t o-
e3/loring other worlds, e.en i- we didnAt ha.e a nanogram o- ad.enturesome s/irit in us, e.en
i- we were only ,on,erned -or oursel.es and in the narrowest sense, /lanetary e3/loration
would still ,onstitute a su/er1 in.estment.
Cha$ter 17+ The 4ates o- the #onder #ord *$en
The great -loodgates o- the wonder0world swung o/en.
H"ERMA! MEL%LLE, MO$# 'CI, C"APTER ( 2(+*(4
Sometime ,oming u/, /erha/s Just around the ,orner, there will 1e a nationHmore li=ely, a
,onsortium o- nationsHthat will wor= the ne3t maJor ste/ in the human .enture into s/a,e.
Perha/s it will 1e 1rought a1out 1y ,ir,um.enting 1ureau,ra,ies and ma=ing e--i,ient use o-
/resent te,hnologies. Perha/s it will reKuire new te,hnologies, trans,ending the great
1lunder1uss ,hemi,al ro,=ets. The ,rews o- these shi/s will set -oot on new worlds. The -irst
1a1y will 1e 1orn somewhere u/ there. Early ste/s toward li.ing o-- the land will 1e made. De
will 1e on our way. And the -uture will remem1er.
TantaliCing and maJesti,, Mars is the world ne3t door, the nearest /lanet on whi,h an astronaut
or ,osmonaut ,ould sa-ely land. Although it is sometimes as warm as a !ew England O,to1er,
Mars is a ,hilly /la,e, so ,old that some o- its thin ,ar1on dio3ide atmos/here -reeCes out as
dry i,e at the winter /ole.
t is the nearest /lanet whose sur-a,e we ,an see with a small teles,o/e. n all the Solar System,
it is the /lanet most li=e Earth. A/art -rom -ly1ys, there ha.e 1een only two -ully su,,ess-ul
missions to MarsE Mariner ) in ()7(, and %i=ings ( and 6 in ()75. They re.ealed a dee/ ri-t
.alley that would stret,h -rom !ew #or= to San Fran,is,o< immense .ol,ani, mountains, the
largest o- whi,h towers +:,::: -eet a1o.e the a.erage altitude o- the Martian sur-a,e, almost
three times the height o- Mount E.erest< an intri,ate layered stru,ture in and among the /olar
i,es, resem1ling a /ile o- dis,arded /o=er ,hi/s, and /ro1a1ly a re,ord o- /ast ,limati, ,hange<
1right and dar= strea=s /ainted down on the sur-a,e 1y wind1lown dust, /ro.iding high0
s/eed wind ma/s o- Mars o.er the /ast de,ades and ,enturies< .ast glo1e0girdling dust
storms< and enigmati, sur-a,e -eatures.
"undreds o- sinuous ,hannels and .alley networ=s dating 1a,= se.eral 1illion years ,an 1e
-ound, mainly in the ,ratered southern highlands. They suggest a /re.ious e/o,h o- more
1enign and Earthli=e ,onditionsH.ery di--erent -rom what we -ind 1eneath the tenuous and
-rigid atmos/here o- our time. Some an,ient ,hannels seem to ha.e 1een ,ar.ed 1y rain-all,
some 1y underground sa//ing and ,olla/se, and some 1y great -loods that gushed u/ out o-
the ground. Ri.ers were /ouring into and -illing great thousand0=ilometer0diameter im/a,t
1asins that today are dry as dust. Dater-alls dwar-ing any on Earth today ,as,aded into the
la=es o- an,ient Mars. %ast o,eans, hundreds o- meters, /erha/s e.en a =ilometer, dee/ may
ha.e gently la//ed shorelines 1arely dis,erni1le today. That would ha.e 1een a world to
e3/lore. De are -our 1illion years late.
On Earth in Just the same /eriod, the -irst mi,roorganisms arose and e.ol.ed. Li-e on Earth is
intimately ,onne,ted, -or the most 1asi, ,hemi,al reasons, with liKuid water. De humans are
oursel.es made o- some three0Kuarters water. The same sorts o- organi, mole,ules that -ell
out o- the s=y and were generated in the air and seas o- an,ient Earth, should also ha.e
a,,umulated on an,ient Mars. s it /lausi1le that li-e Kui,=ly ,ame to 1e in the waters o- early
Earth, 1ut was somehow restrained and inhi1ited in the waters o- early MarsF Or might the
Martian seas ha.e 1een -illed with li-eH-loating, s/awning, e.ol.ingF Dhat strange 1easts
on,e swum thereF
Dhate.er the dramas o- those distant times, it all started to go wrong around 8.+ 1illion years
ago. De ,an see that the erosion o- an,ient ,raters dramati,ally 1egan to slow a1out then. As
the atmos/here thinned, as the ri.ers -lowed no more, as the o,eans 1egan to dry, as the
tem/eratures /lummeted, li-e would ha.e retreated to the -ew remaining ,ongenial ha1itats,
/erha/s huddling at the 1ottom o- i,e0,o.ered la=es, until it too .anished and the dead
1odies and -ossil remains o- e3oti, organismsH1uilt, it might 1e, on /rin,i/les .ery di--erent
-rom li-e on EarthHwere dee/0-roCen, awaiting the e3/lorers who might in some distant
-uture arri.e on Mars.
Meteorites are -ragments o- other worlds re,o.ered on Earth. Most originate in ,ollisions
among the numerous asteroids that or1it the Sun 1etween the or1its o- Mars and 9u/iter. $ut
a -ew are generated when a large meteorite im/a,ts a /lanet or asteroid at high s/eed,
gouges out a ,rater, and /ro/els the e3,a.ated sur-a,e material into s/a,e. A .ery small
-ra,tion o- the eJe,ted ro,=s, millions o- years later, may inter,e/t another world.
n the wastelands o- Antar,ti,a, the i,e is here and there dotted with meteorites,
/reser.ed 1y the low tem/eratures and until re,ently undistur1ed 1y humans. A -ew o- them,
,alled S!C 2/ronoun,ed Bsni,=B4 meteorites67 ha.e an as/e,t a1out them that at -irst seemed
almost un1elie.a1leE 'ee/ inside their mineral and glassy stru,tures, lo,=ed away -rom the
,ontaminating in-luen,e o- the EarthAs atmos/here, a little gas is tra//ed. Dhen the gas is
analyCed, it turns out to ha.e e3a,tly the same ,hemi,al ,om/osition and isoto/i, ratios as the
air on Mars. De =now a1out Martian air not Just -rom s/e,tros,o/i, in-eren,e 1ut -rom dire,t
measurement on the Martian sur-a,e 1y the %i=ing landers. To the sur/rise o- nearly e.eryone,
the S!C meteorites ,ome -rom Mars.
Originally, they were ro,=s that had melted and re-roCen. Radioa,ti.e dating o- all the S!C
meteorites shows their /arent ro,=s ,ondensed out o- la.a 1etween (+: million and (.8 1illion
years ago. Then they were dri.en o-- the /lanet 1y ,ollisions -rom s/a,e. From how long
theyA.e 1een e3/osed to ,osmi, rays on their inter/lanetary Journeys 1etween Mars and Earth,
we ,an tell how old they areHhow long ago they were eJe,ted -rom Mars. n this sense, they
are 1etween (: million and 7::,::: years old. They sam/le the most re,ent :.l /er,ent o-
Martian history.
Some o- the minerals they ,ontain show ,lear e.iden,e o- ha.ing on,e 1een in water, warm
liKuid water. These hydro0thermal minerals re.eal that somehow, /ro1a1ly all o.er Mars, there
was re,ent liKuid water. Perha/s it ,ame a1out when the interior heat melted underground i,e.
$ut howe.er it ha//ened, itAs natural to wonder i- li-e is not entirely e3tin,t, i- somehow itAs
managed to hang on into our time in transient underground la=es, or e.en in thin -ilms o-
water wetting su1sur-a,e grains.
The geo,hemists E.erett >i1son and "al Iarlsson o- !ASAAs 9ohnson S/a,e Flight Center ha.e
e3tra,ted a single dro/ o- water -rom one o- the S!C meteorites. The isoto/i, ratios o- the
o3ygen and hydrogen atoms that it ,ontains are literally unearthly. loo= on this water -rom
another world as an en,ouragement -or -uture e3/lorers and settlers.
magine what we might -ind i- a large num1er o- sam/les, in,luding ne.er melted soil and
ro,=s, were returned to Earth -rom Martian lo,ales sele,ted -or their s,ienti-i, interest. De are
.ery ,lose to 1eing a1le to a,,om/lish this with small ro.ing ro1ot .ehi,les.
The trans/ortation o- su1sur-a,e material -rom world to world raises a tantaliCing KuestionE
Four 1illion years ago there were two neigh1oring /lanets, 1oth warm, 1oth wet. m/a,ts -rom
s/a,e, in the -inal stages o- the a,,retion o- these /lanets, were o,,urring at a mu,h higher
rate than today. Sam/les -rom ea,h world were 1eing -lung out into s/a,e. De are sure there
was li-e on at least one o- them in this /eriod. De =now that a -ra,tion o- the eJe,ted de1ris
stays ,ool throughout the /ro,esses o- im/a,t, eJe,tion, and inter,e/tion 1y another world. So
,ould some o- the early organisms on Earth ha.e 1een sa-ely trans/lanted to Mars -our 1illion
years ago, initiating li-e on that /lanetA Or, e.en more s/e,ulati.e, ,ould li-e on Earth ha.e
arisen 1y su,h a trans-er -rom MarsF Might the two /lanets ha.e regularly e3,hanged li-e0
-orms -or hundreds o- millions o- yearsF The notion might 1e testa1le. - we were to dis,o.er
li-e on Mars and -ound it .ery similar to li-e on EarthHand i-, as well, e were sure it wasnAt
mi,ro1ial ,ontamination that we oursel.es had introdu,ed in the ,ourse o- our e3/lorationsH
the /ro/osition that li-e was long ago trans-erred a,ross inter/lanetary s/a,e would ha.e to
1e ta=en seriously.
t was on,e thought that li-e is a1undant on Mars. E.en the dour and s=e/ti,al astronomer
Simon !ew,om1 2in his Astronomy -or E.ery1ody, whi,h went through many editions in the
early de,ades o- this ,entury and was the astronomy te3t o- my ,hildhood4 ,on,luded, BThere
a//ears to 1e li-e on the /lanet Mars. A -ew years ago this statement was ,ommonly regarded
as -antasti,. !ow it is ,ommonly a,,e/ted.B !ot Bintelligent human li-e,B he was Kui,= to add,
1ut green /lants. "owe.er, we ha.e now 1een to Mars and loo=ed -or /lantsHas well as
animals, mi,ro1es, and intelligent 1eings. E.en i- the other -orms were a1sent, we might ha.e
imagined, as in EarthAs deserts today, and as on Earth -or almost all its history, a1undant
mi,ro1ial li-e.
The Bli-e dete,tionB e3/eriments on %i=ing were designed to dete,t only a ,ertain su1set o-
,on,ei.a1le 1iologies< they were 1iased to -ind the =ind o- li-e a1out whi,h we =now. t would
ha.e 1een -oolish to send instruments that ,ould not e.en dete,t li-e on Earth. They were
e3Kuisitely sensiti.e, a1le to -ind mi,ro1es in the most un/romising, arid deserts and
wastelands on Earth.
One e3/eriment measured the gases e3,hanged 1etween Martian soil and the Martian
atmos/here in the /resen,e o- organi, matter -rom Earth. A se,ond 1rought a wide .ariety
organi, -oodstu--s mar=ed 1y a radioa,ti.e tra,er to see i- there were 1ugs in the Martian soil
who ate the -ood and o3idiCed it to radioa,ti.e ,ar1on dio3ide. A third e3/eriment introdu,ed
radioa,ti.e ,ar1on dio3ide 2and ,ar1on mono3ide4 to the Martian soil to see i- any o- it was
ta=en u/ 1y Martian mi,ro1es. To the initial astonishment o-, thin=, all the s,ientists in.ol.ed,
ea,h o- the three e3/eriments ga.e what at -irst seemed to 1e /ositi.e results. >ases were
e3,hanged< organi, matter was o3idiCed< ,ar1on dio3ide was in,or/orated into the soil.
$ut there are reasons -or ,aution. These /ro.o,ati.e results are not generally thought to 1e
good e.iden,e -or li-e on MarsE The /utati.e meta1oli, /ro,esses o- Martian mi,ro1es
o,,urred under a .ery wide range o- ,onditions inside the %i=ing landersHwet 2with liKuid
water 1rought -rom Earth4 and dry, light and dar=, ,old 2only a little a1o.e -reeCing4 to hot
2almost the normal 1oiling /oint o- water4. Many mi,ro1iologists deem it unli=ely that Martian
mi,ro1es would 1e so ,a/a1le under su,h .aried ,onditions. Another strong indu,ement to
s=e/ti,ism is that a -ourth e3/eriment, to loo= -or organi, ,hemi,als in the Martian soil, ga.e
uni-ormly negati.e results des/ite its sensiti.ity. De e3/e,t li-e on Mars, li=e li-e on Earth, to 1e
organiCed around ,ar1on01ased mole,ules. To -ind no su,h mole,ules at all was daunting -or
o/timists among the e3o1iologists.
The a//arently /ositi.e results o- the li-e dete,tion e3/eriments is now generally attri1uted to
,hemi,als that o3idiCe the soil, deri.ing ultimately -rom ultra.iolet sunlight 2as dis,ussed in the
/re.ious ,ha/ter4. There is still a hand-ul o- %i=ing s,ientists who wonder i- there might 1e
e3tremely tough and ,om/etent organisms .ery thinly s/read o.er the Martian soilHso their
organi, ,hemistry ,ould not 1e dete,ted, 1ut their meta1oli, /ro,esses ,ould. Su,h s,ientists
do not deny that ultra.iolet0generated o3idants are /resent in the Martian soil, 1ut stress that
no thorough e3/lanation o- the li=ing li-e dete,tion results -rom o3idants alone has 1een
-orth,oming. Tentati.e ,laims ha.e 1een made o- organi, matter in S!C meteorites, 1ut they
seem instead to 1e ,ontaminants that ha.e entered the meteorite a-ter its arri.al on our world.
So -ar, there are no ,laims o- Martian mi,ro1es in these ro,=s -rom the s=y.
Perha/s 1e,ause it seems to /ander to /u1li, interest, !ASA and most %i=ing s,ientists ha.e
1een .ery ,hary a1out /ursuing the 1iologi,al hy/othesis. E.en now, mu,h more ,ould 1e
done in going o.er the old data, in loo=ing with %i=ing0ty/e instruments at Antar,ti, and
other soils that ha.e -ew mi,ro1es in them, in la1oratory simulation o- the role o- o3idants in
the Martian soil, and in designing e3/eriments to elu,idate these mattersHnot e3,luding
-urther sear,hes -or li-eHwith -uture Mars landers.
- indeed no unam1iguous signatures o- li-e were determined 1y a .ariety o- sensiti.e
e3/eriments at two sites *,::: =ilometers a/art on a /lanet mar=ed 1y glo1al wind trans/ort
o- -ine /arti,les, this is at least suggesti.e that Mars may 1e, today at least, a li-eless /lanet. $ut
i- Mars is li-eless, we ha.e two /lanets, o- .irtually identi,al age and early ,onditions, e.ol.ing
ne3t door to one another in the same /olar systemE Li-e e.ol.es and /roli-erates on one, 1ut
not the other. DhyF
Perha/s the ,hemi,al or -ossil remains o- early Martian li-e ,an still 1e -oundHsu1sur-a,e,
sa-ely /rote,ted -rom the ultra.iolet radiation and its o3idation /rodu,ts that today -ry the
sur-a,e. Perha/s in a ro,= -a,e e3/osed 1y a landslide, or in the 1an=s o- an an,ient ri.er .alley
or dry la=e 1ed, or in the /olar, laminated terrain, =ey e.iden,e -or li-e on another /lanet is
waiting.
'es/ite its a1sen,e on the sur-a,e o- Mars, the /lanetAs two moons, Pho1os and 'eimos, seem
to 1e ri,h in ,om/le3 organi, matter dating 1a,= to the early history o- the Solar System. The
So.iet Pho1os 6 s/a,e,ra-t -ound e.iden,e o- water .a/or 1eing out0gassed -rom Pho1os, as i-
it has an i,y interior heated 1y radioa,ti.ity. The moons o- Mars may ha.e long ago 1een
,a/tured -rom somewhere in the outer Solar System< ,on,ei.a1ly, they are among the nearest
a.aila1le e3am/les o- unaltered stu-- -rom the earliest days o- the Solar System. Pho1os and
'eimos are .ery small, ea,h roughly (: =ilometers a,ross< the gra.ity they e3ert is nearly
negligi1le. So itAs ,om/arati.ely easy to rendeC.ous with them, land on them, e3amine them,
use them as a 1ase o- o/erations to study Mars, and then go home.
Mars ,alls, a storehouse o- s,ienti-i, in-ormationHim/ortant in its own right 1ut also -or the
light it ,asts on the en.ironment o- our own /lanet. There are mysteries waiting to 1e resol.ed
a1out the interior o- Mars and its mode o- origin, the nature o- .ol,anos on a world without
/late te,toni,s, the s,ul/ting o- land-orms on a /lanet with sandstorms undreamt o- on Earth,
gla,iers and /olar land-orms, the es,a/e o- /lanetary atmos/heres, and the ,a/ture o- moons
Hto mention a more or less random sam/ling o- s,ienti-i, /uCCles. - Mars on,e had a1undant
liKuid water and a ,lement ,limate, what went wrongF "ow did an Earthli=e world 1e,ome so
/ar,hed, -rigid, and ,om/arati.ely airlessF s there something here we should =now a1out our
own /lanetF
De humans ha.e 1een this way 1e-ore. The an,ient e3/lorers would ha.e understood the ,all
o- Mars. $ut mere s,ienti-i, e3/loration does not reKuire a human /resen,e. De tan always
send smart ro1ots. They are -ar ,hea/er, they donAt tal= 1a,=, you ,an send them to mu,h
more dangerous lo,ales, arid, with some ,han,e o- mission -ailure always 1e-ore us, no li.es
are /ut at ris=.
B"A%E #O& SEE! MEFB the 1a,= o- the mil= ,arton read. BMars O1ser.er, 5A 3 ;.*A 3 8A, 6*:: =g.
Last heard -rom on +@6(@)8, 567,::: =m -rom Mars.B
BM. O. ,all homeB was the /lainti.e message on a 1anner hung outside the Jet Pro/ulsion
La1oratoryAs Mission O/erations Fa,ility in late August ())8. The -ailure o- the &nited StatesA
Mars O1ser.er s/a,e,ra-t Just 1e-ore it was to insert itsel- into or1it around Mars was a great
disa//ointment. t was the -irst /ost0laun,h mission -ailure o- an Ameri,an lunar or /lanetary
s/a,e,ra-t in 65 years. Many s,ientists and engineers had de.oted a de,ade o- their
/ro-essional li.es to M. O. t was the -irst &.S. mission to Mars in (7 yearsHsin,e %i=ingAs two
or1iters and two landers in ()75. t was also the -irst real /ost0Cold Dar s/a,e,ra-tE Russian
s,ientists were on se.eral o- the in.estigator teams, and Mars O1ser.er was to a,t as an
essential radio relay lin= -or larders -rom what was then s,heduled to 1e the Russian Mars A);
mission, as well as -or a daring ro.er and 1alloon mission slated -or Mars A)5.
The s,ienti-i, instruments a1oard Mars O1ser.er would ha.e na//ed the geo,hemistry o- the
/lanet and /re/ared the way -or -uture missions, guiding landing site de,isions. t might ha.e
,ast a new light on the massi.e ,limate ,hange that seems to ha.e o,,urred in early Martian
history. t would ha.e /hotogra/hed some o- the sur-a,e o- Mars with detail 1etter than two
meters a,ross. O- ,ourse, we do not =now what wonders Mars O1ser.er would ha.e
un,o.ered. $ut e.ery time we e3amine a world with new instruments and in .astly im/ro.ed
detail, a daCCling array o- dis,o.eries emerges Just as it did when >alileo turned the -irst
teles,o/e toward the hea.ens and o/ened the era o- modern astronomy.
A,,ording to the Commission o- nKuiry, the ,ause o- the -ailure was /ro1a1ly a ru/ture o- the
-uel tan= during /ressuriCation, gases and liKuids s/uttering out, and the wounded s/a,e,ra-t
s/inning wildly out o- ,ontrol. Perha/s it was a.oida1le. Perha/s it was an unlu,=y a,,ident.
$ut to =ee/ this matter in /ers/e,ti.e, letAs ,onsider the -ull range o- missions to the Moon
and the /lanets attem/ted 1y the &nited States and the -ormer So.iet &nionE
n the 1eginning, our tra,= re,ords were /oor. S/a,e .ehi,les 1lew u/ at laun,h, missed their
targets, or -ailed to -un,tion when they got there. As time went on, we humans got <4otter at
inter/lanetary -light. There was a learning ,ur.e. The ,adJa,ent -igures show these ,ur.es
21ased on !ASA data with !ASA de-initions o- mission su,,ess4. De learned .ery well. Our
/resent a1ility to -i3 s/a,e,ra-t in -light is 1est illustrated 1y the %oyager missions des,ri1ed
earlier.
De see that it wasnAt until a1out its thirty0-i-th laun,h to the Moon or the /lanets that the
,umulati.e &.S. mission su,,ess rate got as high as *: /er,ent. The Russians too= a1out *:
laun,hes to get there. A.eraging the sha=y start and the 1etter re,ent /er-orman,e, we -ind
that 1oth the &nited States and Russia ha.e a ,umulati.e laun,h su,,ess rate o- a1out +:
/er,ent. $ut the ,umulati.e mission su,,ess rate is still under 7: /er,ent -or the &.S. and under
5: /er,ent -or the &.S.S.R.@Russia. EKui.alently, lunar and /lanetary missions ha.e -ailed on
a.erage 8: or ;: /er,ent o- the time.
Missions to other worlds were -rom the 1eginning at the ,utting edge o- te,hnology. They
,ontinue to 1e so today. They .ire designed with redundant su1systems, and o/erated 1y
dedi,ated and e3/erien,ed engineers, 1ut they are not /er-e,t. The amaCing thing is not that
we ha.e done so /oorly, 1ut that we lea.e done so well.
De donAt =now whether the Mars O1ser.er -ailure was due to in,om/eten,e or Just
statisti,s. $ut we must e3/e,t a steady 1a,=ground o- mission -ailures when we e3/lore other
worlds. !o human li.es are ris=ed when a ro1ot s/a,e,ra-t is lost. E.en i- we were a1le to
im/ro.e this su,,ess rate signi-i,antly, it would 1e -ar too ,ostly. t is mu,h 1etter to ta=e more
ris=s and -ly more s/a,e,ra-tE.
Inowing a1out irredu,i1le ris=s, why do we these days -ly only one s/a,e,ra-t /er missionF n
()56 Mariner (, intended -or %enus, -ell into the Atlanti,< the nearly identi,al Mariner 6
1e,ame the human s/e,iesA -irst su,,ess-ul /lanetary mission. Mariner 8 -ailed, arid its twin
Mariner ; 1e,ame, in ()5;, the -irst s/a,e,ra-t to ta=e ,lose0u/ /i,tures o- Mars. Or ,onsider
the ()7( Mariner +@Mariner ) dual laun,h mission to Mars. Mariner + Das to ma/ the /lanet.
Mariner ) was to study the enigmati, seasonal and se,ular ,hanges o- sur-a,e mar=ings. The
s/a,e,ra-t were otherwise identi,al. Mariner + -ell into the o,ean. Mariner ) -lew on to Mars
arid 1e,ame the -irst s/a,e,ra-t in human history to or1it another /lanet. t dis,o.ered the
.ol,anos, the laminated terrain in the /olar ,a/s, the an,ient ri.er .alleys, and the aeolian
nature o- the sur-a,e ,hanges. t dis/ro.ed the B,anals.B t ma//ed the /lanet /ole to /ole and
re.ealed all the maJor geologi,al -eatures o- Mars =nown to us today. t /ro.ided the -irst
,lose0u/ o1ser.ations o- mem1ers o- a whole ,lass o- small worlds 21y targeting the Martian
moons, Pho1os and 'eimos4. - we had laun,hed only Mariner +, the endea.or would ha.e
1een an unmitigated -ailure. Dith a dual laun,h it 1e,ame a 1rilliant and histori, su,,ess.
There were also two %i=ings, two %oyagers, two %egas, many /airs o- %eneras. Dhy was
only one Mars O1ser.er -lownF The standard answer is ,ost. Part o- the reason it was so ,ostly,
though, is that it was /lanned to 1e laun,hed 1y shuttle, whi,h is an almost a1surdly e3/ensi.e
1ooster -or /lanetary missionsHin this ,ase too e3/ensi.e -or two M. O. laun,hes. A-ter many
shuttle0,onne,ted delays and ,ost in,reases, !ASA ,hanged its mind and de,ided to laun,h
Mars O1ser.er on a Titan 1ooster. This reKuired an additional two0year delay and an ada/ter
to mate the s/a,e,ra-t to the new laun,h .ehi,le. - !ASA had not 1een so intent on /ro.iding
1usiness -or the in,reasingly une,onomi, shuttle, we ,ould ha.e laun,hed a ,ou/le o- years
earlier and may1e with two s/a,e,ra-t instead o- one.
$ut whether in single laun,hes or in /airs, the s/a,e0-aring nations ha.e ,learly de,ided
that the time is ri/e to return ro1ot e3/lorers to Mars. Mission designs ,hange< new nations
enter the -ield< old nations -ind they no longer ha.e the resour,es. E.en already -unded
/rograms ,annot always 1e relied u/on. $ut ,urrent /lans do re.eal something o- the intensity
o- e--ort and the de/th o- dedi,ation.
As write this 1oo=, there are tentati.e /lans 1y the &nited States, Russia, Fran,e, >ermany,
9a/an, Austria, Finland, taly, Canada, the Euro/ean S/a,e Agen,y, and other entities -or a
,oordinated ro1oti, e3/loration o- Mars. n the se.en years 1etween ())5 and 6::8, a -lotilla
o- some twenty0-i.e s/a,e,ra-tHmost o- them ,om/arati.ely small and ,hea/Hare to 1e sent
-rom Earth to Mars. There will 1e no Kui,= -ly1ys among them< these are all long0duration
or1iter and lander missions. The &nited States will re0-ly all o- the s,ienti-i, instruments that
were lost on Mars O1ser.er. The Russian s/a,e,ra-t will ,ontain /arti,ularly am1itious
e3/eriments in.ol.ing some twenty nations. Communi,ations satellites will /ermit
e3/erimental stations anywhere on Mars to relay their data 1a,= to Earth. Penetrators
s,ree,hing down -rom or1it will /un,h into the Martian soil, transmitting data -rom
underground. nstrumented 1alloons and ro.ing la1oratories will wander o.er the sands o-
Mars. Some mi,roro1ots will weigh no more than a -ew /ounds. Landing sites are 1eing
/lanned and ,oordinated. nstruments will 1e ,ross0,ali1rated. 'ata will 1e -reely e3,hanged.
There is e.ery reason to thin= that in the ,oming years Mars and its mysteries will 1e,ome
in,reasingly -amiliar to the inha1itants o- the /lanet Earth.
n the ,ommand ,enter on Earth, in a s/e,ial room, you are helmeted and glo.ed. #ou turn
your head to the le-t, and the ,ameras on the Mars ro1ot ro.er turn to the le-t. #ou see, in .ery
high de-inition and in ,olor, what the ,ameras see. #ou ta=e a ste/ -orward, and the ro.er
wal=s -orward. #ou rea,h out your arm to /i,= u/ something shiny in the soil, and the ro1ot
arm does li=ewise. The sands o- Mars tri,=le through your -ingers. The only di--i,ulty with this
remote reality te,hnology is that all this must o,,ur in tedious slow motionE The round0tri/
tra.el time o- the u/0lin= ,ommands -rom Earth to Mars and the down0lin= data returned -rom
Mars to Earth might ta=e hal- an hour or more. $ut this is something we ,an learn to do. De
,an learn to ,ontain our e3/loratory im/atien,e i- thatAs the /ri,e o- e3/loring Mars. The ro.er
,an 1e made smart enough to deal with routine ,ontingen,ies. Anything more ,hallenging,
and it ma=es a dead sto/, /uts itsel- into a sa-eguard mode, and radios -or a .ery /atient
human ,ontroller to ta=e o.er.
ConJure u/ ro.ing, smart ro1ots, ea,h o- them a small s,ienti-i, la1oratory, landing in the sa-e
1ut dull /la,es and wandering to .iew ,lose0u/ some o- that /ro-usion o- Martian Donders.
Perha/s e.ery day a ro1ot would ro.e to its own horiCon< ea,h morning we would see ,lose0
u/ what had yesterday 1een only a distant eminen,e. The lengthening /rogress o- a tra.erse
route o.er the Martian lands,a/e would a//ear oil news /rograms and in s,hoolrooms.
Peo/le would s/e,ulate on what will 1e -ound. !ightly news,asts -rom another /lanet, with
their re.elations o- new terrains and new s,ienti-i, -indings would ma=e e.eryone on Earth a
/arty to the ad.enture.
Then thereAs Martian .irtual realityE The data sent 1a,= -rom Mars, stored in a modern
,om/uter, are -ed into your helmet and glo.es and 1oots. #ou are wal=ing in an em/ty room
on Earth, 1ut to you you are on MarsE /in= s=ies, -ields o- 1oulders, sand dunes stret,hing to
the horiCon where an immense .ol,ano looms< you hear the sand ,run,hing under your 1oots,
you turn ro,=s o.er, dig a hole, sam/le the thin air, turn a ,orner, and ,ome -a,e to -a,e with . .
. whate.er new dis,o.eries we will ma=e on MarsHall e3a,t ,o/ies o- whatAs on Mars, and all
e3/erien,ed -rom the sa-ety o- a .irtual reality salon in your hometown. This is not why we
e3/lore Mars, 1ut ,learly we will need ro1ot e3/lorers to return the real reality 1e-ore it ,an 1e
re,on-igured into .irtual reality.
Es/e,ially with ,ontinuing in.estment in ro1oti,s and ma,hine intelligen,e, sending humans to
Mars ,anAt 1e Justi-ied 1y s,ien,e alone. And many more /eo/le ,an e3/erien,e the .irtual
Mars than ,ould /ossi1ly 1e sent to the real one. De ,an do .ery well with ro1ots. - weAre
going to send /eo/le, weAll need a 1etter reason than s,ien,e and e3/loration.
n the ()+:s, thought saw a ,oherent Justi-i,ation -or human missions to Mars. imagined
the &nited States and the So.iet &nion, the two Cold Dar ri.als that had /ut our glo1al
,i.iliCation at ris=, Joining together in a -ar0seeing, high0te,hnology endea.or that would gi.e
ho/e to /eo/le e.erywhere. /i,tured a =ind o- A/ollo /rogram in re.erse, in whi,h
,oo/eration, not ,om/etition, was the dri.ing -or,e, in whi,h tire two leading s/a,e0-aring
nations would together lay the groundwor= -or a maJor ad.an,e in human historyHthe
e.entual settlement o- another /lanet.
The sym1olism seemed so a/t. The same te,hnology that ,an /ro/el a/o,aly/ti, wea/ons
-rom ,ontinent to ,ontinent would ena1le the -irst human .oyage to another /lanet. t was a
,hoi,e o- -itting mythi, /owerE to em1ra,e the /lanet named a-ter, rather the madness
as,ri1ed to, the god o- war.
De su,,eeded in interesting So.iet s,ientists and engineers in su,h a Joint endea.or. Roald
Sagdee., then dire,tor o- the nstitute -or S/a,e Resear,h o- the So.iet A,ademy o- S,ien,es in
Mos,ow, was already dee/ly engaged in international ,oo/eration on So.iet ro1oti, missions
to %enus, Mars, and "alleyAs Comet, long 1e-ore the idea 1e,ame -ashiona1le. ProJe,ted Joint
use o- the So.iet Mir s/a,e station and the Saturn %0,lass laun,h .ehi,le Energiya made
,oo/eration attra,ti.e to the So.iet organiCations that manu-a,tured these items o- hardware<
they were otherwise ha.ing di--i,ulty Justi-ying their wares. Through a seKuen,e o- arguments
2hel/ing to 1ring the Cold Dar to an end 1eing ,hie- among them4, then0So.iet leader Mi=hail
S. >or1a,he. was ,on.in,ed. 'uring the 'e,em1er ()+7 Dashington summit, Mr. >or1a,he.
Has=ed what was the most im/ortant Joint a,ti.ity through whi,h the two ,ountries might
sym1oliCe the ,hange in their relationshi/Hunhesitatingly re/lied, BLetAs go to Mars together.B
$ut the Reagan Administration was not interested. Coo/erating with the So.iets,
a,=nowledging that ,ertain So.iet te,hnologies were more ad.an,ed than their Ameri,an
,ounter/arts, ma=ing some Ameri,an te,hnology a.aila1le to the So.iets, sharing ,redit,
/ro.iding an alternati.e -or the arms manu-a,turersHthese were not to the AdministrationAs
li=ing. The o--er was turned down. Mars would ha.e to wait.
n only a -ew years, times ha.e ,hanged. The Cold Dar is o.er. The So.iet &nion is no more.
The 1ene-it deri.ing -rom the two nations wor=ing together has lost some o- its -or,e. Other
nationsHes/e,ially 9a/an and the ,onstituent mem1ers o- the Euro/ean S/a,e Agen,yHha.e
1e,ome inter/lanetary tra.elers. Many Just and urgent demands are le.ied on the
dis,retionary 1udgets o- the nations.
$ut the Energiya hea.y0li-t 1ooster still awaits a mission. The wor=horse Proton ro,=et is
a.aila1le. The Mir s/a,e stationHwith a ,rew on 1oard almost ,ontinuouslyHstill or1its the
Earth e.ery hour and a hal-. 'es/ite internal turmoil, the Russian s/a,e /rogram ,ontinues
.igorously. Coo/eration 1etween Russia and Ameri,a in s/a,e is a,,elerating. A Russian
,osmonaut, Sergei Iri=ale., in ()); -lew on the shuttle 'is,o.ery 2-or the usual one0wee=
shuttle mission duration< Iri=ale. had already logged ;5; days a1oard the Mir s/a,e station4.
&.S. astronauts will .isit Mir. Ameri,an instrumentsHin,luding one to e3amine the o3idants
thought to destroy organi, mole,ules in the Martian soilHare to 1e ,arried 1y Russian s/a,e
.ehi,les to Mars. Mars O1ser.er was designed to ser.e as a relay station -or landers in Russian
Mars missions. The Russians ha.e o--ered to in,lude a &.S. or1iter in a -orth,oming Proton0
laun,hed multi/ayload mission to Mars.
The Ameri,an and Russian ,a/a1ilities in s/a,e s,ien,e and te,hnology mesh< they
interdigitate. Ea,h is strong where the other is wea=. This is a marriage made in hea.en01ut
one that has 1een sur/risingly di--i,ult to ,onsummate.
On Se/tem1er 6, ())8, an agreement to ,oo/erate in de/th was signed in Dashington 1y %i,e
President Al >ore and Prime Minister %i=tor Chernomyrdin. The Clinton Administration has
ordered !ASA to redesign the &.S. s/a,e station 2,alled Freedom in the Reagan years4 so it is
in the same or1it as Mir and ,an 1e mated to itE 9a/anese and Euro/ean modules will 1e
atta,hed, as will a Canadian ro1ot arm. The designs ha.e now e.ol.ed into what is ,alled
S/a,e Station Al/ha, in.ol.ing almost all the s/a,e-aring nations. 2China is the most nota1le
e3,e/tion.4
n return -or &.S. s/a,e ,oo/eration and an in-usion o- hard ,urren,y, Russia in e--e,t agreed to
halt its sale o- 1allisti, missile ,om/onents to other nations, and generally to e3er,ise tight
,ontrols on its e3/ort o- strategi, wea/ons te,hnology. n this Day, s/a,e 1e,omes on,e
again, as it was at the height o- the Cold Dar, an instrument o- national strategi, /oli,y.
This new trend has, though, made some o- the Ameri,an aeros/a,e industry and some =ey
mem1ers o- Congress /ro-oundly uneasy. Dithout international ,om/etition, ,an we moti.ate
su,h am1itious e--ortsF 'oes e.ery Russian laun,h .ehi,le used ,oo/erati.ely mean less
su//ort -or the Ameri,an aeros/a,e industryF Can Ameri,ans rely on sta1le su//ort and
,ontinuity o- e--ort in Joint /roJe,ts with the RussiansF 2The Russians, o- ,ourse, as= similar
Kuestions a1out the Ameri,ans.4 $ut ,oo/erati.e /rograms in the long term sa.e money, draw
u/on the e3traordinary s,ienti-i, and engineering talent distri1uted o.er our /lanet, and
/ro.ide ins/iration a1out the glo1al -uture. There may 1e -lu,tuations in national
,ommitments. De are li=ely to ta=e 1a,=ward as well as -orward ste/s. $ut the o.erall trend
seems ,lear.
'es/ite growing /ains, the s/a,e /rograms o- the two -ormer ad.ersaries are 1eginning to
Join. t is now /ossi1le to -oresee a world s/a,e stationHnot o- any one nation 1ut o- the
/lanet EarthH1eing assem1led at *(T in,lination to the eKuator and a -ew hundred miles u/.
A dramati, Joint mission, ,alled BFire and ,e,B is 1eing dis,ussed in whi,h a -ast -ly1y would 1e
sent to Pluto, the last une3/lored /lanet< 1ut to get there, a gra.ity assist -rom the Sun would
1e em/loyed, in the ,ourse o- Dhi,h small /ro1es would a,tually enter the SunAs atmos/here.
And we seem to 1e on the threshold o- a Dorld Consortium -or the s,ienti-i, e3/loration o-
Mars. t .ery mu,h loo=s as though su,h /roJe,ts will 1e done ,oo/erati.ely or not at all.
Dhether there are .alid, ,ost0e--e,ti.e, 1roadly su//orta1le reasons -or /eo/le to .enture to
Mars is an o/en Kuestion. Certainly there is no ,onsensus. The matter is treated in the ne3t
,ha/ter.
would argue that i- we are not e.entually going to send /eo/le to worlds as -ar away as
Mars, we ha.e lost the ,hie- reason -or a s/a,e stationHa /ermanently 2or intermittently4
o,,u/ied human out/ost in Earth or1it. A s/a,e station is -ar -rom an o/timum /lat-orm -or
doing s,ien,e either loo=ing down at the Earth, or loo=ing out into s/a,e, or -or utiliCing
mi,rogra.ity 2the .ery /resen,e o- astronauts messes things u/4. For military re,onnaissan,e it
is mu,h in-erior to ro1oti, s/a,e,ra-t. There are no ,om/elling e,onomi, or manu-a,turing
a//li,ations. t is e3/ensi.e ,om/ared to ro1oti, s/a,e,ra-t. And o- ,ourse it runs some ris= o-
losing human li.es. E.ery shuttle laun,h to hel/ 1uild or su//ly a s/a,e station has an
estimated ( or 6 /er,ent ,han,e o- ,atastro/hi, -ailure. Pre.ious ,i.ilian and military s/a,e
a,ti.ities ha.e littered low Earth or1it with -ast0mo.ing de1risHthat sooner or later will ,ollide
with a s/a,e station 2although, so -ar, Mir has had no -ailures -rom this haCard4. A s/a,e station
is also unne,essary -or human e3/loration o- the Moon. A/ollo got there .ery well with no
s/a,e station at all. Dith Saturn % or Energiya ,lass laun,hers, it also may 1e /ossi1le to get to
near0earth asteroids or e.en Mars without ha.ing to assem1le the inter/lanetary .ehi,le on an
or1iting s/a,e station.
A s/a,e station ,ould ser.e ins/irational and edu,ational /ur/oses, and it ,ertainly ,an hel/ to
solidi-y relations among the s/a,e-aring nationsH/arti,ularly the &nited States and Russia. $ut
the only su1stanti.e -un,tion o- a s/a,e station, as -ar as ,an see, is -or long0duration
s/a,e-light. "ow do humans 1eha.e in mi,ro gra.ityF "ow ,an we ,ounter /rogressi.e
,hanges in 1lood ,hemistry and an estimated 5 /er,ent 1one loss /er year in Cero gra.ityF
2For a three0 or -our0year mission to Mars this adds u/, i- the tra.elers ha.e to go at Cero g.4
These are hardly Kuestions in -undamental 1iology su,h as '!A or the e.olutionary /ro,ess<
instead they address issues o- a//lied human 1iology. tAs im/ortant to =now the answers, 1ut
only i- we intend to go somewhere in s/a,e thatAs -ar away and ta=es a long time to get there.
The only tangi1le and ,oherent goal o- a s/a,e station is e.entual human missions to near0
Earth asteroids, Mars, and 1eyond. "istori,ally !ASA has 1een ,autious a1out stating this -a,t
,learly, /ro1a1ly -or -ear that mem1ers o- Congress will throw u/ their hands in disgust,
denoun,e the s/a,e station as the thin edge o- an e3tremely e3/ensi.e wedge, and de,lare
the ,ountry unready to ,ommit to laun,hing /eo/le to Mars. n e--e,t, then, !ASA has =e/t
Kuiet a1out what the s/a,e station is really -or. And yet i- we had su,h a s/a,e station, nothing
would reKuire us to go straight to Mars. De ,ould use a s/a,e station to a,,umulate and
re-ine the rele.ant =nowledge, and ta=e as long as we li=e to do soHso that when the time
does ,ome, when we are ready to go to the /lanets, we will ha.e the 1a,=ground and
e3/erien,e to do so sa-ely.
The Mars O1ser.er -ailure, and the ,atastro/hi, loss o- the s/a,e shuttle Challenger in ()+5,
remind us that there will 1e a ,ertain irredu,i1le ,han,e o- disaster in -uture human -lights to
Mars and elsewhere. The A/ollo (8 mission, whi,h was una1le to land on the Moon and 1arely
returned sa-ely to Earth, unders,ores how lu,=y weA.e 1een. De ,annot ma=e /er-e,tly sa-e
autos or trains e.en though weA.e 1een at it -or more than a ,entury. "undreds o- thousands
o- years a-ter we -irst domesti,ated -ire, e.ery ,ity in the world has a ser.i,e o- -ire-ighters
1iding their time until thereAs a 1laCe that needs /utting out. n Colum1usA -our .oyages to the
!ew Dorld, he lost shi/s le-t and right, in,luding one third o- the little -leet that set out in
(;)6.
- we are to send /eo/le, it must 1e -or a .ery good reasonHand with a realisti,
understanding that almost ,ertainly we will lose li.es. Astronauts and ,osmonauts ha.e always
understood this. !e.ertheless, there has 1een and will 1e no shortage o- .olunteers.
$ut why MarsF Dhy not return to the MoonF tAs near1y, and weA.e /ro.ed we =now how to
send /eo/le there. Am ,on,erned that the Moon, ,lose as it is, is a long detour, i- not a dead
end. DeA.e 1een there. DeA.e e.en 1rought some o- it 1a,=. Peo/le ha.e seen the Moon
ro,=s, and, -or reasons that 1elie.e are -undamentally sound, they are 1ored 1y the Moon. tAs
a stati,, airless, waterless, 1la,=0s=y, dead world. ts most interesting as/e,t /erha/s is its
,ratered sur-a,e, a re,ord o- an,ient ,,atastro/hi, im/a,ts, on the Earth as well as on the
Moon.
Mars, 1y ,ontrast, has weather, dust storms, its own moons, .ol,anos, /olar i,e ,a/s, /e,uliar
land-orms, an,ient ri.er .alleys, and e.iden,e o- massi.e ,limati, ,hange on a on,e0Earthli=e
world. t holds some /ros/e,t o- /ast or may1e e.en /resent li-e, and is the most ,ongenial
/lanet -or -uture li-eHhumans trans/lanted -rom Earth, li.ing o-- the land. !one o- this is true
-or the Moon. Mars also has its own legi1le ,ratering history. t Mars, rather than the Moon,
had 1een within easy rea,h, we would not ha.e 1a,=ed o-- -rom manned s/a,e -light.
!or is the Moon an es/e,ially desira1le test 1ed or way station -or Mars. The Martian and
lunar en.ironments are .ery di--erent, and the Moon is as distant -rom Mars as is the Earth.
The ma,hinery -or Martian e3/loration ,an at least eKually well 1e tested in Earth or1it, or on
near0Earth asteroids, or on the Earth itsel-Hin Antar,ti,a, -or instan,e.
9a/an has tended to 1e s=e/ti,al o- the ,ommitment o- the &nited States and other nations to
/lan and e3e,ute maJor ,oo/erati.e /roJe,ts in s/a,e. This is at least one reason that 9a/an,
more than any other s/a,e-aring nation, has tended to go it alone. The Lunar and Planetary
So,iety o- 9a/an is an organiCation re/resenting s/a,e enthusiasts in the go.ernment,
uni.ersities, and maJor industries. As write, the So,iety is /ro/osing to ,onstru,t and sto,= a
lunar 1ase entirely with ro1ot la1or. t is said to ta=e a1out 8: years and to ,ost a1out a 1illion
&.S. dollars a year 2whi,h would re/resent 7 /er,ent o- the /resent &.S. ,i.ilian s/a,e 1udget4.
"umans would arri.e only when the 1ase is -ully ready. The use o- ro1ot ,onstru,tion ,rews
under radio ,ommand -rom Earth is said to redu,e the ,ost ten-old. The only trou1le with the
s,heme, a,,ording to re/orts, is that other s,ientists in 9a/an =ee/ as=ing, BDhatAs it -orFB
ThatAs a good Kuestion in e.ery nation.
The -irst human mission to Mars is now /ro1a1ly too e3/ensi.e -or any one nation to /ull o--
1y itsel-. !or is it -itting that su,h a histori, ste/ 1e ta=en 1y re/resentati.es o- only a small
-ra,tion o- the human s/e,ies. $ut a ,oo/erati.e .enture among the &nited States, Russia,
9a/an, the Euro/ean S/a,e Agen,yHand /erha/s other nations, su,h as ChinaHmight 1e
-easi1le in the not too distant -uture. The international s/a,e station will ha.e tested our a1ility
to wor= together on great engineering /roJe,ts in s/a,e.
The ,ost o- sending a =ilogram o- something no -arther away than low Earth or1it is today
a1out the same as the ,ost o- =ilogram o- gold. This is surely a maJor reason we ha.e yet to
stride the an,ient shorelines o- Mars. Multistage ,hemi,al ro,=ets are the means that -irst too=
us into s/a,e, and thatAs what weA.e 1een using e.er sin,e. DeA.e tried to re-ine them, to ma=e
there sa-er, more relia1le, sim/ler, ,hea/er. $ut that hasnAt ha//ened, or at least not nearly as
Kui,=ly as many had ho/ed.
So may1e thereAs a 1etter wayE may1e single0stage ro,=ets that ,an laun,h their /ayloads
dire,tly to or1it< may1e many small /ayloads shot -rom guns or ro,=et0laun,hed -rom
air/lanes< may1e su/ersoni, ramJets. May1e thereAs something mu,h 1etter that we ha.enAt
thought o- yet. - we ,an manu-a,ture /ro/ellants -or the return tri/ -rom the air and soil o-
our destination world, the di--i,ulty o- the .oyage would 1e greatly eased.
On,e weAre u/ there in s/a,e, .enturing to the /lanets, ro,=etry is not ne,essarily the 1est
means to mo.e large /ayloads around, e.en with gra.ity assists. Today, we ma=e a -ew early
ro,=et 1urns and later mid,ourse ,orre,tions, and ,oast the rest o- the way. $ut there are
/romising ion and nu,lear@ ele,tri, /ro/ulsion systems 1y whi,h a small and steady
a,,eleration is e3erted. Or, as the Russian s/a,e /ioneer Ionstantin Tsiol=o.s=y -irst en.isioned,
we ,ould em/loy solar sailsH.ast 1ut .ery thin -ilms that ,at,h sunlight and the solar wind, a
,ara.el =ilometers wide /lying the .oid 1etween the worlds. Es/e,ially -or tri/s to Mars and
1eyond, su,h methods are -ar 1etter than ro,=ets.
As with most te,hnologies, when something 1arely wor=s, when itAs the -irst o- its =ind, thereAs
a natural tenden,y to im/ro.e it, de.elo/ it, e3/loit it. Soon thereAs su,h an institutional
in.estment in the original te,hnology, no matter how -lawed, that itAs .ery hard to mo.e on to
something 1etter. !ASA has almost no resour,es to /ursue alternati.e /ro/ulsion
te,hnologies. That money would ha.e to ,ome out o- near0term missions, missions whi,h
,ould /ro.ide ,on,rete results and im/ro.e !ASAAs su,,ess re,ord. S/ending money on
alternati.e te,hnologies /ays o-- a de,ade or two in the -uture. De tend to 1e .ery little
interested in a de,ade or two in the -uture. This is one o- the ways 1y whi,h initial su,,ess ,an
sow the seeds o- ultimate -ailure< and is .ery similar to what sometimes ha//ens in 1iologi,al
e.olution. $ut sooner or later some nationH/erha/s one without a huge in.estment in
marginally e--e,ti.e te,hnologyHwill de.elo/ e--e,ti.e alternati.es.
E.en 1e-ore then, i- we ta=e a ,oo/erati.e /ath, there will ,ome a timeH/erha/s in the -irst
de,ades o- the new ,entury and the new millenniumHwhen an inter/lanetary s/a,e,ra-t is
assem1led in Earth or1it, the /rogress in -ull .iew on the e.ening news. Astronauts and
,osmonauts, ho.ering li=e gnats, guide and mate the /re-a1ri,ated /arts. E.entually the shi/,
tested and ready, is 1oarded 1y its international ,rew, and 1oosted to es,a/e .elo,ity. For the
whole o- the .oyage to Mars and 1a,=, the li.es o- the ,rew mem1ers de/end on one another,
a mi,ro,osm o- our a,tual ,ir,umstan,es down here on Earth. Perha/s the -irst Joint
inter/lanetary mission with human ,rews will 1e only a -ly1y or or1it o- Mars. Earlier, ro1ot
.ehi,les, with aero1ra=ing, /ara,hutes, and retroro,=ets, will ha.e set gently down on the
Martian sur-a,e to ,olle,t sam/les and return them to Earth, and to em/la,e su//lies -or
-uture e3/lorers. $ut whether or not we ha.e ,om/elling, ,oherent reasons, am sureHunless
we destroy oursel.es -irstHthat the day will ,ome when we humans set -oot on Mars. t is only
a matter o- when.
A,,ording to solemn treaty, signed in Dashington and Mos,ow on 9anuary 67, ()57, no nation
may lay ,laim to /art or all o- another /lanet. !e.erthelessH-or histori,al reasons that
Colum1us would ha.e understood wellHsome /eo/le are ,on,erned a1out who -irst sets -oot
on Mars. - this really worries us, we ,an arrange -or the an=les o- the ,rew mem1ers to 1e tied
together as they alight in the gentle Martian gra.ity.
The ,rews would a,Kuire new and /re.iously seKuestered sam/les, in /art to sear,h -or li-e, in
/art to understand the /ast and -uture o- Mars and Earth. They would e3/eriment, -or later
e3/editions, on e3tra,ting water, o3ygen, and hydrogen -rom the ro,=s and the air and -rom
the underground /erma-rostHto drin=, to 1reathe, to /ower their ma,hines and, as ro,=et -uel
and o3idiCer, to /ro/el the return .oyage. They would test Martian materials -or e.entual
-a1ri,ation o- 1ases and settlements on Mars.
And they would go e3/loring. Dhen imagine the early human e3/loration o- Mars, itAs
always a ro.ing .ehi,le, a little li=e a Jee/, wandering down one o- the .alley networ=s, the
,rew with geologi,al hammers, ,ameras, and analyti, instruments at the ready. TheyAre loo=ing
-or ro,=s -rom ages /ast, signs o- an,ient ,ata,lysms, ,lues to ,limate ,hange, strange
,hemistries, -ossils, orHmost e3,iting and most unli=elyHsomething ali.e. Their dis,o.eries
are tele.ised 1a,= to Earth at the s/eed o- light. Snuggled u/ in 1ed with the =ids, you e3/lore
the an,ient ri.er1eds o- Mars.
Cha$ter 19+ Scaing .ea6en
Dho, my -riend, ,an s,ale hea.enF
HT"E EPC OF >L>AMES" 2S&MER, T"R' MLLE!!&M $.C.4
DhatF, sometimes as= mysel- in amaCementE Our an,estors wal=ed -rom East A-ri,a to
!o.aya ?emlya and Ayers Ro,= and Patagonia, hunted ele/hants with stone s/ear/oints,
tra.ersed the /olar seas in o/en 1oats 7,::: years ago, ,ir,umna.igated the Earth /ro/elled
1y nothing 1ut wind, wal=ed the Moon a de,ade a-ter entering s/a,eHand weAre daunted 1y
a .oyage to MarsF $ut then remind mysel- o- the a.oida1le human su--ering on Earth, how a
-ew dollars ,an sa.e the li-e o- a ,hild dying o- dehydration, how many ,hildren we ,ould sa.e
-or the ,ost o- a tri/ to MarsHand -or the moment ,hange my mind. s it unworthy to stay
home or unworthy to goF Or ha.e /osed a -alse di,hotomyF snAt it /ossi1le to ma=e a 1etter
li-e -or e.eryone on Earth and to rea,h -or the /lanets and the starsF
De had an e3/ansi.e run in the A5:s and A7:s. #ou might ha.e thought, as did then,
that our s/e,ies would 1e on Mars 1e-ore the ,entury was o.er. $ut instead, weA.e /ulled
inward. Ro1ots aside, weA.e 1a,=ed o-- -rom the /lanets and the stars. ( =ee/ as=ing mysel- s
it a -ailure o- ner.e or a sign o- maturityF
May1e itAs the most we ,ould reasona1ly ha.e e3/e,ted. n a way itAs amaCing that it was
/ossi1le at allE De sent a doCen humans on wee=0long e3,ursions to the Moon. And we were
gi.en the resour,es to ma=e a /reliminary re,onnaissan,e o- the whole Solar System, out to
!e/tune anywayHmissions that returned a wealth o- data, 1ut nothing o- short0term,
e.eryday, 1read0on0the0ta1le /ra,ti,al .alue. They li-ted the human s/irit, though. They
enlightened us a1out our /la,e in the &ni.erse. tAs easy to imagine s=eins o- histori,al
,ausality in whi,h there were no ra,e to the Moon and no /lanetary /rogram.
$ut itAs also /ossi1le to imagine a mu,h more serious de.otion to e3/loration, 1e,ause
o- whi,h we would today ha.e ro1ot .ehi,les /ro1ing the atmos/heres o- all the 9o.ian
/lanets and doCens o- moons, ,omets, and asteroids< a networ= o- automati, s,ienti-i, stations
em/la,ed on Mars would daily 1e re/orting their -indings< and sam/les -rom many worlds
would 1e under e3amination in the la1oratories o- EarthHre.ealing their geology, ,hemistry,
and /erha/s e.en their 1iology. "uman out/osts might 1e already esta1lished on the near0
Earth asteroids, the Moon, and Mars.
There were many /ossi1le histori,al /aths. Our /arti,ular ,ausality s=ein has 1rought us to a
modest and rudimentary, although in many res/e,ts heroi,, series o- e3/lorations. $ut it is -ar
interior to what might ha.e 1eenHand what may one day 1e.
To ,arry the green Promethean s/ar= o- Li-e with us into the sterile .oid and ignite there a
-irestorm o- animate matter is the .ery destiny o- our ra,e,B reads the 1ro,hure o- something
,alled the First Millennial Foundation. t /romises, -or W(6: a year, B,itiCenshi/B in Bs/a,e
,oloniesHwhen the time ,omes.B B$ene-a,torsB who ,ontri1ute more also re,ei.e Bthe
undying gratitude o- a star0-lung ,i.iliCation, and their name ,ar.ed on the monolith to 1e
ere,ted on the Moon.B This re/resents one e3treme in the ,ontinuum o- enthusiasm -or a
human /resen,e in s/a,e. The other e3tremeH1etter re/resented in CongressHKuestions why
we should 1e in s/a,e at all, es/e,ially /eo/le rather than ro1ots. The A/ollo /rogram was a
Bmoondoggle,B the so,ial ,riti, Amitai EtCioni on,e ,alled it< with the Cold Dar o.er, there is no
Justi-i,ation whate.er, /ro/onents o- this orientation hold, -or a manned s/a,e /rogram.
Dhere in this s/e,trum o- /oli,y o/tions should we 1eF
E.er sin,e the &nited States 1eat the So.iet &nion to the Moon, a ,oherent, widely
understood Justi-i,ation -or humans in s/a,e seems to ha.e .anished. Presidents and
Congressional ,ommittees /uCCle o.er what to do with the manned s/a,e /rogram. Dhat is it
-orF Dhy do we need itF $ut the e3/loits o- the astronauts and the moon landings had eli,ited
Hand -or good reasonHthe admiration o- the world. t would 1e a reJe,tion o- that stunning
Ameri,an a,hie.ement, the /oliti,al leaders tell themsel.es, to 1a,= o-- -rom manned
s/a,e-light. Dhi,h President, whi,h Congress wishes to 1e res/onsi1le -or the end o- the
Ameri,an s/a,e /rogramF And in the -ormer So.iet &nion a similar argument is heardE Shall
we a1andon, they as= themsel.es, the one remaining high te,hnology in whi,h we are still
world leadersF Shall we 1e -aithless heirs o- Ionstantin Tsiol=o.s=y, Sergei Iorole., and #uri
>agarinF
The -irst law o- 1ureau,ra,y is to guarantee its own ,ontinuan,e. Le-t to its own de.i,es,
without ,lear instru,tions -rom a1o.e, !ASA gradually de.ol.ed into a /rogram that would
maintain /ro-its, Jo1s, and /erKuisites. Por=01arrel /oliti,s, with Congress /laying a leading
role, 1e,ame an in,reasingly /ower-ul -or,e in the design and e3e,ution o- missions and long0
term goals. The 1ureau,ra,y ossi-ied. !ASA lost its way.
On 9uly 6:, ()+), the twentieth anni.ersary o- the A/ollo (( landing on the Moon,
President >eorge $ush announ,ed a long0term dire,tion -or the &.S. s/a,e /rogram. Called
the S/a,e E3/loration nitiati.e 2SE4, it /ro/osed a seKuen,e o- goals in,luding a &.S. s/a,e
station, a return o- humans to the Moon, and the -irst landing o- humans on Mars. n a later
statement, Mr. $ush set 6:() as the target date -or the -irst -oot-all on that /lanet.
And yet the S/a,e E3/loration nitiati.e, des/ite ,lear dire,tion -rom the to/, -oundered.
Four years a-ter it was mandated, it did not e.en ha.e a !ASA o--i,e dedi,ated to it. Small and
ine3/ensi.e lunar ro1oti, missionsHthat otherwise might well ha.e 1een a//ro.edHwere
,an,eled 1y Congress 1e,ause o- guilt 1y asso,iation with SE. Dhat went wrongF
One /ro1lem was the times,ale. SE e3tended -i.e or so /residential terms o- o--i,e into the
-uture 2ta=ing the a.erage /residen,y as one and a hal- terms4. That ma=es it easy -or a
/resident to attem/t to ,ommit his su,,essors, 1ut lea.es in ,onsidera1le dou1t how relia1le
su,h a ,ommitment might 1e. SE ,ontrasted dramati,ally with the A/ollo /rogramHwhi,h, it
might ha.e 1een ,onJe,tured at the time it 1egan, ,ould ha.e trium/hed when President
Iennedy or his immediate /oliti,al heir was still in o--i,e.
Se,ond, there was ,on,ern a1out whether !ASA, whi,h had re,ently e3/erien,ed great
di--i,ulty in sa-ely li-ting a -ew astronauts 6:: miles a1o.e the Earth, ,ould send astronauts on
an ar,ing year0long traJe,tory to a destination (:: million miles away and 1ring them 1a,=
ali.e.
Third, the /rogram was ,on,ei.ed e3,lusi.ely in nationalist terms. Coo/eration with other
nations was not -undamental to either design or e3e,ution. %i,e President 'an Quayle, who
had nominal res/onsi1ility -or s/a,e, Justi-ied the s/a,e station as a demonstration that the
&nited States was Bthe worldAs only su/er/ower.B $ut sin,e the So.iet &nion had an
o/erational s/a,e station that was a de,ade ahead o- the &nited States, Mr. QuayleAs argument
/ro.ed di--i,ult to -ollow.
Finally, there was the Kuestion o- where, in terms o- /ra,ti,al /oliti,s, the money was su//osed
to ,ome -rom. The ,osts o- getting the -irst humans to Mars had 1een .ariously estimated,
ranging as high as W*:: 1illion.
O- ,ourse, itAs im/ossi1le to /redi,t ,osts 1e-ore you ha.e a mission design. And the mission
design de/ends on su,h matters as the siCe o- the ,rew< the e3tent to whi,h you ta=e
mitigating ste/s against solar and ,osmi, radiation haCards, or Cero gra.ity< and what other
ris=s you are willing to a,,e/t with the li.es o- the men and women on 1oard. - e.ery ,rew
mem1er has one essential s/e,ialty, what ha//ens i- one o- them -alls illF The larger the ,rew,
the more relia1le the 1a,=u/s. #ou would almost ,ertainly not send a -ull0time oral surgeon,
1ut what ha//ens i- you need root ,anal wor= and youAre a hundred million miles -rom the
nearest dentistF Or ,ould it 1e done 1y an endodontist on Earth, using tele/resen,eF
Dernher .on $raun was the !aCi0Ameri,an engineer who, more than anyone else, a,tually
too= us into s/a,e. "is ()*6 1oo= 'as Mars/roJe=t en.isioned a -irst mission with (:
inter/lanetary s/a,e,ra-t, 7: ,rew mem1ers, and 8 Blanding 1oats.B Redundan,y was
u//ermost in his mind. The logisti,al reKuirements, he wrote, Bare no greater than those -or a
minor military o/eration e3tending o.er a limited theater o- war.B "e meant to Be3/lode on,e
and -or all the theory o- the solitary s/a,e ro,=et and its little 1and o- 1old inter/lanetary
ad.enturers,B and a//ealed to Colum1usA three shi/s without whi,h Bhistory tends to /ro.e
that he might ne.er ha.e returned to S/anish shores.B Modern Mars mission designs ha.e
ignored this ad.i,e. They are mu,h less am1itious than yon $raunAs, ty/i,ally ,alling -or one or
two s/a,e,ra-t ,rewed 1y three to eight astronauts, with another ro1oti, ,argo shi/ or two.
The solitary ro,=et and the little 1and o- ad.enturers are still with us.
Other un,ertainties a--e,ting mission design and ,ost in,lude whether you /re0em/la,e
su//lies -rom Earth and laun,h humans to Mars only a-ter the su//lies are sa-ely landed<
whether you ,an use Martian materials to generate o3ygen to 1reathe, water to drin=, and
ro,=et /ro/ellants to get home< whether you land using the thin Martian atmos/here -or
aero1ra=ing< the degree o- redundan,y in eKui/ment thought /rudent< the e3tent to whi,h
you use ,losed e,ologi,al systems or Just de/end on the -ood, water, and waste dis/osal
-a,ilities youA.e 1rought -rom Earth< the design o- ro.ing .ehi,les -or the ,rew to e3/lore the
Martian lands,a/e< and how mu,h eKui/ment youAre willing to ,arry to test our a1ility to li.e
o-- the land in later .oyages.
&ntil su,h Kuestions are de,ided, itAs a1surd to a,,e/t any -igure -or the ,ost o- the /rogram.
On the other hand, it was eKually ,lear that SE would 1e e3tremely e3/ensi.e. For all these
reasons, the /rogram was a nonstarter. t was still1orn.
There was no e--e,ti.e attem/t 1y the $ush Administration to s/end /oliti,al ,a/ital to get SE
going.
The lesson to me seems ,learE There may 1e no way to Send humans to Mars in the
,om/arati.ely near -utureHdes/ite the -a,t that it is entirely within our te,hnologi,al
,a/a1ility. >o.ernments do not s/end these .ast sums Just -or s,ien,e, or merely to e3/lore.
They need another /ur/ose, and it must ma=e real /oliti,al sense.
t may 1e im/ossi1le to go Just yet, 1ut when it is /ossi1le, the mission, thin=, must 1e
international -rom the start, with ,osts and res/onsi1ilities eKuita1ly shared and the e3/ertise
o- many nations ta//ed< the /ri,e must 1e reasona1le< the time -rom a//ro.al to laun,h must
-it within /ra,ti,al /oliti,al times,ales< and the s/a,e agen,ies ,on,erned must demonstrate
their a1ility to muster /ioneering e3/loratory missions with human ,rews sa-ely, on time, and
on 1udget. - it were /ossi1le to imagine su,h a mission -or less than W(:: 1illion, and -or a
time -rom a//ro.al to laun,h less than (* years, may1e it would 1e -easi1le. 2n terms o- ,ost,
this would re/resent only a -ra,tion o- the annual ,i.ilian s/a,e 1udgets o- the /resent
s/a,e-aring nations.4 Dith aero1ra=ing and manu-a,turing -uel and o3ygen -or the return tri/
out o- Martian air, itAs now 1eginning to loo= as i- su,h a 1udget and su,h a times,ale might
a,tually 1e realisti,.
The ,hea/er and Kui,=er the mission is, ne,essarily the more ris= we must 1e willing to ta=e
with the li.es o- the astronauts and ,osmonauts a1oard. $ut as is illustrated, among ,ountless
e3am/les, 1y the samurai o- medie.al 9a/an, there are always ,om/etent .olunteers -or highly
dangerous missions in what is /er,ei.ed as a great ,ause. !o 1udget, no timeline ,an 1e really
relia1le when we attem/t to do something on so grand a s,ale, something that has ne.er
1een done 1e-ore. The more leeway we as=, the greater is the ,ost and the longer it ta=es to
get there. Finding the right ,om/romise 1etween /oliti,al -easi1ility and mission su,,ess may
1e tri,=y.
tAs not enough to go to Mars 1e,ause some o- us ha.e dreamt o- doing so sin,e ,hildhood, or
1e,ause it seems to us the o1.ious long0term e3/loratory goal -or the human s/e,ies. - weAre
tal=ing a1out s/ending this mu,h money, we must Justi-y the e3/ense.
There are now other mattersH,lear, ,rying national needsHthat ,annot 1e addressed without
maJor e3/enditures< at the same time, the dis,retionary -ederal 1udget has 1e,ome /ain-ully
,onstrained. 'is/osal o- ,hemi,al and radioa,ti.e /oisons, energy e--i,ien,y, alternati.es to
-ossil -uels, de,lining rates o- te,hnologi,al inno.ation, the ,olla/sing ur1an in-rastru,ture, the
A'S e/idemi,, a wit,hesA 1rew o- ,an,ers, homelessness, malnutrition, in-ant mortality,
edu,ation, Jo1s, health ,areHthere is a /ain-ully long list. gnoring them will endanger the
well01eing o- the nation. A similar dilemma -a,es all the s/a,e-aring nations.
!early e.ery one o- these matters ,ould ,ost hundreds o- 1illions o- dollars or more to
address. Fi3ing in-rastru,ture will ,ost se.eral trillion dollars. Alternati.es to the -ossil0-uel
e,onomy ,learly re/resent a multitrillion0dollar in.estment worldwide, i- we ,an do it. These
/roJe,ts, we are sometimes told, are 1eyond our a1ility to /ay. "ow then ,an we a--ord to go
to MarsF
- there were 6: /er,ent more dis,retionary -unds in the &.S. -ederal 1udget 2or the 1udgets o-
the other s/a,e-aring nations4, /ro1a1ly would not -eel so ,on-li,ted a1out ad.o,ating
sending humans to Mars. - there were 6: /er,ent less, donAt thin= the most diehard s/a,e
enthusiast would 1e urging su,h a mission. Surely there is some /oint at whi,h the national
e,onomy is in su,h dire straits that sending /eo/le to Mats is un,ons,iona1le. The Kuestion is
where we draw the line. /lainly su,h a line e3ists, and e.ery /arti,i/ant in these de1ates should
sti/ulate where that line should 1e drawn, what -ra,tion o- the gross national /rodu,t -or
s/a,e is too mu,h. Ad li=e the same thing done -or Bde-ense.B
Pu1li, o/inion /olls show that many Ameri,ans thin= the !ASA 1udget is a1out eKual to the
de-ense 1udget. n -a,t, the entire !ASA 1udget, in,luding human and ro1oti, missions and
aeronauti,s, is a1out * /er,ent o- the &.S. de-ense 1udget. "ow mu,h s/ending -or de-ense
a,tually wea=ens the ,ountryF And e.en i- !ASA were ,an,elled altogether, would we -ree u/
what is needed to sol.e our national /ro1lemsF
"uman s/a,e-light n generalHto say nothing o- e3/editions to MarsHwould 1e mu,h more
readily su//orta1le i-, as in the -i-teenth0,entury arguments o- Colum1us and "enry the
!a.igator, there were a /ro-it lure.6+ Some arguments ha.e 1een ad.an,ed. The high .a,uum
or low gra.ity or intense radiation en.ironment o- near0Earth s/a,e might 1e utiliCed, it is said,
-or ,ommer,ial 1ene-it. All su,h /ro/osals must 1e ,hallenged 1y this KuestionE Could
,om/ara1le or 1etter /rodu,ts 1e manu-a,tured down here on Earth i- the de.elo/ment
money made a.aila1le were ,om/ara1le to what is 1eing /oured into the s/a,e /rogramF
9udging 1y how little money ,or/orations ha.e 1een willing to in.est in su,h te,hnologyH
a/art -rom the entities 1uilding the ro,=ets and s/a,e,ra-t themsel.esHthe /ros/e,ts, at least
at /resent, seem to 1e not .ery high.
The notion that rare materials might 1e a.aila1le elsewhere is tem/ered 1y the -a,t that
-reightage is high. There may, -or all we =now, 1e o,eans o- /etroleum on Titan, 1ut
trans/orting it to Earth will 1e e3/ensi.e. Platinum0grou/ metals may 1e a1undant in ,ertain
asteroids. - we ,ould mo.e these asteroids into or1it around the Earth, /erha/s we ,ould
,on.eniently mine them. $ut at least -or the -oreseea1le -uture this seems dangerously
im/rudent, as des,ri1e later in this 1oo=.
n his ,lassi, s,ien,e -i,tion no.el The Man Dho Sold the Moon, Ro1ert "einlein imagined the
/ro-it moti.e as the =ey to s/a,e tra.el. "e hadnAt -oreseen that the Cold Dar would sell the
Moon. $ut he did re,ogniCe that an honest /ro-it argument would 1e di--i,ult to ,ome 1y.
"einlein en.isioned, there-ore, a s,am in whi,h the lunar sur-a,e was salted with diamonds so
later e3/lorers ,ould 1reathlessly dis,o.er them and initiate a diamond rush. DeA.e sin,e
returned sam/les -rom the Moon, though, and there is not a hint o- ,ommer,ially interesting
diamonds there.
"owe.er, Iiyoshi Iuramoto and Ta=a-umi Matsui o- the &ni.ersity o- To=yo ha.e studied how
the ,entral iron ,ores o- Earth, %enus, and Mars -ormed, and -ind that the Martian mantle
21etween ,rust and ,ore4 should 1e ri,h in ,ar1onHri,her than that o- the Moon or %enus or
Earth. 'ee/er than 8:: =ilometers, the /ressures should trans-orm ,ar1on into diamond. De
=now that Mars has 1een geologi,ally a,ti.e o.er its history. Material -rom great de/th will
o,,asionally 1e e3truded u/ to the sur-a,e, and not Just in the great .ol,anos. So there does
seem to 1e a ,ase -or diamonds on other worldsHon Mars, lied not the Moon. n what
Kuantities, o- what Kuality and siCe, and in whi,h lo,ales we do not yet =now.
The return to Earth o- a s/a,e,ra-t stu--ed with gorgeous multi,arat diamonds would
dou1tless de/ress /ri,es 2as well as the shareholders o- the de $eers and >eneral Ele,tri,
,or/orations4. $ut 1e,ause o- the ornamental and industrial a//li,ations o- diamonds, /erha/s
there is a lower limit 1elow whi,h /ri,es will not go. Con,ei.a1ly, the a--e,ted industries might
-ind ,ause to /romote the early e3/loration o- Mars.
The idea that Martian diamonds will /ay -or e3/loring Mars is at 1est a .ery long shot, 1ut itAs
an e3am/le o- how rare and .alua1le su1stan,es may 1e dis,o.era1le on other worlds. t
would 1e -oolish, though, to ,ount on su,h ,ontingen,ies. - we see= to Justi-y missions to
other worlds, weAll ha.e to -ind other reasons.
$eyond dis,ussions o- /ro-its and ,osts, e.en redu,ed ,osts, we must also des,ri1e 1ene-its, i-
they e3ist. Ad.o,ates o- human missions to Mars must address whether, in the long term,
missions u/ there are li=ely to mitigate any o- the /ro1lems down here. Consider now the
standard set o- Justi-i,ations and see i- you -ind them .alid, in.alid, or indeterminateE
"uman missions to Mars would s/e,ta,ularly im/ro.e our =nowledge o- the /lanet, in,luding
the sear,h -or /resent and /ast li-e. The /rogram is li=ely to ,lari-y our understanding o- the
en.ironment o- our own /lanet, as ro1oti, missions ha.e already 1egun to do. The history o-
our ,i.iliCation shows that the /ursuit o- 1asi, =nowledge is the way the most signi-i,ant
/ra,ti,al ad.an,es ,ome a1out. O/inion /olls suggest that the most /o/ular reason -or
Be3/loring s/a,eB is Bin,reased =nowledge.B $ut are humans in s/a,e essential to a,hie.e this
goalF Ro1oti, missions, gi.en high national /riority and eKui//ed with im/ro.ed ma,hine
intelligen,e, seem to me entirely ,a/a1le o- answering, as well as astronauts ,an, all the
Kuestions we need to as=Hand at May1e (: /er,ent the ,ost.
t is alleged that Bs/ino--B will trans/ireHhuge te,hnologi,al 1ene-its that would otherwise -ail
to ,ome a1outHthere1y im/ro.ing our international ,om/etiti.eness and the domesti,
e,onomy. $ut this is an old argumentE S/end W+: 1illion 2in ,ontem/orary money4 to send
A/ollo astronauts to the Moon, and weAll throw in a -ree sti,=less -rying /an. Plainly, i- weAre
a-ter -rying /ans, we ,an in.est the money dire,tly and sa.e almost all o- that W+: 1illion.
The argument is s/e,ious -or other reasons as well, one o- whi,h is that 'uPontAs Te-lon
te,hnology long antedated A/ollo. The same is true o- ,ardia, /a,ema=ers, 1all/oint /ens,
%el,ro, and other /ur/orted s/ino--s o- the A/ollo /rogram. 2 on,e had the o//ortunity to
tal= with the in.entor o- the ,ardia, /a,ema=er, who himsel- nearly had a ,oronary a,,ident
des,ri1ing the inJusti,e o- what he /er,ei.ed as !ASA ta=ing ,redit -or his de.i,e.4 - there are
te,hnologies we urgently need, then s/end the money and de.elo/ them. Dhy go to Mars to
do itF
O- ,ourse it would 1e im/ossi1le -or so mu,h new te,hnology as !ASA reKuires to 1e
de.elo/ed and not ha.e some s/illo.er into the general e,onomy, some in.entions use-ul
down here. For e3am/le, the /owdered orange Jui,e su1stitute Tang was a /rodu,t o- the
manned s/a,e /rogram, and s/ino--s ha.e o,,urred in ,ordless tools, im/lanted ,ardia,
de-i1rillators, liKuid0,ooled garments, and digital imagingHto name a -ew. $ut they hardly
Justi-y human .oyages to Mars or the e3isten,e o- !ASA.
De ,ould see the old s/ino-- engine wheeCing and /u--ing in the waning days o- the Reagan0
era Star Dars o--i,e. "ydrogen 1om10dri.en X0ray lasers on or1iting 1attle stations will hel/
/er-e,t laser surgery, they told us. $ut i- we need laser surgery, i- itAs a high national /riority, 1y
all means letAs allo,ate the -unds to de.elo/ it. Just lea.e Star Dars out o- it. S/ino--
Justi-i,ations ,onstitute an admission that the /rogram ,anAt stand on its own two -eet, ,annot
1e Justi-ied 1y the /ur/ose -or whi,h it was originally sold.
On,e u/on a time it was thought, on the 1asis o- e,onometri, models, that -or e.ery dollar
in.ested in !ASA many dollars were /um/ed into the &.S. e,onomy. - this multi/lier e--e,t
a//lied more to !ASA than to most go.ernment agen,ies, it would /ro.ide a /otent -is,al and
so,ial Justi-i,ation -or the s/a,e /rogram. !ASA su//orters were not shy a1out a//ealing to
this argument. $ut a ()); Congressional $udget O--i,e study -ound it to 1e a delusion. Dhile
!ASA s/ending 1ene-its some /rodu,tion segments o- the &.S. e,onomyHes/e,ially the
aeros/a,e industryHthere is no /re-erential multi/lier e--e,t. Li=ewise, while !ASA s/ending
,ertainly ,reates or maintains Jo1s and /ro-its, it does so no more e--i,iently than many other
go.ernment agen,ies.
Then thereAs edu,ation, an argument that has /ro.ed -rom time to time .ery attra,ti.e in the
Dhite "ouse. 'o,torates in s,ien,e /ea=ed somewhere around the time o- A/ollo ((, may1e
e.en with the /ro/er /hase lag a-ter the start o- the A/ollo /rogram. The ,ause0and0e--e,t
relationshi/ is /erha/s undemonstrated, although not im/lausi1le. $ut so whatF - weAre
interested in im/ro.ing edu,ation, is going to Mars the 1est routeF Thin= o- what we ,ould do
with W(:: 1illion -or tea,her training and salaries, s,hool la1oratories and li1raries,
s,holarshi/s -or disad.antaged students, resear,h -a,ilities, and graduate -ellowshi/s. s it really
true that the 1est way to /romote s,ien,e edu,ation is to go to MarsF
Another argument is that human missions to Mars will o,,u/y the military0industrial ,om/le3,
di--using the tem/tation to use its ,onsidera1le /oliti,al mus,le to e3aggerate e3ternal threats
and /um/ u/ de-ense -unding. The other side o- this /arti,ular ,oin is that 1y going to Mars
we maintain a stand1y te,hnologi,al ,a/a,ity that might 1e im/ortant -or -uture military
,ontingen,ies. O- ,ourse, we might sim/ly as= those guys to do something dire,tly use-ul -or
the ,i.ilian e,onomy. $ut as we saw in the ()7:s with >rumman 1uses and $oeing@%ertol
,ommuter trains, the aeros/a,e industry e3/erien,es real di--i,ulty in /rodu,ing ,om/etiti.ely
-or the ,i.ilian e,onomy. Certainly a tan= may tra.el (,::: miles a year and a 1us (,::: miles a
wee=, so the 1asi, designs must 1e di--erent. $ut on matters o- relia1ility at least, the 'e-ense
'e/artment seems to 1e mu,h less demanding.
