Real Life: Sky Mining
First published at Real Life
Here’s what’s going to happen. It will get hot. Very hot. The oceans will expand and the ice caps will melt, and nearly half of the Netherlands and a quarter of Vietnam will be submerged. We’ll move: first to the Polar Regions and then, when crops start to fail, to other planets, where we can start again. There, we’ll drive hovercars to work each day. Or maybe there is no work, our human labor having been rendered unnecessary. Holographic cooking shows will show us how to spice up our Soylent dinners, which we’ll watch as we squabble with our AI lovers.
All of this is — for now, at least — science fiction. But for NASA, this kind of speculative fantasy can be used to excite the public imagination about their work. When, on February 22, NASA discovered a series of potentially habitable new planets around the dwarf star Trappist-1, about 40 light years from Earth, they set to work visualizing a future. The agency commissioned a series of artworks to celebrate the discovery, including imagined landscapes, a 360-degree interactive illustration, and a hypothetical travel poster inviting humans to what is thought to be the most habitable of the planets: Trappist-1e.