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Not too far off in the future, maybe 20-50 years from now, an anomaly is detected a little ways outside our solar system and it's like nothing we've ever seen before. Researchers begin studying it immediately and soon it becomes clear that whatever it is will destroy our planet in less then 500 years. Independent teams around the globe who also have been studying the anomaly begin to confirm the initial reports and it seems that earth may be in serious trouble.

However amidst the panic a team of scientists announce that they may have a way to save earth from it's impending doom. But there's only one problem, they would need a spaceship capable of bringing a team to the anomaly for the plan to work. With current spaceflight technologies it seems impossible, we can't even get to mars yet without frying astronauts! Plus current thruster technologies would mean a generation ship would be needed to make it to the anomaly.

The only way this could even works is if every country on earth poured every spare dollar into spaceflight research, and even then you'd need to cut funding from every program you could to ensure you were putting as much as you could into research. But if earth is just going to be destroyed anyway there's not much point in spending money anywhere else is there? If we all just worked together on this project for even the slightest chance of saving the planet, would we all give it a shot and work together on one massive generation ship?

Here's a proposal;

Form a Global Space Agency, instead of each independent group working on their own separate design everyone works together and shares tech and research. Groups would be formed to work on individual components that would be needed, like propulsion, design, radiation shielding etc. Also any useful tech must be divulged to the GSA.

Stop fighting, everyone calling a truce means military funding could be diverted to spaceflight research. No hostile actions can be made towards any other member contributing to the Global Space Agency.

Basically just try to get along.

Would everyone do it? Would it just take some time to convince everyone? Or would anyone even care with it being so far off in the future, just figuring that the next generation can deal with it when it's a more urgent problem?

Extra information:

The entire world all recognizes the anomaly as a real threat, everyone knows that it will destroy earth within time frame researchers have estimated. No one thinks it's just some ruse to try and convince them to reveal top secret technologies or anything like that.

They have current a current technology level of what could be reasonably expected in 20-50 years, but spaceflight advancement has been somewhat slower than you might expect. The first manned missions to mars have been continuously delayed as there hasn't been sufficient advancement in radiation shielding or propulsion tech to get a crew to mars without cooking them.

Quick Edit

If people wouldn't be worried about what's going to happen down the road enough to do anything about it is there something that would make them concerned enough to pay attention? If the anomaly posed a more urgent threat, would that make a difference? For example if every 30-50 years it released a powerful enough EMP to affect earth and cause widespread damage would that get more people's attention?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site, CJK. With the way our societies are today, I'd estimate 7/17 people would reject the scientific findings for the first 300 years, dropping off towards 1/17 in the last 50 years, and Israel and Iran would rather start WWIII than work together. :) $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Apr 26 '16 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ This sounds very similar to the plot of Nomad by Matthew Mather. $\endgroup$ – Dark Hippo Apr 27 '16 at 8:48
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    $\begingroup$ "I would like to get this to work, but <RivalCountry> isn't putting enough work in. We can't complete the project like this." "I don't understand much but this is bad for the stability of the country. Censor every mention of it!" "I have not much interest in it but <RivalCountry> is going to get there first. Sabotage their project!" "This is the proof my God is the only True God! Kill everyone who disagrees!" "This is a conspiracy by <WhoeverYouHate>! Don''t believe them." "Oh, a good occasion to siphon public money." Everyone : "I don't care at all, I'll be long dead." $\endgroup$ – Autar Apr 27 '16 at 9:45
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    $\begingroup$ Why can't we be friends, why can't we be friends, why can't we be friends, why can't we be friends? I'd kinda like to be the president... $\endgroup$ – ASH-Aisyah Apr 27 '16 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ Global warming. sigh $\endgroup$ – perfectionist Apr 27 '16 at 16:15
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Even a lot of your basic assumptions are flawed. This issue will be tremendously complicated, although the planet might well be saved. Let's dive in:

The entire world all recognizes the anomaly as a real threat

Laughing. Out. Loud. As if. Have you heard about global warming? Is it universally accepted? Even in the scientific community? Well, then.

What will actually happen is that your announcement is going to be challenged by many different factions. Some politician's and company's agendas are going to be disrupted by this discovery, and they will seek to discredit the scientists in questions.

Many different groups will demand that the finding be validated. Disbelievers, skeptics, and religious fanatics will all put their own spin on your announcement and use this event to try and push their own agendas.

Politicians, both at the national and international level will debate the situation, with varying results.

The problem

500 years is a long time. Most politicians and governments hardly even look past the next election term, let alone so far down the line that some of the nations discussing the issue today are not even going to exist any more.

Humans are pros at procrastination and passing the buck. Tie in all the varying political and religious implications of this announcement, and you've got a real issue on your hands. Most politicians won't want to touch this issue even with a ten foot pole. Oh, they will debate it at length, but they won't want to commit to any real actions. Why?

Well, let's balance the budget first. That will only take 20 years or so, and what's that compared to 500 years?

Also look at how much human technology has advanced since the 1500's. And our pace is only increasing. A lot of people (politicians) will argue that we need not worry about this for at least another few decades (maybe even centuries). After all, our tech is only going to get better, and we'll figure it out eventually!

Technology

Now in this department you're actually downplaying our achievements a little bit. We actually do have the technology to get to Mars even today, however we lack the funding. Additionally, we don't quite understand all the implications of such a long space flight on the human body. The astronauts wouldn't be "cooked", although they might certainly be the worse for wear.

Political Implications

Even if an alliance to act against this threat is set up, there's still going to be a lot of political in-fighting, corruption, and manipulation hampering the project.

For example, if I were the USA, and I was supporting the project with a large amount of money I might be suspicious of China, or Russia, whom are providing a smaller sum and seemingly building up their militaries while I sacrifice my defense budget for the sake of mankind.

What you have to remember that it's often difficult to get a group of people to agree on what their own best interests are right now, let alone a group of governments which are competing for wealth and influence.

Are we doomed?

The good news is that we most likely are not doomed to die out as a species. Some initiative will indeed be created, and the scientific community of the world will most likely start to pull together in order to start finding a solution.

NASA might finally be given the go-ahead (and funding) to start implementing some of their space faring ideas, but other companies such as Virgin Galactic are already well positioned to act in this regard, and will jump at the opportunity to get involved.

Last but not least, as I've mentioned, out technology is improving by leaps and bounds. This will no doubt help us catch up the time lost bickering over all the BS that us humans always do.

The two biggest threats you face are:

  1. Global instability such as another world war, or large scale terrorist attacks against your project. It would be a good idea to build multiple ships, and to decentralize the process such that it's not easily destroyed by attacking a single location.

  2. The fall and rise of governments over time. If the European Space Agency is heavily involved, but then the EU splits up that will heavily impact your project.

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    $\begingroup$ @CJK - your comment is self-negating. "there are still skeptics ... but as a whole everyone agrees" What I'm trying to get across is that in a realistic scenario a lot fewer people will agree than you think, and even then, getting those people (who all believe in the threat) to commit they money, and resources to a single solution will be incredibly difficult. They will all have their own ideas as to what the best course of action is, and - of course - who should be in charge. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Apr 26 '16 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ Global warming is indeed universally accepted - in the scientific as well as the general community. The only exception is in the US where a relatively small group of people continue to deny it. $\endgroup$ – ventsyv Apr 26 '16 at 21:45
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    $\begingroup$ I googled "what percentage believe in evolution" the answer was 58% of Americans. It does not matter how true a thing is if people do not want to believe, then they won't. The fall of the Roman Empire shows that people are willing to let society collapse if they don't want to believe something. $\endgroup$ – Sqeaky Apr 27 '16 at 1:21
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    $\begingroup$ Global warming is accepted by ~97% of scientists, and has been like that for over a decade, so it is pretty much universally accepted in the scientific community. $\endgroup$ – MKII Apr 27 '16 at 8:20
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    $\begingroup$ The 97% consensus is a lie. wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303480304579578462813553136 One problem about Global Warming is so much of what the public believes as true is, at best, a good hypothesis. Much is just alarming statements published by sensationalist press and NOT corrected by the scientific community. Some of it is true, some is a good guess, and some is a bad guess. There's much more nuance to this science than many suspect or some climate scientists are willing to admit. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B Apr 27 '16 at 8:42
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We have no hope....


To illustrate my point, I'm going to change your post a bit...

Not too far off in the past, maybe 20-50 years ago, an anomaly was detected in our atmosphere and it was like nothing we'd ever seen before. Researchers began studying it immediately and soon it became clear that it will destroy our planet in less then 500 years.

Who cares, without a majority of scientists agreement, it's probably just a bad study. No one can model what's happening in our atmosphere, it's just too big.

Independent teams around the globe who also have been studying the anomaly begin to confirm the initial reports and it seems that earth may be in serious trouble.

So there is a conspiracy going on, attempting to prove this "Threat" is real, and that we should start paying these science types more mind.

However amidst the panic a team of scientists announce that they may have a way to save earth from it's impending doom. But there's only one problem, they would need a radical change in technology and prioritization. With current technologies it seems impossible, we can't reverse our technological progress without destroying big industries!

People have an interest in keeping their interests at the forefront of society's priorities, and these people aren't going to be alive in 500 years, so what do they care?

The only way this could even works is if every country on earth poured every spare dollar into atmospheric and environmental research, and even then you'd need to cut funding from every program you could to ensure you were putting as much as you could into research.

You're going up against a wall here, people have an interest in keeping their funding un-cut.

But if earth is just going to be destroyed anyway there's not much point in spending money anywhere else is there? If we all just worked together on this project for even the slightest chance of saving the planet, would we all give it a shot and work together?

If I'm not alive in 500 years, why do I care?


Reread your story, and it sounds a lot like the climate debate, which is obstructed by approximately 1/2 of the United States. With such a "far off" and possibly "based in science fiction" problem, you're not gonna get any action.

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Can't think of anything that might work. The threat, if confirmed somehow, by science, will give fuel to religious zealots calling for the end of the world, and all fanatics will rally to gain more followers for "their side". And in 500 years, I'm reasonably sure "prophecies" will arise, to give a mystical meaning to the unavoidable scientifically proven fact. If coming together for a common goal won't work, and there are oh so many others; there is nothing to be done here for the human race. I don't think anybody will want to work together, instead politicians will probably rush to have their nation be the "saviour" of the planet, bringing each and every country closer to insolvency, and each nation arising after the dust settles and bodies stop twitching, will be just a little more savage than the previous one(s), eventually even if a solution would be found with at least one nation picking up the work from where a previous civilization left off, we would have regressed too far, to know how to make use of it.

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Absolute and undeniable proof of Mutually Assured Destruction. It's the only thing that's ever worked, and it's all you'll ever need.

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