THE VOYAGE OF GLIESE 1 – Part 2 – Why Bother?

The Milky Way Galaxy - Our local universe.

This is the last segment of a blog series on exploring the new exoplanet GL 581g. Here we will discuss some other important considerations and then spend a little time on the overall challenges of deep space exploration. Most importantly we will think more on when, if ever, humankind will take that giant step away from Earth, our solar system, and even our galaxy. For those who ask, why bother, we need to reply seriously and recognize that they may have a valid point.

Our Sun with Milky Way stars up to 20 light years away. Click image to enlarge.

The image above is of our Milky Way and is from An Atlas of The Universe (see Credits for more information). It clearly and graphically emphasizes the immense distances that are involved in any deep space explorations. In fact, our envisioned exploration of GL 581g is actually a pretty short distance by comparison. The image also underscores the possibility, at this point, of a very large number of Earth-like exoplanets to be discovered and explored within just our galaxy. Explorations beyond this seem almost unimaginable, but attainable.

The image above and on the right, also from An Atlas of The Universe, better illustrates where we (our Sun) is in relation to our galaxy. The red dwarf GL 581 and its exoplanets lie just outside the extreme limits of this graphic. They are at 20.3 light years distance from our Sun. They are not shown on this graphic or others in this atlas.  Regardless you can gain an appreciation for the distances involved from Earth.

The above examples of galactic distances supports our plan to continue telescopic investigations of GL 581g before launching a robotic mission to the exoplanet. We envision that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) with all of its special instruments will enable us to more positively confirm the habitability (life support potential) of the exoplanet.

O.K. so what if the JWST finds that GL 581g is not really a good Earth-like candidate for the robotic exploration? Well, like we stated in our first blog article on the Gliese 1’s voyage, the JWST and the spacecraft are flexible in that both are able to detect and explore, respectively, other stars with exoplanets in our galaxy. Additionally, we have yet to even scratch the surface of all the data the Kepler space telescope has provided on stars with potentially habitable exoplanets.

I remember that now, and I can see what you mean, but do we spend the time and money now on all this special space equipment (telescopes and spacecraft)when we may find an ideal candidate closer to home? Our guess is we will eventually find some closer to home, but also know that we believe that it is important to start and continue these deep space explorations now. To simply wait, is like slamming on the brakes in astrophysics and astronomy; even Galileo managed to work around that sorry state. In other words we cannot let that happen for the sake of our very intellectual and human evolution.

There is a strong possibility that life-forms from other planetary systems have explored or are exploring our galaxy and the universe. No, we are not talking about UFOs. What we are saying is that (a) we believe we are not alone, (b) that there are intelligent life-forms out there as intelligent or more so than we are and are just as dedicated to exploration as we are, and (c) some of these life-forms may have detected us in about the same way we have detected GL 581g. All of this would indicate that they may explore our solar system in about the same way we are planning on doing with the GL 581 system.

Well, couldn’t that exploration by them be in the form of UFO’s.? I am not sure I am happy with the idea. All that stuff that is published and talked about on TV makes that sound dangerous and threatening. We think if there has been any visits by ET they have been distant and difficult to detect. As for flashing lights and high-speed, glowing flying-saucers, well that is exciting sci-fi, but if they got that close, we feel they would stop and knock at our doors. We are not ready to accept and agree with Stephen Hawking’s warnings that ET will be aggressive and dangerous.  On the other hand if ET has visited us and has observed our warlike natures he may have scooted on away – permanently.

Some folks have real doubts about the existence of life elsewhere in our galaxy and the universe. They think Earth is unique and a product of spiritual creationism. They sincerely say, why bother? The really wonderful thing about our nation is the ability for any person to believe and espouse anything they want in both philosophy and theology.  The history of humankind is filled with moments where entire cultures and nations have been controlled by those special beliefs.  At the same time, we cannot close our eyes to the science that stands before us, and we must also accept the obligation to explore, discover and explain all that phenomena.  It is our opinion that those efforts produce a new level of reassurance and evolutionary glory that enriches rather than defies any given theology. Who does not, upon looking up into the night sky, become filled both with awe and a sense of oneness will all that surrounds us. For us, that is a warm, reassuring and sustaining experience that also prods us to keep on exploring and explaining.

Wow, that is quite a viewpoint. Do you think some folks are more frightened than offended by all this scientific exploration? Thank you, and that is a good question.  We do not have any idea about the ratio of those offended to those frightened by all that science and exploration uncovers and explains or tries to explain. We can see where this can be disturbing when we cannot come up, immediately, with clear and precise answers. At the same time, that very difficulty increases the demand for us to find clear and precise answers. We call this exploration.

In answer to the question, why bother? First of all it is not a bother, it is, as I hope we explained throughout the Explorology blog,  an imperative. Yes, we are still seeking the answer to how life developed here and expectedly everywhere in the universe, but as we get closer to that answer and as we find the presence of life throughout our galaxy and beyond we are fulfilled and enriched. It is like we are responding to an inborn quest to find answers and in doing it, we literally expand who we are and why we are probably here. That to us is the one and only real answer to why bother.

The prospect of eventually, robotically, visiting GL 581g and its neighboring exoplanets or some other candidate exosolar system is both exciting and demanding. If we should find life in some form on that planetary body then we have moved one giant step forward in understanding the glory, wonderment and promise of life throughout this universe. We, therefore, chose to bother!


The images from An Atlas of The Universe are the result of very dedicated work by its creator Richard Powell and are made possible here by the permissions included in the Atlas’s Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.  You may click here to visit the Atlas site.

Explore posts in the same categories: Deep Space Explorations, Earth, GL 581g, Humankind and Exploration, Precious Planet, Robotic Exploration, Scientific Research, The Known

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3 Comments on “THE VOYAGE OF GLIESE 1 – Part 2 – Why Bother?”

  1. how are you!This was a really splendid website!
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  2. The hope for Gliese 581g as ET’s home continues as astronomers and other space scientists continue to dig for more supportive data and images. It will take time, but the wait is well worth it. Check here for update:

  3. Research and astronomer challenges continue regarding whether Gliese 581g is, in fact, an exoplanet and one that exists in the habitable zone of its parent star. Go here for more>

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