Coo/eration in s/a,e, as A.e already mentioned, is 1e,oming an instrument o- international
,oo/erationH-or e3am/le, in slowing the /roli-eration o- strategi, wea/ons to new nations.
Ro,=ets de,ommissioned 1e,ause o- the end o- the Cold Dar might 1e gain-ully em/loyed in
missions to Earth or1it, the Moon, the /lanets, asteroids, and ,omets. $ut all this ,an 1e
a,,om/lished without human missions to Mars.
Other Justi-i,ations are o--ered. t is argued that the ultimate solution to world energy
/ro1lems is to stri/0mine the Moon, return the solar0wind0im/lanted helium08 1a,= to Earth,
and use it in -usion rea,tors. Dhat -usion rea,torsF E.en i- this were /ossi1le, e.en i- it were
,ost0e--e,ti.e, it is a te,hnology *: or (:: years away. Our energy /ro1lems need to 1e sol.ed
at a less leisurely /a,e.
E.en stranger is the argument that we ha.e to send human 1eings into s/a,e in order to sol.e
the world /o/ulation ,risis. $ut some 6*:,::: more /eo/le are 1orn than die e.ery dayH
whi,h means ,ans that we would ha.e to laun,h 6*:,::: /eo/le /er day into s/a,e to
maintain world /o/ulation at its /resent le.els. This a//ears to 1e 1eyond our /resent
,a/a1ility.
i run through su,h a list and try to add u/ the /ros and ,ons, 1earing in mind the other urgent
,laims on the -ederal 1udget. To me, the argument so -ar ,omes down to this KuestionE Can
the sum o- a large num1er o- indi.idually inadeKuate 9usti-i,ations add u/ to an adeKuate
Justi-i,ationF
donAt thin= any o- the items on my list o- /ur/orted Justi-i,ations is demonstra1ly worth
W*:: 1illion or e.en W(:: 1illion, ,ertainly not in the short term. On the other hand, most o-
them are worth something, and i- ha.e -i.e items ea,h worth W6: 1illion, may1e it adds u/ to
W(:: 1illion. - we ,an 1e ,le.er a1out redu,ing ,osts and ma=ing true international
/artnershi/s, the Justi-i,ations 1e,ome more ,om/elling.
&ntil a national de1ate on this to/i, has trans/ired, until we ha.e a 1etter idea o- the
rationale and the ,ost@1ene-it ratio o- human missions to Mars, what should we doF My
suggestion is that we /ursue resear,h and de.elo/ment /roJe,ts that ,an 1e Justi-ied on their
own merits or 1y their rele.an,e to other goals, 1ut that ,an also ,ontri1ute to human
missions to Mars should we later de,ide to go. Su,h an agenda would in,ludeE
X &.S. astronauts on the Russian s/a,e station Mir -or Joint -lights o- gradually in,reasing
duration, aiming at one to two years, the Mars -light time.
X Con-iguration o- the international s/a,e station so its /rin,i/al -un,tion is to study the
long0term e--e,ts o- the s/a,e en.ironment on humans.
X Early im/lementation o- a rotating or tethered Barti-i,ial gra.ityB module on the
international s/a,e station, -or other animals and then -or humans.
X Enhan,ed studies o- the Sun, in,luding a distri1uted set o- ro1ot /ro1es in or1it a1out the
Sun, to monitor solar a,ti.ity and gi.e the earliest /ossi1le warning to astronauts o-
haCardous Bsolar -laresBHmass eJe,tions o- ele,trons and /rotons -rom the SunAs ,orona.
X &.S.@Russian and multilateral de.elo/ment o- Energiya and Proton ro,=et te,hnology -or
the &.S. and international s/a,e /rograms. Although the &nited States is unli=ely to de/end
/rimarily on a So.iet 1ooster, Energiya has roughly the li-t o- the Saturn % that sent the A/ollo
astronauts to the Moon. The &nited States let the Saturn % assem1ly line die, and it ,annot
readily 1e resus,itated. Proton is the most relia1le large 1ooster now in ser.i,e. Russia is eager
to sell this te,hnology -or hard ,urren,y.
X 9oint /roJe,ts with !AS'A 2the 9a/anese s/a,e agen,y4 and To=yo &ni.ersity, the
Euro/ean S/a,e Agen,y, and the Russian S/a,e Agen,y, along with Canada and other nations.
n most ,ases these should 1e eKual /artnershi/s, not the &nited States insisting on ,alling the
shots. For the ro1oti, e3/loration o- Mars, su,h /rograms are already under way. For human
-light, the ,hie- su,h a,ti.ity is ,learly the international s/a,e station. E.entually, we might
muster Joint simulated /lanetary missions in low Earth or1it. One o- the /rin,i/al o1Je,ti.es o-
these /rograms should 1e to 1uild a tradition o- ,oo/erati.e te,hni,al e3,ellen,e.
X Te,hnologi,al de.elo/mentHusing state0o-0the0art ro1oti,s and arti-i,ial intelligen,eH
o- ro.ers, 1alloons, and air,ra-t -or the e3/loration o- Mars, and im/lementation o- the -irst
international return sam/le mission. Ro1oti, s/a,e,ra-t that ,an return sam/les -rom Mars ,an
1e tested on near0Earth asteroids and the Moon. Sam/les returned -rom ,are-ully sele,ted
regions o- the Moon ,an ha.e their ages determined and ,ontri1ute in a -undamental way to
our understanding o- the early history o- the Earth.
X Further de.elo/ment o- te,hnologies to manu-a,ture -uel and o3idiCer out o- Martian
materials. n one estimate, 1ased on a /rototy/e instrument designed 1y Ro1ert ?u1rin and
,olleagues at the Martin Marietta Cor/oration, se.eral =ilograms o- Martian soil ,an 1e
automati,ally returned to Earth using a modest and relia1le 'elta laun,h .ehi,le, all -or no
more than a song 2,om/arati.ely s/ea=ing4.
X Simulations on Earth o- long0duration tri/s to Mars, ,on,entrating on /otential so,ial
and /sy,hologi,al /ro1lems.
X %igorous /ursuit o- new te,hnologies su,h as ,onstant0thrust /ro/ulsion to get us to
Mars Kui,=ly< this may 1e essential i- the radiation or mi,rogra.ity haCards ma=e one0
year 2or longer4 -light times too ris=y.
X ntensi.e study o- near0Earth asteroids, whi,h may /ro.ide su/erior intermediate0
times,ale o1Je,ti.es -or human e3/loration than does the Moon.
X A greater em/hasis on s,ien,eHin,luding the -undamental s,ien,es 1ehind s/a,e
e3/loration, and the thorough analysis o- data already o1tainedH1y !ASA and other s/a,e
agen,ies.
These re,ommendations add u/ to a -ra,tion o- the -ull ,ost o- a human mission to Mars and
Hs/read out o.er a de,ade or so and done Jointly with other nationsHa -ra,tion o- ,urrent
s/a,e 1udgets. $ut, i- im/lemented, they would hel/ us to ma=e a,,urate ,ost estimates and
1etter assessment o- the dangers and 1ene-its. They would /ermit us to maintain .igorous
/rogress toward human e3/editions to Mars without /remature ,ommitment to any s/e,i-i,
mission hardware. Most, /erha/s all, o- these re,ommendations ha.e other Justi-i,ations, e.en
i- De were sure wed 1e una1le to send humans to any other world in the ne3t -ew de,ades.
And a steady drum1eat o- a,,om/lishments in,reasing the -easi1ility o- human .oyages to
Mars wouldHin the minds o- many at leastH,om1at wides/read /essimism a1out the -uture.
ThereAs something more. ThereAs a set o- less tangi1le arguments, many o- whi,h, -reely
admit, -ind attra,ti.e and resonant. S/a,e-light s/ea=s to something dee/ inside usHmany o-
us, i- not all. An emerging ,osmi, /ers/e,ti.e, an im/ro.ed understanding o- our /la,e in the
&ni.erse, a highly .isi1le /rogram a--e,ting our .iew o- oursel.es might ,lari-y the -ragility o-
our /lanetary en.ironment and the ,ommon /eril and res/onsi1ility o- all the nations and
/eo/les o- Earth. And human missions to Mars would /ro.ide ho/e-ul /ros/e,ts, ri,h in
ad.enture, -or the wanderers among us, es/e,ially the young. E.en .i,arious e3/loration has
so,ial utility.
re/eatedly -ind that when gi.e tal=s on the -uture o- the s/a,e /rogramHto uni.ersities,
1usiness and military grou/s, /ro-essional organiCationsHthe audien,es are mu,h less /atient
with /ra,ti,al, real0world /oliti,al and e,onomi, o1sta,les than (. They long to swee/ away
the im/ediments, to re,a/ture the glory days o- %osto= and A/ollo, to get on with it and on,e
more tread other worlds. De did it 1e-ore< we ,an do it again, they say. $ut, ,aution mysel-,
those who attend su,h tal=s are sel-0sele,ted s/a,e enthusiasts.
n ()5), less than hal- the Ameri,an /eo/le thought the A/ollo /rogram was worth the ,ost.
$ut on the twenty0-i-th anni.ersary o- the Moon landing, the num1er had risen to two thirds.
'es/ite its /ro1lems, !ASA was rated as doing a good0to0e3,ellent Jo1 1y 58 /er,ent o-
Ameri,ans. Dith no re-eren,e to ,ost, 7* /er,ent o- Ameri,ans 2a,,ording to a C$S !ews /oll4
-a.ored Bthe &nited States sending astronauts to e3/lore Mars.A For young adults, the -igure
was 5+ /er,ent. thin= Be3/loreB is the o/erati.e word.
t is no a,,ident that, whate.er their human -laws, and how e.er mori1und the human s/a,e
/rogram has 1e,ome 2a trend that the "u11le S/a,e Teles,o/e re/air mission may ha.e
hel/ed to re.erse4, astronauts and ,osmonauts are still widely regarded as heroes o- our
s/e,ies. A s,ienti-i, ,olleague tells me a1out a re,ent tri/ to the !ew >uinea highlands where
she .isited a stone age ,ulture hardly ,onta,ted 1y Destern ,i.iliCation. They were ignorant o-
wristwat,hes, so-t drin=s, and -roCen -ood. $ut they =new a1out A/ollo ((. They =new that
humans had wal=ed on the Moon. They =new the names o- Armstrong and Aldrin and Collins.
They wanted to =now who was .isiting the Moon these days.
ProJe,ts that are -uture0oriented, that, des/ite their /oliti,al di--i,ulties, ,an 1e ,om/leted only
in some distant de,ade are ,ontinuing reminders that there will 1e a -uture. Dinning a
-oothold on other worlds whis/ers in our ears that weAre more than Pi,ts or Ser1s or TongansE
DeAre humans.
E3/loratory s/a,e-light /uts s,ienti-i, ideas, s,ienti-i, thin=ing, and s,ienti-i, .o,a1ulary in the
/u1li, eye. t ele.ates the general le.el o- intelle,tual inKuiry. The idea that weA.e now
understood something ne.er gras/ed 1y anyone who e.er li.ed 1e-oreHthat e3hilaration,
es/e,ially intense -or the s,ientists in.ol.ed, 1ut /er,e/ti1le to nearly e.eryoneH/ro/agates
through the so,iety, 1oun,es o-- walls, and ,omes 1a,= at us. t en,ourages us to address
/ro1lems in other -ields that ha.e also ne.er 1e-ore 1een sol.ed. t in,reases the general sense
o- o/timism in the so,iety. t gi.es ,urren,y to ,riti,al thin=ing o- the sort urgently needed i-
we are to sol.e hitherto intra,ta1le so,ial issues. t hel/s stimulate a new generation o-
s,ientists. The more s,ien,e in the media0es/e,ially i- methods are des,ri1ed, as well as
,on,lusions and im/li,ations0the healthier, 1elie.e, the so,iety is. Peo/le e.erywhere hunger
to understand.
Dhen i was a ,hild, my most e3ultant dreams were a1out -lyingHnot in some ma,hine, 1ut all
1y mysel-. would 1e s=i//ing or ho//ing, and slowly ,ould /ull my traJe,tory higher. t
would ta=e longer to -all 1a,= to the ground. Soon would 1e on su,h a high ar, that
wouldnAt ,ome down at all. would alight li=e a gargoyle in a ni,he near the /inna,le o- a
s=ys,ra/er, or gently settle down on a ,loud. n the dreamHwhi,h must ha.e had in its many
.ariations at least a hundred timesHa,hie.ing -light reKuired a ,ertain ,ast o- mind. tAs
im/ossi1le to des,ri1e it in words, 1ut ,an remem1er what it was li=e to this day. #ou did
something inside your head and at the /it o- your stoma,h, and then you ,ould li-t yoursel- u/
1y an e--ort o- will alone, your lim1s hanging lim/ly. O-- youAd soar.
=now many /eo/le ha.e had similar dreams. May1e most /eo/le. May1e e.eryone.
Perha/s it goes 1a,= (: million years or more, when our an,estors were gra,e-ully -linging
themsel.es -rom 1ran,h to 1ran,h in the /rime.al -orest. A wish to soar li=e the 1irds
moti.ated many o- the /ioneers o- -light, in,luding Leonardo da %in,i and the Dright
1rothers. May1e thatAs /art o- the a//eal o- s/a,e-light, too.
n or1it a1out any world, or in inter/lanetary -light, you are literally weightless. #ou ,an /ro/el
yoursel- to the s/a,e,ra-t ,eiling with a slight /ush o-- the -loor. #ou ,an go tum1ling through
the air down the long a3is o- the s/a,e,ra-t. "umans e3/erien,e weightlessness as Joy< this has
1een re/orted 1y almost e.ery astronaut and ,osmonaut. $ut 1e,ause s/a,e,ra-t are still so
small, and 1e,ause s/a,e Bwal=sB ha.e 1een done with e3treme ,aution, no human has yet
enJoyed this wonder and gloryE /ro/elling yoursel- 1y an almost im/er,e/ti1le /ush, with no
ma,hinery dri.ing you, untethered, high u/ into the s=y, into the 1la,=ness o- inter/lanetary
s/a,e. #ou 1e,ome a li.ing satellite o- the Earth, or a human /lanet o- the Sun.
Planetary e3/loration satis-ies our in,lination -or great enter/rises and wanderings and Kuests
that has 1een with us sin,e our days as hunters and gatherers on the East A-ri,an sa.annahs a
million years ago. $y ,han,eHit is /ossi1le, say, to imagine many s=eins o- histori,al ,ausality
in whi,h this would not ha.e trans/iredHin our age we are a1le to 1egin again.
E3/loring other worlds em/loys /re,isely the same Kualities o- daring, /lanning, ,oo/erati.e
enter/rise, and .alor that mar= the -inest in the military tradition. !e.er mind the night laun,h
o- an A/ollo s/a,e,ra-t 1ound -or another world. That ma=es the ,on,lusion -oregone.
Ditness mere F0(;s ta=ing o-- -rom adJa,ent -light de,=s, gra,e-ully ,anting le-t and right,
a-ter1urners -laming, and thereAs something that swee/s you awayHor at least it does me. And
no amount o- =nowledge o- the /otential a1uses o- ,arrier tas= -or,es ,an a--e,t the de/th o-
that -eeling. t sim/ly s/ea=s to another /art o- me. t doesnAt want re,riminations or /oliti,s. t
Just wants to -ly.
B . . . had am1ition not only to go -arther than anyone had done 1e-ore,B wrote Ca/tain 9ames
Coo=, the eighteenth0,entury e3/lorer o- the Pa,i-i,, B1ut as -ar as it was /ossi1le -or man to
go.B Two ,enturies later, #uri Romanen=o, on returning to Earth a-ter what was then the
longest s/a,e -light in history, said BThe Cosmos is a magnet . . . On,e youA.e 1een there, all
you ,an thin= o- is how to get 1a,=.B
E.en 9ean09a,Kues Rousseau, no enthusiast o- te,hnology, -elt itE
The stars are -ar a1o.e us< we need /reliminary instru,tion, instruments and ma,hines, whi,h
are li=e so many immense ladders ena1ling us to a//roa,h them and 1ring them within our
gras/.
BThe -uture /ossi1ilities o- s/a,e0tra.el,B wrote the /hiloso/her $ertrand Russell in ()*), whi,h
are now le-t mainly to un-ounded -antasy, ,ould 1e more so1erly treated without ,easing to
1e interesting and ,ould show to e.en the most ad.enturous o- the young that a world
without war need not 1e a world without ad.enturous and haCardous glory.6) To this =ind o-
,ontest there is no limit. Ea,h .i,tory is only a /relude to another, and no 1oundaries ,an 1e
set to rational ho/e.
n the long run, theseHmore than any o- the B/ra,ti,alB Justi-i,ations ,onsidered earlierHmay
1e the reasons we will go to Mars and other worlds. n the meantime, the most im/ortant ste/
we ,an ta=e toward Mars is to ma=e signi-i,ant /rogress on Earth. E.en modest im/ro.ements
in the so,ial, e,onomi,, and /oliti,al /ro1lems that our glo1al ,i.iliCation now -a,es ,ould
release enormous resour,es, 1oth material and human, -or other goals.
ThereAs /lenty o- housewor= to 1e done here on Earth, and our ,ommitment to it must 1e
stead-ast. $ut weAre the =ind o- s/e,ies that needs a -rontierH-or -undamental 1iologi,al
reasons.
E.ery time humanity stret,hes itsel- and turns a new ,orner, it re,ei.es a Jolt o- /rodu,ti.e
.itality that ,an ,arry it -or ,enturies.
ThereAs a new world ne3t door. And we =now how to get there.
Cha$ter 1:+ ?o/tine 0nter$anetary ,ioence
t is a law o- nature that Earth and all other 1odies should remain in their /ro/er /la,es and 1e mo.ed -rom them
only 1y .iolen,e.
HARSTOTLE 28+;0866 $.C.4, P"#SCS
There was something -unny a1out Saturn. Dhen, in (5(:, >alileo used the worldAs -irst
astronomi,al teles,o/e to .iew the /lanetHthen the most distant world =nownHhe -ound two
a//endages, one on either side. "e li=ened them to Bhandles.B Other astronomers ,alled them
Bears.B The Cosmos holds many wonders, 1ut a /lanet with Jug ears is dismaying. >alileo went
to his gra.e with this 1iCarre matter unresol.ed.
As the years /assed, o1ser.ers -ound the ears . . . Dell, wa3ing and waning. E.entually, it
1e,ame ,lear that what >alileo had dis,o.ered was an e3tremely thin ring that surrounds
Saturn at its eKuator 1ut tou,hes it nowhere. n some years, 1e,ause o- the ,hanging or1ital
/ositions o- Earth and Saturn, the ring had 1een seen edge0on and, 1e,ause o- its thinness, it
seemed to disa//ear. n other years, it had 1een .iewed more -a,e0oil, and the BearsB grew
1igger. $ut what does it mean that thereAs a ring around SaturnF A thin, -lat, solid /late with a
hole ,ut out -or the /lanet to -it intoF Dhere does that ,ome -romF
This line o- inKuiry will shortly ta=e us to world0shattering ,ollisions, to two Kuite di--erent
/erils -or our s/e,ies, and to a reasonH1eyond those already des,ri1edHthat we must, -or
our .ery sur.i.al, 1e out there among the /lanets.
De now =now that the rings 2em/hati,ally /lural4 o- Saturn are a .ast horde o- tiny i,e
worlds, ea,h on its se/arate or1it, ea,h 1ound to Saturn 1y the giant /lanetAs gra.ity. n siCe,
these worldlets range -rom /arti,les o- -ine dust to houses. !one is 1ig enough to /hotogra/h
e.en -rom ,lose -ly1ys. S/a,ed out in an e3Kuisite set o- -ine ,on,entri, ,ir,les, something li=e
the groo.es on a /honogra/h re,ord 2whi,h in reality ma=e, o- ,ourse, a s/iral4, the rings were
-irst re.ealed in their true maJesty 1y the two %oyager s/a,e,ra-t in their ()+:@+( -ly1ys. n our
,entury, the Art 'e,o rings o- Saturn ha.e 1e,ome an i,on o- the -uture.
At a s,ienti-i, meeting in the late ()5:s, was as=ed to summariCe the outstanding
/ro1lems in /lanetary s,ien,e. One, suggested, was the Kuestion o- why, o- all the /lanets,
only Saturn had rings. This, %oyager dis,o.ered, is a nonKuestion. All -our giant /lanets in our
Solar SystemH 9u/iter, Saturn, &ranus, and !e/tuneHin -a,t ha.e rings. $ut no one =new it
then.
Ea,h ring system has distin,ti.e -eatures. 9u/iterAs is tenuous and made mainly o- dar=,
.ery small /arti,les. The 1right rings o- Saturn are ,om/osed mainly o- -roCen water< there are
thousands o- se/arate rings here, some twisted, with strange, dus=y, s/o=e0li=e mar=ings
-orming and dissi/ating. The dar= rings o- &ranus seem to 1e ,om/osed o- elemental ,ar1on
and organi, mole,ulesHsomething li=e ,har,oal or ,himney soot< &ranus has nine main rings,
a -ew o- whi,h sometime seem to B1reathe,B e3/anding and ,ontra,ting. !e/tuneAs rings are
the most tenuous o- all, .arying so mu,h in thi,=ness that, when dete,ted -rom Earth, they
a//ear only as ar,s and in,om/lete ,ir,les. A num1er o- rings seem to 1e maintained 1y the
gra.itational tugs o- two she/herd moons, one a little nearer and the other a little -arther -rom
the /lanet than the ring. Ea,h ring system dis/lays its own, a//ro/riately unearthly, 1eauty.
"ow do rings -ormF One /ossi1ility is tidesE - an errant world /asses ,lose to a /lanet, the
interlo/erAs near side is gra.itationally /ulled toward the /lanet more than its -ar side< i- it
,omes ,lose enough, i- its internal ,ohesion is low enough, it ,an 1e literally torn to /ie,es.
O,,asionally we see this ha//ening to ,omets as they /ass too ,lose to 9u/iter, or the Sun.
Another /ossi1ility, emerging -rom the %oyager re,onnaissan,e o- the outer Solar System, is
thisE Rings are made when worlds ,ollide and moons are smashed to smithereens. $oth
me,hanisms may ha.e /layed a role.
The s/a,e 1etween the /lanets is tra.ersed 1y an odd ,olle,tion o- rogue worldlets, ea,h in
or1it a1out the Sun. A -ew are as 1ig as a ,ounty or e.en a state< many more ha.e sur-a,e
areas li=e those o- a .illage or a town. More little ones are -ound than 1ig ones, and they
range in siCe down to /arti,les o- dust. Some o- them tra.el on long, stret,hed0out elli/ti,al
/aths, whi,h ma=e them /eriodi,ally ,ross the or1it o- one or more /lanets.
O,,asionally, unlu,=ily, thereAs a world in the way. The ,ollision ,an shatter and /ul.eriCe 1oth
the interlo/er and the moon thatAs hit 2or at least the region around ground Cero4. The
resulting de1risHeJe,ted -rom the moon 1ut not so -ast0mo.ing as to es,a/e -rom the /lanetAs
gra.ityHmay -orm, -or a time, a new ring. tAs made o- whate.er the ,olliding 1odies were
made o-, 1ut usually more o- the target moon than the rogue im/a,tor. - the ,olliding worlds
are i,y, the net result will 1e rings o- i,e /arti,les< i- theyAre made o- organi, mole,ules, the
result will 1e rings o- organi, /arti,les 2whi,h will slowly 1e /ro,essed 1y radiation into
,ar1on4. All the mass in the rings o- Saturn is no more than Awould result -rom the ,om/lete
im/a,t /ul.eriCation o- a single i,y moon. The disintegration o- small moons ,an li=ewise
a,,ount -or the ring systems o- the three other giant /lanets.
&nless itAs .ery ,lose to its /lanet, a shattered moon gradually rea,,umulates 2or at least a -air
-ra,tion o- it does4. The /ie,es, 1ig and small, still in a//ro3imately the same or1it as the moon
was 1e-ore the im/a,t, -all together helter0s=elter. Dhat used to 1e a /ie,e o- the ,ore is now
at the sur-a,e, and .i,e .ersa. The resulting hodge/odge sur-a,es might seem .ery odd.
Miranda, one o- the moons o- &ranus, loo=s dis,on,ertingly Jum1led and may ha.e had su,h
an origin.
The Ameri,an /lanetary geologist Eugene Shoema=er /ro/oses that many moons in the outer
Solar System ha.e 1een annihilated and re-ormedHnot Just on,e 1ut se.eral times ea,h o.er
the ;.* 1illion years sin,e the Sun and the /lanets ,ondensed out o- interstellar gas and dust.
The /i,ture emerging -rom the %oyager re,onnaissan,e o- the outer Solar System is o- worlds
whose /la,id and lonely .igils are s/asmodi,ally trou1led 1y interlo/ers -rom s/a,e< o- world0
shattering ,ollisions< and o- moons re0-orming -rom de1ris, re,onstituting themsel.es li=e
/hoeni3es -rom their own ashes.
$ut a moon that li.es .ery ,lose to a /lanet ,annot re0-orm i- it is /ul.eriCedHthe gra.itational
tides o- the near1y /lanet /re.ent it. The resulting de1ris, on,e s/read out into a ring system,
might 1e .ery long0li.edHat least 1y the standard o- a human li-etime. Perha/s many o- the
small, in,ons/i,uous moons now or1iting the giant /lanets will one day 1lossom -orth into
.ast and lo.ely rings.
These ideas are su//orted 1y the a//earan,e o- a num1er o- satellites in the Solar System.
Pho1os, the inner moon o- Mars, has a large ,rater named Sti,=ney< Mimas, an inner moon o-
Saturn, has a 1ig one named "ers,hel. These ,ratersHli=e those on our own Moon and,
indeed, throughout the Solar SystemHare /rodu,ed 1y ,ollisions. An interlo/er smashes into a
1igger world and ma=es an immense e3/losion at the /oint o- im/a,t, A 1owl0sha/ed ,rater is
e3,a.ated, and the smaller im/a,ting o1Je,t is destroyed. - the interlo/ers that dug out the
Sti,=ney and "ers,hel ,raters had 1een only a little larger, they would ha.e had enough
energy to 1low Pho1os and Mimas to 1its. These moons 1arely es,a/ed the ,osmi, wre,=ing
1all. Many others did not.
E.ery time a world is smashed into, thereAs one less interlo/erHsomething li=e a demolition
der1y on the s,ale o- the Solar System, a war o- attrition. The .ery -a,t that many su,h
,ollisions ha.e o,,urred means that the rogue worldlets ha.e 1een largely used u/. Those on
,ir,ular traJe,tories around the Sun, those that donAt interse,t the or1its o- other worlds, will 1e
unli=ely to smash into a /lanet. Those on highly elli/ti,al traJe,tories, those that ,ross the
or1its o- other /lanets, Dill sooner or later ,ollide or, 1y a near miss, 1e gra.itationally eJe,ted
-rom the Solar System.
The /lanets almost ,ertainly a,,umulated -rom worldlets whi,h in turn had ,ondensed out o- a
great -lat ,loud o- gas and dust Surrounding the SunHthe sort o- ,loud that ,an now 1e seen
around young near1y stars. So, in the early history o- the solar System 1e-ore ,ollisions
,leaned things u/, there should ha.e 1een many more worldlets than we see today.
ndeed, there is ,lear e.iden,e -or this in our own 1a,=yardE - we ,ount u/ the interlo/er
worldlets in our neigh1orhood in s/a,e, we ,an estimate how o-ten theyAll hit the Moon. Let
us ma=e the .ery modest assum/tion that the /o/ulation o- interlo/ers has ne.er 1een
smaller than it is today. De ,an then ,al,ulate how many ,raters there should 1e on the Moon.
The num1er we -igure turns out to 1e mu,h less than the num1er we see on the MoonAs
ra.aged highlands. The une3/e,ted /ro-usion o- ,raters on the Moon s/ea=s to us o- an earlier
e/o,h when the Solar System was in wild turmoil, ,hurning with worlds on ,ollision
traJe,tories. This ma=es good sense, 1e,ause they -ormed -rom the aggregation o- mu,h
smaller worldletsHwhi,h themsel.es had grown out o- interstellar dust. Four 1illion years ago,
the lunar im/a,ts were hundreds o- times more -reKuent than they are today< and ;.* 1illion
years ago, when the /lanets were still in,om/lete, ,ollisions ha//ened /erha/s a 1illion times
more o-ten than in our 1e,almed e/o,h.
The ,haos may ha.e 1een relie.ed 1y mu,h more -lam1oyant ring systems than gra,e the
/lanets today. - they had small moons in that time, the Earth, Mars, and the other small
/lanets may also ha.e 1een adorned with rings.
The most satis-a,tory e3/lanation o- the origin o- our own Moon, 1ased on its ,hemistry 2as
re.ealed 1y sam/les returned -rom the A/ollo missions4, is that it was -ormed almost ;.*
1illion years ago, when a world the siCe o- Mars stru,= the Earth. Mu,h o- our /lanetAs ro,=y
mantle was redu,ed to dust and hot gas and 1lasted into s/a,e. Some o- the de1ris, in oE01it
around the Earth, then gradually rea,,umulatedHatom 1y atom, 1oulder 1y 1oulder. - that
un=nown im/a,ting world had 1een only a little larger, the result would ha.e 1een the
o1literation o- the Earth. Perha/s there on,e were other worlds in our Solar SystemH/erha/s
e.en worlds on whi,h li-e was stirringHhit 1y some demon worldlet, utterly demolished, and
o- whi,h today we ha.e not e.en an intimation.
The emerging /i,ture o- the early Solar System does not resem1le a stately /rogression o-
e.ents designed to -orm the Earth. nstead, it loo=s as i- our /lanet was made, and sur.i.ed, 1y
mere lu,=y ,han,e,8: amid un1elie.a1le .iolen,e. Our world does not seem to ha.e 1een
s,ul/ted 1y a master ,ra-tsman. "ere too, there is no hint o- a &ni.erse made -or us.
The dwindling su//ly o- worldlets is today .ariously la1eledE asteroids, ,omets, small moons.
$ut these are ar1itrary ,ategoriesHreal worldlets are a1le to 1rea,h these human0made
/artitions. Some asteroids 2the word means Bstarli=e,B whi,h they ,ertainly are not4 are ro,=y,
others metalli,, still others ri,h in organi, matter. !one is 1igger than (,::: =ilometers a,ross.
They are -ound mainly in a 1elt 1etween the or1its o- Mars and 9u/iter. Astronomers on,e
thought the Bmain01eltB asteroids were the remains o- a demolished world, 1ut, as A.e 1een
des,ri1ing, another idea is now more -ashiona1leE The Solar System was on,e -illed with
asteroid0li=e worlds, some o- whi,h went into 1uilding the /lanets. Only in the asteroid 1elt,
near 9u/iter, did the gra.itational tides o- this most massi.e /lanet /re.ent the near1y de1ris
-rom ,oales,ing into a new world. The asteroids, instead o- re/resenting a world that on,e
was, seem to 1e the 1uilding 1lo,=s o- a world destined ne.er to 1e.
'own to =ilometer siCe, there may 1e se.eral million asteroids, 1ut, in the enormous .olume o-
inter/lanetary s/a,e, e.en thatAs still -ar too -ew to ,ause any serious haCard to s/a,e,ra-t on
their way to the outer Solar System. The -irst main01elt asteroids, >as/ra and da, were
/hotogra/hed, in ())( and ())8 res/e,ti.ely, 1y the >alileo s/a,e,ra-t on its tortuous Journey
to 9u/iter.
Main01elt asteroids mostly stay at home. To in.estigate them. we must go and .isit them, as
>alileo did. Comets, on the other hand, sometimes ,ome and .isit us, as "alleyAs Comet did
most re,ently in ()(: and ()+5. Comets are made mainly o- i,e, /lus smaller amounts o- ro,=y
and organi, material. Dhen heated, the i,e .a/oriCes, -orming the long and lo.ely tails 1lown
outward 1y the solar wind and the /ressure o- sunlight. A-ter many /assages 1y the Sun, the
i,e is all e.a/orated, sometimes lea.ing a dead ro,=y and organi, world. Sometimes the
remaining /arti,les, the i,e that held them together now gone, s/read out in the ,ometAs
or1it, generating a de1ris trail around the Sun.
E.ery time a 1it o- ,ometary -lu-- the siCe o- a grain o- sand enters the EarthAs atmos/here at
high s/eed, it 1urns u/, /rodu,ing a momentary trail o- light that Earth1ound o1ser.ers ,all a
s/oradi, meteor or Bshooting star.B Some disintegrating ,omets ha.e or1its that ,ross the
EarthAs. So e.ery year, the Earth, on its steady ,ir,umna.igation o- the Sun, also /lunges
through 1elts o- or1iting ,ometary de1ris. De may then witness a meteor shower, or e.en a
meteor stormHthe s=ies a1laCe with the 1ody /arts o- a ,omet. For e3am/le, the Perseid
meteors, seen on or a1out August (6 o- ea,h year, originate in a dying ,omet ,alled Swi-t0
Tuttle. $ut the 1eauty o- a meteor shower should not de,ei.e usE There is a ,ontinuum that
,onne,ts these shimmering .isitors to our night s=ies with the destru,tion o- worlds.
A -ew asteroids now and then gi.e o-- little /u--s o- gas or e.en -orm a tem/orary tail,
suggesting that they are in transition 1etween ,ometdom and asteroidhood. Some small
moons going around the /lanets are /ro1a1ly ,a/tured asteroids or ,omets< the moons o-
Mars and the outer satellites o- 9u/iter may 1e in this ,ategory.
>ra.ity smooths down e.erything that sti,=s out too -ar. $ut only in large 1odies is the gra.ity
enough to ma=e mountains and other /roJe,tions ,olla/se o- their own weight, rounding the
world. And, indeed, when we o1ser.e their sha/es, almost always we -ind that small worldlets
are lum/y, irregular, /otato0sha/ed.
There are astronomers whose idea o- a good time is to stay u/ till dawn on a ,old, moonless
night ta=ing /i,tures o- the s=yHthe same s=y they /hotogra/hed the year 1e-ore . . . and the
year 1e-ore that. - they got it right last time, you might well as=, why are they doing it againF
The answer isE The s=y ,hanges. n any gi.en year there might 1e worldlets wholly un=nown,
ne.er seen 1e-ore, that a//roa,h the Earth and are s/ied 1y these dedi,ated o1ser.ers.
On Mar,h 6*, ())8, a grou/ o- asteroid and ,omet hunters, loo=ing at the /hotogra/hi,
har.est -rom an intermittently ,loudy night at Mount Palomar in Cali-ornia, dis,o.ered a -aint
elongated smudge on their -ilms. t was near a .ery 1right o1Je,t in the s=y, the /lanet 9u/iter.
Carolyn and Eugene Shoema=er and 'a.id Le.y then as=ed other o1ser.ers to ta=e a loo=.
The smudge turned out to 1e something astonishingE some twenty small, 1right o1Je,ts
or1iting 9u/iter, one 1ehind the other, li=e /earls on a string. Colle,ti.ely they are ,alled
Comet Shoema=er0Le.y ) 2this is the ninth time that these ,olla1orators ha.e together
dis,o.ered a /eriodi, ,omet4.
$ut ,alling these o1Je,ts a ,omet is ,on-using. There was a horde o- them, /ro1a1ly the
-ragmented remains o- a single, hitherto undis,o.ered, ,omet. t silently or1ited the Sun -or ;
1illion years 1e-ore /assing too ,lose to 9u/iter and 1eing ,a/tured, a -ew de,ades ago, 1y the
gra.ity o- the Solar SystemAs largest /lanet. On 9uly 7, ())6, it was torn a/art 1y 9u/iterAs
gra.itational tides.
#ou ,an re,ogniCe that the inner /art o- su,h a ,omet would 1e /ulled toward 9u/iter a little
more strongly than the outer /art, 1e,ause the inner /art is ,loser to 9u/iter than the outer
/art. The di--eren,e in /ull is ,ertainly small. Our -eet are a little ,loser to the ,enter o- the
Earth than our heads, 1ut we are not in ,onseKuen,e torn to /ie,es 1y the EarthAs gra.ity. For
su,h tidal disru/tion to ha.e o,,urred, the original ,omet must ha.e 1een held together .ery
wea=ly. $e-ore -ragmentation, it was, we thin=, a loosely ,onsolidated mass o- i,e, ro,=, and
organi, matter, may1e (: =ilometers 2a1out 5 miles4 a,ross.
The or1it o- this disru/ted ,omet was then determined to high /re,ision. $etween 9uly (5 and
66, ());, all the ,ometary -ragments, one a-ter another, ,ollided with 9u/iter. The 1iggest
/ie,es seem to ha.e 1een a -ew =ilometers a,ross. Their im/a,ts with 9u/iter were s/e,ta,ular.
!o one =new 1e-orehand what these multi/le im/a,ts into the atmos/here and ,louds o-
9u/iter would do. Perha/s the ,ometary -ragments, surrounded 1y halos o- dust, were mu,h
smaller than they seemed. Or /erha/s they were not ,oherent 1odies at all, 1ut loosely
,onsolidatedHsomething li=e a hea/ o- gra.el with all the /arti,les tra.eling through s/a,e
together, in nearly identi,al or1its. - either o- these /ossi1ilities were true 9u/iter might
swallow the ,omets without a tra,e. Other astronomers thought there would at least 1e 1right
-ire1alls and giant /lumes as the ,ometary -ragments /lunged into the atmos/here. Still others
suggested that the dense ,loud o- -ine /arti,les a,,om/anying the -ragments o- Comet
Shoema=er0Le.y ) into 9u/iter would disru/t the magnetos/here o- 9u/iter or -orm a new ring.
A ,omet this siCe should im/a,t 9u/iter, it is ,al,ulated, only on,e e.ery thousand years. tAs the
astronomi,al e.ent not o- one li-etime, 1ut o- a doCen. !othing on this s,ale has o,,urred
sin,e the in.ention o- the teles,o/e. So in mid 9uly ());, in a 1eauti-ully ,oordinated
international s,ienti-i, e--ort, teles,o/es all o.er the Earth and in s/a,e turned towards 9u/iter.
Astronomers had o.er a year to /re/are. The traJe,tories o- the -ragments in their or1its
around 9u/iter were estimated. t was dis,o.ered that they would all hit 9u/iter. Predi,tions o-
the timing were re-ined. 'isa//ointingly, the ,al,ulations re.ealed that all im/a,ts would o,,ur
on the night side o- 9u/iter, the side in.isi1le -rom the Earth 2although a,,essi1le to the >alileo
and %oyager s/a,e,ra-t in the outer Solar System4. $ut, ha//ily, all im/a,ts would o,,ur only a
-ew minutes 1e-ore the 9o.ian dawn, 1e-ore the im/a,t site would 1e ,arried 1y 9u/iterAs
rotation into the line o- sight -rom Earth.
The a//ointed moment -or the im/a,t o- the -irst /ie,e, Fragment A, ,ame and went. There
were no re/orts -rom ground01ased teles,o/es. Planetary s,ientists stared with in,reasing
gloom at a tele.ision monitor dis/laying the data transmitted to the S/a,e Teles,o/e S,ien,e
nstitute in $altimore -rom the "u11le S/a,e Teles,o/e. There was nothing anomalous Shuttle
astronauts too= time o-- -rom the re/rodu,tion o- -ruit -lies, -ish, and newts to loo= at 9u/iter
through 1ino,ulars. They re/orted seeing nothing. The im/a,t o- the millennium was
1eginning to loo= .ery mu,h li=e a -iCCle.
Then there was a re/ort -rom a ground01ased o/ti,al teles,o/e in La Palma in the Canary
slands, -ollowed 1y announ,ements -rom a radioteles,o/e in 9a/an< -rom the Euro/ean
Southern O1ser.atory in Chile< and -rom a &ni.ersity o- Chi,ago instrument in the -rigid
wastelands o- the South Pole. n $altimore the young s,ientists ,rowding around the T%
monitorHthemsel.es monitored 1y the ,ameras o- C!!H1egan to see something, and in
e3a,tly the right /la,e on 9u/iter. #ou ,ould witness ,onsternation turn into /uCClement, and
then e3ultation. They ,heered< they s,reamed< they Jum/ed u/ and down. Smiles -illed the
room. They 1ro=e out the ,ham/agne. "ere was a grou/ o- young Ameri,an s,ientistsHa1out
a third o- them, in,luding the team leader, "eidi "ammel, womenHand you ,ould imagine
youngsters all o.er the world thin=ing that it might 1e -un to 1e a s,ientist, that this might 1e
a good daytime Jo1, or e.en a means to s/iritual -ul-illment.
For many o- the -ragments, o1ser.ers somewhere on Earth noti,ed the -ire1all rise so Kui,=ly
and so high that it ,ould 1e seen e.en though the im/a,t site 1elow it was still in 9o.ian
dar=ness. Plumes as,ended and then -lattened into /an,a=e0li=e -orms. S/reading out -rom
the /oint o- im/a,t we ,ould see sound and gra.ity wa.es, and a /at,h o- dis,oloration that
-or the largest -ragments 1e,ame as 1ig as the Earth.
Slamming into 9u/iter at 5: =ilometers a se,ond 2(8:,::: miles an hour4, the large -ragments
,on.erted their =ineti, energy /artly into sho,= wa.es, /artly into heat. The tem/erature in the
-ire1all was estimated at thousands o- degrees. Some o- the -ire1alls and /lumes were -ar
1righter than all the rest o- 9u/iter /ut together.
Dhat is the ,ause o- the dar= stains le-t a-ter the im/a,tF t might 1e stu-- -rom the dee/
,louds o- 9u/iter0-rom the region to whi,h ground01ased o1ser.ers ,annot ordinarily see0that
welled u/ and s/read out. "owe.er, the -ragments do not seem to ha.e /enetrated to su,h
de/ths. Or the mole,ules res/onsi1le -or the stains might ha.e 1een in the ,ometary
-ragments in the -irst /la,e. De =now -rom the %ega ( and 6 So.iet missions and the >iotto
mission o- the Euro/ean S/a,e Agen,yH1oth to "alleyAs CometHthat ,omets may 1e as
mu,h as a Kuarter ,om/osed o- ,om/le3 organi, mole,ules. They are the reason that the
nu,leus o- "alleyAs Comet is /it,h 1la,=. - some o- the ,ometary organi,s sur.i.ed the im/a,t
e.ents, they may ha.e 1een res/onsi1le -or the stain. Or, -inally, the stain may 1e due to
organi, matter not deli.ered 1y the im/a,ting ,ometary -ragments, 1ut synthesiCed 1y their
sho,= wa.es -rom the atmos/here o- 9u/iter.
m/a,t o- the -ragments o- Comet Shoema=er0Le.y ) with 9u/iter was witnessed on se.en
,ontinents. E.en amateur astronomers with small teles,o/es ,ould see the /lumes and the
su1seKuent dis,oloration o- the 9o.ian ,louds. 9ust as s/orting e.ents are ,o.ered at all angles
1y tele.ision ,ameras on the -ield and -rom a dirigi1le high o.erhead, si3 !ASA s/a,e,ra-t
de/loyed throughout the Solar System, with di--erent o1ser.ational s/e,ialties, re,orded this
new wonderHthe "u11le S/a,e Teles,o/e, the nternational &ltra.iolet E3/lorer, and the
E3treme &ltra.iolet E3/lorer all in Earth or1it< &lysses, ta=ing time out -rom it in.estigation o-
the South Pole o- the Sun< >alileo, on the way to its own rendeC.ous with 9u/iter< and %oyager
6, -ar 1eyond !e/tune on its way to the stars. As the data are a,,umulated and analyCed, our
=nowledge o- ,omets, o- 9u/iter, and o- the .iolent ,ollisions o- worlds should all 1e
su1stantially im/ro.ed.
For many s,ientistsH1ut es/e,ially -or Carolyn and Eugene Shoema=er and 'a.id Le.yHthere
was something /oignant a1out the ,ometary -ragments, one a-ter the other, ma=ing their
death /lunges into 9u/iter. They had li.ed with this ,omet, in a manner o- s/ea=ing, -or (5
months, wat,hed it s/lit, the /ie,es, enshrouded 1y ,louds o- dust, /laying hide0and0see= and
s/reading out in their or1its. n a limited way, ea,h -ragment had its own /ersonality. !ow
theyAre all gone, a1lated into mole,ules and atoms in the u//er atmos/here o- the Solar
SystemAs largest /lanet. n a way, we almost mourn them. $ut weAre learning -rom their -iery
deaths. t is /erha/s some reassuran,e to =now that there are a hundred trillion more o- them
in the SunAs .ast treasure0house o- worlds.
There are a1out 6:: =nown asteroids whose /aths ta=e them near the Earth. They are ,alled,
a//ro/riately enough, Bnear0EarthB asteroids. Their detailed a//earan,e 2li=e that o- their
main01elt ,ousins4 immediately im/lies that they are the /rodu,ts o- a .iolent ,ollisional
history. Many o- them may 1e the shards and remnants o- on,e0larger worldlets.
Dith a -ew e3,e/tions, the near0Earth asteroids are only a -ew =ilometers a,ross or smaller, and
ta=e one to a -ew years to ma=e a ,ir,uit around the Sun. A1out 6: /er,ent o- them, sooner or
later, are 1ound to hit the EarthHwith de.astating ,onseKuen,es. 2$ut in astronomy, Bsooner
or laterB ,an en,om/ass 1illions o- years.4 Ci,eroAs assuran,e that Bnothing o- ,han,e or
haCardB is to 1e -ound in an a1solutely ordered and regular hea.en is a /ro-ound
mis/er,e/tion. E.en today, as Comet Shoema=er0Le.y )As en,ounter with 9u/iter reminds us,
there is routine inter/lanetary .iolen,e, although not on the s,ale that mar=ed the early
history o- the Solar System.
Li=e main01elt asteroids, many near0Earth asteroids are ro,=y. A -ew are mainly metal, and it
has 1een suggested that enormous rewards might attend mo.ing su,h an asteroid into or1it
around the Earth, and then systemati,ally mining itHa mountain o- high0grade ore a -ew
hundred miles o.erhead. The .alue o- /latinum0grou/ metals alone in a single su,h world has
1een estimated as many trillions o- dollarsHalthough the unit /ri,e would /lummet
s/e,ta,ularly i- su,h materials 1e,ame widely a.aila1le. Methods o- e3tra,ting metals and
minerals -rom a//ro/riate asteroids are 1eing studied, -or e3am/le 1y 9ohn Lewis, a /lanetary
s,ientist at the &ni.ersity o- AriCona.
Some near0Earth asteroids are ri,h in organi, matter, a//arently /reser.ed -rom the .ery
earliest Solar System. Some ha.e 1een -ound, 1y Ste.en Ostro o- the 9et Pro/ulsion La1oratory,
to 1e dou1le, two 1odies in ,onta,t. Perha/s a larger world has 1ro=en in two as it /assed
through the strong gra.itational tides o- a /lanet li=e 9u/iter< more interesting is the /ossi1ility
that two worlds on similar or1its made a gentle o.erta=ing ,ollision and stu,=. This /ro,ess
may ha.e 1een =ey to the 1uilding o- /lanets and the Earth. At least one asteroid 2da, as
.iewed 1y >alileo4 has its own small moon. De might guess that two asteroids in ,onta,t and
two asteroids or1iting one another ha.e related origins.
Sometimes, we hear a1out an asteroid ma=ing a Bnear miss.B 2Dhy do we ,all it a Bnear missBF
A Bnear hitB is what we really mean.4 $ut then we read a little more ,are-ully, and it turns out
that its ,losest a//roa,h to the Earth was se.eral hundreds o- thousands or millions o-
=ilometers. That doesnAt ,ountHthatAs too -ar away, -arther e.en than the Moon. - we had an
in.entory o- all the near0Earth asteroids, in,luding those ,onsidera1ly smaller than a =ilometer
a,ross, we ,ould /roJe,t their or1its into the -uture and /redi,t whi,h ones are /otentially
dangerous. There are an estimated 6,::: o- them 1igger than a =ilometer a,ross, o- whi,h we
ha.e a,tually o1ser.ed only a -ew /er,ent. There are may1e 6::,::: 1igger than (:: meters
in diameter.
The near0Earth asteroids ha.e e.o,ati.e mythologi,al namesE Or/heus, "athor, ,arus, Adonis,
A/ollo, Cer1erus, Ihu-u, Amor, Tantalus, Aten, Midas, Ra0Shalom, Phaethon, Toutatis,
QuetCal,oatl. There are a -ew o- s/e,ial e3/loratory /otentialH-or e3am/le, !ereus. n
general, itAs mu,h easier to get onto and o-- o- near0Earth asteroids than the Moon. !ereus, a
tiny world a1out a =ilometer a,ross, is one o- the easiest.8( t would 1e real e3/loration o- a
truly new world.
Some humans 2all -rom the -ormer So.iet &nion4 ha.e already 1een in s/a,e -or /eriods
longer than the entire roundtri/ time to !ereus. The ro,=et te,hnology to get there already
e3ists. tAs a mu,h smaller ste/ than going to Mars or e.en, in se.eral res/e,ts, than returning
to the Moon. - something went wrong, though, we would 1e una1le to run home to sa-ety in
only a -ew days. n this res/e,t, its le.el o- di--i,ulty lies somewhere 1etween a .oyage to Mars
and one to the Moon.
O- many /ossi1le -uture missions to !ereus, thereAs one that ta=es (: months to get there
-rom Earth, s/ends 8: days there, and then reKuires only 8 wee=s to return to home. De ,ould
.isit !ereus with ro1ots, orHi- weAre u/ to itHwith humans. De ,ould e3amine this little
worldAs sha/e, ,onstitution, interior, /ast history, organi, ,hemistry, ,osmi, e.olution, and
/ossi1le tie to ,omets. De ,ould 1ring sam/les 1a,= -or e3amination at leisure in Earth1ound
la1oratories. De ,ould in.estigate whether there really are ,ommer,ially .alua1le resour,esH
metals or mineralsHthere. - we are e.er going to send humans to Mars, near0Earth asteroids
/ro.ide a ,on.enient and a//ro/riate intermediate goalHto test out the eKui/ment and
e3/loratory /roto,ols while studying an almost wholly un=nown little world. "ereAs a way to
get our -eet wet again when weAre ready to reenter the ,osmi, o,ean.
Cha$ter 1;+ The !arsh o- Camarina
tAs too late to ma=e any im/ro.ements now. The uni.erse is -inished< the ,o/estone is on, and the ,hi/s were
,arted o-- a million years ago.
H"ERMA! MEL%LLE, MO$# 'CI, C"APTER 6 2(+*(4
Camarina was a ,ity in southern Si,ily, -ounded 1y ,olonists -rom Syra,use in *)+ $.C. A
generation or two later, it was threatened 1y a /estilen,eH-estering, some said, in the
adJa,ent marsh. 2Dhile the germ theory o- disease was ,ertainly not widely a,,e/ted in the
an,ient world, there were hints0-or e3am/le, Mar,us %arro in the -irst ,entury $. C. ad.ised
e3/li,itly against 1uilding ,ities near swam/s B1e,ause there are 1red ,ertain minute ,reatures
whi,h ,annot 1e seen 1y the eyes, whi,h -loat in the air and enter the 1ody through the
mouth and nose and there ,ause serious disease.B4 The danger to Camarina was great. Plans
were drawn to drain the marsh. Dhen the ora,le was ,onsulted, though, it -or1ade su,h a
,ourse o- a,tion, ,ounseling /atien,e instead. $ut li.es were at sta=e, the ora,le was ignored,
and the marsh was drained. The /estilen,e was /rom/tly halted. Too late, it was re,ogniCed
that the marsh had /rote,ted the ,ity -rom its enemiesHamong whom there had now to 1e
,ounted their ,ousins the Syra,usans. As in Ameri,a 6,8:: years later, the ,olonists had
Kuarreled with the mother ,ountry. n **6 $.C., a Syra,usan -or,e ,rossed o.er the dry land
where the marsh had 1een, slaughtered e.ery man, woman, and ,hild, and raCed the ,ity. The
marsh o- Camarina 1e,ame /ro.er1ial -or eliminating a danger in su,h a way as to usher in
another, mu,h worse.
The ,reta,eous0tertiary ,ollision 2or ,ollisionsHthere may ha.e 1een more than one4
illuminates the /eril -rom asteroids and ,omets. n seKuen,e, a world0immolating -ire 1urned
.egetation to a ,ris/ all o.er the /lanet< a stratos/heri, dust ,loud so dar=ened the s=y that
sur.i.ing /lants had trou1le ma=ing a li.ing -rom /hotosynthesis< there were worldwide
-reeCing tem/eratures, torrential rains o- ,austi, a,ids, massi.e de/letion o- the oCone layer,
and, to to/ it o--, a-ter the Earth healed itsel- -rom these assaults, a /rolonged greenhouse
warming 21e,ause the main im/a,t seems to ha.e .olatiliCed a dee/ layer o- sedimentary
,ar1onates, /ouring huge amounts o- ,ar1on dio3ide into the air4. t was not a single
,atastro/he, 1ut a /arade o- them, a ,on,atenation o- terrors. Organisms wea=ened 1y one
disaster were -inished o-- 1y the ne3t. t is Kuite un,ertain whether our ,i.iliCation would
sur.i.e e.en a ,onsidera1ly less energeti, ,ollision.
Sin,e there are many more small asteroids than large ones, run0o-0the0mill ,ollisions with
the Earth will 1e made 1y the little guys. $ut the longer youAre /re/ared to wait, the more
de.astating the im/a,t you ,an e3/e,t. On a.erage, on,e e.ery -ew hundred years the Earth is
hit 1y an o1Je,t a1out 7: meters in diameter< the resulting energy released is eKui.alent to the
largest nu,lear wea/ons e3/losion e.er detonated. E.ery (:,::: years, weAre hit 1y a 6::0
meter o1Je,t that might indu,e serious regional ,limati, e--e,ts. E.ery million years, an im/a,t
1y a 1ody o.er 6 =ilometers in diameter o,,urs, eKui.alent to nearly a million megatons o-
T!THan e3/losion that would wor= a glo1al ,atastro/he, =illing 2unless un/re,edented
/re,autions were ta=en4 a signi-i,ant -ra,tion o- the human s/e,ies. A million megatons o- T!T
is (:: times the e3/losi.e yield o- all the nu,lear wea/ons on the /lanet, i- simultaneously
1lown u/. 'war-ing e.en this, in a hundred million years or so, you ,an 1et on something li=e
the Creta,eous0Tertiary e.ent, the im/a,t o- a world (: =ilometers a,ross or 1igger. The
destru,ti.e energy latent in a large near0Earth asteroid dwar-s anything else the human
s/e,ies ,an get its hands on.
As -irst shown 1y the Ameri,an /lanetary s,ientist Christo/her Chy1a and his ,olleagues, little
asteroids or ,omets, a -ew tens o- meters a,ross, 1rea= and 1urn u/ on entering our
atmos/here. They arri.e ,om/arati.ely o-ten 1ut do no signi-i,ant harm. Some idea o- how
-reKuently they enter the EarthAs atmos/here has 1een re.ealed 1y de,lassi-ied 'e/artment o-
'e-ense data o1tained -rom s/e,ial satellites monitoring the Earth -or ,landestine nu,lear
e3/losions. There seem to ha.e 1een hundreds o- small worldlets 2and at least one larger
1ody4 im/a,ting in the last 6: years. They did no harm. $ut, we need to 1e .ery sure we ,an
distinguish a small ,olliding ,omet or asteroid -rom an atmos/heri, nu,lear e3/losion.
Ci.iliCation0threatening im/a,ts reKuire 1odies se.eral hundred meters a,ross, or more. 2A
meter is a1out a yard< (:: meters is roughly the length o- a -oot1all -ield.4 They arri.e
something li=e on,e e.ery 6::,::: years. Our ,i.iliCation is only a1out (:,::: years old, so we
should ha.e no institutional memory o- the last su,h im/a,t. !or do we.
Comet Shoema=er0Le.y ), in its su,,ession o- -iery e3/losions on 9u/iter in 9uly ());, reminds
us that su,h im/a,ts really do o,,ur in our timeHand that the im/a,t o- a 1ody a -ew
=ilometers a,ross ,an s/read de1ris o.er an area as 1ig as the Earth. t was a =ind o- /ortent.
n the .ery wee= o- the Shoema=er0Le.y im/a,t, the S,ien,e and S/a,e Committee o- the &.S.
"ouse o- Re/resentati.es dra-ted legislation that reKuires !ASA Bin ,oordination with the
'e/artment o- 'e-ense and the s/a,e agen,ies o- other ,ountriesB to identi-y and determine
the or1ital ,hara,teristi,s o- all Earth0a//roa,hing B,omets and asteroids that are greater than
( =ilometer in diameter.B The wor= is to 1e ,om/leted 1y the year 6::*. Su,h a sear,h
/rogram had 1een ad.o,ated 1y many /lanetary s,ientists. $ut it too= the death throes o- a
,omet to mo.e it toward /ra,ti,al im/lementation.
S/read out o.er the waiting time, the dangers o- asteroid ,ollision do not seem .ery
worrisome. $ut i- a 1ig im/a,t ha//ens, it would 1e an un/re,edented human ,atastro/he.
ThereAs something li=e one ,han,e in two thousand that su,h a ,ollision will ha//en in the
li-etime o- a new1orn 1a1y. Most o- us would not -ly in an air/lane i- the ,han,e o- ,rashing
were one in two thousand. 2n -a,t -or ,ommer,ial -lights the ,han,e is one in two million. E.en
so, many /eo/le ,onsider this large enough to worry a1out, or e.en to ta=e out insuran,e -or.4
Dhen our li.es are at sta=e, we o-ten ,hange our 1eha.ior to arrange more -a.ora1le odds.
Those who donAt tend to 1e no longer with us.
Perha/s we should /ra,ti,e getting to these worldlets and di.erting their or1its, should the
hour o- need e.er arise. Mel.ille notwithstanding, some o- the ,hi/s o- ,reation are still le-t,
and im/ro.ements e.idently need to 1e made. Along /arallel and only wea=ly intera,ting
tra,=s, the /lanetary s,ien,e ,ommunity and the &.S. and Russian nu,lear wea/ons
la1oratories, aware o- the -oregoing s,enarios, ha.e 1een /ursuing these KuestionsE how to
monitor all siCa1le near0Earth inter/lanetary o1Je,ts, how to ,hara,teriCe their /hysi,al and
,hemi,al nature, how to /redi,t whi,h ones may 1e on a -uture ,ollision traJe,tory with Earth,
and, -inally, how to /re.ent a ,ollision -rom ha//ening.
The Russian s/a,e-light /ioneer Ionstantin Tsiol=o.s=y argued a ,entury ago that there must
1e 1odies intermediate ill siCe 1etween the o1ser.ed large asteroids and those asteroidal
-ragments, the meteorites, that o,,asionally -all to Earth. "e wrote a1out li.ing on small
asteroids in inter/lanetary s/a,e. "e did not ha.e military a//li,ations in mind. n the early
()+:s, though, some in the &.S. wea/ons esta1lishment argued that the So.iets might use
near0Earth asteroids as -irst0stri=e wea/ons< the alleged /lan was ,alled B.anAs "ammer.B
Countermeasures were needed. $ut, at the same time, it was suggested, may1e it wasnAt a 1ad
idea -or the &nited States to learn how to use small worlds as wea/ons o- its own. The 'e-ense
'e/artmentAs $allisti, Missile 'e-ense OrganiCation, the su,,essor to the Star Dars o--i,e o-
the ()+:s, laun,hed an inno.ati.e s/a,e,ra-t ,alled Clementine to or1it the Moon and -ly 1y
the near0Earth asteroid >eogra/hos. 2A-ter ,om/leting a remar=a1le re,onnaissan,e o- the
Moon in May ());, the s/a,e,ra-t -ailed 1e-ore it ,ould rea,h >eogra/hos.4
n /rin,i/le, you ,ould use 1ig ro,=et engines, or /roJe,tile im/a,t, or eKui/ tile asteroid with
giant re-le,ti.e /anels and sho.e it with sunlight or /ower-ul Earth01ased lasers. $ut with
te,hnology that e3ists right now, there are only two ways. First, one or more high0yield nu,lear
wea/ons might 1last the asteroid or ,omet into -ragments that would disintegrate and
atomiCe on entering the EarthAs atmos/here. - the o--ending worldlet is only wea=ly held
together, /erha/s only hundreds o- megatons would su--i,e. Sin,e there is no theoreti,al
u//er limit to the e3/losi.e yield o- a thermonu,lear wea/on, there seem to 1e those in the
wea/ons la1oratories who ,onsider ma=ing 1igger 1om1s not only as a stirring ,hallenge, 1ut
also as a way to mute /es=y en.ironmentalists 1y se,uring a seat -or nu,lear wea/ons on the
sa.e0the0Earth 1andwagon.
Another a//roa,h under more serious dis,ussion is less dramati, 1ut still an e--e,ti.e way o-
maintaining the wea/ons esta1lishmentHa /lan to alter the or1it o- any errant worldlet 1y
e3/loding nu,lear wea/ons near1y. The e3/losions 2generally near the asteroidAs ,losest /oint
to the Sun4 are arranged to de-le,t it away -rom the Earth.86 A -lurry o- low0yield nu,lear
wea/ons, ea,h gi.ing a little /ush in the desired dire,tion, is enough to de-le,t a medium0
siCed asteroid with only a -ew wee=sA warning. The method also o--ers, it is ho/ed, a way to
deal with a suddenly dete,ted long0/eriod ,omet on imminent ,ollision traJe,tory with the
EarthE The ,omet would 1e inter,e/ted with a small asteroid. 2!eedless to say, this game o-
,elestial 1illiards is e.en more di--i,ult and un,ertainHand there-ore e.en less /ra,ti,al in the
near -utureHthan the herding o- an asteroid on a =nown, well01eha.ed or1it with months or
years at our dis/osal.4
De donAt =now what a stando-- nu,lear e3/losion would do to an asteroid. The answer
may .ary -rom asteroid to asteroid. Some small worlds might 1e strongly held together< others
might 1e little more than sel-0gra.itating gra.el hea/s. - an e3/losion 1rea=s, letAs say, a
(:=ilometer asteroid u/ into hundreds o- (0=ilometer -ragments, the li=elihood that at least
one o- them im/a,ts the Earth is /ro1a1ly in,reased, and the a/o,aly/ti, ,hara,ter o- the
,onseKuen,es may not 1e mu,h redu,ed. On the other hand, i- the e3/losion disru/ts the
asteroid into a swarm o- o1Je,ts a hundred meters in diameter or smaller, all o- them might
a1late away li=e giant meteors on entering the EarthAs atmos/here. n this ,ase little im/a,t
damage would 1e ,aused. E.en i- the asteroid were wholly /ul.eriCed into -ine /owder,
though, the resulting high0altitude dust layer might 1e so o/aKue as to 1lo,= the sunlight and
,hange the ,limate. De do not yet =now.
A .ision o- doCens or hundreds o- nu,lear0armed missiles on ready stand1y to deal with
threatening asteroids or ,omets has 1een o--ered. "owe.er /remature in this /arti,ular
a//li,ation, it seems .ery -amiliar< only the enemy has 1een ,hanged. t also seems .ery
dangerous.
The /ro1lem, Ste.en Ostro o- 9PL and ha.e suggested, is that i- you ,an relia1ly de-le,t
a threatening worldlet so it does not ,ollide with the Earth, you ,an also relia1ly de-le,t a
harmless worldlet so it does ,ollide with the Earth. Su//ose you had a -ull in.entory, with
or1its, o- the estimated 8::,::: near0Earth asteroids larger than (:: metersHea,h o- them
large enough, on im/a,ting the Earth, to ha.e serious ,onseKuen,es. Then, it turns out, you
also ha.e a list o- huge num1ers o- ino--ensi.e asteroids whose or1its ,ould 1e altered with
nu,lear warheads so they Kui,=ly ,ollide with the Earth.
Su//ose we restri,t our attention to the 6,::: or so near0Earth asteroids that are a
=ilometer a,ross or 1iggerHthat is, the ones most li=ely to ,ause a glo1al ,atastro/he. Today,
with only a1out (:: o- these o1Je,ts ,atalogued, it would ta=e a1out a ,entury to ,at,h one
when itAs easily de-le,ta1le to Earth and alter its or1it. De thin= weA.e -ound one, an as0yet0
unnamed88 asteroid so -ar denoted only as ())(OA. n 6:7:, this world, a1out ( =ilometer in
diameter, will ,ome within ;.* million =ilometers o- the EarthAs or1itHonly -i-teen times the
distan,e to the Moon. To de-le,t ())(OA so it hits the Earth, only a1out 5: megatons o- T!T
eKui.alent needs to 1e e3/loded in the right wayHthe eKui.alent o- a small num1er o-
,urrently a.aila1le nu,lear warheads.
!ow imagine a time, a -ew de,ades hen,e, when all su,h near0Earth asteroids are
in.entoried and their or1its ,om/iled. Then, as Alan "arris o- 9PL, >reg Cana.an o- the Los
Alamos !ational La1oratory, Ostro, and ha.e shown, it might ta=e only a year to sele,t a
suita1le o1Je,t, alter its or1it, and send it ,rashing into the Earth with ,ata,lysmi, e--e,t.
The te,hnology reKuiredHlarge o/ti,al teles,o/es, sensiti.e dete,tors, ro,=et /ro/ulsion
systems a1le to li-t a -ew tons o- /ayload and ma=e /re,ise rendeC.ous in near1y s/a,e, and
thermonu,lear wea/onsHall e3ist today. m/ro.ements in all 1ut /erha/s the last ,an 1e
,on-idently e3/e,ted. - weAre not ,are-ul, many nations may ha.e these ,a/a1ilities in the ne3t
-ew de,ades. Dhat =ind o- world will we then ha.e madeF
De ha.e a tenden,y to minimiCe the dangers o- new te,hnologies. A year 1e-ore the
Cherno1yl disaster, a So.iet nu,lear /ower industry de/uty minister was as=ed a1out the
sa-ety o- So.iet rea,tors, and ,hose Cherno1yl as a /arti,ularly sa-e site. The a.erage waiting
time to disaster, he ,on-idently estimated, was a hundred thousand years. Less than a year
later . . . de.astation. Similar reassuran,es were /ro.ided 1y !ASA ,ontra,tors the year 1e-ore
the Challenger disasterE #ou would ha.e to wait ten thousand years, they estimated, -or a
,atastro/hi, -ailure o- the shuttle. One year later . . . heart1rea=.
Chloro-luoro,ar1ons 2CFCs4 were de.elo/ed s/e,i-i,ally as a ,om/letely sa-e re-rigerantHto
re/la,e ammonia and other re-rigerants that, on lea=ing out, had ,aused illness and some
deaths. Chemi,ally inert, nonto3i, 2in ordinary ,on,entrations4, odorless, tasteless, non0
allergeni,, non-lamma1le, CFCs re/resent a 1rilliant te,hni,al solution to a well0de-ined
/ra,ti,al /ro1lem. They -ound uses in many other industries 1esides re-rigeration and air
,onditioning. $ut, as des,ri1ed a1o.e, the ,hemists who de.elo/ed CFCs o.erloo=ed one
essential -a,tHthat the mole,ulesA .ery inertness guarantees that they are ,ir,ulated to
stratos/heri, altitudes and there ,ra,=ed o/en 1y sunlight, releasing ,hlorine atoms whi,h
then atta,= the /rote,ti.e oCone layer. 'ue to the wor= o- a -ew s,ientists, the dangers may
ha.e 1een re,ogniCed and a.erted in time. De humans ha.e now almost sto//ed /rodu,ing
CFCs. De wonAt a,tually =now i- weA.e a.oided real harm -or a1out a ,entury< thatAs how long
it ta=es -or all the CFC damage to 1e ,om/leted. Li=e the an,ient Camarinans, we ma=e
mista=es. !ot only do we o-ten ignore the warnings o- the Ora,les< ,hara,teristi,ally we do not
e.en ,onsult them.
The notion o- mo.ing asteroids into Earth or1it has /ro.ed attra,ti.e to some s/a,e
s,ientists and long0range /lanners. They -oresee mining the minerals and /re,ious metals o-
these worlds or /ro.iding resour,es -or the ,onstru,tion o- s/a,e in-rastru,ture without ha.ing
to -ight the EarthAs gra.ity to get them u/ there. Arti,les ha.e 1een /u1lished on how to
a,,om/lish this end and what the 1ene-its will 1e. n modern dis,ussions, the asteroid is
inserted into or1it around the Earth 1y -irst ma=ing it /ass through and 1e 1ra=ed 1y the
EarthAs atmos/here, a maneu.er with .ery little margin -or error. For the near -uture we ,an,
thin=, re,ogniCe this whole endea.or as unusually dangerous and -oolhardy, es/e,ially -or
metal worldlets larger than tens o- meters a,ross. This is the one a,ti.ity where errors in
na.igation or /ro/ulsion or mission design ,an ha.e the most swee/ing and ,atastro/hi,
,onseKuen,es.
The -oregoing are e3am/les o- inad.erten,e. $ut thereAs another =ind o- /erilE De are
sometimes told that this or that in.ention would o- ,ourse not 1e misused. !o sane /erson
would 1e so re,=less. This is the Bonly a madmanB argument. Dhene.er hear it 2and itAs o-ten
trotted out in su,h de1ates4, remind mysel- that madmen really e3ist. Sometimes they a,hie.e
the highest le.els o- /oliti,al /ower in modern industrial nations. This is the ,entury o- "itler
and Stalin, tyrants who /osed the gra.est dangers not Just to the rest o- the human -amily, 1ut
to their own /eo/le as well. n the winter and s/ring o- ();*, "itler ordered >ermany to 1e
destroyedHe.en Bwhat the /eo/le need -or elementary sur.i.alBH1e,ause the sur.i.ing
>ermans had B1etrayedB him, and at any rate were Bin-eriorB to those who had already died. -
"itler had had nu,lear wea/ons, the threat o- a ,ounterstri=e 1y Allied nu,lear wea/ons, had
there 1een any, is unli=ely to ha.e dissuaded him. t might ha.e en,ouraged him.
Can we humans 1e trusted with ,i.iliCation0threatening te,hnologiesF - the ,han,e is almost
one in a thousand that mu,h o- the human /o/ulation will 1e =illed 1y an im/a,t in the ne3t
,entury, isnAt it more li=ely that asteroid de-le,tion te,hnology will get into the wrong hands in
another ,enturyHsome misanthro/i, so,io/ath li=e a "itler or a Stalin eager to =ill e.ery1ody,
a megalomania, lusting a-ter BgreatnessB and Bglory,B a .i,tim o- ethni, .iolen,e 1ent on
re.enge, someone in the gri/ o- unusually se.ere testosterone /oisoning, some religious
-anati, hastening the 'ay o- Judgment, or Just te,hni,ians in,om/etent or insu--i,iently
.igilant in handling the ,ontrols and sa-eguardsF Su,h /eo/le e3ist. The ris=s seem -ar worse
than the 1ene-its, the ,ure worse than the disease. The ,loud o- near0Earth asteroids through
whi,h the Earth /lows may ,onstitute a modern Camarine marsh.
tAs easy to thin= that all o- this must 1e .ery unli=ely, mere an3ious -antasy. Surely so1er heads
would /re.ail. Thin= o- how many /eo/le would 1e in.ol.ed in /re/aring and laun,hing
warheads, in s/a,e na.igation, in detonating warheads, in ,he,=ing what or1ital /ertur1ation
ea,h nu,lear e3/losion has made, in herding the asteroid so it is on an im/a,t traJe,tory with
Earth, and so on. snAt it noteworthy that although "itler ga.e orders -or the retreating !aCi
troo/s to 1urn Paris and to lay waste to >ermany itsel-, his orders were not ,arried outF Surely
someone essential to the su,,ess o- the de-le,tion mission will re,ogniCe the danger. E.en
assuran,es that the /roJe,t is designed to destroy some .ile enemy nation would /ro1a1ly 1e
dis1elie.ed, 1e,ause the e--e,ts o- ,ollision are /lanet0wide 2and anyway itAs .ery hard to ma=e
sure your asteroid e3,a.ates its monster ,rater in a /arti,ularly deser.ing nation4.
$ut now imagine a totalitarian state, not o.errun 1y enemy troo/s, 1ut one thri.ing and sel-0
,on-ident. magine a tradition in whi,h orders are o1eyed without Kuestion. magine that
those in.ol.ed in the o/eration are su//lied a ,o.er storyE The asteroid is a1out to im/a,t the
Earth, and it is their Jo1 to de-le,t itH1ut in order not to worry /eo/le needlessly, the
o/eration must 1e /er-ormed in se,ret. n a military setting with a ,ommand hierar,hy -irmly
in /la,e, ,om/artmentaliCation o- =nowledge, general se,re,y, and a ,o.er story, ,an we 1e
,on-ident that e.en a/o,aly/ti, orders would 1e diso1eyedF Are we really sure that in the ne3t
de,ades and ,enturies and millennia, nothing li=e this might ha//enF "ow sure are weF
tAs no use saying that all te,hnologies ,an 1e used -or good or -or ill. That is ,ertainly true, 1ut
when the BillB a,hie.es a su--i,iently a/o,aly/ti, s,ale, we may ha.e to set limits on whi,h
te,hnologies may 1e de.elo/ed. 2n a way we do this all the time, 1e,ause we ,anAt a--ord to
de.elo/ all te,hnologies. Some are -a.ored and some are not.4 Or ,onstraints may ha.e to 1e
le.ied 1y the ,ommunity o- nations on madmen and autar,hs and -anati,ism.
Tra,=ing asteroids and ,omets is /rudent, itAs good s,ien,e, and it doesnAt ,ost mu,h. $ut,
=nowing our wea=nesses, why would we e.en ,onsider now de.elo/ing the te,hnology to
de-le,t small worldsF For sa-ety, shall we imagine this te,hnology in the hands o- many
nations, ea,h /ro.iding ,he,=s and 1alan,es against misuse 1y anotherF This is nothing li=e
the old nu,lear 1alan,e o- terror. t hardly inhi1its some madman intent on glo1al ,atastro/he
to =now that i- he does not hurry, a ri.al may 1eat him to it. "ow ,on-ident ,an we 1e that the
,ommunity o- nations will 1e a1le to dete,t a ,le.erly designed, ,landestine asteroid
de-le,tion in time to do something a1out itF - su,h a te,hnology were de.elo/ed, ,an any
international sa-eguards 1e en.isioned that ha.e a relia1ility ,ommensurate with the ris=F
E.en i- we restri,t oursel.es merely to sur.eillan,e, thereAs a ris=. magine that in a generation
we ,hara,teriCe the or1its o- 8:,::: o1Je,ts o- (::0meter diameter or more, and that this
in-ormation is /u1li,iCed, as o- ,ourse it should 1e. Ma/s will 1e /u1lished showing near0Earth
s/a,e 1la,= with the or1its o- asteroids and ,omets, 8:,::: swords o- 'amo,les hanging o.er
our heads0ten times more than the num1er o- stars .isi1le to the na=ed eye under ,onditions
o- o/timum atmos/heri, ,larity. Pu1li, an3iety might 1e mu,h greater in su,h a time o-
=nowledge than in our ,urrent age o- ignoran,e. There might 1e irresisti1le /u1li, /ressure to
de.elo/ means to mitigate e.en none3istent threats, whi,h would then -eed the danger that
de-le,tion te,hnology would 1e misused. For this reason, asteroid dis,o.ery and sur.eillan,e
may not 1e a mere neutral tool o- -uture /oli,y, 1ut rather a =ind o- 1oo1y tra/. To me, the
only -oreseea1le solution is a ,om1ination o- a,,urate or1it estimation, realisti, threat
assessment, and e--e,ti.e /u1li, edu,ationHso that in demo,ra,ies at least, the ,itiCens ,an
ma=e their own, in-ormed de,isions. This is a Jo1 -or !ASA.
!ear0Earth asteroids, and means o- altering their or1its, are 1eing loo=ed at seriously. There is
some sign that o--i,ials in the 'e/artment o- 'e-ense and the wea/ons la1oratories are
1eginning to understand that there may 1e real dangers in /lanning to /ush asteroids around.
Ci.ilian and military s,ientists ha.e met to dis,uss the su1Je,t. On -irst hearing a1out the
asteroid haCard, many /eo/le thin= o- it as a =ind o- Chi,=en Little -a1le< >oosey0Lu,y, newly
arri.ed and in great e3,itement, is ,ommuni,ating the urgent news that the s=y is -alling. The
tenden,y to dismiss the /ros/e,t o- any ,atastro/he that we ha.e not /ersonally witnessed is
in the long run .ery -oolish. $ut in this ,ase it may 1e an ally o- /ruden,e.
Meanwhile we must still -a,e the de-le,tion dilemma. - we de.elo/ and de/loy this
te,hnology, it may do us in. - we donAt, some asteroid or ,omet may do us in. The resolution
o- the dilemma hinges, thin=, on the -a,t that the li=ely times,ales o- the two dangers are
.ery di--erentHshort -or the -ormer, long -or the latter.
li=e to thin= that our -uture in.ol.ement with near0Earth asteroids will go something
li=e thisE From ground01ased o1ser.atories, we dis,o.er all the 1ig ones, /lot and monitor
their or1its, determine rotation rates and ,om/ositions. S,ientists are diligent in e3/laining the
dangersHneither e3aggerating nor muting the /ros/e,ts. De send ro1oti, s/a,e,ra-t to -ly 1y
a -ew sele,ted 1odies, or1it them, land on them, and return sur-a,e sam/les to la1oratories on
Earth. E.entually we send humans. 2$e,ause o- the low gra.ities, they will 1e a1le to ma=e
standing 1road Jum/s o- ten =ilometers or more into the s=y, and lo1 a 1ase1all into or1it
around the asteroid.4 Fully aware o- the dangers, we ma=e no attem/ts to alter traJe,tories
until the /otential -or misuse o- world0altering te,hnologies is mu,h less. That might ta=e a
while.
