British physicist Stephen Hawking revealed in a presentation at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles that humans will need to vacate Earth before the end of the millennium, as they likely won't survive on Earth beyond that point.
And we thought the declining PC market was bad news.
The 71-year-old physicist said that humans need to continue pushing out into space to guarantee the future of mankind. "We won't survive another 1,000 years without escaping our fragile planet," he told an audience of doctors, nurses and employees.
That's easier said than done, at least for now. Mankind was already supposed to be setting foot on Mars by 2015, first by building the ISS and then assembling a ship in space. But as it stands now, no human has even returned to the moon since the early 1970s. The United States' current fleet of Shuttles are officially retired, and the first manned mission of NASA's next spaceship, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, won't take place until after 2020.
Currently, the primary taxi to the ISS is the fourth-generation Russian Soyuz which has been the primary "bus" to and from Earth since 2003. NASA reportedly made a deal with the Russian Space Agency back in March 2011 for 12 trips to the station for $753 million USD, or $63 million per seat. This will cover American astronauts until 2015. Eventually NASA wants to rely on the private sector via the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.
Of course, based on Hawking's comment, it sounds like humans have plenty of time to get their act together and branch out to other planets Star Trek style – 987 years at the least. Meanwhile, Hawking took a tour of a stem cell laboratory at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center that's focused on trying to slow the progression of Lou Gehrig's disease. Hawking was diagnosed with the neurological disorder 50 years ago while a student at Cambridge University, and has survived longer than most of the people who have been diagnosed with the disease.
During his presentation, Hawking told the audience that when he was first diagnosed, he became depressed and initially didn't see a reason to finish his doctorate. But he continued to push through his studies despite the diagnosis.
"If you understand how the universe operates, you control it in a way," he said.