The Atlantic

Think Twice About Escaping Earth to an Exoplanet

Exploring the galaxy will only give our problems more room to expand.
Source: NASA-JPL / Caltech

How did we lose the universe? When, last month, NASA announced the discovery of seven new Earth-like exoplanets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, a dwarf star only 40 light years from us, it felt strange: not the beginning of something, but the end. The immediate reaction from thousands of people was not “what’s out there?” but “when can we leave?”

This planet is done for, to be ruled from a marble-plated toilet for its short remainder as a life-bearing world. The oceans are acidifying and filling with plastic, the air is clamming up into a soup of deadly microparticles; we’re slowly narrowing down the list of extant animal species until, finally, the only thing we’ll have left to kill and eat is each other. Get me off this rock.

Outer space was once the domain of myth and metaphors; the sun’s stern circuit around the sky told the stories of living

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