Why should we waste billions of dollars on space development?

Let's concentrate our efforts on the immediate problems at home!

. . . . The Director's Viewpoint (original 1986 version with occasional updates)

You've probably heard the above comment in various forms. This narrow observation is typical of the apathetic, sedimentary creature. Maybe, just maybe, my viewpoint can give these "nonvisionaries" some food for thought. It's possible that, combining our efforts, we can provide the impetus to motivate the ostriches of the world, and save the human race from its own ignorance and possible extinction. Yes, you heard right, EXTINCTION! A grandiose and monumental undertaking, but small numbers of dedicated individuals, like you, can make the difference.

Because you are reading this viewpoint, you are one of those rare individuals who is cognizant of the inevitable consequence of humankind - you sense your own existence and the universe around you to a greater extent than others. What you possess goes beyond intelligence, knowledge, even wisdom. It's an arcane brother and sisterhood, an intrinsic philosophy concerning the universe unfolding as it should - an intuitive vision regarding the cosmos engulfed in its own destiny. We must use this special enlightenment to inform the general public about the staggering dimensions of space - and more. Only through education can public opinion, and our future, be changed for the benefit of all corporeal inhabitants (not just humans).

The new millenium has dawned. Past and present predictions of doom, deluge and devastation are everywhere. Yet, we are on the verge of the greatest adventures in human history. In the not so distant future, medical advances will provide us with near-immortality. Think of the wisdom of a civilization of near-immortals. The conquest of limitless space to support unlimited populations of utopian societies of humans is within our grasp. Civilization has the potential to become indestructible and eternal. Earth is a launching pad for humankind's voyage to the stars. But is it too late once again? History has shown that no past civilization has ever made a successful space effort, making us impervious to Mother Nature's whimsical cataclysmic catastrophies. Our species survives, but our tremendous wealth of hard-earned knowledge disintegrates. Developing colonies beyond Earth is the only way civilized humans can ever expect to leave Mother Nature's selfish bonds. Neogeologic and neoarchaeologic investigations have told of many past advanced civilizations that precede ours by possibly millions of years. Advanced, yes, but not advanced enough for their knowledge and technology to endure to rebuild Earth from space. Consider the suffering caused by our own ignorance over the centuries. Personally, I'm tired of doing it over and over, again and again, while Mother Nature laughs at our pitiful efforts and continues to destroy our hard earned civilizations. Aren't You?

Beyond Earth, the only quasi-habitable planet in our solar system is Mars. A surface temperature at times above freezing, but an unbreathable atmosphere and low atmospheric pressure means a swift and torturous death without continuously maintained earth environments (pressure suits and habitats). As demonstrated with great graphic detail in the movie Total Recall, the human body, exposed to the Martian atmosphere, would choke on carbon dioxide until the low atmospheric pressure caused the body to expand and burst like a giant water balloon. What a mess! If we venture to Mars, will it eventually become forgotten like our neglected lunar neighbor? Okay, been there, done that! Alpha Centauri or Bust! Can we afford the glory of Mars just to say we've been there? Shouldn't our space program's allocated pittance be spent on viable objectives like the current efforts of the International Space Station and [perhaps] a permanent lunar base - a good place to put Keck III, don't you think? With nearby self-sufficient lunar colonies, we can learn and grow as a spacefaring civilization, possibly denying the grim reaper some of his reward. Mars exploration and colonization is a natural progression. It will come as it must, but we should be wary of sensationalistic, wasteful ventures that are ostensive in nature.

Voyager has been traversing our solar system since 1976. In 1989, it finally arrived at our furthest planet, Neptune (Pluto not considered), a mere 2.8 billion miles away. Seems like a long distance, doesn't it? After all, our nearest star is only four light-years away. How long will it take Voyager, just leaving our immediate solar system, to reach the trinary star system, Proxima, Alpha A & B Centauri? Slightly less than 80,000 years using current space technology; similar to a snail trying to circumnavigate the Earth. Star Trek is not a given future reality, it is a near-impossible futuristic FANTASY!

Furthermore, Bernard Oliver, former Chief of the NASA SETI Program, has calculated the energy cost of a one-way trip to a star only ten light-years away. He assumes the trip would take approximately 20 years at half light-speed using an extremely energy efficient spacecraft. His startling results conclude that the trip would require the total energy consumption of the entire Earth for the past 500,000 years!

There are over 200 billion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy alone. Every main sequence star, and many that aren't, have orbiting planetary systems. It's what is left over when a star forms - a whirling disc of accreted planets, moons, asteroids meteors, comets and rocks. To quote Carl Sagan, "We're left over star stuff." So what are the odds of another earth-like planet out there? We're the only ones out of 200 billion possibilities? Not hardly! Other earth-like planets are a sure bet! And that's just in our galaxy. There are millions, possibly billions, of galaxies in our universe. Considering all the earth-like planets, there must be alien civilizations, too. We are creatures formed from a second generation star (our sun, Sole) about 5 billion years ago. The Big Bang started to expand from a singularity around 10 billion years ago. Our own literal Gods (note the capital "G") could have evolved billions of years before us from uncountable first generation stars throughout the universe. Blasphemy? Maybe, maybe not? Wouldn't it be ironic if we were the true, first spacefaring civilization since the Big Bang, and we "blew it" for the entire [yet unborn] universe. Whoa!

Are "they" coming to visit us? Why would "they" want to? So far, only human arrogance and sensationalistic journalism says they are. Personally, I know that earth-like planets and life are rampant throughout the universe. I would hope that the more advanced space-faring civilizations would consider us important enough to at least stop by and classify us as just another planet with a pre-stellar development culture and a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere. I also hope that they would not linger long enough to see how we act [or react] toward each other and our planet. I would be totally humiliated and embarrassed to be a human being from Earth!

Over 6 billion people are trying to survive on this speck in the cosmos. This figure is predicted to triple by the year 2050. How will our already struggling ecological system support future generations? Simple, it won't! This is inevitable and obvious to some of us because of the depletion of the nutrients in the soils, the ozone layer and the rain forests, and air pollution, population, green house effect, global warming, etc, etc. Space development is the only logical progression. We must take advantage of our only limitless resource - space. We must proceed with great haste, or the American dream will become the American nightmare (not to mention third-world countries). Our meager space efforts should be doubled and redoubled - regardless of the dollar cost. International cooperation is imperative.

The future of the human species is among the stars that created us. Earth is an embryo of creation and we are not yet born into our true potential or purpose. Our present reality is only a transition point in time between yesterday's history and tomorrow's fantasies.  We need to support the necessary future reality from moment to moment,  to create a future that will survive and expand, or perish into oblivion once again. We must continue to push outward or we will surely stagnate and destroy ourselves. We worry with reason. Mass genocide is one very possible future. To prevent this, we must educate people about space, creating future generations of pro-space citizens.

Now, when someone asks, "Why Space?" your answer will be explicit and tempered with added insight. It's simply the future survival of the human race on Planet Earth - and beyond!

Paul B. Van Slyke, Director, Black Forest Observatory

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed." - Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me." - Shakespeare (1564-1616)

"All our progress is an unfolding. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason." - Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

"Nurture your mind with great thoughts; to believe in the heroic makes heroes." - Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

"All my possessions for a moment of time." - [Last words of] Queen Elizabeth (1533-1603)


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