(Image: Size comparison between largest Kuiper Belt Objects, sometimes called Trans-Neptunians, against Earth. Credit: NASA)
Whether it takes 50 years--or five thousand--humanity seems destined to expand beyond their earthen cradle and conquer the solar neighborhood around them.
Our species may in the distant future find ourselves settling on worlds ranging from the burning crust of Mercury, to the desert world of Mars. From conquering our own lunar body towards colonizing other moon worlds such as Ganymede, Callisto and Titan.
We may even venture as far as settling upon Neptune's Triton, but beyond that humanity may see little incentive on settling beyond the classical eight planets (sorry Pluto).
While some may see little value of going beyond the gas giants, they may not realize that the Kuiper Belt, located on the "outer frozen edges" of our solar system may play a vital role for humanity--especially if we become an interstellar species.
Imagine if you will you are traveling on a star ship heading towards Alpha Centauri from the Epsilon Eridani star system. You need to make a pit stop in order to not only pick up a few supplies, but to also power down your craft in order to fix a few engines that keep creating a weird pining sound.
If you were the captain of that interstellar vessel, would you rather take your ship deep inside the Sol star's gravity field, or would it make more sense to dock near a Kuiper Belt object located between 30 and 50 astronomical units away?
Unless a star ship desired to take a tour of the solar system it would probably be wiser if humanity established trade settlements upon these frozen worlds in order to help space craft traveling between the stars refuel (or repair) before heading towards another star system.
Since trade upon a Kuiper Belt Object would probably be sparse at best (considering the enormous distances between nearby stars), their main inhabitants will most likely be astronomers and astrophysicists (with space entrepreneurs probably in the minority).
Located far way from the major worlds that dance around our sun, the Kuiper Belt objects would find little appeal among the vast majority of people, who would probably prefer living upon a world with "some scenery" (i.e. an atmosphere or gas planet in the sky).
This would provide many scientists (such as radio astronomers) with the necessary isolation needed to conduct observations of the universe without great interference from radio noise and light pollution beaming from solar colonies.
Scientists could also conduct experiments that might be considered "too dangerous," to be carried out upon other worlds, with little fear of contaminating everybody else living nearby.
Last but not least Kuiper Belt objects may be of use to military bases in order to ward off future threats. Creating military outposts upon these distant worlds may help establish a perimeter around our star system, which could act as a first line of defense against invasive fleets from another star system (whether they be human, robotic or God-forbid "something else").
While the bulk of humanity will probably reside within the classical eight planets, it may not be surprising to see our species placing our fingerprints upon these frosty worlds in order to spread our presence from the inner system towards its frozen edges.
(Image Credit (second photo): Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute)
Want more space geek news? Then subscribe below via email, RSS or twitter for free updates! Prefer another service? How about via RSS or follow Colony Worlds on Twitter!