The human race must look to outer space within the next century or it will become extinct, Professor Stephen Hawking has warned. The renowned astrophysicist said he fears mankind is in great danger and its future “must be in space” if it is to survive.
In an interview he said threats to the existence of the human race such as war, resource depletion and overpopulation meant it was at its greater risk ever.
Although a long advocate of colonising space in order to continue man’s reign, this is his direst warning to date.
“It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million,” he told the website Big Think.
“Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth but to spread out into space.
“We have made remarkable progress in the last hundred years. But if we want to continue beyond the next hundred years, our future is in space.
“That is why I’m in favour of manned, or should I say ‘personed’, space flight.”
Earlier this year Professor Hawking warned that exploring space may not be entirely without risk.
In a series for the Discovery Channel, he said humans should be wary about making contact with alien life forms as they may not be friendly.
But he said as long as we remained the only intelligent life in our galaxy and avoided destroying ourselves we should be safe.
“I see great dangers for the human race,” Hawking said. “There have been a number of times in the past when its survival has been a question of touch and go. The Cuban missile crisis in 1963 was one of these. The frequency of such occasions is likely to increase in the future.”
“But I’m an optimist. If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries, our species should be safe, as we spread into space,” he said.
Getting to another planet will prove a challenge, not to mention colonising it for humanity.
Katherine Freese, a University of Michigan astrophysicist, told Big Think that “the nearest star [to Earth] is Proxima Centauri which is 4.2 light years away.
That means that, if you were travelling at the speed of light the whole time, it would take 4.2 years to get there” – or about 50,000 years using current rocket science.