- weAre too Kui,= in de.elo/ing the te,hnology to mo.e worlds around, we may destroy
oursel.es< i- weAre too slow, we will surely destroy oursel.es. The relia1ility o- world /oliti,al
organiCations and the ,on-iden,e they ins/ire will ha.e to ma=e signi-i,ant strides 1e-ore they
,an 1e trusted to deal with a /ro1lem o- this seriousness. At the same time, there seems to 1e
no a,,e/ta1le national solution. Dho would -eel ,om-orta1le with the means o- world
destru,tion in the hands o- some dedi,ated 2or e.en /otential4 enemy nation, whether or not
our nation had ,om/ara1le /owersF The e3isten,e o- inter/lanetary ,ollision haCards, when
widely understood, wor=s to 1ring our s/e,ies together. Dhen -a,ing a ,ommon danger, we
humans ha.e sometimes rea,hed heights widely thought im/ossi1le< we ha.e set aside our
di--eren,esHat least until the danger /assed.
$ut this danger ne.er /asses. The asteroids, gra.itationally ,hurning, are slowly altering their
or1its< without warning, new ,omets ,ome ,areening toward us -rom the trans/lutonian
dar=ness. There will always 1e a need to deal with them in a way that does not endanger us.
$y /osing two di--erent ,lasses o- /erilHone natural, the other human0madeHthe small near0
Earth worlds /ro.ide a new and /otent moti.ation to ,reate e--e,ti.e transnational institutions
and to uni-y the human s/e,ies. tAs hard to see any satis-a,tory alternati.e.
n our usual Jittery, two0ste/s0-orward0one0ste/01a,= mode, De are mo.ing toward
uni-i,ation anyway. There are /ower-ul in-luen,es deri.ing -rom trans/ortation and
,ommuni,ations te,hnologies, the interde/endent world e,onomy, and the glo1al
en.ironmental ,risis. The im/a,t haCard merely hastens the /a,e.
E.entually, ,autiously, s,ru/ulously ,are-ul to attem/t nothing with asteroids that ,ould
inad.ertently ,ause a ,atastro/he on Earth, imagine we will 1egin to learn how to ,hange the
or1its o- little nonmetalli, worlds, smaller than (:: meters a,ross. De 1egin with smaller
e3/losions and slowly wor= our way u/. De gain e3/erien,e in ,hanging the or1its o- .arious
asteroids and ,omets o- di--erent ,om/ositions and strengths. De try to determine whi,h ones
,an 1e /ushed around and whi,h ,annot. $y the twenty0se,ond ,entury, /erha/s, we mo.e
small worlds around the Solar System, using 2see ne3t ,ha/ter4 not nu,lear e3/losions 1ut
nu,lear -usion engines or their eKui.alents. De insert small asteroids made o- /re,ious and
industrial metals into Earth or1it. >radually de.elo/ a de-ensi.e te,hnology to de-le,t a large
asteroid or ,omet that might in the -oreseea1le -uture hit the Earth, while, with meti,ulous
,are, we 1uild layers o- sa-eguards against misuse.
Sin,e the danger o- misusing de-le,tion te,hnology seems so mu,h greater than the danger o-
an imminent im/a,t, we ,an a--ord to wait, ta=e /re,autions, re1uild /oliti,al institutionsH-or
de,ades ,ertainly, /ro1a1ly ,enturies. - we /lay our ,ards right and are not unlu,=y, we ,an
/a,e what we do u/ there 1y what /rogress weAre ma=ing down here. The two are in any ,ase
dee/ly ,onne,ted.
The asteroid haCard -or,es our hand. E.entually, we must esta1lish a -ormida1le human
/resen,e throughout the inner Solar System. On an issue o- this im/ortan,e do not thin= we
will 1e ,ontent with /urely ro1oti, means o- mitigation. To do so sa-ely we must ma=e
,hanges in our /oliti,al and international systems. Dhile mu,h a1out our -uture is ,loudy, this
,on,lusion seems a little more ro1ust, and inde/endent o- the .agaries o- human institutions.
n the long term, e.en i- we were not the des,endants o- /ro-essional wanderers, e.en i- we
were not ins/ired 1y e3/loratory /assions, some o- us would still ha.e to lea.e the EarthH
sim/ly to ensure the sur.i.al o- all o- us. And on,e weAre out there, weAll need 1ases,
in-rastru,tures. t would not 1e .ery long 1e-ore some o- us were li.ing in arti-i,ial ha1itats
and on other worlds. This is the -irst o- two mussing arguments, omitted in our dis,ussion o-
missions to Mars, -or a /ermanent human /resen,e in s/a,e.
Other /lanetary systems must -a,e their own im/a,t haCardsH1e,ause small /rimordial
worlds, o- whi,h asteroids and ,omets are remnants, are the stu-- out o- whi,h /lanets -orm
there as well. A-ter the /lanets are made, many o- these /lanetesimals are le-t o.er. The
a.erage time 1etween ,i.iliCation0threatening im/a,ts on Earth is /erha/s 6::,::: years,
twenty times the age o- our ,i.iliCation. %ery di--erent waiting times may /ertain to
e3traterrestrial ,i.iliCations, i- they e3ist, de/ending on su,h -a,tors as the /hysi,al and
,hemi,al ,hara,teristi,s o- the /lanet and its 1ios/here, the 1iologi,al and so,ial nature o- the
,i.iliCation, and o- ,ourse the ,ollision rate itsel-. Planets with higher atmos/heri, /ressures will
1e /rote,ted against somewhat larger (m/a,tors, although the /ressure ,annot 1e mu,h
greater 1e-ore greenhouse warming and other ,onseKuen,es ma=e li-e im/ro1a1le. - the
gra.ity is mu,h less than on Earth, im/a,tors will ma=e less energeti, ,ollisions and the haCard
will 1e redu,edHalthough it ,annot 1e redu,ed .ery mu,h 1e-ore the atmos/here es,a/es to
s/a,e.
The im/a,t rate in other /lanetary systems is un,ertain. Our system ,ontains two maJor
/o/ulations o- small 1odies that -eed /otential im/a,tors into Earth0,rossing or1its. $oth the
e3isten,e o- the sour,e /o/ulations and the me,hanisms that maintain the ,ollision rate
de/end on how worlds are distri1uted. For e3am/le, our Oort Cloud seems to ha.e 1een
/o/ulated 1y gra.itational eJe,tions o- i,y worldlets -rom the .i,inity o- &ranus and !e/tune.
- there are no /lanets that /lay the role o- &ranus and !e/tune in systems otherwise li=e our
own, their Oort Clouds may 1e mu,h more thinly /o/ulated. Stars in o/en and glo1ular stellar
,lusters, stars in dou1le or multi/le systems, stars ,loser to the ,enter o- the >ala3y, stars
e3/erien,ing more -reKuent en,ounters with >iant Mole,ular Clouds in interstellar s/a,e, may
all e3/erien,e higher im/a,t -lu3es at their terrestrial /lanets. The ,ometary -lu3 might 1e
hundreds or thousands o- times more at the Earth had the /lanet 9u/iter ne.er -ormedH
a,,ording to a ,al,ulation 1y >eorge Detherill o- the Carnegie nstitution o- Dashington. n
systems without 9u/iter0li=e /lanets, the gra.itational shield against ,omets is down, and
,i.iliCation0threatening im/a,ts mu,h more -reKuent.
To a ,ertain e3tent, in,reased -lu3es o- inter/lanetary o1Je,ts might in,rease the rate o-
e.olution, as the mammals that -lourished and di.ersi-ied a-ter the Creta,eous0Tertiary
,ollision wi/ed out the dinosaurs. $ut there must 1e a /oint o- diminishing returnsE Clearly,
some -lu3 is too high -or the ,ontinuan,e o- any ,i.iliCation.
One ,onseKuen,e o- this train o- argument is that, e.en i- ,i.iliCations ,ommonly arise on
/lanets throughout the >ala3y, -ew o- them will 1e 1oth long0li.ed and non0te,hnologi,al.
Sin,e haCards -rom asteroids and ,omets must a//ly to inha1ited /lanets all o.er the >ala3y, i-
there are su,h, intelligent 1eings e.erywhere will ha.e to uni-y their home worlds /oliti,ally,
lea.e their /lanets, and mo.e small near1y worlds around. Their e.entual ,hoi,e, as ours, is
s/a,e-light or e3tin,tion.
Cha$ter 19+ ?ema"ing the Panets
Dho ,ould deny that man ,ould somehow also ma=e the hea.ens, ,ould he only o1tain the instruments and the
hea.enly materialF
HMARSLO FC!O, BT"E SO&L OF MA!B 2CA. (;7;4
n the midst o- the Se,ond Dorld Dar, a young Ameri,an writer named 9a,= Dilliamson
en.isioned a /o/ulated Solar System. n the twenty0se,ond ,entury, he imagined, %enus would
1e settled 1y China, 9a/an, and ndonesia< Mars 1y >ermany< and the moons o- 9u/iter 1y
Russia. Those who s/o=e English, the language in whi,h Dilliamson was writing, were ,on-ined
to the asteroids0and o- ,ourse the Earth.
The story, /u1lished in Astounding S,ien,e Fi,tion in 9uly ();6, was ,alled BCollision Or1itB
and written under the /seudonym Dill Stewart. ts /lot hinged on the imminent ,ollision o- an
uninha1ited asteroid with a ,oloniCed one, and the sear,h -or a means o- altering the
traJe,tories o- small worlds. Although no one on Earth was endangered, this may ha.e 1een
the -irst a//earan,e, a/art -rom news/a/er ,omi, stri/s, o- asteroid ,ollisions as a threat to
humans. 2Comets im/a,ting the Earth had 1een a sta/le /eril.4
The en.ironments o- Mars and %enus were /oorly understood in the early ();:s< it was
,on,ei.a1le that humans ,ould li.e there without ela1orate li-e0su//ort systems. $ut the
asteroids were another matter. t was well =nown, e.en then, that asteroids were small, dry,
airless worlds. - they were to 1e inha1ited, es/e,ially 1y large num1ers o- /eo/le, these little
worlds would somehow ha.e to 1e -i3ed.
n BCollision Or1it,B Dilliamson /ortrays a grou/ o- Bs/atial engineers,B a1le to render su,h
1arren out/osts ,lement. Coining a word, Dilliamson ,alled the /ro,ess o- metamor/hosis
into an Earth0li=e world Bterra-orming.B "e =new that the low gra.ity on an asteroid means
that any atmos/here generated or trans/orted there would Kui,=ly es,a/e to s/a,e. So his =ey
terra-orming te,hnology was B/aragra.ity,B an arti-i,ial gra.ity that would hold a dense
atmos/here.
As nearly as we ,an tell today, /aragra.ity is a /hysi,al im/ossi1ility. $ut we ,an imagine
domed, trans/arent ha1itats on the sur-a,es o- asteroids, as suggested 1y Ionstantin
Tsiol=o.s=y, or ,ommunities esta1lished in the insides o- asteroids, as outlined in the ()6:s 1y
the $ritish s,ientist 9. '. $ernal. $e,ause asteroids are small and their gra.ities low, e.en
massi.e su1sur-a,e ,onstru,tion might 1e ,om/arati.ely easy. - a tunnel were dug ,lean
through, you ,ould Jum/ in at one end and emerge some ;* minutes later at the other,
os,illating u/ and down along the toll diameter o- this world inde-initely. nside the right =ind
o- asteroid, a ,ar1ona,eous one, you ,an -ind materials -or manu-a,turing stone, metal, and
/lasti, ,onstru,tion and /lenti-ul waterHall you might need to 1uild a su1sur-a,e ,losed
e,ologi,al system, an underground garden. m/lementation would reKuire a signi-i,ant ste/
1eyond what we ha.e today, 1utHunli=e B/aragra.ityBHnothing in su,h a s,heme seems
im/ossi1le. All the elements ,an 1e -ound in ,ontem/orary te,hnology. - there were su--i,ient
reason, a -air num1er o- us ,ould 1e li.ing on 2or in asteroids 1y the twenty0se,ond ,entury.
They would o- ,ourse need a sour,e o- /ower, not Just to sustain themsel.es, 1ut, as $ernal
suggested, to mo.e their asteroidal homes around. 2t does not seem so 1ig a ste/ -rom
e3/losi.e alteration o- asteroid or1its to a more gentle means o- /ro/ulsion a ,entury or two
later.4 - an o3ygen atmos/here were generated -rom ,hemi,ally 1ound water, then organi,s
,ould 1e 1urned to generate /ower, Just as -ossil -uels are 1urned on the Earth today. Solar
/ower ,ould 1e ,onsidered, although -or the main01elt asteroids the intensity o- sunlight is
only a1out (: /er,ent what it is on Earth. Still, we ,ould imagine .ast -ields o- solar /anels
,o.ering the sur-a,es o- inha1ited asteroids and ,on.erting sunlight into ele,tri,ity.
Photo.oltai, te,hnology is routinely used in Earth0or1iting s/a,e,ra-t, and is in in,reasing use
on the sur-a,e o- the Earth today. $ut while that might 1e enough to warm and light the
homes o- these des,endants, it does not seem adeKuate to ,hange asteroid or1its.
For that, Dilliamson /ro/osed using anti0matter. Antimatter is Just li=e ordinary matter, with
one signi-i,ant di--eren,e. Consider hydrogenE An ordinary hydrogen atom ,onsists o- a
/ositi.ely ,harged /roton on the inside and a negati.ely ,harged ele,tron on the outside. An
atom o- anti0hydrogen ,onsists o- a negati.ely ,harged /roton on the inside and a /ositi.ely
,harged ele,tron 2also ,alled a /ositron4 on the outside. The /rotons, whate.er the sign o-
their ,harges, ha.e the same mass< and the ele,trons, whate.er the sign o- their ,harges, ha.e
the same mass. Parti,les with o//osite ,harges attra,t. A hydrogen atom and an anti0
hydrogen atom are 1oth sta1le, 1e,ause in 1oth ,ases the /ositi.e and negati.e ele,tri,al
,harges /re,isely 1alan,e.
Anti0matter is not some hy/otheti,al ,onstru,t -rom the /er-er.id musings o- s,ien,e -i,tion
writers or theoreti,al /hysi,ists. Anti0matter e3ists. Physi,ists ma=e it in nu,lear a,,elerators< it
,an 1e -ound in high0energy ,osmi, rays. So why donAt we hear more a1out itF Dhy has no
one held u/ a lum/ o- antimatter -or our ins/e,tionF $e,ause matter and anti0matter, when
1rought into ,onta,t, .iolently annihilate ea,h other, disa//earing in an intense 1urst o-
gamma rays. De ,annot tell whether something is made o- matter or anti0matter Just 1y
loo=ing at it. The s/e,tros,o/i, /ro/erties o-, -or e3am/le, hydrogen and anti0hydrogen are
identi,al.
Al1ert EinsteinAs answer to the Kuestion o- why we see only matter and not anti0matter was,
BMatter wonBH1y whi,h he meant that in our se,tor o- the &ni.erse at least, a-ter almost all
the matter and anti0matter intera,ted and annihilated ea,h other long ago, there was some o-
what we ,all ordinary matter le-t o.er.85 As -ar as we ,an tell today, -rom gamma ray
astronomy and other means, the &ni.erse is made almost entirely o- matter. The reason -or
this engages the dee/est ,osmologi,al issues, whi,h need not detain us here. $ut i- there was
only a one0/arti,le0in0a01illion di--eren,e in the /re/onderan,e o- matter o.er anti0matter at
the 1eginning, e.en this would 1e enough to e3/lain the &ni.erse we see today.
Dilliamson imagined that humans in the twenty0se,ond ,entury would mo.e asteroids
around 1y the ,ontrolled mutual annihilation o- matter and anti0matter. All the resulting
gamma rays, i- ,ollimated, would ma=e a /otent ro,=et e3haust. The anti0matter would 1e
a.aila1le in the main asteroid 1elt 21etween the or1its o- Mars and 9u/iter4, 1e,ause this was
his e3/lanation -or the e3isten,e o- the asteroid 1elt. n the remote /ast, he /ro/osed, an
intruder anti0matter worldlet arri.ed in the Solar System -rom the de/ths o- s/a,e, im/a,ted,
and annihilated what was then an Earthli=e /lanet, -i-th -rom the Sun. The -ragments o- this
mighty ,ollision are the asteroids, and some o- them are still made o- anti0matter. "arness an
anti0asteroidHDilliamson re,ogniCed that this might 1e tri,=yHand you ,an mo.e worlds
around at will.
At the time, DilliamsonAs ideas were -uturisti,, 1ut -ar -rom -oolish. Some o- BCollision Or1itB
,an 1e ,onsidered .isionary. Today, howe.er, we ha.e good reason to 1elie.e that there are no
signi-i,ant amounts o- anti0matter in the Solar System, and that the asteroid 1elt, -ar -rom
1eing a -ragmented terrestrial /lanet, is an enormous array o- small 1odies /re.ented 21y the
gra.itational tides o- 9u/iter4 -rom -orming an Earthli=e world.
"owe.er, we do generate 2.ery4 small amounts o- antimatter in nu,lear a,,elerators today, and
we will /ro1a1ly 1e a1le to manu-a,ture mu,h larger amounts 1y the twenty0se,ond ,entury.
$e,ause it is so e--i,ientH,on.erting all o- the matter into energy, E V MC6, with (:: /er,ent
e--i,ien,yH/erha/s anti0matter engines will 1e a /ra,ti,al te,hnology 1y then, .indi,ating
Dilliamson Failing that, what energy sour,es ,an we realisti,ally e3/e,t to 1e a.aila1le, to
re,on-igure asteroids, to light them warm them, and mo.e them aroundF
The Sun shines 1y Jamming /rotons together and turning them into helium nu,lei. Energy is
released in the /ro,ess, although with less than ( /er,ent the e--i,ien,y o- the annihilation o-
matter and anti0matter. $ut e.en /roton0/roton rea,tions are -ar 1eyond anything we ,an
realisti,ally imagine -or oursel.es in the near -uture. The reKuired tem/eratures are mu,h too
high. nstead4 o- Jamming /rotons together, though, we might use hea.ier =inds o- hydrogen.
De already do so in thermonu,lear wea/ons. 'euterium is a /roton 1ound 1y nu,lear -or,es
to a neutron< tritium is a /roton 1ound 1y nu,lear -or,es to two neutrons. t seems li=ely that
in another ,entury we will ha.e /ra,ti,al /ower s,hemes that in.ol.e the ,ontrolled -usion o-
deuterium and tritium, and o- deuterium and helium. 'euterium and tritium are /resent as
minor ,onstituents in water 2on Earth and other worlds4. The =ind o- helium needed -or -usion,
8"e 2two /rotons and a neutron ma=e u/ its nu,leus4, has 1een im/lanted o.er 1illions o-
years 1y the solar wind in the sur-a,es o- the asteroids. These /ro,esses are not nearly as
e--i,ient as the /roton0/roton rea,tions in the Sun, 1ut they ,ould /ro.ide enough /ower to
run a small ,ity -or a year -rom a lode o- i,e only a -ew meters in siCe.
Fusion rea,tors seem to 1e ,oming along too slowly to /lay a maJor role in sol.ing, or e.en
signi-i,antly mitigating, glo1al warming. $ut 1y the twenty0se,ond ,entury, they ought to 1e
widely a.aila1le. Dith -usion ro,=et engines, it will 1e /ossi1le to more asteroids and ,omets
around the inner Solar System ta=ing a main01elt asteroid, -or e3am/le, and inserting it into
or1it around the Earth. A world (: =ilometers a,ross ,ould 1e trans/orted -rom Saturn, say, to
Mars through nu,lear 1urning o- the hydrogen in an i,y ,omet a =ilometer a,ross. 2Again, Am
assuming a time o- mu,h greater /oliti,al sta1ility and sa-ety.4
Put aside -or the moment any Kualms you might ha.e a1out the ethi,s o- rearranging worlds,
or our a1ility to do so without ,atastro/hi, ,onseKuen,es. 'igging out the insides o- worldlets,
re,on-iguring them -or human ha1itation, and mo.ing them -rom one /la,e in the Solar
System to another seems to 1e within our gras/ in another ,entury or two. Perha/s 1y then we
will ha.e adeKuate international sa-eguards as well. $ut what a1out trans-orming the sur-a,e
en.ironments not o- asteroids or ,omets, 1ut o- /lanetsF Could we li.e on MarsF
- we wanted to set u/ house=ee/ing on Mars, itAs easy to see that, in /rin,i/le at least, we
,ould do itE ThereAs a1undant sunlight. ThereAs /lenti-ul water in the ro,=s and in underground
and /olar i,e. The atmos/here is mostly ,ar1on dio3ide. t seems li=ely that in sel-0,ontained
ha1itats0/erha/s domed en,losuresHwe ,ould grow ,ro/s, manu-a,ture o3ygen -rom water,
re,y,le wastes.
At -irst weAd 1e de/endent on ,ommodities resu//lied -rom Earth, 1ut in time weAd
manu-a,ture more and more o- them oursel.es. DeAd 1e,ome in,reasingly sel-0su--i,ient. The
domed en,losures, e.en i- made o- ordinary glass, would let in the .isi1le sunlight and s,reen
out the SunAs ultra.iolet rays. Dith o3ygen mas=s and /rote,ti.e garmentsH1ut nothing as
1ul=y and ,um1ersome as a s/a,esuitHwe ,ould lea.e these en,losures to go e3/loring, or to
1uild another domed .illage and -arms.
t seems .ery e.o,ati.e o- the Ameri,an /ioneering e3/erien,e, 1ut with at least one maJor
di--eren,eE n the early stages, large su1sidies are essential. The te,hnology reKuired is too
e3/ensi.e -or some /oor -amily, li=e my grand/arents a ,entury ago, to /ay their own /assage
to Mars. The early Martian /ioneers will 1e sent 1y go.ernments and will ha.e highly
s/e,ialiCed s=ills. $ut in a generation or two, when ,hildren and grand,hildren are 1orn there
H and es/e,ially when sel-0su--i,ien,y is within rea,hHthat will 1egin to ,hange. #oungsters
1orn on Mars will 1e gi.en s/e,ialiCed training in the te,hnology essential -or sur.i.al in this
new en.ironment. The settlers will 1e,ome less heroi, and less e3,e/tional. The -ull range o-
human strengths and de-i,ien,ies will 1egin to assert themsel.es. >radually, /re,isely 1e,ause
o- the di--i,ulty o- getting -rom Earth to Mars, a uniKue Martian ,ulture will 1egin to emergeH
distin,t as/irations and -ears tied to the en.ironment they li.e in, distin,t te,hnologies, distin,t
so,ial /ro1lems, distin,t solutionsHand, as has o,,urred in e.ery similar ,ir,umstan,e
throughout human history, a gradual sense o- ,ultural and /oliti,al estrangement -rom the
mother world.
>reat shi/s will arri.e ,arrying essential te,hnology -rom Earth, new -amilies o- settlers, s,ar,e
resour,es. t is hard to =now, on the 1asis o- our limited =nowledge o- Mars, whether they will
go home em/tyHor whether they will ,arry with them something -ound only on Mars,
something ,onsidered .ery .alua1le on Earth. nitially mu,h o- the s,ienti-i, in.estigation o-
sam/les o- the Martian sur-a,e will 1e done on Earth. $ut in time the s,ienti-i, study o- Mars
2and its moons Pho1os and 'eimos4 will 1e done -rom Mars.
E.entuallyHas has ha//ened with .irtually e.ery other -orm o- human trans/ortationH
inter/lanetary tra.el will 1e,ome a,,essi1le to /eo/le o- ordinary meansE to s,ientists /ursuing
their own resear,h /roJe,ts, to settlers -ed u/ with Earth, e.en to .enturesome tourists. And o-
,ourse there will 1e e3/lorers.
- the time e.er ,ame when it was /ossi1le to ma=e the Martian en.ironment mu,h more
Earth0li=eHso /rote,ti.e garments, o3ygen mas=s, and domed -armlands and ,ities ,ould 1e
dis/ensed withHthe attra,tion and a,,essi1ility o- Mars would 1e in,reased many0-old. The
same, o- ,ourse, would 1e true -or any other world whi,h ,ould 1e engineered so that humans
,ould li.e there without ela1orate ,ontri.an,es to =ee/ the /lanetary en.ironment out. De
would -eel mu,h more ,om-orta1le in our ado/ted home i- an inta,t dome or s/a,esuit
werenAt all that stood 1etween us and death. 2$ut /erha/s e3aggerate the dangers. Peo/le
who li.e in the !etherlands seem at least as well adJusted and ,are-ree as other inha1itants o-
!orthern Euro/e< .et their di=es are all that stand 1etween them and the sea.
Re,ogniCing the s/e,ulati.e nature o- the Kuestion and the limitations in our =nowledge, is it
ne.ertheless /ossi1le to en.ision terra-orming the /lanetsF
De need loo= no -urther than our own world to see that humans are now a1le to alter
/lanetary en.ironments in a /ro-ound way. 'e/letion o- the oCone layer, glo1al warming -rom
an in,reased greenhouse e--e,t, and glo1al ,ooling -rom nu,lear war are all ways in whi,h
/resent te,hnology ,an signi-i,antly alter the en.ironment o- our worldHand in ea,h ,ase as
an inad.ertent ,onseKuen,e o- doing something else. - we had intended to alter our
/lanetary en.ironment, we would 1e -ully a1le to generate still greater ,hange. As our
te,hnology 1e,omes more /ower-ul, we will 1e a1le to wor= still more /ro-ound ,hanges.
$ut Just as 2in /arallel /ar=ing4 itAs easier to get out o- a /ar=ing /la,e than into one, itAs easier
to destroy a /lanetary en.ironment than to mo.e it into a narrowly /res,ri1ed range o-
tem/eratures, /ressures, ,om/ositions, and so on. De already =now o- a multitude o- desolate
and uninha1ita1le worlds, andHwith .ery narrow marginsHonly one green and ,lement one.
This is a maJor ,on,lusion -rom early in the era o- s/a,e,ra-t e3/loration o- the Solar System. n
altering the Earth, or any world with an atmos/here, we must 1e .ery ,are-ul a1out /ositi.e
-eed1a,=s, where we nudge an en.ironment a little 1it and it ta=es o- on its ownHa little
,ooling leading to runaway gla,iation, as may ha.e ha//ened on Mars, or a little warming to a
runaway greenhouse e--e,t, as ha//ened on %enus. t is not at all ,lear that our =nowledge is
su--i,ient to this /ur/ose.
As -ar as =now, the -irst suggestion in the s,ienti-i, literature a1out terra-orming the /lanets
was made in a ()5( arti,le wrote a1out %enus. was /retty sure then that %enus had a
sur-a,e tem/erature well a1o.e the normal 1oiling /oint o- water, /rodu,ed 1y a ,ar1on
dio3ide@water .a/or greenhouse e--e,t. imagined seeding its high ,louds with geneti,ally
engineered mi,roorganisms that would ta=e CO6, !6, and "6O out o- the atmos/here and
,on.ert them into organi, mole,ules. The more CO6 remo.ed, the smaller the greenhouse
e--e,t and the ,ooler the sur-a,e. The mi,ro1es would 1e ,arried down through the
atmos/here toward the ground, where they would 1e -ried, so water .a/or would 1e returned
to the atmos/here< 1ut the ,ar1on -rom the CO6 would 1e ,on.erted irre.ersi1ly 1y the high
tem/eratures into gra/hite or some other in.olatile -orm o- ,ar1on. E.entually, the
tem/eratures would -all 1elow the 1oiling /oint and the sur-a,e o- %enus would 1e,ome
ha1ita1le, dotted with /ools and la=es o- warm water.
The idea was soon ta=en u/ 1y a num1er o- s,ien,e -i,tion authors in the ,ontinuing dan,e
1etween s,ien,e and s,ien,e -i,tionHin whi,h the s,ien,e stimulates the -i,tion, and the
-i,tion stimulates a new generation o- s,ientists, a /ro,ess 1ene-iting 1oth genres. $ut as the
ne3t ste/ in the dan,e, it is now ,lear that seeding %enus with s/e,ial /hotosyntheti,
mi,roorganisms will not wor=. Sin,e ()5( weA.e dis,o.ered that the ,louds o- %enus are a
,on,entrated solution o- sul-uri, a,id, whi,h ma=es the geneti, engineering rather more
,hallenging. $ut that in itsel- is not a -atal -law. 2There are mi,roorganisms that li.e out their
li.es in ,on,entrated solutions o- sul-uri, a,id.4 "ereAs the -atal -lawE n ()5( thought the
atmos/heri, /ressure at the sur-a,e o- %enus !Y0as a -ew B1ars,B a -ew times the sur-a,e
/ressure on Earth. De now =now it to 1e ): 1ars, so that i- the s,heme wor=ed, the result
would 1e a sur-a,e 1uried in hundreds o- meters o- -ine gra/hite, and an atmos/here made o-
5* 1ars o- almost /ure mole,ular o3ygen. Dhether we would -irst im/lode under the
atmos/heri, /ressure or s/ontaneously 1urst into -lames in all that o3ygen is an o/en
Kuestion. "owe.er, long 1e-ore so mu,h o3ygen ,ould 1uild u/, the gra/hite would
s/ontaneously 1urn 1a,= into CO6, short0,ir,uiting the /ro,ess. At 1est, su,h a s,heme ,an
,arry the terra-orming o- %enus only /artway.
LetAs assume that 1y the early twenty0se,ond ,entury we ha.e ,om/arati.ely ine3/ensi.e
hea.y0li-t .ehi,les, so we ,an ,arry large /ayloads to other worlds< a1undant and /ower-ul
-usion rea,tors< and well0de.elo/ed geneti, engineering. All three assum/tions are li=ely,
gi.en ,urrent trends. Could we terra-orm the /lanetsF87 9ames Polla,= o- !ASAAs Ames
Resear,h Center and sur.eyed this /ro1lem. "ereAs a summary o- what we -oundE
,'<)SE Clearly the /ro1lem with %enus is its massi.e greenhouse e--e,t. - we ,ould redu,e
the greenhouse e--e,t almost to Cero, the ,limate might 1e 1almy. $ut a ):01ar CO6
atmos/here is o//ressi.ely thi,=. O.er e.ery /ostage stam/0siCed sKuare in,h o- sur-a,e, the
air weighs as mu,h as si3 /ro-essional -oot1all /layers, /iled one on to/ o- another. Ma=ing all
that go away will ta=e some doing.
magine 1om1arding %enus with asteroids and ,omets. Ea,h im/a,t would 1low away some o-
the atmos/here. To 1low away almost all o- it, though, would reKuire using u/ more 1ig
asteroids and ,omets than there areHat least in the /lanetary /art o- the Solar System. E.en i-
that many /otential im/a,tors e3isted, e.en i- we ,ould ma=e them all ,ollide with %enus 2this
is the o.er=ill a//roa,h to the im/a,t haCard /ro1lem4, thin= what we would ha.e lost. Dho
=nows what wonders, what /ra,ti,al =nowledge they ,ontainF De would also o1literate mu,h
o- %enusA gorgeous sur-a,e geologyHwhi,h weA.e Just 1egun to understand, and whi,h may
tea,h us mu,h a1out the Earth. This is an e3am/le o- 1rute-or,e terra-orming. suggest we
want to steer entirely ,lear o- su,h methods, e.en i- someday weAll 1e a1le to a--ord them
2whi,h .ery mu,h dou1t4. De want something more elegant, more su1tle, more res/e,t-ul o-
the en.ironments o- other worlds. A mi,ro1ial a//roa,h has some o- those .irtues, 1ut does
not do the tri,=, as weA.e Just seen.
De ,an imagine /ul.eriCing a dar= asteroid and s/reading the /owder through the u//er
atmos/here o- %enus, or ,arrying su,h dust u/ -rom the sur-a,e. This would 1e the /hysi,al
eKui.alent o- nu,lear winter or the Creta,eous0Tertiary /ost0im/a,t ,limate. - the sunlight
rea,hing the ground is su--i,iently attenuated, the sur-a,e tem/erature must -all. $ut 1y its
.ery nature, this o/tion /lunges %enus into dee/ gloom, with daytime light le.els /erha/s only
as 1right as on a moonlit night on Earth. The o//ressi.e, ,rushing ):01ar atmos/here would
remain untou,hed. Sin,e the em/la,ed dust would sediment out e.ery -ew years, the layer
would ha.e to 1e re/lenished in the same /eriod o- time. Perha/s su,h an a//roa,h would 1e
a,,e/ta1le -or short e3/loratory missions, 1ut the en.ironment generated seems .ery star= -or
a sel-0sustaining human ,ommunity on %enus.
De ,ould use a giant arti-i,ial sunshade in or1it around %enus to ,ool the sur-a,e< 1ut it would
1e enormously e3/ensi.e, as well as ha.ing many o- the de-i,ien,ies o- the dust layer.
"owe.er, i- the tem/eratures ,ould 1e lowered su--i,iently, the CO6 in the atmos/here would
rain out. There would 1e a transitional time o- CO6 o,eans on %enus. - those o,eans ,ould 1e
,o.ered o.er to /re.ent re0e.a/orationH-or e3am/le, with water o,eans made 1y melting a
large, i,y moon trans/orted -rom the outer Solar SystemHthen the CO6 might ,on,ei.a1ly 1e
seKuestered away, and %enus ,on.erted into a water 2or low0-iCC seltCer4 /lanet. Days ha.e
also 1een suggested to ,on.ert the CO6 into ,ar1onate ro,=.
Thus all /ro/osals -or terra-orming %enus are still 1rute0-or,e, inelegant, and a1surdly
e3/ensi.e. The desired /lanetary metamor/hosis may 1e 1eyond our rea,h -or a .ery long
time, e.en i- we thought it was desira1le and res/onsi1le. The Asian ,oloniCation o- %enus that
9a,= Dilliamson imagined may ha.e to 1e redire,ted somewhere else.
!%?SE For Mars we ha.e Just the o//osite /ro1lem. ThereAs not enough greenhouse e--e,t.
The /lanet is a -roCen desert. $ut the -a,t that Mars seems to ha.e had a1undant ri.ers, la=es,
and /erha/s e.en o,eans ; 1illion years agoHat a time when the Sun was less 1right than it is
todayHma=es you wonder i- thereAs sol.e natural insta1ility in the Martian ,limate, something
on hair trigger that on,e released would all 1y itsel- return the /lanet to its an,ient ,lement
state. 2LetAs note -rom the start that doing so would destroy Martian land-orms that hold =ey
data on the /astHes/e,ially the laminated /olar terrain.4
As we =now .ery well -rom Earth and %enus, ,ar1on dio3ide is a greenhouse gas. There are
,ar1onate minerals -ound on Mars, and dry i,e in one o- the /olar ,a/s. They ,ould 1e
,on.erted into CO6 gas. $ut to ma=e enough o- a greenhouse e--e,t to generate ,om-orta1le
tem/eratures on Mars would reKuire the entire sur-a,e o- the /lanet to 1e /lowed u/ and
/ro,essed to a de/th o- =ilometers. A/art -rom the daunting o1sta,les in /ra,ti,al engineering
that this re/resentsH-usion /ower or no -usion /owerHand the in,on.enien,e to whate.er
sel-0,ontained, ,losed e,ologi,al systems humans had already esta1lished on the /lanet it
would also ,onstitute the irres/onsi1le destru,tion o- a uniKue s,ienti-i, resour,e and
data1ase, the Martian sur-a,e.
Dhat a1out other greenhouse gasesF Alternati.ely, we might ta=e ,hloro-luoro,ar1ons 2CFCs
or "CFCs4 to Mars a-ter manu-a,turing them on Earth. These are arti-i,ial su1stan,es that, so
-ar as we =now, are -ound nowhere else in the Solar System. De ,an ,ertainly imagine
manu-a,turing enough CFCs on Earth to warm Mars, 1e,ause 1y a,,ident in a -ew de,ades
with /resent te,hnology on Earth weA.e managed to synthesiCe enough to ,ontri1ute to
glo1al warming on our /lanet. Trans/ortation to Mars would 1e e3/ensi.e, thoughE E.en using
Saturn %0 or Energiya0,lass 1oosters, it would reKuire at least a laun,h a day -or a ,entury. $ut
/erha/s they ,ould 1e manu-a,tured -rom -luorine0,ontaining minerals on Mars.
There is, in addition, a serious draw1a,=E On Mars as on Earth, a1undant CFCs would /re.ent
-ormation o- an oCone layer. CFCs might 1ring Martian tem/eratures into a ,lement range, 1ut
guarantee that the solar ultra.iolet haCard would remain e3tremely serious. Perha/s the solar
ultra.iolet light ,ould 1e a1sor1ed 1y an atmos/heri, layer o- /ul.eriCed asteroidal or sur-a,e
de1ris inJe,ted in ,are-ully titrated amounts a1o.e the CFCs. $ut now weAre in the trou1ling
,ir,umstan,e o- ha.ing to deal with /ro/agating side e--e,ts, ea,h o- whi,h reKuires its own
large0s,ale te,hnologi,al solution.
A third /ossi1le greenhouse gas -or warming Mars is ammonia 2!"84. Only a little ammonia
would 1e enough to warm the Martian sur-a,e to a1o.e the -reeCing /oint o- water. n
/rin,i/le, this might 1e done 1y s/e,ially engineered mi,roorganisms that would ,on.ert
Martian atmos/heri, !6 to !"8 as some mi,ro1es do on Earth, 1ut do it under Martian
,onditions. Or the same ,on.ersion might 1e done in s/e,ial -a,tories. Alternati.ely, the
nitrogen reKuired ,ould 1e ,arried to Mars -rom elsewhere in the Solar System. 2!6 is the
/rin,i/al ,onstituent in the atmos/heres o- 1oth Earth and Titan.4 &ltra.iolet light would
,on.ert ammonia 1a,= into !6 in a1out 8: years, so there would ha.e to 1e a ,ontinuous
resu//ly o- !"8.
A Judi,ious ,om1ination o- CO6, CFC, and !"8 greenhouse e--e,ts on Mars loo=s as i- it might
1e a1le to 1ring sur-a,e tem/eratures ,lose enough to the -reeCing /oint o- water -or the
se,ond /hase o- Martian terra-orming to 1eginHtem/eratures rising due to the /ressure o-
su1stantial water .a/or in the air, wides/read /rodu,tion o- O6 1y geneti,ally engineered
/lants, and -ine0tuning the sur-a,e en.ironment. Mi,ro1es and larger /lants and animals ,ould
1e esta1lished on Mars 1e-ore the o.erall en.ironment was suita1le -or un/rote,ted human
settlers.
Terra-orming Mars is /lainly mu,h easier than terra-orming %enus. $ut it is still .ery e3/ensi.e
1y /resent standards, and en.ironmentally destru,ti.e. - there were su--i,ient Justi-i,ation,
though, /erha/s the terra-orming o- Mars ,ould 1e under way 1y the twenty0se,ond ,entury.
T.' !**<S *F @)P0T'? %<D S%T)?<E Terra-orming the satellites o- the 9o.ian /lanets
/resents .arying degrees o- di--i,ulty. Perha/s the easiest to ,ontem/late is Titan. t already
has an atmos/here, made mainly o- !6 li=e the EarthAs, and is mu,h ,loser to terrestrial
atmos/heri, /ressures than either %enus or Mars. Moreo.er, im/ortant greenhouse gases,
su,h as !"8 and "6:, are almost ,ertainly -roCen out on its sur-a,e. Manu-a,ture o- initial
greenhouse gases that do not -reeCe out at /resent Titan tem/eratures /lus dire,t warming o-
the sur-a,e 1y nu,lear -usion ,ould, it seems, 1e the =ey early ste/s to one day terra-orm Titan.
- there were a ,om/elling reason -or terra-orming other worlds, this greatest o- engineering
/roJe,ts might 1e -easi1le on the times,ale weA.e 1een des,ri1ingH,ertainly -or asteroids,
/ossi1ly -or Mars, Titan, and other moons o- the outer /lanets, and /ro1a1ly not -or %enus.
