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How to Fight a War in Space

Advice from Swedish astronomer Alexis Brandeker on the battleground of 'Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare'.

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Although the universe is vastly unknown and unexplored, a ton of movies, books, games and comics take place in outer space. It's probably because we know so little about space that it's such an immensely popular location for fiction. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is no stranger to what's up (there) and uses space as its battleground. After a destructive attack on planet Earth, your mission is to fight a ruthless enemy in a battle to protect the solar system. All while trying to survive in the deadly and extreme environment of our cosmos.


Despite that our fascination with space is expanding in a similar pace as the universe itself, we still don't know that much. How far away from reality is the latest CoD? And what dangers could potentially await us out there?

To get some answers, we reached out to Alexis Brandeker. He's a Swedish astronomer at Stockholm Observatory with a Ph.D. in Young Stars and Circumstellar Disks. Oh, and he's actually discovered four (minor) planets.

When do you think we'll start moving to space?
Alexis Brandeker: We might visit Mars, but not within the next 20 years. Mars is our only alternative where we could actually settle and that could take over 100 years. Forget about Venus. We might never inhabit any other planets than Mars. If we were to inhabit other stars, it'd take thousands of years.

Let's say we're thousands of years into the future and we've moved to space. Is it likely for us to experience the same kind of wars in space as we do today on Earth?
No, I don't think so. If we as a civilisation become mature enough to migrate to space, we'd have to get better at cooperating. Looking back at history, we're slowly getting there. One step back, two steps forward.

If a fight breaks out on the ISS, between Russians and Americans, for example, what weapons would work up there?
You don't bring weapons to outer space. You have to focus on staying alive, not kill each other. To bring firearms to space is similar to using nuclear weapons on Earth. In the process of annihilating your enemy, you'll end up killing yourself.


How can we prepare for a war in space?
A war in space has to be hugely high-technological. On Earth, you can kill someone with a machete. In space, the distances are way further apart. I guess in the unlikely event of a civil war within terror groups, intelligence information would be of most importance.

Will we conquer planets like we have conquered countries on Earth?
Space is so much bigger than what we can imagine and Earth is just a tiny fraction of our galaxy. There are more planets than there are people on our planet. If we have the technology to travel around planets, we will have the technology to create habitable environments, so there wouldn't be a battle of where to live.

Stephen Hawking warns us about searching for aliens. He says advanced civilisations could potentially be a major threat to humanity and our planet. Do you agree?
I doubt it. If there is intelligent extra-terrestrial life that has the potential to receive our signals, they have to be smart enough to understand that we're not a threat. However, we're probably pretty interesting and unique in the universe. It is highly unlikely to find another civilisation similar to ours. Yet there are certain evolutional traits that are more likely than others. For example, eyes develop independently because sight is a useful mechanism.

How will it affect us psychologically to move out in space?
An interesting part of inhabiting other systems is how humanity would split and develop differently. Mars, for example, has less surface gravity than what Earth has. A human moving to Mars will adapt and develop in a different way than humans on Earth. Our planet is still, even considering climate change and global warming, way more habitable than other planets. Mars in the summer is still colder than Antarctica. Since it wasn't until the 16th Century that we perceived Earth as a planet, there's plenty of time to speculate.

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