Explore the threats facing human civilisation on Earth and discover the possible ways that we could colonise other planets.

The Future of Life
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • 100% online

    Learn at your own paceHow it works
  • Included in an ExpertTrack

    Course 5 of 5
  • Get full ExpertTrack access

    $39/monthFind out more

Will humans become multi-planet species one day?

On this three-week course, Dr Louisa Preston reflects on everything you’ve learned throughout this ExpertTrack to answer the question, what does all this mean for human life in the future?

Take a trip back through cosmic evolution

The Big Bang. The origin of life. The development of intelligence. These are all key points of our evolution in a cosmic context and understanding these moments can help us to unlock the secrets of the universe.

You’ll start this course by examining where we came from evolutionarily and how this knowledge helps us to understand our place in the universe; how our past and present can help us to contemplate our future.

Go beyond Earth to build a space colony among the stars

As we make huge technological advances, it’s only natural that humankind would start to look outside our atmosphere towards the prospect of colonising other planets and moons.

This course will take you through some of the reasons and justifications for our move to other planets, considering both a partial migration and an entire switching of planets. You’ll then look at the practical considerations and steps required to move humankind to the moon, before taking the leap to create a strategy for colonising Mars.

Explore climate change and why space exploration is vital to civilisation’s survival

Human civilisation currently faces many threats such as climate change, disease, overpopulation, and even asteroids.

You’ll finish this course by looking at the challenges that humankind needs to overcome and the mistakes that have caused some of these threats.

Then you’ll have everything you need to consider what the future of life looks like? And is the colonisation of other worlds essential to the continued survival of humans?

Syllabus

  • Week 1

    Our civilisation: Rise and threats

    • Welcome to the course

      This fifth and final course is all about who we are as a species, where we came from, where we are going and learning to appreciate the power we have to shape our own destiny.

    • Evolution in a cosmic context

      Let's look at our relationship to the Universe and see how our paths are intricately entwined.

    • The evolution of us

      Throughout this ExpertTrack we have followed the evolution of life but now it’s time to explore our own evolutionary history and the birth of civilisation.

    • Threats to a civilisation

      The path of life never runs smoothly and humanity is not immune to the threat of extinction. Here we will look at the many ways Mother Nature can remind us who is actually in charge on the Earth.

    • Weekly wrap-up

      Despite our heightened intelligence, our species lives on a knife edge, constantly facing the threat of extinction. Here we will recap key concepts and think about what the future of our civilisation on Earth and beyond might be.

  • Week 2

    Colonisation of other worlds

    • Welcome to Week 2

      This week will look at humanity in space – leaving the Earth and becoming a multi-planet species – and how we might go about settling on the Moon and Mars.

    • A multi-planet species

      What would it mean to leave the Earth? Here we will explore why we are thinking of moving to other worlds and what the options are for a future human settlement in the Solar System.

    • Colonising the Moon

      One of the nearest and surprisingly easiest places for us to set up our first planetary base is the Moon. Here we will see how this could be done and the effects that living in space or on another world would have on our bodies.

    • Colonising Mars

      Here we will explore the idea of moving to Mars and you will complete a Peer Graded Assignment focused on choosing the perfect settlement for humankind on Mars.

    • Weekly wrap-up

      Now you’ve explored how and why we might want to move to other planets and moons in the Solar System, it’s time to wrap-up and consolidate everything you have learnt this week.

  • Week 3

    A sustainable future

    • Welcome to Week 3

      Let's learn about how we as a species have changed and impacted not just our planet, but the space around it as well. We'll also look at how we can build a sustainable future for ourselves and the species we share our planet with.

    • A changing climate

      Here we will explore our changing climate and our sustainable exploration of the cosmos.

    • Materialistic beings

      We are materialistic beings, we love our ‘stuff’. Here we will see how littered the space around our planet is and question what any passing aliens might think about our planet.

    • The next step

      Here we will tie everything we have learnt so far together and think about what space exploration is teaching us about life on the Earth, protecting ours and other worlds, and living sustainably.

    • Course wrap-up

      Congratulations for making it to the end of this ExpertTrack. Let’s review what you’ve learnt and get inspired to take your learning further.

Prove you're job ready

Highlight the new, job-relevant skills you’ve gained and supplement existing qualifications with a hard-earned, industry-specific digital certificate – plus one for every course within your ExpertTrack.

  • Learn the latest in your chosen industry or subject.
  • Complete each course and pass assessments.
  • Receive certificates validated by the educating organisation.
  • Impress employers with learning outcomes you can add to your CV.
  • Make your career dreams a reality.

Download a PDF

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe evolution in a cosmic context
  • Discuss the threats to the survival of a civilisation
  • Compare reasons and strategies for our switching planets
  • Summarise the considerations and steps required to move to the Moon
  • Create a strategy for colonisation of Mars
  • Investigate the history behind climate change and identify challenges we need to overcome
  • Discuss the mistakes we’ve made and our likelihood to make them again
  • Describe ways our investigation into the space environment can help our lives on earth and beyond

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in the fundamentals of astrobiology, particularly the future of life on Earth and beyond.

It will be especially useful to university applicants looking to identify areas that they’d like to specialise in and STEM teachers looking to bring science to life for their students.

Who will you learn with?

I am an astrobiologist, geologist, and author at the Natural History Museum in London. I am also on the science team for the European Space Agency ExoMars 2022 Mars rover ‘Rosalind Franklin'.

Who developed the course?

FutureLearn

FutureLearn is jointly owned by The Open University and The SEEK Group and has been providing online courses for learners around the world over the last eight years.

About this ExpertTrack

Discover the fascinating field of astrobiology; study life on earth, space exploration, and how they intersect.

Start learning today - free 7-day trial

After your free trial you can:

  • Pay $39 per month to keep learning online
  • Have complete control over your subscription; you can cancel any time
  • Work at your own pace and set your own deadlines at every stage
  • Only pay while you’re learning; the subscription will cancel automatically when you finish
  • Complete online assessments to test your knowledge and prove your skills
  • Earn digital course certificates and a final award that you can share online, with potential employers, and your professional network
  • Keep access to the content of courses you complete even after your subscription ends

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps, but you can complete them as quickly or slowly as you like
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...