Polla,= and re,ogniCed that there are those who -eel a /ower-ul attra,tion to the idea o-
rendering other worlds in the Solar System suita1le -or human ha1itationHin esta1lishing
o1ser.atories, e3/loratory 1ases, ,ommunities, and homesteads there. $e,ause o- its
/ioneering history, this may 1e a /arti,ularly natural and attra,ti.e idea in the &nited States.
n any ,ase, massi.e alteration o- the en.ironments o- other worlds ,an 1e done
,om/etently and res/onsi1ly only when we ha.e a mu,h 1etter understanding o- those worlds
than is a.aila1le today. Ad.o,ates o- terra-orming must -irst 1e,ome ad.o,ates o- the long0
term and thorough s,ienti-i, e3/loration o- other worlds.
Perha/s when we really understand the di--i,ulties o- terra-orming, the ,osts or the
en.ironmental /enalties will /ro.e too stee/, and we will lower our sights to domed or
su1sur-a,e ,ities or other lo,al, ,losed e,ologi,al systems, greatly im/ro.ed .ersions o-
$ios/here , on other worlds. Perha/s we will a1andon the dream o- ,on.erting the sur-a,es o-
other worlds to something a//roa,hing the EarthAs. Or /erha/s there are mu,h more elegant,
,ost0e--e,ti.e, and en.ironmentally res/onsi1le ways o- terra-orming that we ha.e not yet
imagined.
$ut i- we are seriously to /ursue the matter, ,ertain Kuestions ought to 1e as=edE >i.en
that any terra-orming s,heme entails a 1alan,e o- 1ene-its against ,osts, how ,ertain must we
1e that =ey s,ienti-i, in-ormation will not there1y 1e destroyed 1e-ore /ro,eedingF "ow mu,h
understanding o- the world in Kuestion do we need 1e-ore /lanetary engineering ,an 1e
relied u/on to /rodu,e the desired end stateF Can we guarantee a long0term human
,ommitment to maintain and re/lenish an engineered world, when human /oliti,al institutions
are so short li.edF - a world is e.en ,on,ei.a1ly inha1itedH/erha/s only 1y mi,roorganisms
Hdo humans ha.e a right to alter itF Dhat is our res/onsi1ility to /reser.e the worlds o- the
Solar System in their /resent wilderness states -or -uture generations0who may ,ontem/late
uses that today we are too ignorant to -oreseeF These Kuestions may /erha/s 1e en,a/sulated
into a -inal KuestionE Can we, who ha.e made su,h a mess o- this world, 1e trusted with
othersF
t is Just ,on,ei.a1le that some o- the te,hniKues that might e.entually terra-orm other worlds
might 1e a//lied to ameliorate the damage we ha.e done to this one. Considering the relati.e
urgen,ies, a use-ul indi,ation o- when the human s/e,ies is ready to ,onsider terra-orming
seriously is when we ha.e /ut our own world right. De ,an ,onsider it a test o- the de/th o-
our understanding and our ,ommitment. The -irst ste/ in engineering the Solar System is to
guarantee the ha1ita1ility o- the Earth.
Then weAll 1e ready to s/read out to asteroids, ,omets, Mars, the moons o- the outer Solar
System, and 1eyond. 9a,= Dilliamson As /redi,tion that this will 1egin to ,ome a1out 1y the
twenty0se,ond ,entury may not 1e -ar o-- the mar=.
The notion o- our des,endants li.ing and wor=ing on other worlds, and e.en mo.ing some o-
them around -or their ,on.enien,e, seems the most e3tra.agant s,ien,e -i,tion. $e realisti,, a
.oi,e inside my head ,ounsels. $ut this is realisti,. DeAre on the ,us/ o- the te,hnology, near
the mid/oint 1etween im/ossi1le and routine. tAs easy to 1e ,on-li,ted a1out it. - we donAt do
something aw-ul to oursel.es in the interim, in another ,entury terra-orming may seem no
more im/ossi1le than a human0tended s/a,e station does today.
thin= the e3/erien,e o- li.ing on other worlds is 1ound to ,hange us. Our des,endants, 1orn
and raised elsewhere, will naturally 1egin to owe /rimary loyalty to the worlds o- their 1irth,
whate.er a--e,tion they retain -or the Earth. Their /hysi,al needs, their methods o- su//lying
those needs, their te,hnologies, and their so,ial stru,tures will all ha.e to 1e di--erent.
A 1lade o- grass is a ,ommon/la,e on Earth< it would 1e a mira,le on Mars. Our des,endants
on Mars will =now the .alue o- a /at,h o- green. And i- a 1lade o- grass is /ri,eless, what is the
.alue o- a human 1eingF The Ameri,an re.olutionary Tom Paine, in des,ri1ing his
,ontem/oraries, had thoughts along these linesE
The wants whi,h ne,essarily a,,om/any the ,ulti.ation o- a wilderness /rodu,ed among them
a state o- so,iety whi,h ,ountries long harassed 1y the Kuarrels and intrigues o- go.ernments
had negle,ted to ,herish. n su,h a situation man 1e,omes what he ought to 1e. "e sees his
s/e,ies . . . as =indred.
"a.ing seen at -irst hand a /ro,ession o- 1arren and desolate worlds, it will 1e natural -or our
s/a,e-aring des,endants to ,herish li-e. "a.ing learned something -rom the tenure o- our
s/e,ies on Earth, they may wish to a//ly those lessons to other worldsHto s/are generations
to ,ome the a.oida1le su--ering that their an,estors were o1liged to endure, and to draw
u/on our e3/erien,e and our mista=es as we 1egin our o/en0ended e.olution into s/a,e.
Cha$ter 20+ Dar"ness
Far away, hidden -rom the eyes o- daylight, there are wat,hers in the s=ies.
HE&RP'ES, T"E $ACC"AE @CA. ;:5 $.C.4
As ,hildren, we -ear the dar=. Anything might 1e out. here. The un=nown trou1les us.
roni,ally, it is our -ate to li.e in the dar=. This une3/e,ted -inding o- s,ien,e is only a1out
three ,enturies old. "ead out -rom the Earth in any dire,tion you ,hoose, andHa-ter an initial
-lash o- 1lue and a longer wait while the Sun -adesHyou are surrounded 1y 1la,=ness,
/un,tuated only here and there 1y the -aint and distant stars.
E.en a-ter we are grown, the dar=ness retains its /ower to -righten us. And so there are
those who say we should not inKuire too ,losely into who else might 1e li.ing in that dar=ness.
$etter not to =now, they say.
There are ;:: 1illion stars in the Mil=y Day >ala3y. O- this immense multitude, ,ould it 1e that
our humdrum Sun is the only one with an inha1ited /lanetF May1e. May1e the origin o- li-e or
intelligen,e is e3,eedingly im/ro1a1le. Or may1e ,i.iliCations arise all the time, 1ut wi/e
themsel.es out as soon as they are a1le.
Or, here and there, /e//ered a,ross s/a,e, or1iting other suns, may1e there are worlds
something li=e our own, on whi,h other 1eings gaCe u/ and wonder as we do a1out who else
li.es in the dar=. Could the Mil=y Day 1e ri//ling with li-e and intelligen,eHworlds ,alling out
to worldsHwhile we on Earth are ali.e at the ,riti,al moment when we -irst de,ide to listenF
Our s/e,ies has dis,o.ered a way to ,ommuni,ate through the dar=, to trans,end immense
distan,es. !o means o- ,ommuni,ation is -aster or ,hea/er or rea,hes out -arther. tAs ,alled
radio.
A-ter 1illions o- years o- 1iologi,al e.olutionHon their /lanet and oursHan alien ,i.iliCation
,annot 1e in te,hnologi,al lo,=ste/ with us. There ha.e 1een humans -or more than twenty
thousand ,enturies, 1ut weA.e had radio only -or a1out one ,entury. - alien ,i.iliCations are
1ehind us, theyAre li=ely to 1e too -ar 1ehind to ha.e radio. And i- theyAre ahead o- us, theyAre
li=ely to 1e -ar ahead o- us. Thin= o- the te,hni,al ad.an,es on our world o.er Just the last -ew
,enturies. Dhat is -or us te,hnologi,ally di--i,ult or im/ossi1le, what might seem to us li=e
magi,, might -or them 1e tri.ially easy. They might use other, .ery ad.an,ed means to
,ommuni,ate with their /eers, 1ut they would =now a1out radio as an a//roa,h to newly
emerging ,i.iliCations. E.en with no more than our le.el o- te,hnology at the transmitting and
re,ei.ing ends, we ,ould ,ommuni,ate today a,ross mu,h o- the >ala3y. They should 1e a1le
to do mu,h 1etter.
- they e3ist.
$ut our -ear o- the dar= re1els. The idea o- alien 1eings trou1les us. De ,onJure u/ o1Je,tionsE
BtAs too e3/ensi.e.B $ut, in its -ullest modern te,hnologi,al e3/ression, it ,osts less than one
atta,= heli,o/ter a year.
BDeAll ne.er understand what theyAre saying.B $ut, 1e,ause the message 0is transmitted 1y
radio, we and they must ha.e radio /hysi,s, radio astronomy, and radio te,hnology in
,ommon. The laws o- !ature are the same e.erywhere< so s,ien,e itsel- /ro.ides a means and
language o- ,ommuni,ation e.en 1etween .ery di--erent =inds o- 1eingsH/ro.ided they 1oth
ha.e s,ien,e. Figuring out the message, i- weAre -ortunate enough to re,ei.e one, may 1e
mu,h easier than a,Kuiring it.
Bt would 1e demoraliCing to learn that our s,ien,e is /rimiti.e.B $ut 1y the standards o- the
ne3t -ew ,enturies, at least some o- our /resent s,ien,e will 1e ,onsidered /rimiti.e,
e3traterrestrials or no e3traterrestrials. 2So will some o- our /resent /oliti,s, ethi,s, e,onomi,s,
and religion.4 To go 1eyond /resent s,ien,e is one o-. the ,hie- goals o- s,ien,e. Serious
students are not ,ommonly /lunged into -its o- des/air on turning the /ages o- a te3t1oo=
and dis,o.ering that some -urther to/i, is =nown to the author 1ut not yet to the student.
&sually the students struggle a little, a,Kuire the new =nowledge, and, -ollowing an an,ient
human tradition, ,ontinue to turn the /ages.
BAll through history ad.an,ed ,i.iliCations ha.e ruined ,i.iliCations Just slightly more
1a,=ward.B Certainly. $ut male.olent aliens, should they e3ist, will not dis,o.er our e3isten,e
-rom the -a,t that we listen. The sear,h /rograms only re,ei.e< they do not send.8+
The de1ate is, -or the moment, moot. De are now, on an un/re,edented s,ale, listening -or
radio signals -rom /ossi1le other ,i.iliCations in the de/ths o- s/a,e. Ali.e today is the -irst
generation o- s,ientists to interrogate the dar=ness. Con,ei.a1ly it might also 1e the last
generation 1e-ore ,onta,t is madeHand this the last moment 1e-ore we dis,o.er that
someone in the dar=ness is ,alling out to us.
This Kuest is ,alled the Sear,h -or E3traterrestrial ntelligen,e 2SET4. Let me des,ri1e how -ar
weA.e ,ome.
The -irst SET /rogram was ,arried out 1y Fran= 'ra=e at the !ational Radio Astronomy
O1ser.atory in >reen1an=, Dest %irginia, in ()5:. "e listened to two near1y Sun0li=e stars -or
two wee=s at one /arti,ular -reKuen,y. 2B!ear1yB is a relati.e termE The nearest was (6 light0
yearsH7: trillion milesHaway.4
Almost at the moment 'ra=e /ointed the radio teles,o/e and turned the system on, he /i,=ed
u/ a .ery strong signal. Das it a message -rom alien 1eingsF Then it went away. - the signal
disa//ears, you ,anAt s,rutiniCe it. #ou ,anAt see i-, 1e,ause o- the EarthAs rotation, it mo.es with
the s=y. - itAs not re/eata1le, youA.e learned almost nothing -rom itHit might 1e terrestrial
radio inter-eren,e, or a -ailure o- your am/li-ier or dete,tor . . . or an alien signal. &nre/eata1le
data, no matter how illustrious the s,ientist re/orting them, are not worth mu,h.
Dee=s later, the signal was dete,ted again. t turned out to 1e a military air,ra-t
1road,asting on an unauthoriCed -reKuen,y. 'ra=e re/orted negati.e results. $ut in s,ien,e a
negati.e result is not at all the same thing as a -ailure. "is great a,hie.ement was to show that
modern te,hnology is -ully a1le to listen -or signals -rom hy/otheti,al ,i.iliCations on the
/lanets o- other stars.
Sin,e then thereA.e 1een a num1er o- attem/ts, o-ten on time 1orrowed -rom other radio
teles,o/e o1ser.ing /rograms, and almost ne.er -or longer than a -ew months. ThereA.e 1een
some more -alse alarms, at Ohio State, in Are,i1o, Puerto Ri,o, in Fran,e, Russia, and
elsewhere, 1ut nothing that ,ould /ass muster with the world s,ienti-i, ,ommunity.
Meanwhile, the te,hnology -or dete,tion has 1een getting ,hea/er< the sensiti.ity =ee/s
im/ro.ing< the s,ienti-i, res/e,ta1ility o- SET has ,ontinued to grow< and e.en !ASA and
Congress ha.e 1e,ome a little less a-raid to su//ort it. 'i.erse, ,om/lementary sear,h
strategies are /ossi1le and ne,essary. t was ,lear years ago that i- the trend ,ontinued, the
te,hnology -or a ,om/rehensi.e SET e--ort would e.entually -all within the rea,h e.en o-
/ri.ate organiCations 2or wealthy indi.iduals4< and sooner or later, the go.ernment would 1e
willing to su//ort a maJor /rogram. A-ter 8: years o- wor=, -or some o- us itAs 1een later rather
than sooner. $ut at last the time has ,ome.
The /lanetary so,iety0a non/ro-it mem1ershi/ organiCation that $ru,e Murray, then the
'ire,tor o- 9PL, and -ounded in ()+:His de.oted to /lanetary e3/loration and the sear,h -or
e3traterrestrial li-e. Paul "orowitC, a /hysi,ist at "ar.ard &ni.ersity, had made a num1er o-
im/ortant inno.ations -or SET and was eager to try them out. - we ,ould -ind the money to
get him started, we thought we ,ould ,ontinue to su//ort the /rogram 1y donations -rom our
mem1ers.
n ()+8 Ann 'ruyan and suggested to the -ilmma=er Ste.en S/iel1erg that this was an ideal
/roJe,t -or him to su//ort. $rea=ing with "ollywood tradition, he had in two wildly su,,ess-ul
mo.ies ,on.eyed the idea that e3traterrestrial 1eings might not 1e hostile and dangerous.
S/iel1erg agreed. Dith his initial su//ort through The Planetary So,iety, ProJe,t META 1egan.
META is an a,ronym -or BMega,hannel E3traTerrestrial Assay.B The single -reKuen,y o- 'ra=eAs
-irst system grew to +.; million. $ut ea,h ,hannel, ea,h Bstation,B we tune to has an
e3,e/tionally narrow -reKuen,y range. There are no =nown /ro,esses out among the stars and
gala3ies that ,an generate su,h shar/ radio Blines.B - we /i,= u/ anything -alling into so
narrow a ,hannel, it must, we thin=, 1e a to=en o- intelligen,e and te,hnology.
DhatAs more, the Earth turnsHwhi,h means that any distant radio sour,e will ha.e a siCa1le
a//arent motion, li=e the rising and setting o- the stars. 9ust as the steady tone o- a ,arAs horn
di/s as it dri.es 1y, so any authenti, e3traterrestrial radio sour,e will e3hi1it a steady dri-t in
-reKuen,y due to the EarthAs rotation. n ,ontrast, any sour,e o- radio inter-eren,e at the
EarthAs sur-a,e will 1e rotating at the same s/eed as the META re,ei.er. METAAs listening
-reKuen,ies are ,ontinuously ,hanged to ,om/ensate -or the EarthAs rotation, so that any
narrow01and Signals -rom the s=y will always a//ear in a single ,hannel. $ut any radio
inter-eren,e down here on Earth will gi.e itsel- away 1y ra,ing through adJa,ent ,hannels.
The META radio teles,o/e at "ar.ard, Massa,husetts, is 65 meters 2+; -eet4 in diameter. Ea,h
day, as the Earth rotates the teles,o/e 1eneath the s=y, a swath o- stars narrower than the -ull
moon is swe/t out and e3amined. !e3t day, itAs an adJa,ent swath. O.er a year, all o- the
northern s=y and /art o- the southern is o1ser.ed. An identi,al system, also s/onsored 1y The
Planetary So,iety, is in o/eration Just outside $uenos Aires, Argentina, to e3amine the southern
s=y. So together the two META systems ha.e 1een e3/loring the entire s=y.
The radio teles,o/e, gra.itationally glued to the s/inning Earth, loo=s at any gi.en star -or
a1out two minutes. Then itAs on to the ne3t. +.; million ,hannels sounds li=e a lot, 1ut
remem1er, ea,h ,hannel is .ery narrow. All o- them together ,onstitute only a -ew /arts in
(::,::: o- the a.aila1le radio s/e,trum. So we ha.e to /ar= our +.; million ,hannels
somewhere in the radio s/e,trum -or ea,h year o- o1ser.ation, near some -reKuen,y that an
alien ,i.iliCation, =nowing nothing a1out us, might ne.ertheless ,on,lude weAre listening to.
"ydrogen is 1y -ar the most a1undant =ind o- atom in the &ni.erse. tAs distri1uted in ,louds
and as di--use gas throughout interstellar s/a,e. Dhen it a,Kuires energy, it releases some o- it
1y gi.ing o-- radio wa.es at a /re,ise -reKuen,y o- (;6:.;:*7*(75+ megahertC. 2One hertC
means the ,rest and trough o- a wa.e arri.ing at your dete,tion instrument ea,h se,ond. So
(;6: megahertC means (.;6: 1illion wa.es entering your dete,tor e.ery se,ond. Sin,e the
wa.elength o- light is Just the s/eed o- light di.ided 1y the -reKuen,y o- the wa.e, (;6:
megahertC ,orres/onds to a wa.elength o- 6( ,entimeters.4 Radio astronomers anywhere in
the >ala3y will 1e studying the &ni.erse at (;6: megahertC and ,an anti,i/ate that other
radio astronomers, no matter how di--erent they may loo=, will do the same.
tAs as i- someone told you that thereAs only one station on your home radio setAs -reKuen,y
1and, 1ut that no one =nows its -reKuen,y. Oh yes, one other thingE #our setAs -reKuen,y dial,
=ith its thin mar=er you adJust 1y turning a =no1, ha//ens to rea,h -rom the Earth to the
Moon. To sear,h systemati,ally through this .ast radio s/e,trum, /atiently turning the =no1, is
going to 1e .ery time0,onsuming. #our /ro1lem is to set the dial ,orre,tly -rom the 1eginning,
to ,hoose the right -reKuen,y. - you ,an ,orre,tly guess what -reKuen,ies that e3traterrestrials
are 1road,asting to us onHthe Bmagi,B -reKuen,iesHthen you ,an sa.e yoursel- mu,h time
and trou1le. These are the sorts o- reasons that we -irst listened, as 'ra=e did, at -reKuen,ies
near (;6: megahertC, the hydrogen Bmagi,B -reKuen,y.
"orowitC and ha.e /u1lished detailed results -rom -i.e years o- -ull0time sear,hing with
ProJe,t META and two years o- -ollow0u/. De ,anAt re/ort that we -ound a signal -rom alien
1eings. $ut we did -ind something /uCCling, something that -or me in Kuiet moments, e.ery
now and then, raises goose 1um/sE
O- ,ourse, thereAs a 1a,=ground le.el o- radio noise -rom EarthHradio and tele.ision stations,
air,ra-t, /orta1le tele/hones, near1y and more distant s/a,e,ra-t. Also, as with all radio
re,ei.ers, the longer you wait, the more li=ely it is that thereAll 1e some random -lu,tuation in
the ele,troni,s so strong that it generates a s/urious signal. So we ignore anything that isnAt
mu,h louder than the 1a,=ground.
Any strong narrow01and signal that remains in a single ,hannel we ta=e .ery seriously. As it
logs in the data, META automati,ally tells the human o/erators to /ay attention to ,ertain
signals. O.er -i.e years we made some 5: trillion o1ser.ations at .arious -reKuen,ies, while
e3amining the entire a,,essi1le s=y. A -ew doCen signals sur.i.e the ,ulling. These are
su1Je,ted to -urther s,rutiny, and almost all o- them are reJe,ted0-or e3am/le, 1e,ause an
error has 1een -ound 1y -ault0dete,tion mi,ro/ro,essors that e3amine the signal0dete,tion
mi,ro/ro,essors.
DhatAs le-tHthe strongest ,andidate signals a-ter three sur.eys o- the s=yHare (( Be.ents.B
They satis-y all 1ut one o- our ,riteria -or a genuine alien signal. $ut the one -ailed ,riterion is
su/remely im/ortantE %eri-ia1ility. DeA.e ne.er 1een a1le to -ind any o- them again. De loo=
1a,= at that /art o- the s=y three minutes later and thereAs nothing there. De loo= again the
-ollowing dayE nothing. E3amine it a year later, or se.en years later, and still thereAs nothing.
t seems unli=ely that e.ery signal we get -rom alien ,i.iliCations would turn itsel- o-- a ,ou/le
o- minutes a-ter we 1egin listening, and ne.er re/eat. 2"ow would they =now weAre /aying
attentionF4 $ut, Just /ossi1ly, this is the e--e,t o- twin=ling. Stars twin=le 1e,ause /ar,els o-
tur1ulent air are mo.ing a,ross the line o- sight 1etween the star and us. Sometimes these air
/ar,els a,t as a lens and ,ause the light rays -rom a gi.en star to ,on.erge a little, ma=ing it
momentarily 1righter. Similarly, astronomi,al radio sour,es may also twin=leHowing to ,louds
o- ele,tri,ally ,harged 2or BioniCedB4 gas in the great near0.a,uum 1etween the stars. De
o1ser.e this routinely with /ulsars.
magine a radio signal thatAs a little 1elow the strength that we ,ould otherwise dete,t on
Earth. O,,asionally the signal will 1y ,han,e 1e tem/orarily -o,used, am/li-ied, and 1rought
within the dete,ta1ility range o- our radio teles,o/es. The interesting thing is that the li-etimes
o- su,h 1rightening, /redi,ted -rom the /hysi,s o- the interstellar gas, are a -ew minutesHand
the ,han,e o- rea,Kuiring the signal is small. De should really 1e /ointing steadily at these
,oordinates in the s=y, wat,hing them -or months.
'es/ite the -a,t that none o- these signals re/eats, thereAs an additional -a,t a1out them that,
e.ery time thin= a1out it, sends a ,hill down my s/ineE + o- the (( 1est ,andidate signals lie
in or near the /lane o- the Mil=y Day >ala3y. The -i.e strongest are in the ,onstellations
Cassio/eia, Mono,eros, "ydra, and two in SagittariusHin the a//ro3imate dire,tion o- the
,enter o- the >ala3y. The Mil=y Day is a -lat, wheel0li=e ,olle,tion o- gas and dust and stars. ts
-latness is why we see it as a 1and o- di--use light a,ross the night s=y. ThatAs where almost all
the stars in our gala3y are. - our ,andidate signals really were radio inter-eren,e -rom Earth or
some undete,ted glit,h in the dete,tion ele,troni,s, we shouldnAt see them /re-erentially when
weAre /ointing at the Mil=y Day.
$ut may1e we had an es/e,ially unlu,=y and misleading run o- statisti,s. The /ro1a1ility that
this ,orrelation with the gala,ti, /lane is due merely to ,han,e is less than hal- a /er,ent.
magine a wall0siCe ma/ o- the s=y, ranging -rom the !orth Star at the to/ to the -ainter stars
toward whi,h the EarthAs south /ole /oints at the 1ottom. Sna=ing a,ross this wall ma/ are the
irregular 1oundaries o- the Mil=y Day. !ow su//ose that you were 1lind-olded and as=ed to
throw -i.e darts at random at the ma/ 2with mu,h o- the southern s=y, ina,,essi1le -rom
Massa,husetts, de,lared o-- limits4. #ouAd ha.e to throw the set o- -i.e darts more than 6::
times 1e-ore, 1y a,,ident, you got them to -all as ,losely within the /re,in,ts o- the Mil=y Day
as the -i.e strongest META signals did. Dithout re/eata1le signals, though, thereAs no way we
,an ,on,lude that weA.e a,tually -ound e3traterrestrial intelligen,e.
Or may1e the e.ents weA.e -ound are ,aused 1y some new =ind o- astro/hysi,al /henomenon,
something that no1ody has thought o- yet, 1y whi,h not ,i.iliCations, 1ut stars or gas ,louds
2or something4 that do lie in the /lane o- the Mil=y Day emit strong signals in 1a--lingly
narrow -reKuen,y 1ands.
LetAs /ermit oursel.es, though, a moment o- e3tra.agant s/e,ulation. LetAs imagine that all our
sur.i.ing e.ents are in -a,t due to radio 1ea,ons o- other ,i.iliCations. Then we ,an estimateH
-rom how little time weA.e s/ent wat,hing ea,h /ie,e o- s=yHhow many su,h transmitters
there are in the entire Mil=y Day. The answer is something a//roa,hing a million. - randomly
strewn through s/a,e, the nearest o- them would 1e a -ew hundred light years away, too -ar
-or them to ha.e /i,=ed u/ our own T% or radar signals yet. They would not =now -or another
-ew ,enturies that a te,hni,al ,i.iliCation has emerged on Earth. The >ala3y would 1e /ulsing
with li-e and intelligen,e, 1utHunless theyAre 1usily e3/loring huge num1ers o- o1s,ure star
systemsHwholly o1li.ious o- what has 1een ha//ening down here lately. A -ew ,enturies -rom
now, a-ter they do hear -rom us, things might get .ery interesting. Fortunately, weAd ha.e
many generations to /re/are.
-, on the other hand, none o- our ,andidate signals is an authenti, alien radio 1ea,on, then
weAre -or,ed to the ,on,lusion that .ery -ew ,i.iliCations are 1road,asting, may1e none, at
least at our magi, -reKuen,ies and strongly enough -or us to hearE
Consider a ,i.iliCation li=e our own, 1ut whi,h dedi,ated all its a.aila1le /ower 2a1out (:
trillion watts4 to 1road,asting a 1ea,on signal at one o- our magi, -reKuen,ies and to all
dire,tions in s/a,e. The META results would then im/ly that there are no su,h ,i.iliCations out
to 6* light0yearsHa .olume that en,om/asses /erha/s a doCen Sun0li=e stars. This is not a
.ery stringent limit. -, in ,ontrast, that ,i.iliCation were 1road,asting dire,tly at our /osition in
s/a,e, using an antenna no more ad.an,ed than the Are,i1o O1ser.atory, then i- META has
-ound nothing, it -ollows that there are no su,h ,i.iliCations anywhere in the Mil=y Day >ala3y
Hout o- ;:: 1illion stars, not one. $ut e.en assuming they would want to, how would they
=now to transmit in our dire,tionF
!ow ,onsider, at the o//osite te,hnologi,al e3treme, a .ery ad.an,ed ,i.iliCation
omnidire,tionally and e3tra.agantly 1road,asting at a /ower le.el (: trillion times greater
2(:65 watts, the entire energy out/ut o- a star li=e the Sun4. Then, i- the META results are
negati.e, we ,an ,on,lude not only that there are no su,h ,i.iliCations in the Mil=y Day, 1ut
none out to 7: million light0yearsHnone in M8(, the nearest gala3y li=e our own, none in
M88, or the Forna3 system, or M+(, or the Dhirl/ool !e1ula, or Centaurus A, or the %irgo
,luster o- gala3ies, or the nearest Sey-ert gala3ies< none among any o- the hundred trillion
stars in thousands o- near1y gala3ies. Sta=e through its heart or not, the geo,entri, ,on,eit
stirs again.
O- ,ourse, it might 1e a to=en not o- intelligen,e 1ut o- stu/idity to /our so mu,h energy into
interstellar 2and intergala,ti,4 ,ommuni,ation. Perha/s they ha.e good reasons not to hail all
,omers. Or /erha/s they donAt ,are a1out ,i.iliCations as 1a,=ward as we are. $ut stillHnot
one ,i.iliCation in a hundred trillion stars 1road,asting with su,h /ower on su,h a -reKuen,yF
- the META results are negati.e, we ha.e set an instru,ti.e limitH1ut whether on the
a1undan,e o- .ery ad.an,ed ,i.iliCations or their ,ommuni,ations strategy we ha.e no way o-
=nowing. E.en i- META has -ound nothing, a 1road middle range remains o/enHo- a1undant
,i.iliCations, more ad.an,ed than we and 1road,asting omnidire,tionally at magi, -reKuen,ies.
De would not ha.e heard -rom them yet.
On O,to1er (6, ())6Haus/i,iously or otherwise the *::th anni.ersary o- the Bdis,o.eryB o-
Ameri,a 1y Christo/her Colum1usH!ASA turned on its new SET /rogram. At a radio
teles,o/e in the MoJa.e 'esert, a sear,h was initiated intended to ,o.er the entire s=y
systemati,allyHli=e META, ma=ing no guesses a1out whi,h stars are more li=ely, 1ut greatly
e3/anding the -reKuen,y ,o.erage. At the Are,i1o O1ser.atory, an e.en more sensiti.e !ASA
study 1egan that ,on,entrated on /romising near1y star systems. Dhen -ully o/erational, the
!ASA sear,hes would ha.e 1een a1le to dete,t mu,h -ainter signals than META, and loo= -or
=inds o- signals that META ,ould not.
The META e3/erien,e re.eals a thi,=et o- 1a,=ground stati, and radio inter-eren,e.
Qui,= reo1ser.ation and ,on-irmation o- the signalHs/e,ially at other, inde/endent radio
teles,o/esHis the =ey to 1eing sure. "orowitC and ga.e !ASA s,ientists the ,oordinates o-
our -leeting and enigmati, e.ents. Perha/s they would 1e a1le to ,on-irm and ,lari-y our
results. The !ASA /rogram was also de.elo/ing new te,hnology, stimulating ideas, and
e3,iting s,hool,hildren. n the eyes o- many it was well worth the W(: million a year 1eing
s/ent on it. $ut almost e3a,tly a year a-ter authoriCing it, Congress /ulled the /lug on !ASAAs
SET /rogram. t ,ost too mu,h, they said. The /ost0Cold Dar &.S. de-ense 1udget is some
8:,::: times larger.
The ,hie- argument o- the /rin,i/al o//onent o- the !ASA SET /rogramHSenator
Ri,hard $ryan o- !e.adaHwas this R-rom the Congressional Re,ord -or Se/tem1er 66, ())8SE
So -ar, the !ASA SET Program has -ound nothing. n -a,t, all the de,ades o- SET resear,h ha.e
-ound no ,on-irma1le signs o- e3traterrestrial li-e.
E.en with the ,urrent !ASA .ersion o- SET, do not thin= many o- its s,ientists would 1e
willing to guarantee that we are li=ely to see any tangi1le results in the R-oreseea1leS -uture . . .
S,ienti-i, resear,h rarely, i- e.er, o--ers guarantees o- su,,essHand understand thatH
and the -ull 1ene-its o- su,h resear,h are o-ten un=nown until .ery late in the /ro,ess. And
a,,e/t that, as well.
n the ,ase o- SET, howe.er, the ,han,es o- su,,ess are so remote, and the li=ely 1ene-its o-
the /rogram are so limited, that there is little Justi-i,ation -or (6 million ta3/ayer dollars to 1e
e3/ended -or this /rogram.
$ut how, 1e-ore we ha.e -ound e3traterrestrial intelligen,e, ,an we BguaranteeB that we will
-ind itF "ow, on the other hand, ,an we =now that the ,han,es o- su,,ess are BremoteBF And i-
we -ind e3traterrestrial intelligen,e, are the 1ene-its really li=ely to 1e Bso limitedBF As in all
great e3/loratory .entures, we do not =now what we will -ind and we donAt =now the
/ro1a1ility o- -inding it. - we did, we would not ha.e to loo=.
SET is one o- those sear,h /rograms irritating to those who want well0de-ined ,ost@1ene-it
ratios. Dhether ET ,an 1e -ound< how long it would ta=e to -ind it< and what it would ,ost to
do so are all un=nown. The 1ene-its might 1e enormous, 1ut we ,anAt really 1e sure o- that
either. t would o- ,ourse 1e -oolish to s/end a maJor -ra,tion o- the national treasure on su,h
.entures, 1ut wonder i- ,i.iliCations ,annot 1e ,ali1rated 1y whether they /ay some attention
to trying to sol.e the great /ro1lems.
'es/ite these set1a,=s, a dedi,ated 1and o- s,ientists and engineers, ,entered at the SET
nstitute in Palo Alto, Cali-ornia, has de,ided to go ahead, go.ernment or no go.ernment.
!ASA has gi.en them /ermission to use the eKui/ment already /aid -or< ,a/tains o- the
ele,troni,s industry ha.e donated a -ew million dollars< at least one a//ro/riate radio
teles,o/e is a.aila1le< and the initial stages o- this grandest o- all SET /rograms is on tra,=. -
it ,an demonstrate that a use-ul s=y sur.ey is /ossi1le without 1eing swam/ed 1y 1a,=ground
noiseHand es/e,ially i-, as is .ery li=ely -rom the META e3/erien,e, there are une3/lained
,andidate signals0/erha/s Congress will ,hange its mind on,e more and -und the /roJe,t.
Meanwhile, Paul "orowitC has ,ome u/ with a new /rogramHdi--erent -rom META, di--erent
-rom what !ASA was doingH,alled $ETA. $ETA stands -or B$illion0,hannel E3traTerrestrial
Assay.B t ,om1ines narrow01and sensiti.ity, wide -reKuen,y ,o.erage, and a ,le.er way to
.eri-y signals as theyAre dete,ted. - The Planetary So,iety ,an -ind the additional su//ort, this
systemHmu,h ,hea/er than the -ormer !ASA /rogramHshould 1e on the air soon.
Dould i li=e to 1elie.e that with META weA.e dete,ted transmissions -rom other ,i.iliCations
out there in the dar=, s/rin=led through the .ast Mil=y Day >ala3yF #ou 1et. A-ter de,ades o-
wondering and studying this /ro1lem, o- ,ourse would. To me, su,h a dis,o.ery would 1e
thrilling. t would ,hange e.erything. De would 1e hearing -rom other 1eings, inde/endently
e.ol.ed o.er 1illions o- years, .iewing the &ni.erse /erha/s .ery di--erently, /ro1a1ly mu,h
smarter, ,ertainly not human. "ow mu,h do they =now that we donAtF
For me, no signals, no one ,alling out to us is a de/ressing /ros/e,t. BCom/lete silen,e,B said
9ean09a,Kues Rousseau in a di--erent ,onte3t, Bindu,es melan,holy< it is an image o- death.B
$ut Am with "enry 'a.id ThoreauE BDhy should -eel lonelyF s not our /lanet in the Mil=y
DayFB
The realiCation that su,h 1eings e3ist and that, as the e.olutionary /ro,ess reKuires, they must
1e .ery di--erent -rom us, would ha.e a stri=ing im/li,ationE Dhate.er di--eren,es di.ide us
down here on Earth are tri.ial ,om/ared to the di--eren,es 1etween any o- us and any o-
them. May1e itAs a long shot, 1ut the dis,o.ery o- e3traterrestrial intelligen,e might /lay a role
in uni-ying our sKua11ling and di.ided /lanet. t would 1e the last o- the >reat 'emotions, a
rite o- /assage -or our s/e,ies and a trans-orming e.ent in the an,ient Kuest to dis,o.er our
/la,e in the &ni.erse.
n our -as,ination with SET, we might 1e tem/ted, e.en without good e.iden,e, to su,,um1
to 1elie- 1ut this would 1e sel-0indulgent and -oolish. De must surrender our s=e/ti,ism only
in the -a,e o- ro,=0solid e.iden,e. S,ien,e demands a toleran,e -or am1iguity. Dhere we are
ignorant, we withhold 1elie-. Dhate.er annoyan,e the un,ertainty engenders ser.es a higher
/ur/oseE t dri.es us to a,,umulate 1etter data. This attitude is the di--eren,e 1etween s,ien,e
and so mu,h else. S,ien,e o--ers little in the way o- ,hea/ thrills. The standards o- e.iden,e are
stri,t. $ut when -ollowed they allow us to see -ar, illuminating e.en a great dar=ness.
Cha$ter 21+ To the S"yA
The stairs o- the s=y are let down -or him that he may as,end thereon to hea.en. O gods, /ut your arms under
the =ingE raise him, li-t him to the s=y. To the s=yG To the s=yG
H"#M! FOR A 'EA' P"ARAO" 2E>#PT, CA. 65:: $.C.4
Dhen my grand/arents were ,hildren, the ele,tri, light, the automo1ile, the air/lane, and the
radio were Stu/e-ying te,hnologi,al ad.an,es, the wonders o- the age. #ou might hear wild
stories a1out them, 1ut you ,ould not -ind a single e3em/lar in that little .illage in Austria0
"ungary, near the 1an=s o- the ri.er $ug. $ut in that same time, around the turn o- the last
,entury, there were two men who -oresaw other, -ar more am1itious, in.entionsHIonstantin
Tsiol=o.s=y, the theoreti,ian, a nearly dea- s,hooltea,her in the o1s,ure Russian town o-
Ialuga, and Ro1ert >oddard, the engineer, a /ro-essor at an eKually o1s,ure Ameri,an ,ollege
in Massa,husetts. They dreamt o- using ro,=ets to Journey to the /lanets and the stars. Ste/ 1y
ste/, they wor=ed out the -undamental /hysi,s and many o- the details. >radually, their
ma,hines too= sha/e. &ltimately, their dream /ro.ed in-e,tious.
n their time, the .ery idea was ,onsidered disre/uta1le, or e.en a sym/tom o- some o1s,ure
derangement. >oddard -ound that merely mentioning a .oyage to other worlds su1Je,ted him
to ridi,ule, and he dared not /u1lish or e.en dis,uss in /u1li, his long0term .ision o- -lights to
the stars. As teenagers, 1oth had e/i/hanal .isions o- s/a,e-light that ne.er le-t them. B still
ha.e dreams in whi,h -ly u/ to the stars in my ma,hine,B Tsiol=o.s=y wrote in middle age. Bt
is di--i,ult to wor= all on your own -or many years, in ad.erse ,onditions without a gleam o-
ho/e, without any hel/.B Many o- his ,ontem/oraries thought he was truly mad. Those who
=new /hysi,s 1etter than Tsiol=o.s=y and >oddardHin,luding The !ew #or= Times in a
dismissi.e editorial not retra,ted until the e.e o- A/ollo ((Hinsisted that ro,=ets ,ould not
wor= in a .a,uum, that the Moon and the /lanets were -ore.er 1eyond human rea,h.
A generation later, ins/ired 1y Tsiol=o.s=y and >oddard, Dernher .on $raun was ,onstru,ting
the -irst ro,=et ,a/a1le o- rea,hing the edge o- s/a,e, the %06. $ut in one o- those ironies with
whi,h the twentieth ,entury is re/lete, .on $raun was 1uilding it -or the !aCisHas an
instrument o- indis,riminate slaughter o- ,i.ilians, as a B.engean,e wea/onB -or "itler, the
ro,=et -a,tories sta--ed with sla.e la1or, untold human su--ering e3a,ted in the ,onstru,tion o-
e.ery 1ooster, and .on $raun himsel- made an o--i,er in the SS. "e was aiming at the Moon,
he Jo=ed unsel-,ons,iously, 1ut hit London instead.
