Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in:  Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 16:14 GMT
One-way space trip: Would you sign up?
Ever dreamt of exploring the distant reaches of our galaxy - in a cosmic craft the size of a small city?

Leading scientists at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston have been presenting their ideas on just that prospect.

They say the 200 or so volunteers who went on such a mission would have to realise that they were taking up a one-way ticket and would most probably never live to see the ship's final destination.

But American space agency researcher Dr Geoffrey Landis says the Earth has a finite lifespan - the Sun will eventually burn itself out - and if humans want to carry on they will have to find a new home.

Would you be prepared to boldly go where no man - or woman - has been before? What would you miss most from Earth and what or who would you want to take with you? Do you think more money should be spent on space exploration?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

The sun will burn us up one day so we will have to look at going into space eventually, and now is as good a time as any to start. Also, I think there will be far more advanced forms of life out there than us and it will be exhilarating if we could come across them. Watching an episode of Pop Idol, it's hard to believe that mankind is the pinnacle of evolution.
James Warwick, UK

The challenge is between a thrill, a dream that has captured the human imagination since the dawn of history and being realistic. Being from a third world country, I probably could not afford it and even if I could, would it be correct? So many in my land do not have the basic necessities of life. Money that would make my fantasy trip possible, could make so many lives more meaningful. I would not sign up.
Shantanu Dutta, India

It is therefore in our interests to pursue further exploration

Paul Wheeldon, England
Extinction of a species is most likely where the species is confined to a single geographical area. We all know there are many threats to mankind, mostly but not all manmade. It is therefore in our interests to pursue further exploration. To say it can't be done reminds me of the 15th century saying that the Atlantic couldn't be crossed. As to who will fund this voyage of exploration, well I recall that even Columbas had some difficulties.
Paul Wheeldon, England

Why do so many of you want to use space as some kind of dumping ground for the useless members of our society. This trip is for the very best of our race, not self-serving idiots. I would love to go but I suspect my lazy gene would cut me out. Why is it so fashionable in the UK to scoff at people with vision?
Steve Hodkin, Manchester UK

The idea is stupid and someone has been watching too much Star Trek! The world can be a beautiful place, but this is just a way of denying our problems as a species. Let's get real and sort things out on this planet first!
John, UK

The technology just isn't good enough yet: the best we could do would be a few percent of the speed of light (up to maybe 10%), which would put reasonable destinations reachable in less than a century, however it is likely that within a couple of decades we could improve this (if we really tried) to a speed a good fraction of that of light, which means a ship launched now would arrive to find it had been over-taken and other humans were well established. If however someone can come up with a design that would reach destination within a couple of decades, I'd sign up without a moment's hesitation!
Bernard, UK

The Sun won't burn out for another 5 billion years, which gives us plenty of time to go exploring for new homes. At the present rate of technological advancement it would be fairly foolish to send up a craft within the next (for example) hundred years, only to have it overtaken on it's journey by a faster craft a hundred years later.
Neale, Germany

We'll be wiped out by an extinction event such as an asteroid impact or global flooding long before we can get one of these spaceships off the ground.
Paul B, UK

The "generation starship" concept was already discredited in the seventies. It is ethically dubious in the extreme. (Effectively a death sentence for crew and multiple generations of descendents - none of who get any choice in their predicament.) Technologically it is also pretty weak as in the time it would take for such a vehicle to travel (slowly) to a "nearby" inhabitable star system a much faster technology would surely be developed and deployed. A more practical and likely method could involve some kind of as yet impossible cold-sleep scenario.
Russell, UK

One of the greatest traits of humanity is the desire to reach towards the unknown.

