In an upcoming TV documentary, British physicist Stephen Hawking revives his prediction that humanity will have to spread out a new home in space within 100 years in order to ensure the species’ survival.
But this time, he’s looking into how it can be done.
The two-part documentary, titled “Expedition New Earth,” is due to air on BBC Two as part of the British network’s revived “Tomorrow’s World” TV series.
Hawking has repeatedly warned of the potential threats facing humanity, including nuclear war, rapid climate change, potential pandemics, catastrophic asteroid strikes and even a robot uprising. That echoes similar warnings issued by Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX.
Last November, Hawking told an audience at Oxford Union in Cambridge, “I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping our fragile planet.” Hawking has previously referred to shorter time scales, on the order of 100 to 200 years.
“Expedition New Earth” takes Hawking’s argument several steps further by delving into the technologies that could add plausibility to the idea of inhabiting off-Earth locales – ranging from the moon and Mars to habitable exoplanets.
Among those technologies are:
- Plasma propulsion systems, such as the NASA-funded fusion thruster projectthat’s under way at MSNW in Redmond, Wash.
- Human hibernation techniques, such as a concept for putting space travelers in suspended animation during trips to Mars and beyond.
- Closed-system habitats, such as the Biosphere 2 facilities that are being used for climate and plant growth experiments in Arizona.
Hawking’s fellow travelers for the show will be Danielle George, an engineering professor at the University of Manchester; and Christophe Galfard, a former student of Hawking’s who is now an author and science advocate.
“The journey shows that Professor Hawking’s ambition isn’t as fantastical as it sounds – that science fact is closer to science fiction than we ever thought.,” the BBC said in a news release.