Do you dream of the stars? Want to look out of the window to see your ship passing the rings of Saturn? It’s an interesting premise, one that science fiction authors have contemplated for decades. Whether colonists survive on a ship or terraform a planet, there are more than just environmental dangers. Emotional and psychological effects of isolation and forced socialization make short- and long-term space travel a challenge.
Early Friday morning in rooms210–211 at the Hilton, panelists Ben Davis, Lali DeRosier (@_Adverbia), Emily Finke (@seelix), and Charles E Gannon discussed key touchstones with moderator Kishore Hari. One of the first things they considered when theorizing about space travel is mission (short-term) versus colonization (long-term)—or, as Gannon put it, stunt versus stay. The smaller group of people (six to eight) for a mission is different than thousands of people colonizing a habitable area. Greater social diversity would allow for more tolerance and with more change comes less boredom. Boredom is the enemy in long-term space travel because, on a psychological level, it mimics stress. Chronic boredom leads to depression and a lack of productivity, not the best situation for colonization, so much so that the selection process for Japanese astronauts includes how well the subject deals with boredom.
Another consideration for colonization is a finite amount of resources. We are a consumer-based society, grounded in immediate gratification. To move to a communal system would test the humanity of the colony’s inhabitants. A timeframe may make a difference here. Knowing you’re going to be back on Earth in ten years produces a different outlook than an indefinite or permanent stay.
Structure is something else to think about. A government developed colony would have a different hierarchy and therefore different problems than one originating from the private sector. With different objectives and goals, productivity may be rewarded with more than just survival.
What about things like religion and procreation? Do inhabitants continue to follow their faiths, do they attempt to spread the word? Do colonists continue to adhere to the idea of being in love to mate? Do they simply propagate the species to ensure it survives? What would gay relationships which wouldn’t produce children? What kind of human rights would continue to exist?
In order to seed a sustainable colony, Finke theorized the need for 10,000 human beings. She went on to clarify that of those 10,000 souls, only a few hundred would need to be fully grown people. The rest could be frozen embryos.
There are so many other aspects to discuss just on the psychology alone that the topic would be well-suited for a high-spirited college classroom. So many factors to consider before taking that giant leap for all mankind.