Discussion on whether Ceres will finally become known by the general public in 2015 thanks to Dawn

Sunday, April 05, 2009

That's kind of a stretched title, so let me explain. At the moment there's a planet (dwarf planet, planetoid, whatever) called Ceres located in between Mars and Jupiter -- our backyard in cosmic terms -- that I think will be a better location for colonization than Mars due to a number of reasons that I've written up in some detail. The problem with Ceres though is that as of yet we've never sent a probe there, and due to not being classified as a true planet the general public isn't even aware that this remarkable location exists.

At the moment though we have the Dawn probe on its way to Ceres (first stopping at Vesta to make some observations), where it will arrive in 2015. So the question is: will our first close encounter with this planet finally result in it becoming part of the general consciousness regarding the Solar System? Will most people finally be aware that there's a fairly large body in between Mars and Jupiter that is definitely worth exploring? That's the most important question.

I started a thread on Reddit on that yesterday that you can see here, that so far has a few dozen responses so at the very least people in the know (those that pay attention to space news and subscribe to this subreddit) are interested in Ceres and think it to be a worthwhile location for exploration. The interesting thing about Ceres is that there is almost no opposition whatsoever to the idea of exploring it compared to the idea of exploring Venus for example, likely because at least with Ceres there's a great deal of terra firma to explore. Even though Venus is still a doable location technologically, there might be something depressing about always having to remain in the cloudtops.

I'm also hoping that Dawn's first encounter with Vesta in 2012 will bring about a great deal of attention to the mission, and anticipation for the upcoming encounter with Ceres. Vesta is (from what I can think of off the top of my head) the first large body we will be encountering up close for the first time since Neptune in the 1980s. After Voyager's encounter there every other mission we have sent has either been a body we've explored or flown by before, or has only encountered some fairly small asteroids like Ida and Dactyl, or 433 Eros. Scientifically these are all very interesting, but Ceres will be the first new destination we encounter that humans will (relatively) easily be able to make into another home.

Until 2015 I consider one of my jobs to be informing as many people as possible about the existence of this planet and the possibilities for exploration there. The more the better. Perhaps an Esperantist friend of mine may be interested in creating a fairly detailed article on Colonization of Ceres for the front page of the Esperanto Wikipedia.


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