Chuck Schmidt, USA
One of the greatest traits of humanity is the desire to reach towards the unknown. It is inevitable that we go to the stars and there is no reason we should not start now. I would definitely sign up if my wife could come with me. For all of you who have not answered the question and use these posts as a political forum I hope you stay behind. I am getting tired of all the rhetoric.
Chuck Schmidt, USA

It would be quite silly to be enclosed in a capsule and drift in space in search of what? There is enough beauty and adventure you can find right here on earth!
Prakash, US

Travelling to the stars will be the greatest adventure that Homo Sapiens Sapiens has ever embarked upon but there is a serious need for massive research before that becomes a reality. We need to drastically increase our competence in cryogenics, stasis and force fields (anti-matter containment?) terraforming, propulsion, ship-born hydroponics, life support and genetic manipulation if the human race is ever to escape the nest and attain a permanent place amongst the stars. Genetics will play a substantial part in this because, at present, we are limited to our choice of planets/new homes by our physiognomy. If we could survive extremes of gravity and temperature and we had the ability to breathe a whole gamut of gaseous mixtures then, and only then, will we be truly of the universe and not from some provincial little back-water on the edge of a spiral arm. Food for thought?
John Monks, England

I would go, but only if I could take Kylie & my cats!
symonG, UK

I think we need to get our own house in order first.

Rich, UK
Our planet is ravaged with war, disease, famine, indifference and too many other evils to mention. It is a romantic notion to set off into space to look for a new planet for humankind, but I think we need to get our own house in order first. After all, the funding body for NASA are also currently funding the destruction of human life in certain countries. So the long term problem might be that planet Earth cannot sustain us after several million years, but the most immediate problem is that we our destroying ourselves on a daily basis at an alarming rate. Would you worry about dying of old age at some distant point in the future if you knew that in the present your body was being consumed by cancer? Just a thought...
Rich, UK

Everyday I am in a position where I may not live long enough to see final destination. I travel to work by train.
Andrew Cover, UK

I don't think it's the destination, or whether the people would survive the trip, I think it's the fact we, humans, in all our frailty, could, can and will explore by any and all means - from the lone Nomad travelling in a small boat across the oceans, to a small crew taking a one way trip to the stars - which, by the way, are not millions of light years away - the closest star is only a handful away! I'd go, just because we can.
Matt Smith, UK

It doesn't really sound like my cup of tea. However I'd like to take this opportunity to encourage all lawyers, politicians and estate agents to consider this.
Alex Keenleyside, England

They'll all be put in a detention centre and, after a few months, sent home again.

Paul, UK
We all seem to be assuming that there is a planet out there that is habitable and which does not already have an intelligent life form on it. If there is somewhere with oxygen, water, fertile soil etc etc, it will also have animal life, quite possibly intelligent. So the spaceship will arrive with, by now, thousands of people who can't speak the local language, who look different from the residents, who just turn up and say "we're going to live here", who have no money, no family connections ... Sound familiar? They'll all be put in a detention centre and, after a few months, sent home again.
Paul, UK

Let us wait until we invent a warp drive first. It isn't too far-fetched an idea. The cool thing about a warp-drive is that we don't break any rules of physics we know of, including breaking the speed of light. Recent research points out that they are theoretically possible, given the correct materials and sufficient energy. If technology keeps advancing as fast as it does the moment (doubles in sophistication every 10 years, I believe), then we'll have a warp drive sooner than rather than later. The we can then send out probes first, then later on, a manned scout ship. If we can get journey times down to within a human life-span (I am thinking of maximum flight time of a few months) then I'll be up for it.
Mike Wilson, England

It would be fun travelling to the stars, but it wouldn't be viable until the spacecraft can reach at least 60-70% the speed of light. If you send a slow craft at 5-10% light speed, then eventually it would be overtaken by faster spacecraft. Also, by travelling near to the speed of light, some of the people who have boarded may get to see some nearby star systems in their lifetime.

Also, how will people get on with each other on this ship. Its a happy environment on a cruise liner, when everyone knows they are getting off in some nice country, but how will people react if they board a spaceship knowing they will never get off ?
Michael Pala, UK

Yes. My life here on Earth is hell since I got married, maybe with distance it may improve?
Simon, UK

On your arrival you'll be greeted by a sizable human colony

Andrew C, England
Once you've left never to return, humans will invent some way to travel to distant stars extremely fast and on your arrival you'll be greeted by a sizable human colony.
Andrew C, England

I'd love to go, but not yet. Wait till we can have people successfully living on other planets, like mars first. Not to mention finding somewhere to go first. The only planets we know of in other star systems are gas giants. In order to avoid potential inbreeding, we would need genetic manipulation, or large (5,000+ people) ships. Large populations would also help mitigate some of the psychological problems. I don't see any of this happening for a few decades at the earliest. By which time I'll be too old to sign up. Oh well, back to watching sci-fi reruns I guess.
Anthony M, UK

