Friday, August 30, 2013

"Evacuate Earth", NatGeo documentary, imagines building an evacuation "Ark" to a nearby solar system if a neutron star threatens Earth

"Evacuate Earth", a docudrama by Bruce David Klein for the National Geographic Channel, envisions a project to evacuate about 250,000 people from Earth to an “Earth 2” (the name of a television series in the 1990’s) in the Goldilox zone around Barnard’s Star, about 6 light years from Earth.  It’s more likely that a suitable planet exists about 20 light years away around one of the “Gliese” M-stars, and it’s likely that a planet with a habitable area would be tidally locked.  (2020: The best available link to purchase a video to watch this legally seems to be this.)

The scenario imagines that NASA determines that a neutron star will come close the Earth in 75 years.  It’s not likely that a neutron star or black hole is within 75 light years of Earth, let alone able to reach us that soon.  As the object approached, many asteroids would become unstable in obit and could hit Earth first.  But given such a deadline, could Earth solve not only the technological problems but the social and political issues to build a “Horizon” space ship (a kind of secular "Noah's ark"), propelled by “Orion” nuclear explosions, a cylinder built like the one in Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama” (1979)?

The government sets up a research facility called Star City in the Disney area of Florida.  The selection of the people, who have to be fit and genetically diverse, raises obvious ethical problems, because by definition everyone else is “left behind”.  It could obviously raise questions about eugenics and memories of Nazism, except that genetic diversity (instead of a monolithic master race) is a must.
There are other side issues, such as when “rich people” with a John Galt streak build their own anti-matter “Savior” ship – at $500 million a ticket – based on an antimatter engine, but it blows up like the Challenger (actually on the pad).

A whole generation or two must live on the Horizon for about 80 years and even have a couple of generations of children.  How the population of such a spaceship would be organized politically is obviously a troubling question.  The physiological ability to have children (in artificial gravity) is an issue, as is the emotional inclination of people to do so, given that they don't have the freedom that we're accustomed to expecting. 
The film implies another level of ethical thinking, whether every individual should prove he or she can provide for others in a survival, moneyless mode, before he strikes out on his own – because we never know when there could arise a circumstance where the survival of those who follow “you” is more important than “you” are.  My own father believed in this idea.
Some day, man will have to leave Earth.  Eventually the Sun will become a red giant.  But maybe we could live on Mars, Europa or Titan and not have to go to another solar system.  
The best link seems to be this (posted Feb. 2013 by Documentary King HD. NatGeo has its own link here
There are several other documentaries in this series, such as about traveling faster than light, to look at later.  Maybe this would have made a good museum IMAX film from NatGeo, or maybe it is too politically divisive. 

Wikipedia attribution link for artist’s drawing Gliese 518c, which might be Earth-like. 

No comments: