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For well over a century, science fiction writers and scientists alike have regaled us with talk about humanity's future in space. At one time, our ambitions were focused on traveling to the Moon, Mars, and Venus to look for possible life and build outposts of our civilization. But as our awareness of the Universe has grown, so too have our dreams and aspirations.

For generations now, we have been treated to speculation that humanity could one day achieve the dream of occupying (in whole or in part) the Milky Way galaxy. Alternately, many have suggested that there may already be extraterrestrial civilizations that have taken up residence across our galaxy and are just waiting to meet us.

The question is, is such a thing even possible? Among many scientists, the idea that intelligent life could expand to fill a galaxy (given enough time) is a likely, if distant, possibility. Then again, the nature of space travel and the limits imposed by the laws of physics make the prospect somewhat doubtful.

 

And yet, the concept of an interstellar empire is still popular and is even an important feature in certain scientific debates. For instance, if there is intelligent life beyond Earth in the Universe, and some of it had a head start on humanity (of a few eons or even billions of years), then it's fair to assume they might have spread beyond their home star, right?

So just how practical is the notion of a "going interstellar"? Also, what implications might this have for the future of humanity and the prospects of our finding other interstellar explorers out there?

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