If there’s a call to relocate to planet Mars, will you go? The preparation is going on. NASA has a plan to send humans to Mars in 2030s. The agency is busy working on the technology to make it happen. The average distance between the Earth and the Mars is 225 million kilometers. Using the fastest spacecraft so far launched into space, the 58,000km/h New Horizons craft, it will take 39 days to reach Mars at its closest distance to the Earth and about 289 days at its farthest. Do you still want to go?

Understanding Mars is important, if we want to understand our Earth well because the two planets have similar formation and evolution. Mars used to be suitable for life. What happened to it? Would our Earth face the same fate? Scientists want to know these answers.  Instead of waiting and praying, scientists want to know if there are things we can do now to prevent suffering the fate that befell life forms that were once on Mars.

The news last month that scientists have discovered salty water on Mars has been an exciting one. It gave a boost to the plan to send man to Mars. Water supports life. So if there is water, there is a chance that there is still some form of life on Mars.

If mission to Mars, the red planet, is exciting, imagine a mission to a new Earth, Earth 2.0.

In July, scientists announced that Kepler Space Telescope has discovered the most similar planet to earth yet. It is called Kepler-452b. It is 60% bigger than our Earth, with twice the earth’s gravity. It orbits its star in 385 days while our planet orbits our own star in 365 days. Kepler -452b sun is 4% larger than our own and a billion and half years older. The Kepler-452b sun is also 20% brighter than our sun. The planet is in what is called the “Goldilocks zone” a zone that has the right distance between a star and its planet that could permit the existence of liquid water. Kepler -452b is 1,400 light years away.

Earlier in April, scientists studying data from the same Kepler Space Telescope also announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, an Earth-like planet in our galaxy. Kepler-186f is less than 10 percent larger than our earth. Its star is half the size and mass of our sun. It orbits the sun every 130 days and receives a third of the solar radiation the Earth receives. Kepler-186f is, of course, 500 light years from Earth.

So far Kepler telescope has discovered 69 habitable planets within the habitable zone. The telescope has found 961 planets outside our solar system and over 3,845 planet candidates are waiting to be studied more to determine their status.

Launched in March of 2009, the telescope has been looking at over 150,000 stars within our galaxy, studying their planets and masses of objects all around. In May 2013, a wheel broke inside the telescope and it stopped working. The Kepler -452b and Kepler-186f findings are from four-year data the telescope sent which scientists are still studying.  

Scientists are not relenting in their search for answers to these questions: Why are we here? Are we here alone? Is there any other life form out there?  Can they see us? Can we see them? Are they searching for us the way we are searching for them? Scientists will find answers one day- even if it is 1,400 light years from today.

If we set out to visit Kepler- 452b today using the New Horizons spacecraft, which travels at 59, 000 km/h, it would take about 26 million years to reach the planet. That distance could shrink dramatically with advancements in science and technology. Two hundred years ago, the 384,400 km (238,900 mi) distance between the Earth and the moon appeared insurmountable to a generation that had no car and no planes. Today, less than 50 years after man first landed on the moon, we are finalizing plans to visit planet Mars. Going by the speed of technological advancement in this age, 200 years from now, the Kepler-452b may be a few-hour trip away.

Early in the 20th century, human knowledge doubled every century. Today, all of what humans know doubles every twelve months. In the next ten to fifty years, all of human knowledge would double every 12 hours. Technically, what that will mean is that what you know today can be obsolete by daybreak.

In the big picture, it means that everything we think we know and everything we believe in will be questioned. We should be secure in the knowledge that our answer today is not the final answer.  Be it in politics, in social life, in science or in religion, today's answer to life's questions are not the final answers. Soon, in one lifetime they are not going to stand the test of time.

It is scary to know that what we think we know is wrong. Imagine discovering that your parents are not really your parents; that your beliefs are full of holes and may not really be right; that who you think you are is false, essentially that everything that defines you is wrong. Such a possibility triggers insecurities in many. In an effort to fight the insecurities emanating from the possibility that what we believe may be eroding, many become protective.

Insecurities close the doors and windows of your life and make you a prisoner in your own home, afraid of the world outside. When you look at the world, you see real and imaginary aliens that could crawl into your perfect home. If insecurities’ wreckage ends there, the harm would be bearable. But inside the oven that your locked up home is, the only thing that can grow in such a closed space is extremism.

Extremism is not a spirit from above or passion from within, it is merely the fruit of intolerance. Intolerance on its own is a one-way road without the possibilities of U-turn, left turn or right turn. Such roads ultimately lead one to only two places, a ditch or, if you are amongst the lucky few, a dead end.

Humans scream most about the things we know the least about. Nobody is out there shouting that the sun will come out tomorrow, instead we find people shouting that their God is better than yours; that their heaven is prettier than yours, that their hell is hotter than yours; and that the world is coming to an end.

The discovery of a new earth may actually mean that the old earth will soon pass away. Not because it is written but because our sun is burning up and the increase in the radiation and the heat it emits will make the Earth as uninhabitable as Mars. If we work hard we will be out of here before the curtain falls. Thank God we have found Kepler-452b. All we now need is to get a vehicle to take us there.

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