Scientist determines how many people it'd take to colonize another star system

Contributed by
Apr 3, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT (Updated)

It’s the subject of myriad sci-fi books, movies and TV shows, but how many people would we really have to shoot into the stars to seriously make a run at populating a whole new star system?

Anywhere between 10,000-40,000 people, at least according to Portland State University anthropologist Cameron Smith. The reason for the wide variation makes sense. If the trip will be relatively safe, 10,000 should be enough — but if a large percentage of the crew might die on the journey, at least 40,000 should ensure enough for a viable population and gene pool.

The study was commissioned in part by the folks with Icarus Interstellar, one of the groups involved in the 100 Year Starship project, in an effort to get a realistic feel for just how many humans it’d take to launch a legitimate star-seeding mission.

As far as the scenario is concerned, the study took into account an estimated travel time of 300 years. Across that amount of time, as well as the potential millennia afterward if you’re actually seeding a new planet, Smith determined 10,000-40,000 would be needed to ensure enough genetic diversity to keep the group healthy.

The study also suggested spreading out the potential interstellar pioneers across at least five massive ships to ensure a catastrophe doesn’t take out the whole group (see: Battlestar Galactica’s initial fleet approach).

The full Popular Mechanics report is well worth a read. Do you think a massive, generational ship approach is our best bet at expanding into the stars?

(Via Popular Mechanics)

Make Your Inbox Important

Like Comic-Con. Except every week in your inbox.

Sign-up breaker