Editorial – Jan 2018: Oumuamua – even the word sounds alien.

January 2, 2018 | By | Reply More

Hello everyone

It’s amazing how far things have changed in the past 50 years. It took Frank Drake and his SETI project a lot of work to convince people to get radio telescopes looking for extra-terrestrial life. Today, we are forever turning up planets orbiting other stars, some of them within the Goldilocks region and the possibility of life being out there. It’s almost getting commonplace to think there’s enough planets out there to support life. Just a shame that they are never going to get this far.

In December, it was noted that a long cigar shape passing through the Solar system, now named Oumuamua. The shape tends to suggest it not to be an asteroid or meteoroid. At most, it’s got a couple paragraphs in British newspapers and a little blurb on the Net. Writing this editorial in December could also mean this could be old news by the time this goes on-line. Of course this would change drastically if this strange shape suddenly changed direction and was heading towards the Earth. I wonder if the news reporters are aware of Arthur C. Clarke’s trilogy starting with ‘Rendezvous With Rama’ (1973) where a cylindrical alien spaceship entered our space?

We’ve had everything else so far in recent years. We’re long overdue for a first contact with an alien species if we’re going to fulfil the Science Fiction checklist we’re currently adding up. We’ve certainly been broadcasting long enough for some species to receive our signals and arranged a home visit or just space-farers already out there. Although nothing has happened, we’ll still be no wiser as Oumuamua continues its journey. A shame really. It would have been nice to know if it was an interstellar probe, a derelict generation ship or just a piece of unusual space rock. The first two would have been vitally important to our understanding of the universe.

Should we be celebrating or worried? I suppose that depends on your perspective. Certainly we shouldn’t offer an official landing on the lawn of any prospective leader meet without at least comparing DNA or other genetic named material to see whether there are any similarities that would mean our or their microbes could damage or kill, assuming they come from an oxygen-based atmosphere. I doubt if there was any mutual compatibility that it would be one-sided and them and us would both suffer. That would also mean environmental suits all round.

Even so, I doubt if they would want to slow their spacecraft up, simply because it would take too long to get up to speed again if they were on a long trip. From that respect it would make more sense to have a large parking orbit. If it does that, then we know they won’t be staying long. Any landing vessels would therefore be much smaller. Whether they would be flying saucers or certified UFOs would depend entirely on what they are like. We’ve hazard guesses in our genre and scientifically but no one knows for sure.

If it is a generation starship then there is a greater possibility it is the original species. I mean, if you had a chance of successfully going to the stars would you send an AI in your place? If not, then we are talking Artificial Intelligence and robot life and a hope that its orders are benign. We will have to hope that we’ve covered every contingency in what can happen next.

Even if it turns out to be just another piece of rock, going through the preparations as a dry run isn’t a bad idea. There is nothing like being prepared just in case. I doubt if any visiting alien team would want to be told to wait in line as mankind tries to sort out its current problems.

The final thing that we should have had is have a space probe ready to be sent up to investigate and find out what it really was. To not have anything like that available is probably the worse thing we haven’t done.

If there is a lesson to be learnt from Oumuamua then it is the necessity to show that Earth is not a hick planet but one on the verge of exploring the greater expanse of space and happy to receive visitors.


Thank you, take care, good night and play the five tones.


Geoff Willmetts

editor: SFCrowsnest.info


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Category: Offworld Report

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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