[FPSPACE] Why Exploring is Better for Us[Scanned by MAIL]
DSFPortree at aol.com
DSFPortree at aol.com
Sat Jun 17 19:45:33 EDT 2006
Patent martian life? Do you truly believe that that's ethical? Next thing,
you'll be saying we should be selling pictures from Abu Ghraib to the snuff porn
crowd. Untapped resource there, right? Yikes.
But there's no clear evidence of life on Mars anyway. We need to do some more
exploring to find out if Mars lives, or ever has lived (or might live in the
future). Mars is the world next door, yet we don't know the answer to this
fundamental question. We're really babes in the cosmic woods. Which is why
exploration has got to be our main focus.
I don't mind if space entrepreneurs play around with their various projects -
that's their affair. Everyone needs a hobby, and if they can support
themselves doing it, fine. (Story of my life.) I do mind when they tear down space
exploration, because they threaten our future in space. After all, it's not like
they'll get the money now being spent on exploration.
The smart space entrepreneurs (people like Mike Malin, for example) are doing
exploration. In fact, they are the *only* space entrepreneurs, if the word
"entrepreneur" still means anything. They're making money in new ways.
I tried to explain the value of scientific exploration to you earlier. One
last try - you see, there's a big wide universe out there, and only a little
corner of the sand grain we live on cares anything about advertising, marketing,
money, etc. That stuff isn't *real*. It's like a game - people play a game
until they get tried of it, then they play a different game. Societies are the
same way. They play by a set of rules until they are no longer appropriate. Then
they change to fit circumstances. How many different economic systems and key
commodities have we gone through in the past 2000 years? Quite a lot.
Advertising and tourism are not going to build a space-based civilization. If
a space-based civilization is our goal, then it needs to be based on space as
it is, and it needs to take into account the challenges of spaceflight. Maybe
there's nothing in space that's profitable in the old-fashioned terracentric
sense. Helium-3, maybe, though not soon, and maybe not at all, given the
difficulties of space travel. I've always been kind of fond of solar power
satellites, though it's doubtful that they could ever be profitable, given the
up-front costs. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have a space-based civilization.
Don't you see - insisting that space make money - that it's only worth doing
if it makes money - is a *barrier* to a space-based civilization.
Scientific exploration finds out what really is. It clues us in to the
universe we live in. (Or at least those of us who pay attention.) Remember Darwin
and his finches. Those entirely value-less finches have re-made our view of the
world. (At least those of us who aren't clinging desperately to the Middle
I can't provide an example of how scientific exploration has generated
profits - that's not what it's for. I can give some examples of how it has shaped
our world. Studying the dynamics of the martian atmosphere helped clue us in to
the threat of nuclear winter. Studying the Venusian greenhouse effect helped
us understand the possibilities of global warming on Earth. Studying the moon
clued us in to the possibility that impacts have shaped the history of life
(and could continue to do so, if we let it). Studying Mars and Venus have helped
us understand Earth's evolution.
Can one put a price tag on those things? Maybe not. But that doesn't matter
the least bit.
I don't see taxpayers arguing that we should ditch space exploration. It's
truly a non-issue. Maybe more people are clear on what it's about than you
realize. Or maybe they just like the pretty pictures. Whatever.
What the heck has Star Trek to do with any of this?
David S. F. Portree
author & educator
dsfportree at aol.com
Flagstaff Arizona USA
"D'you know like we were saying? About the Earth revolving? It's like when
you're a kid, the first time they tell you that the world's turning and you just
can't quite believe it because everything looks like it's standing still. I
can feel it - the turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at
a thousand miles an hour, the entire planet is hurtling around the Sun at
sixty-seven thousand miles an hour, and I can feel it. We're falling through
space, you and me. Clinging to the skin of this tiny little world, and if we let
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