It was the year 2446. The Earth had grown into an unrecognizable thing. Wars changed, they were no more with guns and bombs. Weapons were money and products. Local violent conflicts were surpressed by technology. The increase in the population was fast and steady, so fast that it led us to colonize the oceans, space on near orbits and surrounding planets. But even that wasn’t enough. That’s when we started looking for an alternative world. It’s in our nature: for centuries men navigated in search of new continents. As cliché as it may sound, history repeats itself.
Near planets like Mars didn’t satisfy us though, life there wasn’t as pleasant and bright as on Earth, and who wanted to live on an airless and lifeless desert, anyway? The time had come for us to look for a new world. But we wanted it to be better than our current one. So, as soon as the technology allowed, we started building a spaceship.
Like explorers, we were sailing our ships not only looking for adventures: we wanted a better land and a better future. Like them, we had to navigate vast distances, but this time in space, and travel to another galaxy, all this while hoping we’d be lucky enough to hit a habitable planet. It was an adventure, and the technology, even as developed as it was, was still not enough to guarantee the safety of the travel. We knew that some metal parts in it couldn’t withstand the internal pressure, and the fatigue could create cracks, like the seal of the wooden ship could break under the water pressure. Just like the journey of Columbus, it was a tremendous gamble.
As fast as we were progressing in the new millennium, we thought we could explore the whole galaxy in the coming years. We had a few tricky challenges, and one was to design a suitable engine. Remember what I said before, that it was the year 2446? I’m telling you about this year because it was the year we tried to reach another habitable planet. Many nations united to build this huge spaceship. We still remember those pioneers as heroes, their names engraved in history.
But why did the spacecraft have to be so big, you might ask? Well, the distances in space are so vast that to reach a planet, if everything goes well, it might take hundreds of years of wandering. That means that whoever went up that spaceship was most likely to spend his entire life up there, hoping that his children, or even grandchildren, would, maybe, reach the destination. Again, if you do that journey without enough space you can get sick or insane. Who would live in a metal can, knowing you would probably die of illness? The spaceship had to be massive, to contain everything a man needs to live a fulfilling life. A garden, friends, many people to interact with, a personal space and several activities. It had to be the size of a small town. And it was.
The spaceship construction started on the ground, in a huge hole digged for its access, to bring materials in. Many nations had to put their forces together, because of the extraordinary amount of materials needed. While the spaceship was under construction, they trained passengers. It wasn’t a simple job. They ended up selecting a group of well-trained people, good at different tasks: some of them were engineers, some of them doctors, and so on. Balance was essential in this case. Not too many individuals, but even a lack of people could be fatal, because of the emergencies they expected. They balanced the number of men and women: they would be the ones to populate our new planet and keep mankind alive on it.
The big day came, the day of the departure. People said goodbye, knowing that they’ll never see their relatives and friends again. Despite that, they were excited about this adventure on another planet. In some moments, they even forgot that their lives would be full of danger. Everything was about to be so different, mentally and physically. Like the feeling that gambling can give you, but lasting a lifetime. Their children, born on the spaceship, carried that feeling in them. From their perspective life on Earth was boring, people envied them. Not everyone though, certain people would never trade safety and comfort for this kind of trip.
On the day of departure, the engines were heating, with no one on board. The ship, empty, was lifted to orbit, its rotation creating artificial gravity. Then the groups arrived on capsules, anchored and entered the spaceship. Along with other workers who would later return to Earth, they unpacked all the things. Those returning to earth, after months of work on the ship, were happy to reunite with their loved ones, but part of them felt sorry for not being part of that great adventure.
When everything was unpacked, rooms occupied, life was already becoming routine on the ship. As soon as they checked all, the ship was ready to leave the orbit and plunge into deep space. For the first time, the ship residents were to see something new, go where no one had gone before. They were very excited to have a chance at a new life on another planet.
The spacecraft left. Everything went well. For everyone on board, it was essential to report what they were seeing and what problems they were having. The designers on Earth noted everything, using those informations to design better ships.
On Earth, as population was increasing, the construction of a new ship had already started. This one differed slightly from the first one. After a few years, it was ready to leave. Then the third one was leaving too, and the fourth and the fifth.
Now there was a minor problem, but this time on Earth. The materials needed for the ship construction were lacking. All the mines were empty. What could we do? The problem was the solution. Outer space. There is literally an infinite amount of materials out there. We just needed to get it.
They used the last crumbs of metals to build small vessels and other equipment and sent the astronauts to orbit. Their task was to catch asteroids that contain those precious materials and bring them on Earth. They slowed down those massive rocks as much as they could and then made them fall on the few non-habited areas left on our planet. There they processed them and moved materials to ship construction sites. It was a success: more and more asteroids were slowed down and driven on Earth, new ships were built. It was a complex, delicate and dangerous process, though. For this reason, they started to process them in orbit, instead of bringing them on Earth. They didn’t waste too much energy this way, and massive rocks didn’t have to hit our original planet. The production rate was growing and growing. People wanted to reach further and further in outer space, to get more asteroids. They slew them down and put them in orbit, where the factories were built to dismount them.
Now, let’s take a break from my story. I want you to imagine yourself as a third person outside, observing our planet Earth from a distance, so far that the earth is the size of a tennis ball to you. You also know nothing at all, nothing about physics, about the existence of humans and their activities. You were born on a distant planet and no one taught you anything. You observe that “tennis ball”, with those weird rocks that are changing their trajectory, being pulled by it. You can’t see humans with their gear doing that, as they’re too small for you to see. All you see is a tiny planet and rocks. You don’t know what is pulling them, you only know that it’s some kind of force.
You call it gravity.