Another generation later, 1uilding on the wor= o- Tsiol=o.s=y and >oddard, e3tending .on
$raunAs te,hnologi,al genius, we were u/ there in s/a,e, silently ,ir,umna.igating the Earth,
treading the an,ient and desolate lunar sur-a,e. Our ma,hinesHin,reasingly ,om/etent and
autonomousHwere s/reading through the Solar System, dis,o.ering new worlds, e3amining
them ,losely, sear,hing -or li-e, ,om/aring them with Earth.
This is one reason that in the long astronomi,al /ers/e,ti.e there is something truly e/o,hal
a1out BnowBHwhi,h we ,an de-ine as the -ew ,enturies ,entered on the year youAre reading
this 1oo=. And thereAs a se,ond reasonE This is the -irst moment in the history o- our /lanet
when any s/e,ies, 1y its own .oluntary a,tions, has 1e,ome a danger to itsel-Has well as to
.ast num1ers o- others. Let me re,ount the waysE
X DeA.e 1een 1urning -ossil -uels -or hundreds o- thousands o- years. $y the ()5:s, there were
so many o- us 1urning wood, ,oal, oil, and natural gas on so large a s,ale, that s,ientists 1egan
to worry a1out the in,reasing greenhouse e--e,t< the dangers o- glo1al warming 1egan slowly
sli//ing into /u1li, ,ons,iousness.
X CFCs were in.ented in the ()6:s and ()8:s< in ()7; they were dis,o.ered to atta,= the
/rote,ti.e oCone layer. Fi-teen years later a worldwide 1an on their /rodu,tion was going into
e--e,t.
X !u,lear wea/ons were in.ented in ();*. t too= until ()+8 1e-ore the glo1al ,onseKuen,es
o- thermonu,lear war were understood. $y ())6, large num1ers o- warheads were 1eing
dismantled.
X The -irst asteroid was dis,o.ered in (+:(. More or less serious /ro/osals to mo.e them
around were -loated 1eginning in the ()+:s. Re,ognition o- the /otential dangers o- asteroid
de-le,tion te,hnology -ollowed shortly a-ter.
X $iologi,al war-are has 1een with us -or ,enturies, 1ut its deadly mating with mole,ular
1iology has o,,urred only lately.
X De humans ha.e already /re,i/itated e3tin,tions o- s/e,ies on a s,ale un/re,edented sin,e
the end o- the Creta,eous Period. $ut only in the last de,ade has the magnitude o- these
e3tin,tions 1e,ome ,lear, and the /ossi1ility raised that in our ignoran,e o- the interrelations
o- li-e on Earth we may 1e endangering our own -uture.
Loo= at the dates on this list and ,onsider the range o- new te,hnologies ,urrently under
de.elo/ment. s it not li=ely that other dangers o- our own ma=ing are yet to 1e dis,o.ered,
some /erha/s e.en more seriousF
n the littered -ield o- dis,redited sel-0,ongratulatory ,hau.inisms, there is only one that seems
to hold u/, one sense in whi,h we are s/e,ialE 'ue to our own a,tions or ina,tions, and the
misuse o- our te,hnology, we li.e at an e3traordinary moment, -or the Earth at leastHthe -irst
time that a s/e,ies has 1e,ome a1le to wi/e itsel- out. $ut this is also, we may note, the -irst
time that a s/e,ies has 1e,ome a1le to Journey to the /lanets and the stars. The two times,
1rought a1out 1y the same te,hnology, ,oin,ideHa -ew ,enturies in the history o- a ;.*0
1illion0year0old /lanet. - you were somehow dro//ed down on the Earth randomly at any
moment in the /ast 2or -uture4, the ,han,e o- arri.ing at this ,riti,al moment would 1e less
than ( in (: million. Our le.erage on the -uture is high Just now.
t might 1e a -amiliar /rogression, trans/iring on many worldsHa /lanet, newly -ormed,
/la,idly re.ol.es around its star< li-e slowly -orms< a =aleidos,o/i, /ro,ession o- ,reatures
e.ol.es< intelligen,e emerges whi,h, at least u/ to a /oint, ,on-ers enormous sur.i.al .alue<
and then te,hnology is in.ented. t dawns on them that there are su,h things as laws o-
!ature, that these laws ,an 1e re.ealed 1y e3/eriment, and that =nowledge o- these laws ,an
1e made 1oth to sa.e and to ta=e li.es, 1oth on un/re,edented s,ales. S,ien,e, they
re,ogniCe, grants immense /owers. n a -lash, they ,reate world0altering ,ontri.an,es. Some
/lanetary ,i.iliCations see their way through, /la,e limits on what may and what must not 1e
done, and sa-ely /ass through the time o- /erils. Others are not so lu,=y or so /rudent, /erish.
Sin,e, in the long run, e.ery /lanetary so,iety will 1e endangered 1y im/a,ts -rom s/a,e,
e.ery sur.i.ing ,i.iliCation is o1liged to 1e,ome s/a,e-aringH0not 1e,ause o- e3/loratory or
romanti, Ceal, 1ut -or the most /ra,ti,al reason imagina1leE staying ali.e. And on,e youAre out
there in s/a,e -or ,enturies and millennia, mo.ing little worlds around and engineering
/lanets, your s/e,ies has 1een /ried loose -rom its ,radle. - they e3ist, many other ,i.iliCations
will e.entually .enture -ar -rom home.
A means has 1een o--ered o- estimating how /re,arious our ,ir,umstan,es areHremar=a1ly,
without in any way addressing the nature o- the haCards. 9. Ri,hard >ott is an astro/hysi,ist
at Prin,eton &ni.ersity. "e as=s us to ado/t a generaliCed Co/erni,an /rin,i/le, something A.e
des,ri1ed elsewhere as the Prin,i/le o- Medio,rity. Chan,es are that we do not li.e in a truly
e3traordinary time. "ardly anyone e.er did. The /ro1a1ility is high that weAre 1orn, li.e out our
days, and die somewhere in the 1road middle range o- the li-etime o- our s/e,ies 2or
,i.iliCation, or nation4. Almost ,ertainly, >ott says, we do not li.e in -irst or last times. So i- your
s/e,ies is .ery young, it -ollows that itAs unli=ely to last longH1e,ause i- it were to last long,
you 2and the rest o- us ali.e today4 would 1e e3traordinary in li.ing, /ro/ortionally s/ea=ing,
so near the 1eginning.
Dhat then is the /roJe,ted longe.ity o- our s/e,iesF >ott ,on,ludes, at the )7.* /er,ent
,on-iden,e le.el, that there will 1e humans -or no more than + million years. ThatAs his u//er
limit, a1out the same as the a.erage li-etime o- many mammalian s/e,ies. n that ,ase, our
te,hnology neither harms nor hel/s. $ut >ottAs lower limit, with the same ,laimed relia1ility, is
only (6 years. "e will not gi.e you ;:0to0( odds that humans will still 1e around 1y the time
1a1ies now ali.e 1e,ome teenagers. n e.eryday li-e we try .ery hard not to ta=e ris=s so large,
not to 1oard air/lanes, say, with ( ,han,e in ;: o- ,rashing. De will agree to surgery in whi,h
)* /er,ent o- /atients sur.i.e only i- our disease has a greater than * /er,ent ,han,e o- =illing
us. Mere ;:0to0( odds on our s/e,ies sur.i.ing another (6 years Dould 1e, i- .alid, a ,ause -or
su/reme ,on,ern. - >ott is right, not only may we ne.er 1e out among the stars< thereAs a -air
,han,e we may not 1e around long enough e.en to ma=e the -irst -oot-all on another /lanet.
To me, this argument has a strange, .a/orish Kuality. Inowing nothing a1out our s/e,ies
e3,e/t how old it is, we ma=e numeri,al estimates, ,laimed to 1e highly relia1le, a1out its
-uture /ros/e,ts. "owF De go with the winners. Those who ha.e 1een around are li=ely to stay
around. !ew,omers tend to disa//ear. The only assum/tion is the Kuite /lausi1le one that
there is nothing s/e,ial a1out the moment at whi,h we inKuire into the matter. So why is the
argument unsatis-yingF s it Just that we are a//alled 1y its im/li,ationsF
Something li=e the Prin,i/le o- Medio,rity must ha.e .ery 1road a//li,a1ility. $ut we are not
so ignorant as to imagine that e.erything is medio,re. There is something s/e,ial a1out our
timeHnot Just the tem/oral ,hau.inism that those who reside in any e/o,h dou1tless -eel, 1ut
something, as outlined a1o.e, ,learly uniKue and stri,tly rele.ant to our s/e,iesA -uture
,han,esE This is the -irst time that 2a4 our e3/onentiating te,hnology has rea,hed the /re,i/i,e
o- sel-0destru,tion, 1ut also the -irst time that 214 we ,an /ost/one or a.oid destru,tion 1y
going somewhere else, somewhere o-- the Earth.
These two ,lusters o- ,a/a1ilities, 2a4 and 214, ma=e our time e3traordinary in dire,tly
,ontradi,tory waysHwhi,h 1oth 2a4 strengthen and 214 wea=en >ottAs argument. donAt =now
how to /redi,t whether the new destru,ti.e te,hnologies will hasten, more than the new
s/a,e-light te,hnologies will delay, human e3tin,tion. $ut sin,e ne.er 1e-ore ha.e we
,ontri.ed the means o- annihilating oursel.es, and ne.er 1e-ore ha.e w e de.elo/ed the
te,hnology -or settling other worlds, thin= a ,om/elling ,ase ,an 1e made that our time is
e3traordinary /re,isely in the ,onte3t o- >ottAs argument. - this is true, it signi-i,antly in,reases
the margin o- error in su,h estimates o- -uture longe.ity. The worst is worse, and the 1est
1etterE Our short0term /ros/e,ts are e.en 1lea=er andHi- we ,an sur.i.e the short0termHour
long0term ,han,es e.en 1righter than >ott ,al,ulates.
$ut the -ormer is no more ,ause -or des/air than the latter is -or ,om/la,en,y. !othing -or,es
us to 1e /assi.e o1ser.ers, ,lu,=ing in dismay as our destiny ine3ora1ly wor=s itsel- out. - we
,annot Kuite seiCe -ate 1y the ne,=, /erha/s we ,an misdire,t it, or molli-y it, or es,a/e it.
O- ,ourse we must =ee/ our /lanet ha1ita1leHnot on a leisurely times,ale o- ,enturies or
millennia, 1ut urgently, on a times,ale o- de,ades or e.en years. This will in.ol.e ,hanges in
go.ernment, in industry, in ethi,s, in e,onomi,s, and in religion. DeA.e ne.er done su,h a
thing 1e-ore, ,ertainly not on a glo1al s,ale. t may 1e too di--i,ult -or us. 'angerous
te,hnologies may 1e too wides/read. Corru/tion may 1e too /er.asi.e. Too many leaders may
1e -o,used on the short term rather than the long. There may 1e too many Kuarreling ethni,
grou/s, nation0states, and ideologies -or the right =ind o- glo1al ,hange to 1e instituted. De
may 1e too -oolish to /er,ei.e e.en what the real dangers are, or that mu,h o- what we hear
a1out them is determined 1y those with a .ested interest in minimiCing -undamental ,hange.
"owe.er, we humans also ha.e a history o- ma=ing long0lasting so,ial ,hange that nearly
e.eryone thought im/ossi1le. Sin,e our earliest days, weA.e wor=ed not Just -or our own
ad.antage 1ut -or our ,hildren and our grand,hildren. My grand/arents and /arents did so -or
me. De ha.e o-ten, des/ite our di.ersity, des/ite endemi, hatreds, /ulled together to -a,e a
,ommon enemy. De seem, these days, mu,h more willing to re,ogniCe the dangers 1e-ore us
than we were e.en a de,ade ago. The newly re,ogniCed dangers threaten all o- us eKually. !o
one ,an say how it will turn out down here.
The moon was where the tree o- immortality grew in an,ient Chinese myth. The tree o-
longe.ity i- not o- immortality, it seems, indeed grows on other worlds. - we were u/ there
among the /lanets, i- there were sel-0su--i,ient human ,ommunities oil many worlds, our
s/e,ies would 1e insulated -rom ,atastro/he. The de/letion o- the ultra.iolet0a1sor1ing shield
on one world would, i- anything, 1e a warning to ta=e s/e,ial ,are o- the shield on another. A
,ata,lysmi, im/a,t on one world would li=ely lea.e all the others untou,hed. The more o- us
1eyond the Earth, the greater the di.ersity o- worlds we inha1it, the more .aried the /lanetary
engineering, the greater the range o- so,ietal standards and .aluesHthen the sa-er the human
s/e,ies will 1e.
- you grow u/ li.ing underground in a world with a hundredth o- an Earth gra.ity and 1la,=
s=ies through the /ortals, you ha.e a .ery di--erent set o- /er,e/tions, interests, /reJudi,es,
and /redis/ositions than someone who li.es on the sur-a,e o- the home /lanet. Li=ewise i- you
li.e on the sur-a,e o- Mars in the throes o- terra-orming, or %enus, or Titan. This strategyH
1rea=ing u/ into many smaller sel-0/ro/agating grou/s, ea,h with somewhat di--erent
strengths and ,on,erns, 1ut all mar=ed 1y lo,al /rideHhas 1een widely em/loyed in the
e.olution o- li-e on Earth, and 1y our own an,estors in /arti,ular. t may, in -a,t, 1e =ey to
understanding why we humans are the way we are.;: This is the se,ond o- the missing
Justi-i,ations -or a /ermanent human /resen,e in s/a,eE to im/ro.e our ,han,es o- sur.i.ing,
not Just the ,atastro/hes we ,an -oresee, 1ut also the ones we ,annot. >ott also argues that
esta1lishing human ,ommunities on other worlds may o--er us our 1est ,han,e o- 1eating the
odds.
To ta=e out this insuran,e /oli,y is not .ery e3/ensi.e, not on the s,ale on whi,h we do things
on Earth. t would not e.en reKuire dou1ling the s/a,e 1udgets o- the /resent s/a,e-aring
nations 2whi,h, in all ,ases, are only a small -ra,tion o- the military 1udgets and many other
.oluntary e3/enditures that might 1e ,onsidered marginal or e.en -ri.olous4. De ,ould soon
1e setting humans down on near0Earth asteroids and esta1lishing 1ases on Mars. De =now
how to do it, e.en with /resent te,hnology, in less than a human li-etime. And the
te,hnologies will Kui,=ly im/ro.e. De will get 1etter at going into s/a,e.
A serious e--ort to send humans to other worlds is relati.ely so ine3/ensi.e on a /er annum
1asis that it ,annot seriously ,om/ete with urgent so,ial agendas on Earth. - we ta=e this /ath,
streams o- images -rom other worlds will 1e /ouring down on Earth at the s/eed o- light.
%irtual reality will ma=e the ad.enture a,,essi1le to millions o- stay0on0Earths. %i,arious
/arti,i/ation will 1e mu,h more real than at any earlier age o- e3/loration and dis,o.ery. And
the more ,ultures and /eo/le it ins/ires and e3,ites, the more li=ely it will ha//en.
$ut 1y what right, we might as= oursel.es, do we inha1it, alter, and ,onKuer other worldsF -
anyone else were li.ing in the Solar System, this would 1e an im/ortant Kuestion. -, though,
thereAs no one else in this system 1ut us, donAt we ha.e a right to settle itF
O- ,ourse, our e3/loration and homesteading should 1e enlightened 1y a res/e,t -or
/lanetary en.ironments and the s,ienti-i, =nowledge they hold. This is sim/le /ruden,e. O-
,ourse, e3/loration and settlement ought to 1e done eKuita1ly and transnationally, 1y
re/resentati.es o- the entire human s/e,ies. Our /ast ,olonial history is not en,ouraging in
these regards< 1ut this time we are not moti.ated 1y gold or s/i,es or sla.es or a Ceal to
,on.ert the heathen to the One True Faith, as were the Euro/ean e3/lorers o- the -i-teenth and
si3teenth ,enturies. ndeed, this is one o- the ,hie- reasons weAre e3/erien,ing su,h
intermittent /rogress, so many -its and starts in the manned s/a,e /rograms o- all nations.
'es/ite all the /ro.in,ialisms ,om/lained a1out early in this 1oo=, here -ind mysel- an
una/ologeti, human ,hau.inist. - there were other li-e in this solar system, it would 1e in
imminent danger 1e,ause the humans are ,oming. n su,h a ,ase, might e.en 1e /ersuaded
that sa-eguarding our s/e,ies 1y settling ,ertain other worlds is o--set, in /art at least, 1y the
danger we would /ose to e.ery1ody else. $ut as nearly as we ,an tell, so -ar at least, there is
no other li-e in this system, not one mi,ro1e. ThereAs only Earthli-e.
n that ,ase, on 1ehal- o- Earthli-e, urge that, with -ull =nowledge o- our limitations, we .astly
in,rease our =nowledge o- the Solar System and then 1egin to settle other worlds.
These are the missing /ra,ti,al argumentsE sa-eguarding Athe Earth -rom otherwise ine.ita1le
,atastro/hi, im/a,ts and hedging our 1ets on the many other threats, =nown and un=nown,
to the en.ironment that sustains us. Dithout these arguments, a ,om/elling ,ase -or sending
humans to Mars and elsewhere might 1e la,=ing. $ut with themHand the 1uttressing
arguments in.ol.ing s,ien,e, edu,ation, /ers/e,ti.e, and ho/eH thin= a strong ,ase ,an 1e
made. - our long0term sur.i.al is at sta=e, we ha.e a 1asi, res/onsi1ility to our s/e,ies .enture
to other worlds.
Sailors on a 1e,almed sea, we sense the stirring o- a 1reeCe.
Cha$ter 22+ Ti$toeing thro/gh the !i"y #ay
swear 1y the shelters o- the stars 2a mighty oath, i- you 1ut =new it4 . . .
HT"E Q&RAA!, S&RA *5 27T" CE!T&R#4
O- ,ourse, it is strange to inha1it the earth no longer,
to gi.e u/ ,ustoms one 1arely had time to learn . . .
HRA!ER MARA RLIE, BT"E FRST ELE>#B 2()684
The /ros/e,t o- s,aling hea.en, o- as,ending to the s=y, o- altering other worlds to suit our
/ur/osesHno matter how well intentioned we may 1eHsets the warning -lags -lyingE De
remem1er the human in,lination toward o.erweening /ride< we re,all our -alli1ility and
misJudgments when /resented with /ower-ul new te,hnologies. De re,olle,t the story o- the
Tower o- $a1el, a 1uilding Bwhose to/ may rea,h unto hea.en,B and >odAs -ear .shout our
s/e,ies, that now Bnothing will 1e restrained -rom them whi,h they ha.e imagined to do.B
De ,ome u/on Psalm (*, whi,h sta=es a di.ine ,laim to other worldsE BThe hea.ens are the
LordAs, 1ut the Earth lath he gi.en to the ,hildren o- men.B Or PlatoAs retelling o- the >ree=
analogue o- $a1elHthe tale o- Otys and E/hialtes. They were mortals who Bdared to s,ale
hea.en.B The gods were -a,ed with a ,hoi,e. Should they =ill the u/start humans Band
annihilate RtheirS ra,e with thunder1oltsBF On the one $and, Bthis would 1e the end o- the
sa,ri-i,es and worshi/ whi,h mien o--eredB the gods and whi,h gods ,ra.ed. B$ut, on the other
hand, the gods ,ould not su--er Rsu,hS insolen,e to 1e unrestrained.AA
-, in the long term, though, we ha.e no alternati.e, i- our ,hoi,e really is many worlds or none,
we are in need o- other sorts o- myths o- en,ouragement. They e3ist. Many religions, -rom
"induism to >nosti, Christianity to Mormon do,trine, tea,h thatHas im/ious as it may sound
Hit is the goal o- humans to 1e,ome gods. Or ,onsider a story in the 9ewish Talmud le-t out o-
the $oo= o- >enesis. 2t is in dou1t-ul a,,ord with the a,,ount o- the a//le, the Tree o-
Inowledge, the Fall, and the e3/ulsion -rom Eden.4 n the >arden, >od tells E.e and Adam that
"e has intentionally le-t the &ni.erse un-inished. t is the res/onsi1ility o- humans, o.er
,ountless generations, to /arti,i/ate with >od in a BgloriousB e3/erimentHB ,om/leting the
Creation.B
The 1urden o- su,h a res/onsi1ility is hea.y, es/e,ially on so wea= and im/er-e,t a s/e,ies as
ours, one with so unha//y a history. !othing remotely li=e B,om/letionB ,an 1e attem/ted
without .astly more =nowledge than we ha.e today. $ut /erha/s, i- our .ery e3isten,e is at
sta=e, we will -ind oursel.es A1le to rise to this su/reme ,hallenge.
Although he did not Kuite use any o- the arguments o- the /re,eding ,ha/ter, it was Ro1ert
>oddardAs intuition that Bthe na.igation o- inter/lanetary s/a,e must 1e e--e,ted to ensure the
,ontinuan,e o- the ra,e.B Ionstantin Tsiol=o.s=y made a similar JudgmentE
There are ,ountless /lanets, li=e many island Earths . . . Man o,,u/ies one o- them. $ut why
,ould he not a.ail himsel- o- others, and o- the might o- num1erless sunsF . . . Dhen the Sun
has e3hausted its energy, it would 1e logi,al to lea.e it and loo= -or another, newly =indled,
star still in its /rime.
This might 1e done earlier, he suggested, long 1e-ore the Sun dies, B1y ad.enturous souls
see=ing -resh worlds to ,onKuer.B
$ut as rethin= this whole argument, Am trou1led. s it too mu,h $u,= RogersF 'oes it
demand an a1surd ,on-iden,e in -uture te,hnologyF 'oes it ignore my own admonitions
a1out human -alli1ilityF Surely in the short term itAs 1iased against te,hnologi,ally less0
de.elo/ed nations. Are there no /ra,ti,al alternati.es that a.oid these /it-allsF
All our sel-0in-li,ted en.ironmental /ro1lems, all our wea/ons o- mass destru,tion are /rodu,ts
o- s,ien,e and te,hnology. So, you might say, letAs Just 1a,= o-- -rom s,ien,e and te,hnology.
LetAs admit that these tools are sim/ly too hot to handle. LetAs ,reate a sim/ler so,iety, in
whi,h no matter how ,areless or short0sighted we are, weAre in,a/a1le o- altering the
en.ironment on a glo1al or e.en on a regional s,ale. LetAs throttle 1a,= to a minimal,
agri,ulturally intensi.e te,hnology, with stringent ,ontrols on new =nowledge. An
authoritarian theo,ra,y is a tried0and0true way to en-or,e the ,ontrols.
Su,h a world ,ulture is unsta1le, though, in the long run i- not the shortH1e,ause o- the
s/eed o- te,hnologi,al ad.an,e. "uman /ro/ensities -or sel-01etterment, en.y, and
,om/etition will always 1e thro11ing su1sur-a,e< o//ortunities -or short0term, lo,al ad.antage
will sooner or later 1e seiCed. &nless there are se.ere ,onstraints on thought and a,tion, in a
-lash weAll 1e 1a,= to where we are today. So ,ontrolled a so,iety must grant great /owers to
the elite that does the ,ontrolling, in.iting -lagrant a1use and e.entual re1ellion. tAs .ery hard
Hon,e weA.e seen the ri,hes, ,on.enien,es, and li-esa.ing medi,ines that te,hnology o--ersH
to sKuel,h human in.enti.eness and a,Kuisiti.eness. And while su,h a de.olution o- the glo1al
,i.iliCation, were it /ossi1le, might ,on,ei.a1ly address the /ro1lem o- sel-0in-li,ted
te,hnologi,al ,atastro/he, it would also lea.e us de-enseless against e.entual asteroidal and
,ometary im/a,ts.
Or you might imagine throttling 1a,= mu,h -urther, 1a,= to hunter0gatherer so,iety, where we
li.e o-- the natural /rodu,ts o- the land and a1andon e.en agri,ulture. 9a.elin, digging sti,=,
1ow, arrow, and -ire would then 1e te,hnology enough. $ut the Earth ,ould su//ort at the
.ery most a -ew tens o- millions o- hunter0gatherers. "ow ,ould we get down to su,h low
/o/ulation le.els without instigating the .ery ,atastro/hes we are trying to a.oidF $esides, we
hardly =now how to li.e the hunter0gatherer li-e anymoreE DeA.e -orgotten their ,ultures, their
s=ills, their tool0=its. DeA.e =illed o-- almost all o- them, and weA.e destroyed mu,h o- the
en.ironment that sustained them. E3,e/t -or a tiny remnant o- us, we might not 1e a1le, e.en
i- we ga.e it high /riority, to go 1a,=. And again, e.en i- we ,ould return, we would 1e
hel/less 1e-ore the im/a,t ,atastro/he that ine3ora1ly will ,ome.
The alternati.es seem worse than ,ruelE They are ine--e,ti.e. Many o- the dangers we -a,e
indeed arise -rom s,ien,e and te,hnologyH1ut, more -undamentally, 1e,ause we lea.e
1e,ome /ower-ul without 1e,oming ,ommensurately wise. The world0altering /owers that
te,hnology has deli.ered into our hands now reKuire a degree o- ,onsideration and -oresight
that has ne.er 1e-ore 1een as=ed o- us.
S,ien,e ,uts two ways, o- ,ourse< its /rodu,ts ,an 1e used -or 1oth good and e.il. $ut thereAs
no turning 1a,= -rom s,ien,e. The early warnings a1out te,hnologi,al dangers also ,ome -rom
s,ien,e. The solutions may well reKuire more o- us than Just a te,hnologi,al -i3. Many will ha.e
to 1e,ome s,ienti-i,ally literate. De may ha.e to ,hange institutions and 1eha.ior. $ut our
/ro1lems, whate.er their origin, ,annot 1e sol.ed a/art -rom s,ien,e. The te,hnologies that
threaten us and the ,ir,um.ention o- those threats 1oth issue -rom the same -ont. They are
ra,ing ne,= and ne,=.
n ,ontrast, with human so,ieties on se.eral worlds, our /ros/e,ts would 1e -ar more
-a.ora1le. Our /ort-olio would 1e di.ersi-ied. Our eggs would 1e, almost literally, in many
1as=ets. Ea,h so,iety would tend to 1e /roud o- the .irtues o- its world, its /lanetary
engineering, its so,ial ,on.entions, its hereditary /redis/ositions. !e,essarily, ,ultural
di--eren,es would 1e ,herished and e3aggerated. This di.ersity would ser.e as a tool o-
sur.i.al.
Dhen the o-- Earth settlements are 1etter a1le to -end -or themsel.es, they will ha.e e.ery
reason to en,ourage te,hnologi,al ad.an,e, o/enness o- s/irit, and ad.entureHe.en i- those
le-t on Earth are o1liged to /riCe ,aution, -ear new =nowledge, and institute 'ra,onian so,ial
,ontrols. A-ter the -irst -ew sel-0sustaining ,ommunities are esta1lished on other worlds, the
Earthlings might also 1e a1le to rela3 their stri,tures and lighten u/. The humans in s/a,e
would /ro.ide those on Earth with real /rote,tion against rare 1ut ,atastro/hi, ,ollisions 1y
asteroids or ,omets on rogue traJe,tories. O- ,ourse, -or this .ery reason, humans in s/a,e
would hold the u//er hand in any serious dis/ute with those on Earth.
The /ros/e,ts o- su,h a time ,ontrast /ro.o,ati.ely with -ore,asts that the /rogress o- s,ien,e
and te,hnology is now near some asym/toti, limit< that art, literature, and musi, are ne.er to
a//roa,h, mu,h less e3,eed, the heights our s/e,ies has, on o,,asion, already tou,hed< and
that /oliti,al li-e on Earth is a1out to settle into some ro,=0sta1le li1eral demo,rati, world
go.ernment, identi-ied, a-ter "egel, as Bthe end o- history.B Su,h an e3/ansion into s/a,e also
,ontrasts with a di--erent 1ut li=ewise dis,erni1le trend in re,ent timesHtoward
authoritarianism, ,ensorshi/, ethni, hatred, and a dee/ sus/i,ion o- ,uriosity and learning.
nstead, thin= that, a-ter some de1ugging, the settlement o- the Solar System /resages an
o/en0ended era o- daCCling ad.an,es in s,ien,e and te,hnology< ,ultural -lowering< and wide0
ranging e3/eriments, u/ there in the s=y, in go.ernment and so,ial organiCation. n more than
one res/e,t, e3/loring the Solar System and homesteading other worlds ,onstitutes the
1eginning, mu,h more than the end, o- history.
tAs im/ossi1le, -or us humans at least, to loo= into our -uture, ,ertainly not ,enturies ahead.
!o one has e.er done so with any ,onsisten,y and detail. ,ertainly do not imagine that ,an.
ha.e, with some tre/idation, gone as -ar as ha.e to this /oint in the 1oo=, 1e,ause we are
Just re,ogniCing the truly un/re,edented ,hallenges 1rought on 1y our te,hnology. These
,hallenges ha.e, thin=, o,,asional straight-orward im/li,ations, some o- whi,h A.e tried
1rie-ly to lay out. There are also less straight-orward, mu,h longer0term im/li,ations a1out
whi,h Am e.en less ,on-ident. !e.ertheless, Ad li=e to /resent them too -or your
,onsiderationE
E.en when our des,endants are esta1lished on near0Earth asteroids and Mars and the
moons o- the outer Solar System and the Iui/er Comet $elt, it still wonAt 1e entirely sa-e. n
the long run, the Sun may generate stu/endous X0ray and ultra.iolet out1ursts< the Solar
System will enter one o- the .ast interstellar ,louds lur=ing near1y and the /lanets will dar=en
and ,ool< a shower o- deadly ,omets will ,ome roaring out o- the Oort Cloud threatening
,i.iliCations on many adJa,ent worlds< we will re,ogniCe that a near1y star is a1out to 1e,ome
a su/erno.a. n the really long run, the SunHon its way to 1e,oming a red giant starHwill get
1igger and 1righter, the Earth will 1egin to lose its air and water to s/a,e, the soil will ,har, the
o,eans will e.a/orate and 1oil, the ro,=s will .a/oriCe, and our /lanet may e.en 1e swallowed
u/ into the interior o- the Sun.
Far -rom 1eing made -or us, e.entually the Solar System will 1e,ome too dangerous -or us. n
the long run, /utting all our eggs in a single stellar 1as=et, no matter how relia1le the Solar
System has 1een lately, may 1e too ris=y. n the long run, as Tsiol=o.s=y and >oddard long ago
re,ogniCed, we need to lea.e the Solar System.
- thatAs true -or us, you might .ery well as=, why isnAt it true -or othersF And i- it is true -or
others, why arenAt they hereF There are many /ossi1le answers, in,luding the ,ontention that
they ha.e ,ome hereHalthough the e.iden,e -or that is /iti-ully slim. Or there may 1e no one
else out there, 1e,ause they destroy themsel.es, with almost no e3,e/tions, 1e-ore they
a,hie.e interstellar -light< or 1e,ause in a gala3y o- ;:: 1illion suns ours is the -irst te,hni,al
,i.iliCation.
A more li=ely e3/lanation, thin=, issues -rom the sim/le -a,t that s/a,e is .ast and the stars
are -ar a/art. E.en i- there were ,i.iliCations mu,h older and more ad.an,ed than weH
e3/anding out -rom their home worlds, rewor=ing new worlds, and then ,ontinuing onward to
other starsHthey would 1e unli=ely, a,,ording to ,al,ulations /er-ormed 1y Dilliam .
!ewman o- &CLA and me, to 1e here. #et. And 1e,ause the s/eed o- light is -inite, the T% and
radar news that a te,hni,al ,i.iliCation has arisen on some /lanet o- the Sun has not rea,hed
them. #et.
Should o/timisti, estimates /re.ail and one in e.ery million stars shelters a near1y
te,hnologi,al ,i.iliCation, and i- as well theyAre randomly strewn through the Mil=y DayHwere
these /ro.isos to holdHthen the nearest one, we re,all, would 1e a -ew hundred light0years
distantE at the ,losest, may1e (:: lightyears, more li=ely a thousand light0years0and, o- ,ourse,
/erha/s nowhere, no matter how -ar. Su//ose the nearest ,i.iliCation on a /lanet o- another
star is, say, 6:: light0years away. Then, some (*: years -rom now theyAll 1egin to re,ei.e our
-ee1le /ost0Dorld Dar tele.ision and radar emission. Dhat will they ma=e o- itF Dith ea,h
/assing year the signal will get louder, more interesting, /erha/s more alarming. E.entually,
they may res/ondE 1y returning a radio message, or 1y .isiting. n either ,ase, the res/onse will
li=ely 1e limited 1y the -inite .alue o- the s/eed o- light. Dith these wildly un,ertain num1ers,
the answer to our unintentional mid0,entury ,all into the de/ths o- s/a,e will not arri.e until
around the year 68*:. - theyAre -arther away, o- ,ourse, it will ta=e longer< and i- mu,h -arther
away, mu,h longer. The interesting /ossi1ility arises that our -irst re,ei/t o- a message -rom an
alien ,i.iliCation, a message intended -or us 2not Just an all0/oints 1ulletin4, will o,,ur in a time
when we are well situated on many worlds in our solar system and /re/aring to mo.e on.
Dith or without su,h a message, though, we will ha.e reason to ,ontinue outward, see=ing
other solar systems. OrHe.en sa-er in this un/redi,ta1le and .iolent se,tor o- the >ala3yHto
seKuester some o- us in sel-0su--i,ient ha1itations in interstellar s/a,e, -ar -rom the dangers
,onstituted 1y the stars. Su,h a -uture would, thin=, naturally e.ol.e, 1y slow in,rements,
e.en without any grand goal o- interstellar tra.elE
For sa-ety, some ,ommunities may wish to se.er their ties with the rest o- humanityH
unin-luen,ed 1y other so,ieties, other ethi,al ,odes, other te,hnologi,al im/erati.es. n a time
when ,omets and asteroids are 1eing routinely re/ositioned, we will 1e a1le to /o/ulate a
small world and then ,ut it loose. n su,,essi.e generations, as this world s/ed outward, the
Earth would -ade -rom 1right star to /ale dot to in.isi1ility< the Sun would a//ear dimmer,
until it was no more than a .aguely yellow /oint o- light, lost among thousands o- others. The
tra.elers would a//roa,h interstellar night. Some su,h ,ommunities may 1e ,ontent with
o,,asional radio and laser tra--i, with the old home worlds. Others, ,on-ident o- the su/eriority
o- their own sur.i.al ,han,es and wary o- ,ontamination, may try to disa//ear. Perha/s all
,onta,t with them will ultimately 1e lost, their .ery e3isten,e -orgotten.
E.en the resour,es o- a siCa1le asteroid or ,omet are -inite, though, and e.entually more
resour,es must 1e sought elsewhereHes/e,ially water, needed -or drin=, -or a 1reatha1le
o3ygen atmos/here, and -or hydrogen to /ower -usion rea,tors. So in the long run these
,ommunities must migrate -rom world to world, with no lasting loyalty to any. De might ,all it
B/ioneering,B or Bhomesteading.B A less sym/atheti, o1ser.er might des,ri1e it as su,=ing dry
the resour,es o- little world a-ter little world. $ut there are a trillion little worlds in the Oort
Comet Cloud.
Li.ing in small num1ers on a modest ste/mother world -ar -rom the Sun, we will =now that
e.ery s,ra/ o- -ood and e.ery dro/ o- water is de/endent on the smooth o/eration o- a
-arsighted te,hnology< 1ut these ,onditions are not radi,ally unli=e those to whi,h we are
already a,,ustomed. 'igging resour,es out o- the ground and stal=ing /assing resour,es seem
oddly -amiliar, li=e a -orgotten memory o- ,hildhoodE t is, with a -ew signi-i,ant ,hanges, the
strategy o- our hunter0gatherer an,estors. For )).) /er,ent o- the tenure o- humans on Earth,
we li.ed su,h a li-e. 9udging -rom some o- the last sur.i.ing hunter0gatherers Just 1e-ore they
were engul-ed 1y the /resent glo1al ,i.iliCation, we may ha.e 1een relati.ely ha//y. tAs the
=ind o- li-e that -orged us. So a-ter a 1rie-, only /artially su,,ess-ul sedentary e3/eriment, we
may 1e,ome wanderers again0more te,hnologi,al than last time, 1ut e.en then our
te,hnology, stone tools and -ire, was our only hedge against e3tin,tion.
- sa-ety lies in isolation and remoteness, then some o- our des,endants will e.entually
emigrate to the outer ,omets o- the Oort Cloud. Dith a trillion ,ometary nu,lei, ea,h
se/arated -rom the ne3t 1y a1out as mu,h as Mars is -rom Earth, there will 1e a great deal to
do out there.
The outer edge o- the SunAs Oort Cloud is /erha/s hal-way to the nearest star. !ot e.ery other
star has an Oort Cloud, 1ut many /ro1a1ly do. As the Sun /asses near1y stars, our Oort Cloud
will en,ounter, and /artially /ass through, other ,omet ,louds, li=e two swarms o- gnats
inter/enetrating 1ut not ,olliding. To o,,u/y a ,omet o- another star will then 1e not mu,h
more di--i,ult than to o,,u/y one o- our own. From the -rontiers o- some other solar system
the ,hildren o- the 1lue dot may /eer longingly at the mo.ing /oints o- light denoting
su1stantial 2and well0lit4 /lanets. Some ,ommunitiesH-eeling the an,ient human lo.e -or
o,eans and sunlight stirring within themHmay 1egin the long Journey down to the 1right,
warm, and ,lement /lanets o- a new sun.
Other ,ommunities may ,onsider this last strategy a wea=ness. Planets are asso,iated with
natural ,atastro/hes. Planets may ha.e /re0e3isting li-e and intelligen,e. Planets are easy -or
other 1eings to -ind. $etter to remain in the dar=ness. $etter to s/read oursel.es among many
Bsmall and o1s,ure worlds. $etter to stay hidden.
On,e we ,an send our ma,hines and oursel.es -ar -rom home, -ar -rom the /lanetsHon,e we
really enter the theater o- the &ni.erseHwe are 1ound to ,ome u/on /henomena unli=e
anything weA.e e.er en,ountered. "ere are three /ossi1le e3am/lesE
FirstE Starting some **: astronomi,al units 2A&4 outHa1out ten times -arther -rom the Sun
than 9u/iter, and there-ore mu,h more a,,essi1le than the Oort CloudHthereAs something
e3traordinary. 9ust as an ordinary lens -o,uses -ar0o-- images, so does gra.ity. 2>ra.itational
lensing 1y distant stars and gala3ies is now 1eing dete,ted.4 Fi.e hundred -i-ty A& -rom the
SunHonly a year away i- we ,ould tra.el at ( /er,ent the s/eed o- lightHis where the -o,us
1egins 2although when e--e,ts o- the solar ,orona, the halo o- ioniCed gas surrounding the
Sun, are ta=en into a,,ount, the -o,us may 1e ,onsidera1ly -arther out4. There, distant radio
signals are enormously enhan,ed, am/li-ying whis/ers. The magni-i,ation o- distant images
would allow us 2with a modest radio teles,o/e4 to resol.e a ,ontinent at the distan,e o- the
nearest star and the inner Solar System at the distan,e o- the nearest s/iral gala3y. - you are
-ree to roam an imaginary s/heri,al shell at the a//ro/riate -o,al distan,e and ,entered on
the Sun, you are -ree to e3/lore the &ni.erse in stu/endous magni-i,ation, to /eer at it with
un/re,edented ,larity, to ea.esdro/ on the radio signals o- distant ,i.iliCations, i- any, and to
glim/se the earliest e.ents in the history o- the &ni.erse. Alternati.ely, the lens ,ould 1e used
the other way, to am/li-y a .ery modest signal o- ours so it ,ould 1e heard o.er immense
distan,es. There are reasons that draw us to hundreds and thousands o- A&. Other ,i.iliCations
will ha.e their own regions o- gra.itational -o,using, de/ending on the mass and radius o-
their star, some a little ,loser, some a little -arther away than ours. >ra.itational lensing may
ser.e as a ,ommon indu,ement -or ,i.iliCations to e3/lore the regions Just 1eyond the
/lanetary /arts o- their solar systems.
Se,ondE S/end a moment thin=ing a1out 1rown dwar-s, hy/otheti,al .ery low tem/erature
stars, ,onsidera1ly more massi.e than 9u/iter, 1ut ,onsidera1ly less massi.e than the Sun.
!o1ody =nows i- 1rown dwar-s e3ist. Some e3/erts, using nearer stars as gra.itational lenses
to dete,t the /resen,e o- more distant ones, ,laim to ha.e -ound e.iden,e o- 1rown dwar-s.
From the tiny -ra,tion o- the whole s=y that has so -ar 1een o1ser.ed 1y this te,hniKue, an
enormous num1er o- 1rown dwar-s is in-erred. Others disagree. n the ()*:s, it was suggested
1y the astronomer "arlow Sha/ley o- "ar.ard that 1rown dwar-sHhe ,alled them BLilli/utian
starsBHwere inha1ited. "e /i,tured their sur-a,es as warm as a 9une day in Cam1ridge, with
lots o- area. They would 1e stars that humans ,ould sur.i.e on and e3/lore.
ThirdE The /hysi,ists $. 9. Carr and Ste/hen "aw=ing o- Cam1ridge &ni.ersity ha.e shown that
-lu,tuations in the density o- matter in the earliest stages o- the &ni.erse ,ould ha.e
generated a wide .ariety o- small 1la,= holes. Primordial 1la,= holesHi- they e3istHmust
de,ay 1y emitting radiation to s/a,e, a ,onseKuen,e o- the laws o- Kuantum me,hani,s. The
less massi.e the 1la,= hole, the -aster it dissi/ates. Any /rimordial 1la,= hole in the -inal stages
o- de,ay today would ha.e to weigh a1out as mu,h as a mountain. All the smaller ones are
gone. Sin,e the a1undan,eHto say nothing o- the e3isten,eHo- /rimordial 1la,= holes
de/ends on what ha//ened in the earliest moments a-ter the $ig $ang, no one ,an 1e sure
that there are any to 1e -ound< we ,ertainly ,anAt 1e sure that any lie near1y. !ot .ery
restri,ti.e u//er limits on their a1undan,e ha.e 1een set 1y the -ailure so -ar to -ind short
gamma ray /ulses, a ,om/onent o- the "aw=ing radiation.
n a se/arate study, >. E. $rown o- Calte,h and the /ioneering nu,lear /hysi,ist "ans $ethe o-
Cornell suggest that a1out a 1illion non0/rimordial 1la,= holes are strewn through the >ala3y,
generated in the e.olution o- stars. - so, the nearest may 1e only (: or 6: lightyears away.
- there are 1la,= holes within rea,hHwhether theyAre as massi.e as mountains or as starsHwe
will ha.e amaCing /hysi,s to study -irsthand, as well as a -ormida1le new sour,e o- energy. $y
no means do ,laim that 1rown dwar-s or /rimordial 1la,= holes are li=ely within a -ew light0
years, or anywhere. $ut as we enter interstellar s/a,e, it is ine.ita1le that we will stum1le u/on
whole new ,ategories o- wonders and delights, some with trans-orming /ra,ti,al a//li,ations.
do not =now where my train o- argument ends. As more time /asses, attra,ti.e new deniCens
o- the ,osmi, Coo will draw us -arther outward, and in,reasingly im/ro1a1le and deadly
,atastro/hes must ,ome to /ass. The /ro1a1ilities are ,umulati.e. $ut, as time goes on,
te,hnologi,al s/e,ies will also a,,rue greater and greater /owers, -ar sur/assing any we ,an
imagine today. Perha/s, i- we are .ery s=ill-ul 2lu,=y, thin=, wonAt 1e enough4, we will
ultimately s/read -ar -rom home, sailing through the starry ar,hi/elagos o- the .ast Mil=y Day
>ala3y. - we ,ome u/on anyone elseHor, more li=ely, i- they ,ome u/on usHwe will
harmoniously intera,t. Sin,e other s/a,e-aring ,i.iliCations are li=ely to 1e mu,h more
ad.an,ed than we, Kuarrelsome humans in interstellar s/a,e are unli=ely to last long.
E.entually, our -uture may 1e as %oltaire, o- all /eo/le, imaginedE
Sometimes 1y the hel/ o- a sun1eam, and sometimes 1y the ,on.enien,e o- a ,omet, RtheyS
glided -rom s/here to s/here, as a 1ird ho/s -rom 1ough to 1ough. n a .ery little time RtheyS
/osted through the Mil=y Day . . .
De are, e.en now, dis,o.ering .ast num1ers o- gas and dust dis=s around young starsHthe
.ery stru,tures out o- whi,h, in our solar system -our and a hal- 1illion years ago, the Earth and
the other /lanets -ormed. DeAre 1eginning to understand how -ine dust grains slowly grow
into worlds< how 1ig Earthli=e /lanets a,,rete and then Kui,=ly ,a/ture hydrogen and helium
to 1e,ome the hidden ,ores o- gas giants< and how small terrestrial /lanets remain
,om/arati.ely 1are o- atmos/here. De are re,onstru,ting the histories o- worldsHhow mainly
i,es and organi,s ,olle,ted together in the ,hilly outs=irts o- the early Solar System, and mainly
ro,= and metal in the inner regions warmed 1y the young Sun. De ha.e 1egun to re,ogniCe
the dominant role o- early ,ollisions in =no,=ing worlds o.er, gouging huge ,raters and 1asins
in their sur-a,es and interiors, s/inning them u/, ma=ing and o1literating moons, ,reating
rings, ,arrying, it may 1e, whole o,eans down -rom the s=ies, and then de/ositing a .eneer o-
organi, matter as the neat -inishing tou,h in the ,reation o- worlds. De are 1eginning to a//ly
this =nowledge to other systems.
n the ne3t -ew de,ades we ha.e a real ,han,e o- e3amining the layout and something o- the
,om/osition o- many other mature /lanetary systems around near1y stars. De will 1egin to
=now whi,h as/e,ts o- our system are the rule and whi,h the e3,e/tion. Dhat is more
,ommonH/lanets li=e 9u/iter, /lanets li=e !e/tune, or /lanets li=e EarthF Or do all other
systems ha.e 9u/iters and !e/tunes and EarthsF Dhat other ,ategories o- worlds are there,
,urrently un=nown to usF Are all solar systems em1edded in a .ast s/heri,al ,loud o- ,ometsF
Most stars in the s=y are not solitary suns li=e our own, 1ut dou1le or multi/le systems in
whi,h the stars are in mutual or1it. Are there /lanets in su,h systemsF - so, what are they li=eF
-, as we now thin=, /lanetary systems are a routine ,onseKuen,e o- the origin o- suns, ha.e
they -ollowed .ery di--erent e.olutionary /aths elsewhereF Dhat do elderly /lanetary systems,
1illions o- years more e.ol.ed than ours, loo= li=eF n the ne3t -ew ,enturies our =nowledge o-
other systems will 1e,ome in,reasingly ,om/rehensi.e. De will 1egin to =now whi,h to .isit,
whi,h to seed, and whi,h to settle.
magine we ,ould a,,elerate ,ontinuously at ( gHwhat weAre ,om-orta1le with on good old
terra -irmaHto the mid/oint o- our .oyage, and de,elerate ,ontinuously at ( g until we arri.e
at our destination. t would then ta=e a day to get to Mars, a wee= and a hal- to Pluto, a year
to the Oort Cloud, and a -ew years to the nearest stars.
E.en a modest e3tra/olation o- our re,ent ad.an,es in trans/ortation suggests that in only a
-ew ,enturies we will 1e a1le to tra.el ,lose to the s/eed o- light. Perha/s this is ho/elessly
o/timisti,. Perha/s it will really ta=e millennia or more. $ut unless we destroy oursel.es -irst we
will 1e in.enting new te,hnologies as strange to us as %oyager might 1e to our hunter0
gatherer an,estors. E.en today we ,an thin= o- waysH,lumsy, ruinously e3/ensi.e, ine--i,ient
to 1e sureHo- ,onstru,ting a starshi/ that a//roa,hes light s/eed. n time, the designs will
1e,ome more elegant, more a--orda1le, more e--i,ient. The day will ,ome when we o.er,ome
the ne,essity o- Jum/ing -rom ,omet to ,omet. De will 1egin to soar through the light0years
and, as St. Augustine said o- the gods o- the an,ient >ree=s and Romans, ,oloniCe the s=y.
Su,h des,endants may 1e tens or hundreds o- generations remo.ed -rom anyone who e.er
li.ed on the sur-a,e o- a /lanet. Their ,ultures will 1e di--erent, their te,hnologies -ar
ad.an,ed, their languages ,hanged, their asso,iation with ma,hine intelligen,e mu,h more
intimate, /erha/s their .ery a//earan,e mar=edly altered -rom that o- their nearly mythi,al
an,estors who -irst tentati.ely set -orth in the late twentieth ,entury into the sea o- s/a,e. $ut
they will 1e human, at least in large /art< they will 1e /ra,titioners o- high te,hnology< they
will ha.e histori,al re,ords. 'es/ite AugustineAs Judgment on LotAs wi-e, that Bno one who is
1eing sa.ed should long -or what he is lea.ing,B they will not wholly -orget the Earth.
$ut weAre not nearly ready, you may 1e thin=ing. As %oltaire /ut it in his Memnon, Bour little
terraKueous glo1e is the madhouse o- those hundred thousand millions;6 o- worlds.B De, who
,annot e.en /ut our own /lanetary home in order, ri.en with ri.alries and hatreds, des/oiling
our en.ironment, murdering one another through irritation and inattention as well as on
deadly /ur/ose, and moreo.er a s/e,ies that until only re,ently was ,on.in,ed that the
&ni.erse was made -or its sole 1ene-itHare we to .enture out into s/a,e, mo.e worlds,
reengineer /lanets, s/read to neigh1oring star systemsF
do not imagine that it is /re,isely we, with our /resent ,ustoms and so,ial ,on.entions, who
will 1e out there. - we ,ontinue to a,,umulate only /ower and not wisdom, we will surely
destroy oursel.es. Our .ery e3isten,e in that distant time reKuires that we will ha.e ,hanged
our institutions and oursel.es. "ow ,an dare to guess a1out humans in the -ar -utureF t is,
thin=, only a matter o- natural sele,tion. - we 1e,ome e.en slightly more .iolent, shortsighted,
ignorant, and sel-ish than we are now, almost ,ertainly we will ha.e no -uture.
- youAre young, itAs Just /ossi1le that we will 1e ta=ing our -irst ste/s on near0Earth asteroids
and Mars during your li-etime. To s/read out to the moons o- the 9o.ian /lanets and the
Iui/er Comet $elt will ta=e many generations more. The Oort Cloud will reKuire mu,h longer
still. $y the time weAre ready to settle e.en the nearest other /lanetary systems, we will ha.e
,hanged. The sim/le /assage o- so many generations will ha.e ,hanged us. The di--erent
,ir,umstan,es we will 1e li.ing under will ha.e ,hanged us. Prostheses and geneti,
engineering will ha.e ,hanged us. !e,essity will ha.e ,hanged us. DeAre an ada/ta1le s/e,ies.
t will not 1e we who rea,h Al/ha Centauri and the other near1y stars. t will 1e a s/e,ies .ery
li=e us, 1ut with more o- our strengths and -ewer o- our wea=nesses, a s/e,ies returned to
,ir,umstan,es more li=e those -or whi,h it was originally e.ol.ed, more ,on-ident, -arseeing,
,a/a1le, and /rudentHthe sorts o- 1eings we would want to re/resent us in a &ni.erse that,
-or all we =now, is -illed with s/e,ies mu,h older, mu,h more /ower-ul, and .ery di--erent.
The .ast distan,es that se/arate the stars are /ro.idential. $eings and worlds are Kuarantined
-rom one another. The Kuarantine is li-ted only -or those with su--i,ient sel-0=nowledge and
Judgment to ha.e sa-ely tra.eled -rom star to star.
On immense times,ales, in hundreds o- millions to 1illions o- years, the ,enters o- gala3ies
e3/lode. De see, s,attered a,ross dee/ s/a,e, gala3ies with Ba,ti.e nu,lei,B Kuasars, gala3ies
distorted 1y ,ollisions, their s/iral arms disru/ted, star systems 1lasted with radiation or
go11led u/ 1y 1la,= holesHand we gather that on su,h times,ales e.en interstellar s/a,e,
e.en gala3ies may not 1e sa-e.
There is a halo o- dar= matter surrounding the Mil=y Day, e3tending /erha/s hal-way to
the distan,e o- the ne3t s/iral gala3y 2M8( in the ,onstellation Andromeda, whi,h also
,ontains hundreds o- 1illions o- stars4. De do not =now what this dar= matter is, or how it is
arrangedH1ut some;8 o- it may 1e in worlds untethered to indi.idual stars. - so, our
des,endants o- the remote -uture will ha.e an o//ortunity, o.er unimagina1le inter.als o-
time, to 1e,ome esta1lished in intergala,ti, s/a,e, and to ti/toe to other gala3ies.
$ut on the times,ale -or /o/ulating our gala3y, i- not long 1e-ore, we must as=E "ow
immuta1le is this longing -or sa-ety that dri.es us outwardF Dill we one day -eel ,ontent with
the time our s/e,ies has had and our su,,esses, and willingly e3it the ,osmi, stageF Millions o-
years -rom nowH/ro1a1ly mu,h soonerHwe will ha.e made oursel.es into something else.
E.en i- we do nothing intentionally, the natural /ro,ess o- mutation and sele,tion will ha.e
wor=ed our e3tin,tion or e.ol.ed us into some other s/e,ies on Just su,h a times,ale 2i- we
may Judge 1y other mammals4. O.er the ty/i,al li-etime o- a mammalian s/e,ies, e.en i- we
were a1le to tra.el ,lose to the s/eed o- light and were dedi,ated to nothing else, we ,ould
not, thin=, e3/lore e.en a re/resentati.e -ra,tion o- the Mil=y Day >ala3y. ThereAs Just too
mu,h o- it. And 1eyond are a hundred 1illion gala3ies more. Dill our /resent moti.ations
remain un,hanged o.er geologi,al, mu,h less ,osmologi,al, times,alesHwhen we oursel.es
ha.e 1een trans-iguredF n su,h remote e/o,hs, we may dis,o.er outlets -or our am1itions -ar
grander and more worthy than merely /o/ulating an unlimited num1er o- worlds.
Perha/s, some s,ientists ha.e imagined, we will one day ,reate new -orms o- li-e, lin= minds,
,oloniCe stars, re,on-igure gala3ies, or /re.ent, in a near1y .olume o- s/a,e, the e3/ansion o-
the &ni.erse. n a ())8 arti,le in the Journal !u,lear Physi,s, the /hysi,ist Andrei LindeH
,on,ei.a1ly, in a /lay-ul moodHsuggests that la1oratory e3/eriments 2it would ha.e to 1e
Kuite a la1oratory4 to ,reate se/arate, ,losed0o--, e3/anding uni.erses might ultimately 1e
/ossi1le. B"owe.er,B he writes to me, B mysel- do not =now whether Rthis suggestionS is sim/ly
a Jo=e or something else.B n su,h a list o- /roJe,ts -or the -ar -uture, we will ha.e no di--i,ulty
in re,ogniCing a ,ontinuing human am1ition to arrogate /owers on,e ,onsidered godli=eHor,
in that other more en,ouraging meta/hor, to ,om/lete the Creation.
For many /ages now, we ha.e le-t the realm o- /lausi1le ,onJe,ture -or the heady into3i,ation
o- nearly un,onstrained s/e,ulation. t is time to return to our own age.
My grand-ather, 1orn 1e-ore radio wa.es were e.en a la1oratory ,uriosity, almost li.ed to see
the -irst arti-i,ial satellite 1ee/ing down at us -rom s/a,e. There are /eo/le who were 1orn
1e-ore there was su,h a thing as an air/lane, and who in old age saw -our shi/s laun,hed to
the stars. For all our -ailings, des/ite our limitations and -alli1ilities, we humans are ,a/a1le o-
greatness. This is true o- our s,ien,e and some areas o- our te,hnology, o- our art, musi,,
literature, altruism, and ,om/assion, and e.en, on rare o,,asion, o- our state,ra-t. Dhat new
wonders undreamt o- in our time will we ha.e wrought in another generationF And anotherF
"ow -ar will our nomadi, s/e,ies ha.e wandered 1y the end o- the ne3t ,enturyF And the ne3t
millenniumF
Two 1illion years ago our an,estors were mi,ro1es< a hal-1illion years ago, -ish< a hundred
million years ago, something li=e mi,e< ten million years ago, ar1oreal a/es< and a million
years ago, /roto0humans /uCCling out the taming o- -ire. Our e.olutionary lineage is mar=ed
1y mastery o- ,hange. n our time, the /a,e is Kui,=ening.
Dhen we -irst .enture to a near0Earth asteroid, we will ha.e entered a ha1itat that may
engage our s/e,ies -ore.er. The -irst .oyage o- men and women to Mars is the =ey ste/ in
trans-orming us into a multi/lanet s/e,ies. These e.ents are as momentous as the ,oloniCation
o- the land 1y our am/hi1ian an,estors and the des,ent -rom the trees 1y our /rimate
an,estors.
Fish with rudimentary lungs and -ins slightly ada/ted -or wal=ing must ha.e died in great
num1ers 1e-ore esta1lishing a /ermanent -oothold on the land. As the -orests slowly re,eded,
our u/right a/eli=e -ore1ears o-ten s,urried 1a,= into the trees, -leeing the /redators that
stal=ed the sa.annahs. The transitions were /ain-ul, too= millions o- years, and were
im/er,e/ti1le to those in.ol.ed. n our ,ase the transition o,,u/ies only a -ew generations,
and with only a hand-ul o- li.es lost. The /a,e is so swi-t that we are still 1arely a1le to gras/
what is ha//ening.
On,e the -irst ,hildren are 1orn o-- Earth< on,e we ha.e 1ases and homesteads on asteroids,
,omets, moons, and /lanets< on,e weAre li.ing o-- the land and 1ringing u/ new generations
on other worlds, something will ha.e ,hanged -ore.er in human history. $ut inha1iting other
worlds does not im/ly a1andoning this one, any more than the e.olution o- am/hi1ians
meant the end o- -ish. For a .ery long time only a small -ra,tion o- us will 1e out there.
Bn modern Destern so,iety,B writes the s,holar Charles Lindholm,
the erosion o- tradition and the ,olla/se o- a,,e/ted religious 1elie- lea.es us without a telos
Ran end to whi,h we stri.eS, a san,ti-ied notion o- humanityAs /otential. $ere-t o- a sa,red
/roJe,t, we ha.e only a demysti-ied image o- a -rail and -alli1le humanity no longer ,a/a1le o-
1e,oming god0li=e.
1elie.e it is healthyHindeed, essentialHto =ee/ our -railty and -alli1ility -irmly in mind.
worry a1out /eo/le who as/ire to 1e Bgod0li=e.B $ut as -or a long0term goal and a sa,red
/roJe,t, there is one 1e-ore us. On it the .ery sur.i.al o- our s/e,ies de/ends. - we ha.e 1een
lo,=ed and 1olted into a /rison o- the sel-, here is an es,a/e hat,hHsomething worthy,
something .astly larger than oursel.es, a ,ru,ial a,t on 1ehal- o- humanity. Peo/ling other
worlds uni-ies nations and ethni, grou/s, 1inds the generations, and reKuires us to 1e 1oth
smart and wise. t li1erates our nature and, in /art, returns us to our 1eginnings. E.en now, this
new telos is within our gras/.
The /ioneering /sy,hologist Dilliam 9ames ,alled religion a B-eeling o- 1eing at home in the
&ni.erse.B Our tenden,y has 1een, as des,ri1ed in the early ,ha/ters o- this 1oo=, to /retend
that the &ni.erse is how we wish our home would 1e, rather than to re.ise our notion o-
whatAs homey so it em1ra,es the &ni.erse. -, in ,onsidering 9amesA de-inition, we mean the
real &ni.erse, then we ha.e no true religion yet. That is -or another time, when the sting o- the
>reat 'emotions is well 1ehind us, when we are a,,limatiCed to other worlds and they to us,
when we are s/reading outward to the stars.
The Cosmos e3tends, -or all /ra,ti,al /ur/oses, -ore.er. A-ter a 1rie- sedentary hiatus, we are
resuming our an,ient nomadi, way o- li-e. Our remote des,endants, sa-ely arrayed on many
worlds through the Solar System and 1eyond, will 1e uni-ied 1y their ,ommon heritage, 1y
their regard -or their home /lanet, and 1y the =nowledge that, whate.er other li-e may 1e, the
only humans in all the &ni.erse ,ome -rom Earth.
They will gaCe u/ and strain to -ind the 1lue dot in their s=ies. They will lo.e it no less -or its
o1s,urity and -ragility. They will mar.el at how .ulnera1le the re/ository o- all our /otential
on,e was, how /erilous our in-an,y, how hum1le our 1eginnings, how many ri.ers we had to
,ross 1e-ore we -ound our way.

%bo/t the %/thor
CARL SA>A! was the 'a.id 'un,an Pro-essor o- Astronomy and S/a,e S,ien,es and 'ire,tor
o- the La1oratory -or Planetary Studies at Cornell &ni.ersity. "e /layed a leading role in the
Ameri,an s/a,e /rogram sin,e its in,e/tion. "e was a ,onsultant and ad.isor to !ASA sin,e
the ()*:s, 1rie-ed the A/ollo astronauts 1e-ore their -lights to the Moon, and was an
e3/erimenter on the Mariner, %i=ing, %oyager, and >alileo e3/editions to the /lanets. "e
hel/ed sol.e the mysteries o- the high tem/erature o- %enus 2answerE massi.e greenhouse
e--e,t4, the seasonal ,hanges on Mars 2answerE wind1lown dust4, and the reddish haCe o- Titan
2answerE ,om/le3 organi, mole,ules4.
For his wor=, 'r. Sagan re,ei.ed the !ASA medals -or E3,e/tional S,ienti-i, A,hie.ement and
2twi,e4 -or 'istinguished Pu1li, Ser.i,e, as well as the !ASA A/ollo A,hie.ement Award.
Asteroid 67:) Sagan is named a-ter him. "e was also awarded the 9ohn F. Iennedy
Astronauti,s Award o- the Ameri,an Astronauti,al So,iety, the E3/lorers Clu1 7*th Anni.ersary
Award, the Ionstantin Tsiol=o.s=y Medal o- the So.iet Cosmonauts Federation, and the
Masurs=y Award o- the Ameri,an Astronomi,al So,iety 2B-or his e3traordinary ,ontri1utions to
the de.elo/ment o- /lanetary s,ien,e .... As a s,ientist trained in 1oth astronomy and 1iology,
'r. Sagan has made seminal ,ontri1utions to the study o- /lanetary atmos/heres, /lanetary
sur-a,es, the history o- the Earth, and e3o1iology. Many o- the most /rodu,ti.e /lanetary
s,ientists wor=ing today are his /resent and -ormer students and asso,iatesB4.
%c"nowedgements
Most o- the material in this 1oo= is new. A num1er o- ,ha/ters ha.e e.ol.ed -rom arti,les -irst
/u1lished in Parade magaCine, a su//lement to the Sunday editions o- Ameri,an news/a/ers
whi,h, with an estimated +: million readers, may 1e the most widely read magaCine in the
world. am greatly inde1ted to Dalter Anderson, the editor0in0,hie-, and 'a.id Currier, the
e3e,uti.e editor, -or their en,ouragement and editorial wisdom< and to the readers o- Parade,
whose letters ha.e hel/ed me understand where ha.e 1een ,lear, and where o1s,ure, and
how my arguments are re,ei.ed. Portions o- other ,ha/ters ha.e emerged -rom arti,les
/u1lished in ssues in S,ien,e and Te,hnology, 'is,o.er, The Planetary Re/ort, S,ienti-i,
Ameri,an, and Po/ular Me,hani,s.
As/e,ts o- this 1oo= ha.e 1een dis,ussed with a large num1er o- -riends and ,olleagues,
whose ,omments ha.e greatly im/ro.ed it. Although there are too many to list 1y name,
would li=e to e3/ress my real gratitude to all o- them. want es/e,ially, though, to than=
!orman Augustine, Roger $onnet, Freeman 'yson, Louis Friedman, E.erett >i1son, 'aniel
>oldin, 9. Ri,hard >ott , Andrei Linde, 9on Lom1erg, 'a.id Morrison, Roald Sagdee., Ste.en
Soter, Ii/ Throne, and Frederi,= Turner -or their ,omments on all or /art o- the manus,ri/t<
Seth Iau-mann, Peter Thomas, and 9oshua >rins/oon -or their hel/ with ta1les and gra/hs<
and a 1rilliant array o- astronomi,al artists, a,=nowledged at ea,h illustration, who ha.e
/ermitted me to show,ase some o- their wor=. Through the generosity o- Iathy "oyt, Al
M,Ewen, and Larry Soder1lom, A.e 1een a1le to dis/lay some o- the e3,e/tional
/hotomosia,s, air1rush ma/s, and other redu,tions o- !ASA images a,,om/lished at the
$ran,h o- Astrogeology, &.S. >eologi,al Sur.ey.
am inde1ted to Andrea $arnett, Laurel Par=er, 9enni-er $land, Loren Mooney, Iarenn
>o1re,ht, 'e1orah Pearlstein, and the late Eleanor #or= -or their a1le te,hni,al assistan,e< and
to "arry E.ans, Dalter DeintC, Ann >odo--, Iathy Rosen1loom, Andy Car/enter, Martha
S,hwartC, and Alan Ma,Ro1ert on the /rodu,tion end. $eth Tondreau is res/onsi1le -or mu,h
o- the design elegan,e on these /ages.
On matters o- s/a,e /oli,y, ha.e 1ene-ited -rom dis,ussions with other mem1ers o- the
1oard o- dire,tors o- The Planetary So,iety, es/e,ially $ru,e Murray, Louis Friedman, !orman
Augustine, 9oe Ryan, and the late Thomas O. Paine. 'e.oted to the e3/loration o- the Solar
System, the sear,h -or e3traterrestrial li-e, and international missions 1y humans to other
worlds, it is the organiCation that most nearly em1odies the /ers/e,ti.e o- the /resent 1oo=.
Those readers interested in more in-ormation on this non/ro-it organiCation, the largest s/a,e0
interest grou/ on Earth, may ,onta,tE
T"E PLA!ETAR# SOCET#
5* !. Catalina A.enue
Pasadena, CA )((:5
Tel.E (0+::0) DORL'S
As is true o- e.ery 1oo= A.e written sin,e ()77, am more grate-ul than ,an say to Ann
'ruyan -or sear,hing ,riti,ism and -undamental ,ontri1utions 1oth on ,ontent and style. n
the .astness o- s/a,e and the immensity o- time, it is still my Joy to share a /lanet and an
e/o,h with Annie.
?e-erences
Aa -ew ,itations and suggestions -or -urther reading
PLA!ETAR# EXPLORATO! ! >E!ERALE
9. Ielly $eatty and Andrew Chai=en, editors, The !ew Solar System, third edition 2Cam1ridgeE
Cam1ridge &ni.ersity Press, ()):4.
Eri, Chaisson and Ste.e M,Millan, Astronomy Today 2Englewood Cli--s, !9E Prenti,e "all, ())84.
Esther C. >oddard, editor, The Pa/ers o- Ro1ert ". >oddard 2!ew #or=E M,>raw0"ill, ()7:4
2three .olumes4.
Ronald >reeley, Planetary Lands,a/es, se,ond edition 2!ew #or=E Cha/man and "all, ());4.
Dilliam 9. Iau-mann , &ni.erse, -ourth edition 2!ew #or=E D. ". Freeman, ())84.
"arry #. M,Sween, 9r., Stardust to Planets 2!ew #or=E St. MartinAs, ());4.
Ron Miller and Dilliam I. "artmann, The >rand TourE A Tra.elerAs >uide to the Solar System,
re.ised edition 2!ew #or=E Dor=man, ())84.
'a.id Morrison, E3/loring Planetary Dorlds 2!ew #or=E S,ienti-i, Ameri,an $oo=s, ())84.
$ru,e C. Murray, Journey to the Planets 2!ew #or=E D.D. !orton, ()+)4.
9ay M. Pasa,ho--, AstronomyE From Earth to the &ni.erse 2!ew #or=E Saunders, ())84.
Carl Sagan, Cosmos 2!ew #or=E Random "ouse, ()+:4.
Ionstantin Tsiol=o.s=y, The Call o- the Cosmos 2Mos,owE Foreign Languages Pu1lishing "ouse,
()5:4 2English translation4.
C"APTER 8, T"E >REAT 'EMOTO!S
9ohn '. $arron and Fran= 9. Ti/ler, The Anthro/i, Cosmologi,al Prin,i/le 2!ew #or=E O3-ord
&ni.ersity Press, ()+54.
A. Linde, Parti,le Physi,s and n-lationary Cosmology 2"arwood A,ademy Pu1lishers, ())(4.
$. Stewart, BS,ien,e or AnimismF,B Creation @E.olution, .ol. (6, no. ( 2())64, //. (+0().
Ste.en Dein1erg, 'reams o- a Final Theory 2!ew #or=E %intage $oo=s, ());4.
C"APTER ;, A &!%ERSE !OT MA'E FOR &S
$rian A//leyard, &nderstanding the PresentE S,ien,e and the Soul o- Modern Man 2LondonE
Pi,ador@Pan $oo=s Ltd., ())64. Passages Kuoted a//ear, in order, on the -ollowing /agesE 686,
67, 86, (), (), 67, ), 3i., (87, ((60((8, 6:5, (:, 68), +, +.
9. $. $ury, "istory o- the Pa/a,y in the ()th Century 2!ew #or=E S,ho,=en, ()5;4. "ere, as in
many other sour,es, the (+5; Sylla1us is trans,ri1ed into its B/ositi.eB -orm 2e.g., B'i.ine
re.elation is /er-e,tB4 rather than as /art o- a list o- ,ondemned errors 2B'i.ine re.elation is
im/er-e,tB4.
C"APTER *, S T"ERE !TELL>E!T LFE O! EART"F
Carl Sagan, D. R. Thom/son, Ro1ert Carlsson, 'onald >urnett, and Charles "ord, BA Sear,h -or
Li-e on Earth -rom the >alileo S/a,e,ra-t,B !ature, .ol. 85* 2())84, //. 7(*076(.
C"APTER 7, AMO!> T"E MOO!S OF SAT&R!
9onathan Lunine, B'oes Titan "a.e O,eansF,B Ameri,an S,ientist, .ol. +6 2());4, //. (8;0(;;.
Carl Sagan, D. Reid Thom/son, and $ishun !. Ihare, BTitanE A La1oratory -or Pre1iologi,al
Organi, Chemistry,B A,,ounts o- Chemi,al Resear,h, .ol. 6* 2())64, //. 6+506)6.
9. Dilliam S,ho/-, MaJor E.ents in the "istory o- Li-e 2$ostonE 9ones and $artlett, ())64.
C"APTER +, T"E FRST !ED PLA!ET
$ernard Cohen, B>. '. Cassini and the !um1er o- the Planets,B in !ature, E3/eriment and the
S,ien,es, Tre.or Le.ere and D. R. Shea, editors 2'ordre,htE Iluwer, ()):4.
C"APTER ), A! AMERCA! S"P AT T"E FRO!TERS OF T"E SOLAR S#STEM
Murmurs o- Earth, C'0ROM o- the %oyager interstellar re,ord, with introdu,tion 1y Carl Sagan
and Ann 'ruyan 2Los AngelesE Darner !ew Media, ())64, D!M (;:66.
Ale3ander DolsC,Can, BCon-irmation o- Earth0Mass Planets Or1iting the Millise,ond Pulsar PSR
$(6*7P(6,B S,ien,e, .ol. 65; 2());4, //. *8+0*;6.
C"APTER (6, T"E >RO&!' MELTS
Peter Cattermole, %enusE The >eologi,al Sur.ey 2$altimoreE 9ohns "o/=ins &ni.ersity Press,
());4.
Peter Fran,is, %ol,anoesE A Planetary Pers/e,ti.e 2O3-ordE O3-ord &ni.ersity Press, ())84.
C"APTER (8, T"E >FT OF APOLLO
Andrew Chai=in, A Man on the Moon 2!ew #or=E %i=ing, ());4.
Mi,hael Collins, Li-to-- 2!ew #or=E >ro.e Press, ()++4.
'aniel 'eudney, BForging Missiles into S/a,eshi/s,B Dorld Poli,y 9ournal, .ol. 6, no. 6 2S/ring
()+*4, //. 67(08:8.
"arry "urt, For All Man=ind 2!ew #or=E Atlanti, Monthly Press, ()++4.
Ri,hard S. Lewis, The %oyages o- A/olloE The E3/loration o- the Moon 2!ew #or=E Quadrangle,
()7;4.
Dalter A. M,'ougall, The "ea.ens and the EarthE A Politi,al "istory o- the S/a,e Age 2!ew
#or=E $asi, $oo=s, ()+*4.
Alan She/herd, 'e=e Slayton et al., Moonshot 2AtlantaE "y/erion, ());4.
'on E. Dilhelms, To a Ro,=y MoonE A >eologistAs "istory or Lunar E3/loration 2Tu,sonE
&ni.ersity o- AriCona Press, ())84.
C"APTER (;, EXPLOR!> OT"ER DORL'S A!' PROTECT!> T"S O!E
Ie.in D. Ielley, editor, The "ome Planet 2Reading, MAE AddisonDesley, ()++4.
Carl Sagan and Ri,hard Tur,o, A Path Dhere !o Man ThoughtE !u,lear Dinter and the End o-
the Arms Ra,e 2!ew #or=E Random "ouse, ()):4.
Ri,hard Tur,o, Earth &nder SiegeE Air Pollution and >lo1al Change 2!ew #or=E O3-ord
&ni.ersity Press, in /ress4.
C"APTER (*, T"E >ATES OF T"E DO!'ER DORL' OPE!
%i,tor R. $a=er, The Channels o- Mars 2AustinE &ni.ersity o- Te3as Press, ()+64.
Mi,hael ". Carr, The Sur-a,e o- Mars 2!ew "a.enE #ale &ni.ersity Press, ()+(4.
". ". Iie--er, $. M. 9a=os=y, C. D. Snyder, and M. S. Matthews, editors, Mars 2Tu,sonE &ni.ersity
o- AriCona Press, ())64.
9ohn !o1le Dil-ord, Mars $e,=onsE The Mysteries, the Challenges, the E3/e,tations o- Our
!e3t >reat Ad.enture in S/a,e 2!ew #or=E Ino/-, ()):4.
C"APTER (+, T"E MARS" OF CAMAR!A
Clar= R. Cha/man and 'a.id Morrison, Bm/a,ts on the Earth 1y Asteroids and CometsE
Assessing the "aCard,B !ature, .ol. 857 2());4, //. 88;:
A. D. "arris, >. Cana.an, C. Sagan, and S. 9. Ostro, BThe 'e-le,tion 'ilemmaE &se .s. Misuse o-
Te,hnologies -or A.oiding nter/lanetary Collision "aCards,B in "aCards 'ue to Asteroids and
Comets, T. >ehrels, editor 2Tu,sonE &ni.ersity o- AriCona Press, ());4.
9ohn S. Lewis and Ruth A. Lewis, S/a,e Resour,esE $rea=ing the $onds o- Earth 2!ew #or=E
Colum1ia &ni.ersity Press, ()+74.
C. Sagan and S. 9. Ostro, BLong0Range ConseKuen,es o- nter/lanetary Collision "aCards,B
ssues in S,ien,e and Te,hnology 2Summer ());4, //. 57076.
C"APTER (), REMAI!> T"E PLA!ETS
9. '. $ernal, The Dorld, the Flesh, and the 'e.il 2$loomington, !E ndiana &ni.ersity Press,
()5)< -irst edition, ()6)4.
9ames $. Polla,= and Carl Sagan, BPlanetary Engineering,B in 9. Lewis and M. Matthews, editors,
!ear0Earth Resour,es 2Tu,sonE &ni.ersity o- AriCona Press, ())64.
C"APTER 6:, 'ARI!ESS
Fran= 'ra=e and 'a.a So1el, s Anyone Out ThereF 2!ew #or=E 'ela,orte, ())64.
Paul "orowitC and Carl Sagan, BProJe,t METAE A Fi.e0#ear All0S=y !arrow1and Radio Sear,h -or
E3traterrestrial ntelligen,e,B Astro/hysi,al 9ournal, .ol. ;(* 2())64, //. 6(+068*.
Thomas R. M,'onough, The Sear,h -or E3traterrestrial ntelligen,e 2!ew #or=E 9ohn Diley and
Sons, ()+74.
Carl Sagan, Conta,tE A !o.el 2!ew #or=E Simon and S,huster, ()+*4 .
C"APTER 6(, TO T"E SI#G
9. Ri,hard >ott , Bm/li,ations o- the Co/erni,an Prin,i/le -or Our Future Pros/e,ts,B !ature,
.ol. 658 2())84, //. 8(*08().
C"APTER 66, TPTOE!> T"RO&>" T"E MLI# DA#
. A. Craw-ord, Bnterstellar Tra.elE A Re.iew -or Astronomers,B Quarterly 9ournal o- the Royal
Astronomi,al So,iety, .ol. 8( 2()):4, /. 877.
. A. Craw-ord, BS/a,e, Dorld >o.ernment, and UThe End o- "istory,A B9ournal o- the $ritish
nter/lanetary So,iety, .ol. ;5 2())84, //. ;(*0;6:.
Freeman 9. 'yson, The Dorld, the Flesh, and the 'e.il 2LondonE $ir=1e,= College, ()764.
$en R. Finney and Eri, M. 9ones, editors, nterstellar Migration and the "uman E3/erien,e
2$er=eleyE &ni.ersity o- Cali-ornia Press, ()+*4.
Fran,is Fu=uyama, The End o- "istory and the Last Man 2!ew #or=E The Free Press, ())64.
Charles Lindholm, Charisma 2O3-ordE $la,=well, ()):4. The ,omment on the need -or a telos is
in this 1oo=.
Eugene F. Mallo.e and >regory L. Matlo--, The Star-light "and1oo= 2!ew #or=E 9ohn Diley and
Sons, ()+)4.
Carl Sagan and Ann 'ruyan, Comet 2!ew #or=E Random "ouse, ()+*4.
Formatting/Corrections/PDF/Torrent by Dodecahedron (2009).
Share Knowedge. !a"e the #ord a better $ace.