A Planet of People (2018)
This essay by Julijonas Urbonas is a modified version of the text published in the book Imagining Lithuania: 100 years, 100 visions, 1918-2018 , edited by Norbertas Černiauskas, Marija Drėmaitė, Tomas Vaiseta and translated by Romas Kinka (Vilnius: Lithuanian Culture Institute, 2018).
The apocalypse is already here. Pandemics, climate change, deadly asteroids, atomic war,aliens – that is only some of the possible scenarios. But the scenarios for saving humankind are considerably fewer: the colonization of other planets, space stations, and cryoanabiosis (suspended animation by freezing). The great nations are already preparing for these scenarios. America is preparing to colonize the Moon and Mars. The Russians are freezing their people (through the Russian cryonics company KrioRus). The Chinese are conducting negotiations with aliens (using the largest FAST radio telescope in the world). And what future awaits small countries like Lithuania?
Lithuania does not have – and it is doubtful that it will ever have – the technological and economical resources for space colonization programme, like the great nations do. What are the alternatives? To believe in the goodwill of the megastates and free places on their ‘Noah’s arks’?
The ‘black swan’ theory says that such events can happen unexpectedly and suddenly. In the worst-case scenario, if we have to come to terms with end of our planet and history, what human legacy, apart from space debris, will we leave in the Universe? One could consider analogues of the golden phonograph record, on which are recorded images and sounds of Earth’s life and culture, sent in the space probe Voyager. However, nothing can be a substitute for a human being.
I am working on the project Cosmic Lithuanias in which I reflect on the cosmic identity of Lithuanian and consider various speculative scenarios of the future. As a part of this project I put forward a proposal – why not catapult a person into outer space? Just the body, without anything else. We would save weigh and volume, and so the flight would be simpler and cost less. And what is most important, outer space is an excellent space for conservation for a long, long time. Outer space is an excellent environment for cryoanabiosis – a vacuum and an almost absolute zero.
In order to avoid solar radiation and unexpected collisions with other cosmic bodies, I am proposing that one of the Lagrange points be chosen. These are locations between two bodies orbiting around one another (for example, the Sun and the Moon, the Sun and Earth), in which the gravitational pull compensate for one another and third bodies, for example, space probes, stay in place and become stabilized. Those bodies are not affected by any other forces, only very weak gravitational forces, emanating from their own bodies (any object with mass has a gravitational field).
In this way the bodies of three million Lithuanian citizens hovering in space over a certain period of time would be glued together in one cluster, an artificial asteroid. One can consider other forms as well, unique sculptural structures: everyone holding on to a huge ring, snowflake, sphere or some kind of architectural composition. A cosmic fossil of humanity. A monument to humanity made up of people or, to be more exact, to Lithuania made up of Lithuanians..