The universe is not only strange but stranger than we can imagine

Space exploration is our destiny

 

Man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole.

William S. Burroughs

 

2016-04-20 18.00.15

Ready for launch

It’s hard to understand why anyone would turn away from the ultimate adventure that is space exploration. Sure, there are (rather unconvincing) economic arguments about how money could be better spent elsewhere, and sure it will be hard and expensive to get out there. And yes, many people will die in the attempt. So what? The same can be said for every risky voyage of exploration that our race has ever undertaken — and yet those voyages were undertaken, to our immense gain.

It won’t be easy
Critics of space travel point to the huge difficulties in getting to the high frontier from Earth, and surviving once there. Space, they point out, is an incredibly harsh, unforgiving environment: no food, no water, no air. We would have to build vessels or shelters which reproduce our natural environments, at least sufficiently to support life.  

Our ancestors faced similar challenges
True — and yet much the same thing could be said of, for example, the people who set out in outrigger canoes or flimsy sailing vessels across the wide oceans, sometimes with no clear idea of what – if anything — lay beyond the vast expanse of water. To do so, our bold ancestors prepared themselves as best they could, sometimes showing extraordinary ingenuity. They designed vessels that could carry them and their goods for weeks and months at a time. They preserved food using salt and smoke. They carried extra water in jars, gourds or skins. They even brought domestic animals and seeds to feed themselves in transit and to farm with, should they reach their unknown destination.

An island of safety
How are their ventures so very different from the challenges facing us in space? Like them, we must create a little island of safety in the middle of a hostile ocean. Like them, we must carry our food and water with us. Like them, if our craft fails, we die. You can’t breathe underwater, any more than in the hard vacuum of space.

Just preparing for these challenges teaches us much. The original space program brought a wealth of new technology and know-how in its wake. What leaps in knowledge might we make if we made a serious effort to colonize The Moon and the planets, to mine the asteroids for the incredible mineral riches? There would be an initial investment, certainly, but an investment that would almost certainly pay huge dividends long term — something that presumably has not escaped the first generation of space-bound entrepreneurs, who are already among us.

It`s not about the cash
But money, ROI, payback, is not ultimately what space exploration is about. The desire to explore is a fundamental aspect of being human. Wanderlust is built into our very genes, and to deny its attraction is to deny our heritage and our own humanity.  For all these reasons, and more to be explored in greater depth here in future posts — we must take a step further out. We must move into space.

 

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