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article imageOp-Ed: Humanity’s fatal mistake — Losing the plot on space travel

By Paul Wallis     Apr 19, 2012 in Science
Sydney - It’s ironic that the greatest boom in technology in human history has coincided with arguably the most talentless, unimaginative and regressive culture in history. There’s no thought for the future. That’s a ticket to extinction for humanity.
The loss of interest in space is a form of insularity which is likely to be fatal. Even humans can’t ignore the universe and expect to get away with it.
As News Daily reports, the problem, as usual, is with the ignoramuses in charge:
NASA retains the longer term plans to return to the Moon, land people on a near-Earth asteroid and ultimately reach Mars. But veterans of the space program say there is a growing mismatch between resources and ambition.
If you ask people whether space exploration is important, then eight or nine times out of 10 they will tell you that it is," said the Smithsonian Institution's Roger Launius, senior curator for space.
"The only problem comes when you tie that to funding. No president or congressman is ever going to say that he is putting an end to the human spaceflight program. But they may make decisions that stop you getting the resources to do anything,"
So, as for some time now, the fate of humanity is in the hands of those people whose entire existence revolves around the ephemeral excreta of politics and corporate agendas. The early space program, as a matter of fact, was the source of a vast amount of technology now in use in everyone’s homes. It produced everything from non-stick frypans to modern communications systems design.
The trouble is that the idiots with the purse strings don’t know a damn thing about anything, past, present or future. They don’t understand the opportunities, have no comprehension of the value of space exploration and colonization, and can’t even imagine anything that isn’t some pathetic, primitive “rocket ship”, when alternative and far more efficient drives have been under development for years.
There’s a huge intellectual issue, too. JFK may have had the intellect to understand the ramifications of the original space race with the USSR, and the technological advantages that eventually put the US permanently ahead of the Soviets. That doesn’t mean that any of these sour little failed people with their tiny little minds can envisage the current version of that situation, or anything else, for that matter.
For example-
The US military is satellite dependent. The mere fact that the US has mothballed its only method of maintaining its satellites is testimony to the intellectual capabilities of the Pentagon and successive administrations. They actually now need foreign help, probably Russian, if they have any emergencies up there. This was, in fact, perhaps the stupidest, most dangerous, policy decision ever made by the United States, and that ain't good.
The rest of the world is in a state of flux in space research:
China will overtake the US in space, if the US doesn’t continue its development. The Chinese are still some distance behind, but they’re quite capable of catching up and going past the current lame duck US space program within a decade. They can also source materials from others and aren’t dependent on following the US, which is going nowhere anyway.
India may lag technically, but economically they’ve been sending up space missions at a fraction of the cost of the US and others. Those economics will deal them in to the space industry.
Russia has the talent and a lot of working space hardware, but isn’t taking many initiatives. That’s a pity, because Russia could achieve quite a lot as the alternative shuttle service. They’ve had their own shuttle “in principle” for years, but it’s never flown. They’ve been focusing on the ISS.
Japan and its slow moving, slow thinking economy are the obvious alternative space explorers. Not much is happening. Japan certainly has the technology and the scientific skills, but apparently their politicians are as dumb as the rest of the world’s.
Europe hasn’t even managed to come up with a manned space program in theory, let alone practice. Presumably this will also be up to Germany, since the rest of the EU seems more interested in playing bankers.
The reasons for not funding space programs- Naïve and dishonest
The usual excuse for not funding space programs is that the money could be better spent on Earth. “We could spend that money on health, education, housing, relieving poverty, etc.” is the usual reason.
Well, is it being spent that way, and if so, is that spending achieving anything? This is investment in the present and the problems of the past, not the future, and so far it’s been a total failure. Billions upon billions are spent on not solving problems, and the usual suspicion is that because this money is so lavishly given, nobody’s in any hurry to solve any of the problems. They’re making a fortune out of not solving them.
At best, the “spend on Earth” theory is naïve in its ignoring of the needs of the future. It’s like refusing to develop the wheel, because people need more caves to live in. At worst, it’s a totally dishonest way of exploiting human misery. Social and economic problems for the majority of humans continue to get worse. Resources are running out and the economics of societies are crashing under the weight of populations which can’t support themselves.
The survival issue
Space is ultimately where humanity must go, unless it proposes to simply sit around on this toxic mud ball playing accountants until the Sun goes nova. There are practically unlimited useful resources in the solar system, all of which could deal with Earth’s dwindling supplies of raw materials and population issues.
Space colonization could also relieve Earth of its obvious problems. Industrial production in space would be far more efficient, simply because of the free energy from the Sun and no gravity to impede production.
Space is also the source of potential major threats to Earth. A single 5-10km asteroid could turn the surface of the Earth into soup, and there’s thousands of them out there. The risk of a major strike is a certainty. Lack of capability to deal promptly and effectively with these threats means that an avoidable catastrophe becomes a certainty.
Stupidity is its own reward. Failure to develop space exploration is the equivalent of species suicide. Earth cannot support 10 billion humans in the present economic mode. Even a drastically altered, 100% efficient global economy based on limited resources will sooner or later hit multiple points of overload. At some point there can be no recovery.
The choice is space or extinction. Time is running out for making that choice. The longer the delay, the more complex and more difficult it is to get through the various quantum jumps involved in the development of efficient space travel. The number of serious issues on Earth will also multiply the longer you drag the chain.
It’s very hard to sympathize with a mentality which seems to believe that all survival issues can be ignored indefinitely. It flies in the face of the most basic facts of daily, let alone long term existence. If you hold a picnic on a freeway, sooner or later you’re going to have to admit there are risks.
Reality doesn’t give refunds. Whether you “know not what you do” or not is irrelevant. (The event that was the original cause of that remark wasn’t exactly a high point in human intelligence, either. It was a case of shooting the messenger, which now seems to be the default response to humanity’s problems.)
It’s long overdue that humanity starts acting like responsible adults. Humanity has described itself as the crowning achievement of evolution/creation/whatever. Humanists get soppy about the great character and spirit of humanity. There’s nothing a partially-evolved pack of chimps can’t do.
OK. Humanity is wonderful, according to humanity. Now prove it or pay the price of total failure. There’s one option available, take it or leave it. Just don’t blow it, because there aren’t any second chances if you screw it up.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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