According to Star Trek, whenever man boldly goes, he has to go to Class M planets, because otherwise he’d need to wear a spacesuit.
In the TV show, Class M planets always resemble Earth, most often the bit called California. Breathable air, not too hot, not too cold and a plentiful supply of bikini-clad ladies.
Now Nasa has released its latest data regarding what Trekkers would call Class M worlds, and it seems that there are so many of them, the boldly going would go on and on for quite a while before they were all explored.
Apparently, our galaxy alone – never mind however many others there may be – contains around 17 billion potential Class M planets. Think about it: 17 billion worlds that might sustain carbon-based life-forms; 17 billion possibilities for finding fellow beings, forging inter-galactic friendships and discovering previously undreamt-of bikini designs.
This gives me huge hopes for the future of mankind. After all, just the other day, we found something on Mars that they said was a flower. It didn’t look like a flower, but it certainly wasn’t a rock and frankly, that’s a start. But since there are at least 17 billion other habitable worlds out there, and all it takes is for one of those worlds to harbour life-forms that are, say, ten times as bright as us (really, not difficult), surely we’d have heard from them by now?
OK, some say we already have, and the US government has stuffed the evidence into a bunker, but I don’t just mean the sort of extraterrestrial contacts where they idly probe truck-drivers on lonely roads in Arizona, or swoop low over Falkirk for a laugh. I mean real, unequivocal, up-close, land-on-a-mountain-and-play-me-a-tune encounters. Is it really so much to ask?
Evidently it is, because it’s never happened, but given that there are all those billions of opportunities and not one has been taken – could it possibly be our fault?
I’m starting to take this personally. 17 billion planets are basically saying: Earth? No thanks. This is confirmed by the fact that recorded UFO sightings have fallen dramatically in recent years, indicating that the aliens who did pop by to check us out were less than impressed. What worries me is that Earth is actually the laughing stock of the Milky Way and we don’t know it. Perhaps there are trillions of aliens across the universe, quietly monitoring our progress, and all they see is Jeremy Kyle and Made in Chelsea, so they think, nah, let’s leave it another millennium or so. Or even worse, they came and saw, but made the following report to Intergalactic TripAdvisor: “It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime, but what a disappointment! After travelling 800 light years, we didn’t even want to land! We hovered around a place called Bonnybridge, because that’s where we were told all the action was, but there was absolutely nothing worth abducting. Nasty, polluted planet; full of savage creatures.
“Watched a video nasty called Mars Attacks! which portrayed our Martian friends in an extremely prejudiced, negative and unflattering light. We left a very critical crop circle, explaining our dissatisfaction, but it’s unlikely the ignorant Earthlings will bother reading it.”
All the evidence points to one, logical conclusion: It’s not them, it’s us. We are not alone, but we’re obviously the Nelly No-Mates of the cosmos. Since there are more than 17 billion alternative destinations, it’s painfully clear that we’re bottom of the must-see list. We’ve been hailing on all frequencies for long enough now to enable someone to hear us, so the total lack of response can only mean one thing – they’re ignoring us. In which case, maybe we need to change the message. We need to start behaving like good galactic citizens and then perhaps one of our embarrassingly numerous neighbours will finally take pity on us and make friends.
One way to make ourselves more attractive to extra-terrestrial visitors would be to present ourselves in true Star Trek fashion, as the kind of upmarket Class M planet whose peoples work together in harmony, having put their differences behind them in order to create a better and brighter future. Alternatively, we could just prance around in our bikinis and see what lands. Either way, I’m sure Captain Kirk would approve.