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Games bring space exploration home. But they overlooked all the risks


Imagine rushing past Asteroids on advanced spacecraft, calculating the speed boost you’ll get by overtaking a massive planet, navigating the radiation hazards of space, developing sensible and speculative techniques for rocket propulsion and for sifting through valuable resources. NASA scientists are not alone in studying such things; With the latest board games, everyone can.

Board games have advanced quite a bit since the settlers of Catan came onto the scene a quarter of a century ago. Space-themed games, in particular, have proliferated in recent years, and while few of the newer generation of games resemble classic games, somewhat like Space Risk or Monopoly, many others are quite different. The more complex candidate is High Frontier which released its fourth edition in 2020 and has more expansions or “modules” in the future. It encourages people to play as space agencies like NASA or Roscosmos (or companies like SpaceX) while designing fast, agile or laden rockets that bring crews to distant worlds, where one needs to extract water for fuel and minerals in order to build more rocket components. .

Other board games include Leaving Earth, about competing space agencies during the early space race, SpaceCorp: 2025-2300AD, about companies that explore the inner and outer solar system and then create interstellar colonies, and Project Gaia, where factions of different types compete to modify neighboring planets. as she desires.

In Terraforming Mars, players who act as corporations – some environmentally conscious, some not – race to bring the world back to life. They are generating the effect of greenhouse gases to warm the planet, improve the growing conditions for plants, raise the level of oxygen in the air, make surface waters flow again, and even build cities for settlers. If humans one day try to turn Mars into a human-friendly place where walking outside without wearing a spacesuit doesn’t mean certain death, the techniques they use may be similar to those envisioned in this game.

These impressively advanced games, most of which have been released over the past five years, are already bringing the future of space exploration to the coffee table. In doing so, however, they avoid controversial ethical questions.

Now this is the real world The exploration of extra-atmospheric space finally happened, one can imagine how all this could happen in real life. The long-term visions of space agencies and space billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos include astronauts visiting, if not stabilizing, and building on other worlds. Humans will likely return to the Moon in five years or so, thanks to NASA’s Artemis program and missions and Chinese companies such as Blue Origin, Moon Express and Astrobotic. Using those lunar outposts as way stations on their way to deep space, they will set foot on Mars within the next two decades. Mining for water and building materials will likely come into our lives as well, while traveling to asteroids and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn can take decades longer, as they are complicated by vast distances from our home world and the need for non-solar energy very far from the sun.

Some of today’s space games involve such technical and logistical complexities, and they raise real tensions between international rivalries and international cooperation in space. But they don’t engage in the broader questions, even as experts begin to debate: Is rehabilitation a good idea? Who should take it, and who should take responsibility for the risks involved? On Earth, ideas of transforming our climate and atmosphere to combat climate change, called geoengineering, remain controversial (although they may one day become necessary). But reclamation is more complicated, and there is a high probability that it may not work. As the Gaia Project shows, reclamation means different things to different species, and it cannot be livable at the same time for aliens with opposite needs. Most planets cannot be turned into an icy world and a greenhouse at the same time.

People are also beginning to discuss the dangers of mining in space and the challenges of doing so sustainably and without distorting the surfaces of other worlds. But who decides that they can only take space resources for themselves? Since these resources do not compensate for themselves, how sustainable are they?

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