I'm current planning a story which includes a race of diminutive humanoid aliens, one of whom crash-lands on Earth. They're fully sentient, and have the same average intelligence level as humans. The other main difference from humans, besides their height, is that their lifespans are much shorter.
Using sols (Earth years) as a comparison: an average human reaches maturity around their mid-to-late teens, and has a life expectancy of 70-80 sols. An average member of the alien species reaches maturity at around 4 sols, and has a life expectancy of about 20. 30 is almost unheard of. The crash-landing alien is therefore astonished that the first human he runs into is 36 sols old.
This raises an interesting problem. 20 years isn't an awfully long time to do anything at all. If they spend the same number of sols in education as we do, they won't have much time to do anything with that education by the time they graduate. If they spend the same proportion of their lives in education as we do, that's about 3-4 sols, which is nowhere near enough time to actually learn a whole lot.
So I imagine, compared to humanity, these relative mayflies are going to find technological progress quite difficult. It won't be so much "standing on the shoulders of giants" as "balancing precariously at the top of a chain of fifty aliens, all standing on each others' shoulders". So I ask you: could a species whose average livespan is only 20 years ever progress far enough to reach space?
You may assume the following:
- By "reach space", I mean a program comparable to the Apollo missions - if they can get that far, I'll make the bold assumption that they will eventually reach interstellar travel.
- Their resources, planetary environment, and desire are all sufficient for space travel.
- Their discoveries are sufficiently documented to be remembered and built upon, as mankind's discoveries (generally) have been.
- The aliens do not have the means to artificially extend their lifespans (be it via DNA modification, cybernetic enhancement, or whatever).
- They do not have the assistance of other alien races who are trying to "uplift" them.
I'm aware of this question, but there, the "shorter lifespan" is that of humanity. I'm going 3-4 times shorter than that, and I want to know how far they could progress, not how fast.