Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why Space, Et Cetera

In my voluminous day-job reading today, I came across this article on "The Value of Space Exploration." This was a collection of answers by assorted bloggers on the topic. Being a part-time blogger myself, I thought I'd give it a whirl. Mind you, some of the reader responses to the bloggers were pretty darned depressing, but I need to think positively if I'm going to keep on this space-advocacy-as-a-lifestyle thing. (Yesterday, I briefly considered praying for intercession from St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Lost Causes.) So, here I go...

Why Human Beings Should Explore, Develop, and Settle the Solar System

The human willingness to create technology is based on several beliefs:

  • That we are rational creatures.
  • That we have and can cope with the environment around us.
  • That we can make our temporal lives better here in this existence.
  • That we can make tools or take actions that will make that better life possible.

This all sounds rather lofty for a bunch of geeky guys and gals who just want to get off the planet. However, there have been plenty of human philosophies throughout history that deny one, several, or all of the ideas above. The combination of these ideas has been made possible only in the West, through a combination of Greek science and Christian epistemology. Space exploration represents the ultimate expression of these ideals.

Now obviously Western beliefs in human rationality and free will are not unique, nor are they absolute requirements for putting human beings into space. Russian communists and Chinese communists after them have done so. Japanese collectivists and European socialists have launched satellites and planetary orbiters into space as well, as the laws of physics work for anyone, even Nazi fascists. Consider: if the United States had not won World War II, Wernher von Braun would have launched a German rocket and put the flag of the Third Reich on the Moon. That is reason enough to believe in a better, more uplifting philosophy.

What matters in the end is the type of society we, as humans, manage to put into space. Do we want a future where the government owns and controls everything, do we want a future that maximizes opportunity to the individual, or do we want a future that ensures the welfare of every individual? I believe, if the United States is to prove its worthiness to history, we must go farther, faster into space than any other society. The winner of the race will be seen as the wave of the future. If we allow the paranoid nationalism of China or Russia to beat us to the first Lunar settlement, or the regulation-bound European Union to control the resources of space, then we will be in no position to shape the future.

And here's the bottom line for yours truly: the only way I am going to make it into space is as a paying passenger on a commercial flight. If I wait until I have the credentials and NASA has the astronaut space to allow me aboard one of their rockets, I might as well wait for Doomsday as wait to get to the Moon. Only a free, rich society capable of supporting a middle-class-accessible space economy will enable an English major and "space fan" like me to get up there. And right now only America, for all its berserk politics and social upheavals, is likely to lead and create that society. And when all is said and done, I want to go!

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