Stephen Hawking was one of the greatest scientists of our time, contributing to huge leaps and bounds in our knowledge of the universe despite his significant physical disabilities. His computer-generated voice will educate us one last time starting March 25th, during an appearance in a Smithsonian Channel documentary about the colonization of alien worlds.Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Doug Wheller / Flickr
Although Stephen Hawking was limited in his physical capabilities, his mental prowess knew no bounds. Despite continuing to lose the ability to move and speak, his scientific discoveries have revolutionized the field of space study and he will be remembered for hundreds of years to come due to his significant contributions. While he didn’t get to realize his dream during his time on Earth, Stephen Hawking shares during the documentary “Leaving Earth: Or How to Colonize a Planet” that he hopes that people would someday make the move to inhabit alien worlds beyond our own solar system.
While many scientists across several organizations are currently looking to put a man on Mars, Stephen Hawking had a vision that extended far beyond the reaches of our solar system. While it’s unlikely we’ll manage to escape the bounds of Earth during our lifetime, Hawking may have very well set the foundation for a future in which humanity truly can colonize alien worlds.
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The documentary “Leaving Earth” focusing on how scientists are working to discover “goldilocks planets” – named for the fairy tale in which a young girl has to find the porridge that’s “just right.” Similarly, in order to colonize alien worlds, we’ll have to find one with conditions that are analogous to our own in a myriad of conditions – namely temperature and access to water. During the documentary scientists like Stephen Hawking also introduce new research that could later contribute to spacecraft capable of allowing us to leave our own solar system and visit alien worlds where we could build an “Earth 2.0” of sorts.
While this documentary is the last we’ll hear from the late Stephen Hawking, he has long been outspoken about the idea of humanity extending its future by colonizing alien worlds. Back in 2016, Hawking made a speech at the Oxford University Student Union where he suggested that threats like climate change, nuclear weapons, pollution and other risks would soon make Earth uninhabitable – suggesting that we may actually only have around 100 years left on Earth. While many scientists aren’t quite as pessimistic about our future, it’s true that we’re on a course that will soon lead to massive environmental issues – and the political landscape is currently anything but stable. By taking the steps to lay the foundations for travel to alien worlds, Stephen Hawking has used his time on Earth to invest in our ability to escape it.
According to those involved in the making of the documentary, their experience with Stephen Hawking was a bit of a mixed bag. The scientist was very forthcoming in asking probing questions and providing ideas of why we should escape Earth, but didn’t have too many answers as to how exactly we could do that. In a documentary that is equal parts intriguing and frustrating, Hawking has drawn attention to our dire straits but has also acknowledged that we don’t have the information or technology that we need to act.
Let’s hope that humanity’s outlook is a little less bleak than extinction within 100 years, as that timeline seems a little cramped for trying to escape the bounds of our solar system.
“Leaving Earth: Or How to Colonize a Planet” airs March 25 at 8 p.m. local time on the Smithsonian Channel.