Doomsday "preppers" believe salvation will be afforded by means of a well-equipped bunker; the "rapture-ready" set believes in a trip to heaven. Stephen Hawking, on the other hand, recommends the colonization of outer space as our best tool against annihilation.

If there’s one person on this planet known for his striking ability to think outside of the box, it’s Hawking — commonly considered the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein. And he thinks we need to get our derrières into space, and quick.

"We are entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history," said Hawking, who has struggled gallantly against Lou Gehrig's disease for much of his life.

Discussing the Earth's most troubling concerns in an email interview with The Canadian Press, Hawking described space exploration as humankind's most urgent mission. Predicting a planet soon made uninhabitable, he says that our only chance of long-term survival as a species is to “spread out into space.”

"Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill. But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million,” he wrote.

He also thinks that space exploration should involve people, rather than just robots. Robots may be good at gathering data, he has said before, but they shouldn't entirely replace people in space. Seeing astronauts floating around in all that vast blackness is inspiring, and people need inspiration, he told Parade Magazine.

"Science is not only a disciple of reason, but, also, one of romance and passion," he added.

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