White House turns to science fiction for space colonization ideas

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Mar 2, 2016, 6:52 PM EST (Updated)

Life often imitates art, and the White House is hoping that theory can prevail when it extends to space travel.

As Gizmodo reports, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology brought together scientists, engineers, artists and policymakers as part of a workshop a few weeks ago to talk about what space colonization will look like and what it will mean for humanity. It was basically a “big idea” summit, with an interesting mix of perspectives imagining what a future in the stars might look like.

The summit was broken into several categories:

Exploring Space: How will we leave the earth and travel to other planets?

Prospecting: How will we find and collect chemicals and minerals from asteroids and other planets?

Manufacturing: How will we make the materials and manufacture the things we need to build a community on another planet?

Bioengineering: How will we use biotechnology, including synthetic biology, to create food, fuel, and useful chemicals using engineered bacteria and plant life?

World Building: How will we not only survive but thrive in space, creating communities and maintaining our physical and mental health?

  • Tom Kalil, the Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, noted that there “would be a value in bringing together artists and scientists to explore this challenge,” along with the more analytical minds from the science and engineering side. He went on to posit that the modern approach to space exploration is at an interesting crossroads, and that humanity has to decide “whether this is a challenge we want to embrace.”

He compared it to George Mallory’s reason for climbing Mount Everest (“Because it’s there”), with artists hopefully being able to find new and different reasons for why we should expand our reach to the stars. Kalil believes tapping science fiction thinkers can also help find societal effects that scientists might not consider when solely focused on the technology at the heart of the matter. Hey, considering how things are looking at NASA these days, maybe we need some fresh eyes on the whole thing.

What do you think? What lessons should we take from science fiction?

(Via Gizmodo)