While these people are travelling on their way to another planet, us on earth will be developing faster ways of travel and will probably overtake the old spacecraft before they even reach their final destination. Just imagine it - a couple of chaps on a Sunday afternoon drive around the galaxy, bumping into the slow moving arc of the past. I can see the headlines now: "Time capsule, with 200 people on board, discovered by young intergalactic joy-riders."
Martina, UK

I'd go in a heartbeat. Anything to get away from this increasingly ugly world.
B Roberts, UK

Interstellar travel requires new modalities that are beyond the currently known laws of physics

Stephen Hayes, UK
I have been a sci-fi fan for 30 years, and it is clear that interstellar travel requires new modalities that are beyond the currently known laws of physics such as some kind of hyperspace drive, limitless energy, some kind of inertial damper to prevent your body being crushed by the speed. All of these things are currently just that - science fiction. When contemplating the end of the world and of our own extinction, the Bible is a surer guide and the words of Jesus more comforting than the bizarre idea that we could save ourselves from ultimate doom by travelling to the stars. What chance anyhow of finding another world which could sustain life? None of the other planets in our star system are even marginally habitable.
Stephen Hayes, UK

Stephen Hayes is incorrect - several of the planets and moons of this star system could realistically be inhabited. Take Mars for example - her atmosphere may thin (7mb) and non-breathable (95% CO2) - making sealed suits and buildings necessary - but her gravity (.38g), day length (24.6 hours) and average temperature (-60C) place her conditions well within the bounds of assisted human survival.
Phil, UK

We're all on a one-way trip through life; we might as well make it an interesting trip. In my opinion it is necessary to invest more money in space colonisation since the lifespan of earth and human culture on earth is of a finite nature.
Rik van Riel, Brazil

Think about any children born on such a trip. Those children will never never see the beauty of Earth. That space colony would be all that they would ever know. The choice to die on a doomed space mission would have already been made for them. I can think of few things less cruel than this.
Dominic Eldridge, USA

There is far too much work to be done to conquer our solar system before we can even begin to contemplate interstellar travel

Phil Hall, UK
Speculating about the future of space travel is fascinating and an interesting topic for discussion. But if some scientists are seriously trying to formulate plans for a manned mission between the stars then they are way ahead of their time. As for the finite lifespan of Earth, our descendants of the remote future (by that I mean hundreds of millions of years) will be far better equipped to deal with it than we are. There is far too much work to be done to conquer our solar system before we can even begin to contemplate interstellar travel.
Phil Hall, UK

I wouldn't go myself but I know a few people I would like to sign up...
Carl Meyer, Germany

There aren't enough wild horses to drag me on board, but can I volunteer our present government and their self-generating spin doctors. Imagine the 'fly on the wall' documentary that could be made on this journey. Will Tony's phoney smile pacify the aggressive aliens? Listen in to next week's episode.
David Norris, Scotland

Our descendants will appreciate the head start on deep space exploring

Ellis, New York, NY, USA
For all of those who say we should concentrate on feeding the hungry and poor instead of space exploration, recognise that there will always be poor and hungry people on earth, unless we figure out how to get rid of all the greedy people. I'm sure that hundreds of years from now, our descendants will appreciate the head start on deep space exploring.
Ellis, New York, NY, USA

I don't think, human will survive earth's lifespan. Looking at current political, environmental conditions, I think humans will survive for few more hundred years. I think, this kind of exploration will be waste of money. We should rather send light speed unmanned missions to nearest stars and wait for results back on earth. However I am ready for one way trip to outer space. I think, it will be better out there.
Rajeev Saxena, USA

Yes, I undoubtedly would though I would miss the earth's forests and animals.
John Dry, Canada

I don't think there is anywhere near enough money spent on space exploration. But think a hell of a lot more will need to be spent before such an adventure is undertaken. We should be thinking much closer to home and exploring our own system first and discover the resources it holds. You can count me out. I don't want to be there when the generation of space craft after it overtakes it halfway.
Martin L, Herts UK

While I am interested and curious about space travel, I could not volunteer. This money would be better spent taking care of Africa and Asia's economic, health and feeding their poor. I understand that there will always be the poor, but if I were poor and I saw and heard all about space travel, why would I care?

