“Behind every man alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. Since the dawn of time, a hundred billion human beings have walked the planet Earth
Now this is an interesting number, for by a curious coincidence there are approximately a hundred billion stars in our local universe, the Milky Way. So for every man and woman who has ever lived, in this universe there shines a star.
But every one of those stars is a sun, often far more brilliant and glorious than the small, nearby star we call the Sun. And many-perhaps most-of those alien suns have planets circling them. So almost certainly there is enough land in the sky to give every member of the human species, back to the first apeman, his own private world-sized heaven-or hell.
How many of those potential heavens and hells are inhabited, and by what manner of creatures, we have no way of guessing; the very nearest of them is a million times further away than Mars or Venus, those still remote goals of the next generation. But the barriers of distance are crumbling – one day we shall meet our equals, or our masters, among the stars.
Men have been slow to face this prospect. Increasing numbers, however, are asking: “Why have such meetings not occurred already, since we ourselves are about to venture into space?”
From the original program handed out at the premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey.