Skip to comments.Finish goal set long ago, in galaxy far, far away
Posted on 01/25/2004 10:09:30 PM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
Born into the last great era of boys' tales, I was able to battle across Barsoom (Mars, in Martian-speak) with the Edgar Rice Burroughs character John Carter and decipher Wauxums, Delameters and other space weapons. I knew who spoke for Boskone, the mysterious force for evil in the Burroughs books. I roamed the jungle with Tarzan of the Apes and explored "hot and humid" Venus "hidden behind its clouds." That was before mamas started pushing their little darlings, teenage girls tarted up and pubescent males could concentrate on the important matters in life, like finding lost kingdoms, fighting savage tribes and rocket science instead of sex.
This was, of course, the Golden Age of Science Fiction, when we didn't know enough science to understand most of the fiction was impossible. There's no life on Mars or at least none able to invade Earth, and the Galactics, if any, don't call back. However, in the 1940s many of us believed we'd soon be mining the moon already technically possible and by 2000 have explored solar space. But you know what happened.
We went to the moon for the wrong reasons, without a backup plan and with no vision. The Little Earthers prevailed, those who say this planet is enough; who cares what's out there; and we should be content to cultivate our pastures, improve our lot and use our resources to make things better on earth. But I've never bought this; I do not believe the human race was made to ruminate and rusticate like sheep.
I believe we're made to push the envelope, climb mountains, cross the void, strive for heaven and raise hell in Hell if we could locate it. I recall the Little Englanders who could never see beyond their gardens and politics. It was the adventurers and misfits who braved the oceans in cockleshell ships, landed on hostile shores and made America in the first place. Providence provided enough people who paid the price of admiralty, to feed their seas with ships and bones. Without curiosity and bravado, our kind might still be cowering up African trees or in Ice Age caves.
While I believe in physics more than destiny, I think humanity has a role to play beyond this island earth. Men once looked at the seas and wondered what was beyond. Today we see the firmament and know there's something up there that with cunning, sacrifice and courage we can reach. In short, I support President Bush's plan to put us on the moon again and go from there the fruition of which I shall never see. Fortunately, it's given to our species to think beyond our years.
I don't see this in investment terms. No Brit saw a penny from funding investment in early America; the Massachusetts Bay Company went broke. But you can say that in the long run the colonies paid off. Sure, the Spanish got rich from plundering the Indies, but which "investment" did more to save the sum of things?
There are reasons to return to space: scientific knowledge such as lured the explorers of the Enlightenment to dark continents and distant isles; the fear that we may ruin our world from overuse or war and a backup would be nice; the spirit of challenge and adventure. And, of course, just as French shipwrights were paid to craft La Salle's vessels, dollars spent on space are spent at home. We no longer have slave economies such as erected the pyramids, so in one sense there is no waste.
As for all the good causes that might otherwise be funded, if we were going to fund them we'd be doing it now. There's an ultrarational cast to the human mind, whether building ziggurats or space ships, a belief that God will not deny glory to those who are the first to burst into new starlit seas. Great peoples Romans, Israelites, Americans must have goals and causes greater than themselves.
However, the new cause must embrace all humanity, afford opportunity to all nations in the original sense of the word. What difference does it make who colonizes Mars, if we explode two-legged, carbon-based, oxygen-breathing life across the cosmos? We have the technology; what is needed are the will and bucks.
Finally, there's little of science fiction or Star Wars or galactic empires in this concept. Those notions are based on suspension of hard fact and belief. Einstein was no doubt right there are no wormholes, space-time warps, hyperdrives; they all run into paradoxes. The nearest star is 4.3 light-years distant. At any Newtonian speed it would take decades to centuries for any multigenerational ark to traverse that void, and all the resources of this world couldn't get us to Alpha Centauri and back.
Let's explore the near shores first, and who knows what the mind of man may yet devise?
(And they have Doc Savage TOO!)
Errr...aaahh...Boskone and Delameters both come from the Lensman series by E.E. "Doc" Smith, not Burroughs.
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