Lorraine, USA

It would be far wiser to have scientists research and then formulate the very ingredients from which "life" on earth started, including potential "excellerating" ingredients to speed up the initial "life process". Then design a one-way shuttle which would fire out "New Life capsules" at any potential life bearing planets. Vegetation capsules could accompany these.
Saint Lucifa, New Zealand

Before you go gallivanting to the stars for your 15mins, remember what NASA really stands for: Never A Straight Answer!
Paul, England

you guys go , more chicks for me, and less traffic on the 405
tom, USA

I wonder what types of illegal drugs and liquors they would invent along the way? (You know it would happen.) I wonder if any new religions would pop up? What kind of social groups would be created? What kind of dissent may creep up? Would they remain a democratic society? What kind of literature would be produced? How would they elect the historian to keep records? After 50 years, who on earth would be paying any attention? What kind of sexually transmitted diseases would they have trouble with? What kind of entertainment would they find? hmmm if I were an alien I would be worried!
Mike, USA

Let's just replace capital punishment with a journey into deep space.
Woody Chang, USA

I think first we are going to need a central global government that could put order and clean up the mess of our current society. Sort of what is going on with the EU. After that then we could decide on what to invest the Earth's resources.
SV, Mexico/Canada

First put all the lawyers on the ship... Seriously though, it sounds too risky. We need more experience in space travel. Why don't we put a person on Mars first, with an eye towards further travel? Let's Go!
E. Conti, USA

It would be a great way for all the Enron Republicans to avoid the inevitable.
Bob Aldo, USA

Please Paul Harris, please do not forget to send George Bush. The earth would be a much safer place.
Karin Pasnak, Canada

Sounds like a good way to propagate the species. Send Bill Clinton. If their are any other females out there He will find them.
Ray Gurney, USA

In all seriousness the closet stars are millions of light years away, so even if we could go at the speed of light it would still take millions of years to get there...Who would want to throw there life away for something that would probably never finish?
Cam, Canada

If the sun was going to burn out tomorrow, I¿d love a ticket ¿ count me in. But considering its thousands, if not millions, of years until this will occur shouldn¿t we invest our finances into space exploration which is more feasible with less catastrophic consequences? A one way ticket to unexplored space sounds interesting, but I¿d rather invest my airmiles into a journey which guarantees I get back home in time for Eastenders!
Steve, UK

Unless we can make space colonies capable of carrying 10,000 people or more, we shouldn't bother. Anything less will drive the people on board to social insanity or unhealthy inbreeding conditions.
Alexei Bolokovkov, Russia

I'd go as long as no one in the crew is younger than 30. I need to know my peers have enough life experience under their belts to cope.

It WILL happen but in a different form than that proposed. Our creative mind will accumulate knowledge for centuries. And BOOM someone gets the Noble prize for putting the final stone on top of the pyramid. Flying started only 100 years ago, and we have sent man-made devices to the tips of our solar system. Wait less than 100-200 years and may be your grandchildren will sign up.
Mostafa Hussein, Egypt

Everyone would say yes to this on impulse but, after a month on board, if that, people would regret it as their last and most fatal mistake. People cannot make this kind of decision.
Dan Garraway, UK

Not only am I eager to go, but I have the enthusiastic support of nearly all my acquaintances. Really enthusiastic. I wonder what that means.
Robert del Valle, USA

I think those to go on the mission need to be voted in democratically. I nominate Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, John Prescott and Stephen Byers. Who will second that vote ?......
Paul Harris, UK

Can Spock come along?


Remember Sputnik? John Glenn? Albert Einstein? Someone has to be first, and the first time big thinkers reach out, the poets and philosophers get wound up. Later we don't even notice. For example, when was the last Space Shuttle launch? We can only hope that the first colonial mission to other stars will be like that, and afterwards we can get down to the business of exploration.
Tom, Mexico

Space the final frontier - these are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Yeah, I could see myself saying that. Can Spock come along?

It'd be the ultimate "Big Brother" scenario. You'd be analysed 24 hours a day by TV psychologists and the general public. Everything you said and did would be scrutinised to look for signs of "cracking up" or becoming a threat to the mission. You'd have no privacy. There'd be jealousy, envy, bitching, rivalry and all the less welcome human traits. What would happen if we ended up with a "nasty Nick" on board? Are there plans to jettison unsavoury characters? What about mutiny scenarios? Knock everybody out with gas?
Bernard Blundell, UK

Dr.Geoffrey Landis is a complete clot. Current calculations indicate that the sun isn't going to exhaust itself for billions of years. Our species will be extinct long before then and interim space travel technology will almost certainly have moved on to levels of sophistication that nobody alive today can begin to comprehend. Taking 200 people on a journey that could last for several generations has horrific implications. Even if such a trip were otherwise feasible, has anybody considered the fearful results of constant close inbreeding in an isolated community with no means of escape? This isn't science fiction - it's science horror.
Chris B, England

I believe that the greatest threat posed to us is from others of our own kind. Wherever we go in the galaxy or even beyond, that threat will remain and humankind is doomed to (self) destruction no matter what.

Count me in. Beyond 12 miles it's duty free all the way.
Jeff Richards, Belgium

You have to die sometime, why not while exploring the galaxy??
Mary, USA

I would go, hesitantly. The psychological strains could easily be too much to bear if the ship designers put efficiency over comfort. And even with the most pleasant ship imaginable, the trauma of leaving Earth permanently could drive you to depression and suicide. But conversely I would hate to miss out on an opportunity to see space and experience weightlessness. Moreover, every crew member would go down in history, known by people on Earth as well as future planetary settlements. For me that would be compensation enough for abandoning my home planet.
Roger, Canada

For those interested in a technical description of "how to", read Robert L. Forward's "Rocheworld". I was on a US Navy ship (USS Inchon) and saw how irrational a group of guys could get when kept at sea for 35 days. I sure hope the psychs choose wisely.
Pete Swinford, USA

I'd rather be abducted by aliens than trust Nasa.
Mark, UK

I'd go. Period. It would be nice if my wife and kids could come too, because I'm a family person - BUT I'd still go even without them. As has been said, there are two types of people the doers and the watchers - I remember being a watcher when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon - it would be nice to be a doer!
R Agar-Hutton, UK

Ever been on an over-long sea cruise? People get stir-crazy and ratty. No thanks it would be an utter nightmare. But if they could freeze me and then I wake up at the destination... yes please! How exciting. But only if I can take my vodka, cigarettes and videos of Bette Davis movies. Oh........and my cat.
Trevor Martin, USA/UK

What a waste of money! ISS cost £100bn I would guess this would cost around £100 trillion. There simply isn't the funds available for such a trip and if there was, think about the number of water wells £100bn could buy let alone £100trillion. ISS was a waste of money let's not make the same mistake again!
Paul Sims, Bristol, UK

Mankind could cease to exist at any time. We could be wiped out by a rogue asteroid, a virus, global warming or another disaster. The only way to ensure the survival of the rich abundance of life on this planet is to take the bold step and conquer the final frontier. The risks and the stakes are great but to stay behind and trust to luck is to be complacent. We either seek out new worlds or we will ultimately perish.
Rob Charig, UK

I laugh when I hear people say that the sun has a finite life span and if we want to survive we need to go to the stars. We'll self destruct long before the sun dies. What is the point of exploring somewhere and not being able to tell the rest of your species what's out there. Human exploration has always been ego based and wanting admiration from your peers
danny harris, australia

I don't think anyone should go. Perhaps when we've shown ourselves mature enough to manage the resources we've been gifted by nature, then we should consider sending colonists off to other planets. Until we can behave responsibly in our own house, we shouldn't really be thinking about visiting the neighbours.
Rob, UK

Well, if I can get Radio 4, Frasier, Star Trek films, James Bond films, Coke, oh and the wife. Where is the dotted line ?
Narinder P. Barn, United Kingdom

"Mum, Dad are we there yet?" Imagine that for the rest of your life...
James, UK

Perhaps I should suggest my boss takes such a trip...
Wuge Briscoe, UK / Australia

If chosen for a mission - I would take the risk with great pleasure in order to discover a new place where precious human life could continue. I would mostly miss my daughter. I would take DVD recordings of my family, music, film, friends and Earth , also books. I really wish all the money spent on weapons to kill each other was allocated to space exploration.
Jahan, Iran

