The Concept of Colonizing Another Planet is Impossible, Nobel Prize Laureate Says

Even though there are people claiming that inhabiting another planet is doable, here is the truth: we are destroying the Earth, and any offbeat concepts of colonizing another cosmic body when we’re done with our own are pipe dreams.

That’s according to Michel Mayor, an astrophysicist who was a laureate of the Nobel prize in physics this year for identifying the first planet orbiting a star similar to our Sun outside of our Solar System.

He told Agence France-Presse that if we are aiming for exoplanets, we cannot migrate there, and it should be pretty clear. All of the already-discovered exoplanets, or planets located outside our Solar System, are way too far away to possibly reach to. Even in the incredibly optimistic case of a livable place that is not so distant, for instance, a few dozen light-years away, the time to arrive to its surface is considerable, he explained.

Mayor received the Nobel Prize this year, along with Didier Queloz, his colleague, for identifying the first exoplanet back in 1995. They used innovative instruments at the Haute-Provence Observatory located in southern France to detect the gas giant. The exoplanet is similar to Jupiter, and they dubbed it ’51 Pegasi b.’

Since then, more than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered in the Milky Way. Even so, according to Mayer, none of those planets can possibly be reached.

The Idea of Relocating to Another Planet is Wishful Thinking

Stephen Kane, a professor of planetary astrophysics at the University of California, Riverside, supports Mayer’s arguments. He explained that at this point, all stars are basically at a distance of infinity. We even struggle enormously to reach the Earth’s Moon, so the idea of colonizing another planet is purely hopeless.

Artist’s concept depicting astronauts and human habitats on Mars. [Image Source: NASA]
We might be capable of sending people to Mars in the following years, but it would be incredibly surprising if humanity would actually manage to reach the orbit of Jupiter within the next few centuries, Kane said. Since the distance to the closest star outside our Solar System is approximately 70,000 times greater than the distance to Jupiter, all stars are essentially unreachable.

Some might comment on this issue, saying that plenty of things seemed out of range until we made it to them, such as sending aircraft on intercontinental flights. However, in this case, the demanded physics to get to the stars, if it exists, is not known by humanity, and it would require a fundamental change in our knowledge of the correlation between mass, acceleration, and energy.

“So that’s where we stand, firmly on the Earth, and unlikely to change for a very, very long time,” he said.

Mayor urged people, saying to the AFP that we must take care of our planet, instead of going after the impossible.

Andrew Fraknoi, emeritus chair of the astronomy department at Foothill College in California, also agreed that we won’t have the means to travel to these planets in the near future. “Who knows how our technology will evolve after another million years of evolution,” he said.

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