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Story Start: Survival At All Costs

This is a story about man-kind facing a disaster that would require making some hard choices. I will probably finish this or a similar story at some point. I also have some other ideas about different situations where people consider changing humans to better face challenges they come up against.

Survival at all costs. What does that mean? No price is too high? Survival or the individual? Survival of the species? Survival of life on Earth? If Earth was threatened with destruction, what could we save? Given a deadline of a year, what would we choose to do to give our species, or any life, the best chance for survival.

It has just been discovered that a small black hole is approaching our solar system. It will swing around our sun in about two years and disrupt the orbits of all the planets in our solar system. Scientists have calculated the approaching black hole will pull the Earth out into a higher orbit. In approximately a year's time, the surface of the Earth will become inhospitable to humans.

All over the world, leaders and scientists are meeting to discuss what can be done to preserve our species and our culture. In the United States a meeting with NASA officials, political leaders, and representatives from several commercial space flight companies has been called to order.

"We need a plan of action. With only a year to fully implement, we need to start immediately," says The President.

There is talking from all over the group. Then one NASA scientist, Dr. Barbara Langston, stands up and approaches the front of the room.

"We came up with some plans of the way over," says Dr. Langston.

She begins to layout the plan. It calls for a two teams to proceed simultaneously. One will attempt to escape into space with everything needed to restart civilization on another planet. The second group will concentrate on staying on Earth and adapting to the new conditions. They will build underground shelters,  or develop technology to live in the new conditions.

"We have considerable amounts of research already in place for constructing habitats on other planets. I will head up the team that works on that solution," says Dr. Langston.

Another scientist, Dr. Bruce Banes, stands up. "I'll be heading up the space flight team," says Dr. Banes.

They discuss with the various meeting participants about available government and commercial resources and go over the plans for several hours. At the end of the meeting, participants all go away with assignments and goals in mind. Some will provide assistance for both teams.

The next day, the space flight team meets with several other scientists to discuss feasible options. They have many questions to answer before they can even begin preparation. They must select a destination using the limited knowledge we have about extra-solar planets. They must decide whether to gamble everything on one destination or send multiple ships. Ships are another thing. We can easily fly into orbit and even beyond, but we've never built anything with interstellar travel in mind. Will this even be possible?

Once destinations are chosen, we will have some idea of travel time. No matter the destination, the travel time will be long. Can people survive? There has been some research done on cryogenics, but can any of that be put into practice in less than a year.

As they continue to consider the problems they face, it becomes clear that it may be impossible. Some other ideas surface. Could we send DNA? Maybe we could send DNA and instructions for creating a human. That sounds interesting, but even we don't know how to do that. We would be relying on some aliens to recreate us. What would be the point? What they created wouldn't know what it was to be human. They wouldn't have memories of Earth. Some begin to feel hopeless. Maybe this is just the end for humans. 

Others are still hopeful. They begin to look at the problem differently. All the ideas so far have a very small chance of succeeding. They reason that the best solution would be to try them all. Using the resources of the entire US government, this should be possible.

They setup a team to design a space capsule that can be constructed in a few different sizes to accommodate the different payloads. It is decided that there is no hope of sending live conscious humans to another star system. They will consider the cryogenics option for both humans and other forms of life. They will also consider the DNA solution, and a solution that involves sending microbial life in the hopes that it will re-evolve into something resembling humans someday.

Teams are formed for each of these solutions. They will collaborate where necessary. All capsules will also be loaded with computers and storage devices containing as much of our knowledge as possible. A team is setup to gather this knowledge and decide what is included. They will work closely with the capsule team to determine how much storage capacity can be included.

The cryogenics team has a very difficult problem ahead of them. They begin to poor over the research and consult with experts. In addition to figuring out the impossible problem of freezing and thawing a human, they will need to design a system that can be triggered when the capsule enters the orbit of a planet. This system will need to revive the frozen passengers. Their solution looks less likely to succeed the further they get. On the other hand, their solution is the only one that would result in humans being transported to another planet and surviving this disaster, so they continue.

The fundamental problem they face is that humans are not made to be frozen and thawed. There are animals on Earth that can survive this process, so most research begins there. Most of what we learn in the studies doesn't apply to humans. They consider modifying humans. This brings up many more questions. Can that be done in time? Can we modify adult humans, or would we only be able to modify developing embryos? If we are sending embryos, or babies, we would be back to relying on aliens to help us somehow, so we might as well just go with the DNA solution.


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