Get real! Drag your head out of the clouds, get those stars out of your eyes, and put your feet back on earth. Aren't there enough problems to solve here before we indulge in such fascinating fantasy. How about using all that brainpower to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and free the oppressed here first! Then we can think of going on cosmic trips.
John Levins, Kuwait/ Australia

"Would I be prepared to boldly go where no man has gone before" Absolutely. That said, Dr Landis only poses the first problem. The real one starts when the last black hole evaporates and matter itself starts to decay. Happily though we have a while to think about it...
Therion Ware, England

I'd love to. But how would you choose which 200 people? The physically perfect? and if so, to what level? Genetic? So anyone with a predisposition to certain/any illnesses/ disorders would be eliminated? The smartest? The richest (who can afford to contribute to the cost)? The smallest and thinnest? The strongest? What balance of men, women and children? What ages? What nationalities? What religions? Communists or Capitalists? What about pets? What would they do if and when they got anywhere? I don't want to make a wonderful dream of an idea seem boring, but this is DEFINITELY going to be significantly more complicated than it looks on this page! Think about the ISS and how that has taken to build - this is going to be the size of a city?!!?!?!. I won't update my passport photo just yet! Wonderful idea though.
Emma, UK

As a child I grew up always dreaming of travelling to the stars. And spent many late hours looking through the small telescope I had and wishing. Alas, it will not happen in mine nor probably in several generations life time. But let us be clear, to survive mandkind must expand and take our place out there beyond, not only our own planet, but our own solar system. I for one, would be first in line, so at least I could believe that I was part of the human race's future survival.
Gary Lister, UK

As with every aspect of life, there are the "doers" and the "watchers". If humans had not stretched their powers of imagination in the past the world we live in today would be a different place. Let the doers do and provide humans with hope and let the watchers stay and grumble about sorting out our planet first. It's time to go and see what's out there!
Ashley Beniston, Scotland

Hmmm, suppose that you take part in such a journey which will take 100 years. What happens if a few years after you leave someone invents an engine that can make the journey in 10 years? Would earth leave your group to colonise the planet on your own? You'd arrive all ready to build a brave new world, only to find that your landing site has now been replaced with a mc donalds, a mobile phone shop and a starbucks!
Ed Butcher, UK

Why does everyone seem to take for granted that it is important human life continues? It is probably irrelevant, and quite possibly for the best that it should just die out (and soon).
Andrew Scott, UK

Absolutely not! I'd miss my local sushi restaurant too much (unless he goes as well). Actually, I'd miss all my favourite restaurants, pubs, etc. Sounds wonderful, but I think I'll stay.
Christopher Laird, Japan

And take my whole family with me? Absolutely!!
Eric Hertsens, Dominican Republic

The thing I find most intriguing about this idea is not the fact that it is a one-way trip, but the dynamics of a group of people in isolation with a government unanswerable to anyone. I imagine the societal structure from earth would last for a while - until something went wrong. And when it did (something always goes wrong,) if it couldn't be fixed, order could break down and chaos could reign. How would people fight? How would they protect themselves - especially from anyone wishing to harm the entire colony by subterfuge? I feel these issues are far harder to resolve than the mere launching of such a craft. There will always be people willing to go. But protecting the craft from the occupants is a much more difficult challenge. Even merely picking people with the "right characteristics" will only provide one generation of protection. To bring up children in such a environment - I wonder what that would be like.
Ken Greenwood, USA

Can't say I'm to keen to go in a 'city-sized sail ship' as they proposed. Sure they plan to use giant lasers to accelerate it out of the solar system but has anyone thought what happens when there's no giant lasers at the other end to slow it down? Sounds more like science fiction to me! The first explorers of exo-solar systems will be small robotic probes, possibly using nuclear propulsion.
P Welch, Astrophysics PhD Student, UK

Space exploration is a double edged sword. On the one hand it costs billions, which could be better spent on helping humanity grow and live together. On the other, we will eventually have to leave this planet through one reason or another. We just have to find the right balance, and not take our problems into space, only our solutions.
Hugh Turner, United Kingdom

Fifteen years ago I would do it without hesitation but now I would have to take my family with me if they were willing. My wife says I'm anti-social anyway so I wouldn't miss many people.
PhilT, Oman

As an astrophysicist I'd definitely be up for it. Dunno what the wife would say though.
Malcolm Fairbairn, UK/Belgium

The greatest adventure anyone could ever have. You bet! I'd go now if I could.
Ryan Lege, USA

I am 15 and still at school but I would go on the trip whatever it took. You can still keep contact with Earth through the web and e-mail.
William Ford , UK

Where do I sign...? I think I would miss blue skies the most. Of course we should be exploring outer space. What are we going to do once we have destroyed this planet's resources? Explore and conquer obviously!

