Space Settlement Required for Humanity's Survival

by Leon Neihouse

Alpha Survival Foundation, President

Unless and until self-sufficient settlements are established in space, our species is a candidate for extinction. Someday, an asteroid or comet of a size similar to the one that killed the dinosaurs will assume an Earth-impacting orbit.

It will strike the Earth at a velocity many times greater than a speeding bullet and will impart to this location more than ten thousand times the energy that would be released if all atomic weapons ever built were detonated simultaneously. First-order effects will be searing heat, a blast wave of incomprehensible force, a torrential rain of rocks, earthquakes of 11 or 12 on the Richter scale and, if striking at sea, tidal waves a mile high; all people living on the surface within thousands of miles of the impact will die immediately. Global all-pervasive aftereffects will include raging firestorms destroying almost all trees and other vegetation, extensive acid rain, prolonged darkness, global starvation, rampaging disease, widespread volcanic eruptions, extreme cold for months followed by blazing heat for decades, and loss of the ozone layer. Unless prior steps close this "doomsday window," humanity will suffer the fate of the dinosaurs.

The chances of such a gargantuan object appearing on the scene at any time within the next thousand years are so negligible as to be of little concern, but asteroids and comets as small as 1,000 yards in diameter, with the potential to cause lesser but similar effects catastrophic enough to destroy civilization as we know it, have an impact probability great enough to worry insurance companies. From 1,5002,000 objects this size or larger are estimated to be in Earth-crossing or near Earth-crossing orbits.

In addition to "doomsday rocks," there are hundreds of thousands of objects too small to have global effects, but with the potential to cause more damage than at Hiroshima.

After all effects are combined, the bottom line is the probability of dying from an asteroid or comet colliding with the Earth is about the same as dying in an airplane crash.

This is reassuring, because it is easy to show from an objective analysis that travel by plane is one of the safer methods of transportation ever invented. Yet many, myself among them, surrender to their emotions and are scared spitless as soon as they step on a plane.

The Alpha Survival Foundation, Inc., is a nonprofit corporation located in Maine. Our sole mission is to prepare for the inevitable arrival of doomsday rocks.

Measures to protect against these objects are possible, but not until their orbits are known. Our first goal, therefore, is to finance a global system of ground-based telescopes built to detect all potential Earth-impacting objects large enough to destroy human civilization. If there are any, we will make this information widely known, so all nations can cooperate to take the urgent actions necessary to avoid an impact.

The overwhelming probability is that we are in no imminent danger. We will then work with other groups and organizations to build shields in space that can not only destroy/divert the large impactors that will eventually be found on an Earth-impacting orbit but also the smaller objects that can only do local "Hiroshima-type" damage (obliterating a city).

It could be a billion years from now but, at some indeterminate time in the future, a comet at least as big as Hale-Bopp will appear out of the blue on an Earth-impacting orbit. If we are unable to divert it, this Big Bopper will sanitize the planet; the world will still go round, but its surface will have no more Chantilly lace no pretty faces no wiggly walks no giggly talks.

In order to be prepared for the Earth to be subjected to the full consequences of this certain future event, we will design, build, operate, and maintain in perpetuity 10 self-sufficient, 1-million-member settlements at various places throughout the solar system. This is the only way we can we ensure that humanity will survive the devastation that could be brought upon the Earth by The Big Bopper.

Once this survival mechanism is in place (possibly 300 years) we will work toward a final goal of building 10,000 settlements in space (it could take 700 additional years), each with an excess capacity to house 1 million people. We will concurrently develop a rapid transportation system able to move 10 billion people from Earth into these settlements in less than one year.

In other words, our job is to work today so the world can play tomorrow. After 1,000 years of continuous effort, we plan to play by throwing a party and what a party it will be! You first heard here of plans for a gala celebration to welcome in the fourth millennium let it be so noted.

We cordially invite you to join.

Alpha Survival Foundation, Inc.

Scientists estimate there are 1,5002,000 near-Earth asteroids and comets with the potential to destroy human civilization. If any are shown to be on an Earth-impacting orbit, measures can be taken to divert the object away from our path, as could have been done with 1997XF11. At present, the orbits of only 10% to 15% of these "human race terminators" are known.

Experts have determined that, on the average, a doomsday object will hit the Earth every 100,000 years. Studies authorized by the U.S. Congress estimate a cost of $50 million to build and $10 million per year to operate and maintain a system of ground-based telescopes that, within 10 years, will detect those near-Earth asteroids and comets that pose such a threat. Our Senators and Representatives deemed the price too great and the odds too small to justify a rapid search; funding was provided at a level that will take 100 years to track the full complement of potential impactors.

By acting in this manner, our government has exposed humanity to the possibility of a "sucker-punch." An object of a size similar to 1997XF11 could, at this very moment, be on a course to impact the Earth at any time in the next 100 years and the present detection program might not become aware of its existence until it is too late to avoid it.

Our politicians can then place the epitaph "but the odds were in our favor" on the tombstone for planet Earth. The Alpha Survival Foundation, Inc. is a Maine nonprofit corporation that refuses to sit quietly on the sidelines and accept the consequences of this incomprehensible gamble with the fate of our species.

Our short-term goal is to promote the construction of a detection system that will quickly determine if an asteroid or comet with civilization-destroying potential is now on a course to impact the Earth.

We can be reached by e-mail (neihouse@gwi.net); fax, (207) 443-2084; or mail, 24 Oak Grove Avenue, Bath, Maine 04530.

Please address comments to Mr. Neihouse (link above) or the Utah Space Association. Reprinted with permission in the Aurora, Utah Space Association newsletter.