Today on Discovery Enterprise we join our host physicist Dr. Basil Singer in final installment of the exciting documentary series Exodus Earth. Today we join Dr. Singer exploring the possibility of mounting an interstellar voyage to the exoplanet Gliese 581c and establishing a permanent human colony there in the next century.
What kind of propulsion system would be needed to accomplish such a voyage? Basil must investigate extreme propulsion methods, including solar sails and nuclear bombs. And, what can we say about the mission’s destination?
Gliese 581c is an extrasolar planet orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581. It is the third planet orbiting this star. With a mass at least 5.36 times that of the Earth, it is classified as a super-Earth, a category which incorporates planets exceeding the mass of Earth but smaller than 10 Earth masses.
Gliese 581c initially generated interest because it was originally reported to be the first potentially Earth-like planet in the habitable zone of its star, with a temperature right for liquid water on its surface, and by extension, potentially capable of supporting extremophile forms of Earth-like life. However, further research on the potential effects of the planetary atmosphere casts doubt upon the habitability of Gliese 581c and indicates that the fourth planet in the system, Gliese 581 d, is a better candidate for habitability and possible colonization.
However this is based on scant observational evidence. One day we may find a more promising contender for our future aspirations. The prospects may vastly improve when the Kepler space telescope completes its survey and with the next generation space based advanced astronomical observatories such as NASA’s Terrestrial Planet Finder, the James Webb Space Telescope and their successors.
Exodus Earth – Exoplanet