I’ve always loved the documentaries about space sciences. My curiosity and fascination with things universal started early with my asking questions of, what to me, should have been the most informed experts on the heavens. I’m talking about the nuns and priests in the Catholic church to which my mother was a devout follower. Oddly enough, it was the responses, or lack of responses I should say, that turned me away from the Catholic church and turned me into a spiritual independent. The trouble arose from my youthful queries about space. In my mind, things had to be ‘in’ something. The planet was in the solar system, the solar system in the galaxy, the galaxy in the universe.
But, I posed, what was the universe in? The way I termed it at the time was “how far is space and what’s after it?” I repeatedly was given the mantra that this was one of God’s mysteries and I hurt God’s feelings by refusing to recognize his right to keep the secrets he felt were important to keep. I saw it that we had answers to so many things about space so far, answered by better and better science and technology and God didn’t have a problem with those investigations and so it made no sense that the Almighty would draw a line in the proverbial sand and expect the rest of the story to be ignored by humankind. Yet, I got more answers to salve my curiosity as time passed through science programs hosted by the likes of Phillip Morrison, the astrophysicists at Mt. Palomar to which I was a serial visitor, but much of my learning came from the facts upon which science fiction stories were based. I consumed like likes of Campbell, Heinlein, Niven, Asimov and more with voracious appetite. When the 1960s rolled around and I came home from the war in Vietnam, I came home to end the sixties by watching a human being step onto the moon. Thanks to the consumption of all that science fiction, I saw the exploration and colonization of space stepping from the pages of dog eared books and into reality, the shuttle program ratifying the approach of an inundation of new technologies and newly developed resources to supply the ravenous need of building materials, power generation and fuels, and an entirely new paradigm of commerce in travel, manufacturing and mining, and colonization. As it is, our world has made huge technological advances as the result of space research and experience.
Everything from Velcro to GPS to circuit miniaturization is a gift of our press into space. So when the cancellation of the space program was announced, I went into an indefatigable funk as powerful today as I was for me when I saw the announcement. We still had an “in.” We could still hitch rides with our new allies, the emerging Russia shedding the suffocating grasp of the Soviet Union to have access to the heavens. But I despaired at that placation just knowing that the vagaries of political tides would cut that off at the knees.
My only real hopes lay in the hands of the likes of Paul Allen and Burt Rutan, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk; those who could see the future and contributed to it to create a civilian space effort. It is with pleasure I saw the test of Musk’s rocket, which, unlike Russia, the ESA and even the United States had successfully launched and then land with precision. (At the same time as Musk brought the world its first open market electric vehicle, the Tesla.) Not only that, but with partners, built the first American dedicated spaceport. This gives me hope. I hope that it will also do the same for those with pockets deep enough to recognize the staggering potential for profits and simultaneous improvement of the human condition hat they might invest heavily into the next frontier. Without that support, the US will be forever playing catch up and losing the strategic values of the high ground in defense of our way of life as well as that of others. Do we really want hand over the keys to planetary domination to Russia or The People’s Republic of China? It needn’t take tax dollars to do it. Look at the high achievement already accomplished by small investors into competent civil endeavors that operate without the restrictive and asinine tanglefoot of politician oversight of governmental projects. Yet I would welcome a business modeled NASA that would dole taxpayer funds to those whose research and accomplishments produce definite bang for buck return.I’m not in favor of building colonies on the moon or mars for national one-upsmanship.
But I favor greatly the establishment of a lunar colony to act as a master terminal to supply and support asteroid mining operations, to operate telescopic installations to assist in our inspections back into time to learn the secrets of the universe so that, as we have with Hubble and other high acuity platforms, learn more that we can develop more of the rewards the efforts so far have heaped upon us. And yes, the search for and establishment of human colonies on new found worlds that permit us to stop keeping all of our eggs of humanity in a single and vulnerable basket. And perhaps finally make the answers I have sought through life that finally educate us as to just how far is space and then what?