The actor Morgan Freeman has declared he is determined to produce a movie based on the novel ‘Rendevous with Rama’ by Arthur C Clarke. Great Sci-Fi writers like Clarke are renown for their insights in to the possible future and this novel is no exception. After again reading this novel I realised the insights into possible future with regard to the human population is extremely thought provoking.
The bottom line is that the full analysis is that this solar system does cannot offer a lot of accommodation for human beings beyond earth.
There are four rocky planets. Earth is already occupied, Venus is a superheated hell completely and it is beyond even Clarke’s imagination that it could be made habitable. In the universe of ‘Rama’ a 100,000 humans can live on a the small most hospitable area of Mercury but really Mars is the best possibility. Without Earth’s magnetic shield the Radiation the radiation is a killer, average surface temperatures on even in summer at the equator have a daily minimum of -70 degrees, there is no oxygen and at Mars atmospheric pressure water boils at only 10 degrees above freezing.
That leaves moons. Arthur C Clark has people living on the larger moons from Earth’s moon all the way out to Triton (a moon of Neptune). Still, even in the wildest dreams of science fiction, all these colonies combined have a population insignificant compared to Earth.
During the 2oth century, the population of Earth more than tripled. There is simple nothing even close to the equivalent of even one more Earth of space in this solar system in our wildest dreams. The scope to repeat the 20th century is a far greater challenge.
The lesson here is that to find real room for expansion, humans will either have to construct their own planets, or live inside planets/moons, or that ultimate dream, travel to planets around other stars. All of these bring many complex questions, but the clear fact is that finding significantly more real room for expansion in term of where we can live, is very far in the future.