There’s a film from 1955 about a rocket ship leaving a space station for the first trip to Mars, entitled “The Conquest of Space.” That’s partly where I got the idea for this title.
You see, we’re not on the verge of conquering space, or even our own Solar System, we’re on the verge of conquering the universe. Not in terms of world conquest or world domination like the Islamic State wishes. No, the conquest of the universe is mankind moving out into the universe and making it our own. And it all begins with ideas.
Tens of thousands of years ago, when humans crossed over the land bridge from Siberia into North America, it probably started with an idea such as, “I wonder what’s over there?” Or, “Maybe the fishing’s better over there.” Or, “Maybe the hunting’s better there.” “Let’s go see what it’s like over there.”
And that’s what they did. They crossed over, seeking and searching, adventuring across North America, Central America and all the way down to the tip of South America. Sure, other tribes and groups pushed them out of their hunting and fishing grounds, but what happened was they conquered the New World–which literally was a new world, an alien world, to them.
The same was true for the first explorers and settlers from Europe. They went with the desire to build a home and future for themselves in a new world. It’s true that these settlers from Europe and Asia, from the old worlds, were as alien to the people of the new world as that new world was alien to them. But it all began with ideas, such as “How do we get there?” “How do we survive there?” “What dangers lurk in the shadows, waiting to harm us?” “What will we eat?” “How will we live?” “What will we do?” “How will we survive?”
Those are all the same questions presented to us now as we begin conquering the universe.
It’s true that we’re greatly out of our depth here, but so where the people who crossed the land bridge thirty thousand years ago, as were the people from Asia and Europe when they reached the Americas.
But we have taken the first steps. We’ve walked on and explored our first alien planet, the Moon. It is an alien world. While we might have similar terrain on Earth, where on our planet can you experience the atmospheric and gravitational conditions that exist on the Moon? Sure, you can train for them underwater and in special atmospheric chambers. But the Moon’s desolation was our first experience on an alien world. So we’ve done that and can check it off of our list.
We’ve also sent probes to other worlds, to comets, even to asteroids. And we’ve began searching for other worlds with the most magnificent telescopes and radio arrays.
Scientists now are considering what alien worlds we might be able to colonize. We won’t be humans when we live on those worlds, but the descendants of Earth’s humanity. Our scientists are considering genetically manipulating future colonists to allow them to live on heavy gravity worlds, huge water worlds, on worlds where there’s less protection from cosmic radiation. We might live on worlds with thinner air and lesser gravity.
Whatever worlds our descendants live on, whatever forms they take as granted to them by science, all of these ideas come from the minds of scientists and science fiction writers. Most of these ideas, the ideas we need for conquering the universe, come from the imaginations of science fiction writers.
What about alien life forms? Well, look around you. How can life exist under such tremendous pressure far down in the Challenger Deep, the deepest and darkest place in any ocean on Earth? But it does.
We are surrounded by alien life forms, from the ant colonies to frogs and snakes and insects and fungi and plants, all that live and conquer the world around each day.
Looking for an alien? How would a praying mantis’ head look on a reptile? What if giant frogs ruled the world? If the giant frogs’ society was based on the society of honey bees? Or on the social systems of hornets and wasps, living solitary lives but willing to defend their nest as a collective?
There are so many things to consider here, but I’ll save them for another time. Go, exercise your imaginations, and have fun.