Is it for Man or is it for Mankind? If it is for Man, then this is surely a suicide mission with the same probability of success as sending Columbus to the New World in a swimsuit. If it is for Mankind, then you can send thousands of frozen fertilized eggs of humans and animals and make the spacecraft such that its equipment works as a uterus with a placenta. Make sure that robots are there to feed the babies, that videos are there to teach the children, that books are there to teach the students. That is how it may be successful. Anyway, such an adventure cannot be a reason to neglect Mother Earth and peace and prosperity on Mother Earth... after all, this is our homebase!
Nico F. Declercq, Belgium

I would love to go to the stars. Even if it meant I would never return, it would have to be better than living in the smog-crazed world we currently live in. If it meant getting away from the beauracracy and red tape and all those on the tube in the morning, I'd go tomorrow.
Ben, London, UK

Human nature leads to continuous exploration. On Earth, with nature conquered, science is the ultimate exploration of the unknown. But out there, in space lies our true destiny and our earthly science will lead us there. So sign me up and count me in.
Dirk Dieltjens, Belgium

I would sign up - we have to go if we want to maintain any pretence of being a bold exporative species. Sitting on earth waiting for 'the end' just shows a lack of imagination. I'd also divert all military budgets into space research and colonisation - I'm sure the army-minded will find something out there to fight in the end, in the meantime we can stop our endless squabbling over land, resources and ideas down here and just get on with accessing the near limitless resources there will be 'out there'. Strip mine the galaxy if necessary, just keep moving! Must say I'd miss the prospect of new faces and relationships stuck on a ship with the same 200 people until the end of my days, I'd miss rain as well.
John, UK

You'll have two types of people: the colonists - and those who drop them off and travel on. Sign me, and my kids, up for the latter!
Max, Singapore

I am all for advanced scientific research but feel that to launch such an ambitious programme in the near future would be, at this time of global turmoil, highly impractical and ostentatious. It is also unnecessarily premature, as the sun is not going to burn itself out for another five billion years. Most of us wouldn¿t be going, nor would we live to know the outcome of such an expedition. It can¿t then be really high up on humanity¿s list of priorities until our more immediate problems here on planet earth are resolved. We have already been up into space and spent billions of dollars finding very little. Let us now, at zero cost, discover the ¿gems of inestimable value¿ within the human soul and the inner mysteries of the world of the spirit.
Simon Cameron, UK

The psychological effects of life in a small city (technically more realisable in the near future would be a flying "bed-and breakfast" rather than a "village") can not be underestimated. Just as very heavy psychological screening of Russian cosmonauts was required to stand the limited freedom during months, also for these projects such a screening will be vital. Solutions for complete recycling of energy and waste also seem a critical requirement. We wouldn't want the operation to end like BioSphere, after all? The technicalities involved with keeping a space-shuttle/ISS crew up there on such a small distance from Earth make me think that the proposal will not be feasible in at least 20 to 30 years. But at that moment, I wouldn't doubt to sign up...
MD, Belgium

In my darkest days when I really would love to get of this planet the option to fly off into the blackness of space looks an exciting prospect. However, the thought of spending the rest of my life floating around at less than a significant percentage of the speed of light really does not look like a sensible way to die! Until we can get a method of travel that comes close to at least ¼ the speed of light, in a craft that is large enough to rotate to give us artificial gravity and carry enough supplies to last double the expected travel time I'm going to spend the rest of my life on planet earth! We are not likely to see the fantasy of Star Trek in the next 500 years!
Dave, Kent UK

To get away from the sleazy, incompetent politicians that supposedly make the rules to run our lives by, I'd go tomorrow to get away from them!
Mike Cooke, UK

See also:

16 Feb 02 | Boston 2002
Humans will 'sail to the stars'
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories