Michel Mayor, the co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, has declared that it is not possible to colonise another planet if (and when) we mess up the Earth. He won the Nobel prize for discovering the first planet orbiting a sun-like star outside our solar system. He argues that migrating to other exoplanets which are livable are too far away to feasibly travel to.

All stars are “effectively at a distance of infinity” declares another astrophysicist. It would be a stretch if the human race could reach Jupiter within the next few centuries. Furthermore, since the nearest star is about 70,000 farther away than Jupiter, all the other stars and exoplanets are effectively out of reach.

Read the full article on Fox News: Humans will never live on another planet, Nobel Laureate says. Here’s why.


The system in computer games is such that if we mess up, we can restart our game from our last saved progress and try again. Some who are confronted with the way that we are destroying our planets are also retorting that we can always pack up here on Earth, move to another planet and start civilisation anew somewhere out there in the universe. 

However, the prevailing scientific consensus is that we would not be able to travel to these livable exoplanets in the near future and within our lifetimes. Therefore, it is imperative for us to take care of our planet and keep it livable for as long as possible because we and the generations that come after us would bear the consequences of our decisions today.

If Earth is the only planet that we have that has livable conditions, does this necessarily mean that we would feel compelled to look after it? What will finally cause people to pay attention to the ways that humans are slowly destroying the ecosystem? It is largely a question of short-termism and competing interests: that a less environmentally sustainable approach may lead to higher profits and there are no tangible consequences in the environment around me. Yet we should do well to remember the words of Mike Berners-Lee who said that “There is no Planet B”.

Questions for further personal evaluation: 

  1. If you had the opportunity to move to an exoplanet within your lifetime, would you? Why or why not? What would make you change your mind? 
  2. For those who want to just leave Earth and begin life anew in a new planet: Why do you think it is so appealing to start again anew? Is there a value to staying on Earth and working on environmental issues in the face of an escape option?

Useful vocabulary: 

  1. ‘exoplanet’: planets which orbit a star outside of the solar system
  2. emeritus’: having retired but allowed to retain their title as an honour