Dr Mohamed Qasem, assistant professor in Electronics Engineering, and member of the board of directors for the Digital School in the UAE, during his lecture at the Museum of the Future in Dubai.

Dubai: How humans can become a multiplanetary species? Is it possible for humans to colonise the Milky Way? What is the future of space travel? These are just some of the questions answered during the fourth session of ‘Future Talks’ hosted at Dubai’s Museum of the Future on Thursday.

The futuristic hosted a special lecture where Dr Mohamed Qasem, assistant professor in Electronics Engineering, and member of the board of directors for the Digital School in the UAE, discussed the opportunities and challenges of humanity settling other planets and becoming a multiplanetary species in the future.

Dr Qasam noted “human colonisation of the Milky Way is not a fantasy anymore” and is very much open to discussion in light of rapid scientific developments in the space sector. He declared: “We know that at least one technologically advanced civilisation was born, which is ours, but we have not yet discovered all the possibilities that space offers us. We are now researching and investigating the possibility of colonising and inhabiting other planets.”

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He suggested that humans have good reason to study the possibility of settling on other planets due to the threats posed to humanity in the future. But he added that inhabiting other planets and embarking on intergalactic travel will not be easy.

Hurdle of space travel

“The challenges of space travel are enormous,” noted Dr Qasam, adding: “It takes 2,000 years to reach our nearest galaxy Alpha Centauri, using the fastest spacecraft we have today, and even if we reach 20% of the speed of light, we will need at least 21 years to reach it. This means that the ships transporting humans to Alpha Centauri must be flying cities with a complete ecosystem.”

He is, however, confident that humanity will make new homes in the stars within a relatively short time.

Humans on Mars soon

Dr Qasem noted: “Space tourism has already started with Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. There are plans to build space stations and hotels on different planets to encourage space tourism. Mars will be colonised soon and this is fact. Within 10,000 years, humans will start their journey towards planets in our galaxy and beyond. The most important thing we can do for future generations in order to prepare for future space flights is to instill in our children a love and passion for science.”

Dr Qasem explained “to overcome the challenges to becoming a truly spacefaring race, humanity needs to invest in solutions to help it be ready for the future. Innovation and collaboration hubs like the Museum of the Future have a significant part to accomplish this.”

Planetary science expert

Dr Qasem has a wealth of experience in planetary science. He previously worked in the electronics department at the College of Technological Studies (CTS) at the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAET). He specialises in Artificial Neural Networks and Deep Learning, and his expertise are in optimisation and data compression. He also worked as a consultant to the Kuwait Foundation for Advancement of Sciences (KFAS) advancing science communications. He was selected by Nature Middle East as one of six science communicators to follow. He communicates science through his public lectures delivered in around the world, TV programmes, the Sciware podcast and his social media accounts.