As the Sun swells into a Red Giant and engulfs rather a lot of the Solar system, we may want to start thinking about relocating – if the human race is still around, that is.
Where could we go? What do we need to survive?
Water. Oxygen. Essentially an atmospheric and climatic combination as close as possible to that which we are currently enjoying. Also, we need an energy source. With the Sun gone awol, that could be difficult. However, we shall not stress about that right now. Let us simply consider whether or not there are other places we can make as home.
There is a very small band of terrestrial habitability in each solar system which largely depends on how far away from the star you plan to live, and the size of the star.
Size of star vs. distance from star. Habitability plotted in blue. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia's page on "Planetary habitability".)
Now that we have picked a location, we will need to create something something like our own planet on which to live. Preferably with a rocky interior, a thick atmosphere mainly made of oxygen and nitrogen, varying types of land and climates, plenty of energy, plasma powered jet-skis and LOTS of water. And free 3G/wi-fi for all.
That is not too much to ask for, is it?
The process is called “terraformation”, which essentially means “Earth-shaping”. It is engineering at an astronomical scale (no pun intended), and will cause more uproar than Jan Moir and her mishapen cranium (shame on you lady)!
The current favourites for proposed terraforming are Venus, Mars and the Moon, due to their proximity to us, and their rocky composition. The main concerns are still how we will introduce water and terrestrial flora to their surfaces, as well as giving them the atmosphere we so heavily depend on to protect us from radiation but still let through just enough of what we need.
Other problems include funding (I do not even want to go there), politics (who gets what – the Moon is currently international “property”, like the open seas) and ethics (is it right to change something Mother Nature created for our own benefit).
I shall leave you on that note, with an intriguing artists concept of what Mars would look like through the stages of terraformation
Going...going...grounded. Could we live on Mars? (Clickable! For Wiki site on terraforming - spiting Good Scientist Commandments there, but it is a good read!)