We're Going To Space, Are You Coming?

 

Apparently when Von Braun was going around the country selling the idea of going to the moon/space, he would say “We’re going to the moon. Are you coming?”

Two things are important here: that the idea of going to the moon had to be sold and sold to non-scientists, and the idea that some portion of humanity is going to space and it is entirely your choice whether you’re coming or not. You can’t forever prevent the species from going.

This is my last article specifically about the Tenessee Valley Interstellar Workshop – sort of – which is exactly that kind of effort.  Sure a lot of the people involved have Ph.D.s in physics or engineering, but for three years now – I do not know about before that since I was not involved – they also had people like me and other writers, who are along to convince others, the normal people, that there is a possibility – let alone a point – in going to space.

Look, I got your answers to my last article on TVIW, and you know what?  I’ve heard them all before. Oh, sure, over the years – though mostly from leftists, who apparently have now infected the rest of society – “It’s too expensive” or “It’s too hard” or “there is no point to it” or “We’re broke” or “Shouldn’t we take care of those who need it at home before we go to space?”

But besides hearing this from the frightened people on the left, I’d read them years before when I did a history project on the history of Portuguese discoveries and went to the library to read the documents of the time. One by one, all your objections were there. There is only one you haven’t hit yet, and frankly, it didn’t show up in Portugal until the discoveries were well advanced, colonies were established and profitable, and people who’d stayed back home needed some reason to justify their choice: “It’s bad for the morals of the people.”

I really don’t think anyone from back when our very distant ancestors made the transition from water to land had a brain big enough to think in words, much less to speak or write. But had they had it, and we could find the records, they’d read, “What are those young fools doing going to dry land? Most of this world is ocean and all of it is more inhabitable to us than that dry desert.”

Do the naysayers get a vote? Yes, of course they do, particularly when the effort is done via governments that receive money from all of us.

But the thing is you don’t always need governments, and even big technology will not always be under government control. The history of life – let alone the history of humanity – says that if colonizing a new territory is possible, even if difficult or even if the technology is suboptimal, it will be done. Just by fits and starts, and with little push here and there.

Thing is, it might take longer, and it might, in the meantime, allow bad governmental actors to get there first.

Do you want someone on our moon that you don’t trust? When the time comes that you can go out to other star systems, do you want to find the present Chinese regime there and that they’ve discovered a way to bar your way to any further exploration?

Conquering space is a great coup for freedom. Compared to Earth, it’s well-nigh endless, and frankly, the more space, the better the chance of personal freedom. After all, if someone wants you to use a certain lightbulb or a certain type of toilet, they’d have to travel a long way to do it. And what if everyone is that distant?

Then there are the alleged reasons for that lightbulb and toilet imposition. Really, seriously, even on Earth, the reasons given are at best silly. The Earth seems to be much bigger and more resilient than Marxists can imagine, possibly because their philosophy has them hopelessly locked into the idea of a fixed pie.

But space? Space, with its infinite real estate and energy? Here is your chance to tell the statists to shove it.

On the other hand, if you should choose to stay locked on Earth, long enough to delay those who are trying to go forth, you’re exposing us to countless risks.

The first risk is civilizational, and we’re already seeing it: a sort of civilizational senility that comes from living too well with no risk and with no place for the “dangerous young” to prove themselves. I’ve only studied Chinese history for a few years, and perhaps I’m wrong on this, but that was the choice they made. They chose not to colonize far lands. What they had was an increasingly more stratified and conformist society, with the cycle of book burning and a sort of civilizational amnesia that encouraged stagnation.

Then there’s the distant danger of aliens. I have said elsewhere I don’t believe in aliens. No, that is not precisely true. It is entirely possible that in the vast and unexplored universe there are aliens. It’s even possible that there are alien intelligences. I just don’t believe that there is any reason why we should interact, let alone clash. And I don’t believe that even if we interacted, we’d have compatible enough needs and perceptions to take us to war.

But then again what do I know? We haven’t met any aliens yet.

All I can tell you is that if we do meet them, and do clash with them, they will not be the airy-fairy gentle aliens of New Age lore. They won’t be telling us how to spare our hydrocarbons and keep the rainforest going.

One thing we know about the history of life is that the species that spreads farthest and has the most diverse environment and genes is the one that survives. I don’t expect it to be any different outside the Earth, just like I don’t expect 2 +2=5 to be true outside Earth.

So, there you have it. We are going to space. Sure you can delay it or distort it. But sooner or later, what some of our species can see, we can do.

And some of our species can see this and are working towards this. Take Douglas Loss. I talked to him at TVIW. As far as I can tell, he has no more specific qualifications than I do, but his answer as to why he chose to get involved was this:

 

I attended the previous symposium as an attendee, found it very interesting and since I live in the area, decided I wanted to help them put them on.  I volunteered my abilities, and they didn’t realize what they had signed on to when they accepted, but in all fairness, neither did I.

I was enthralled by the idea that people were doing more than just talking idly about interstellar exploration, but were actively working to make it a reality. I was raised believing that if you see something worth doing, you should ask to help. I wanted to be part of it. Les Johnson said that the goal of TVIW is to be a footnote in the history of interstellar exploration. I said, hell, no, I want to be a chapter.

Or take Doctor Robert Hampson, a Professor of Physiology & Pharmacology at Wake Forest Medical School and also associate editor for the "Journal of Neuroscience Methods." As you can possibly tell, he’s not a wild-eyed naif, ignorant of the problems or the costs of going to space. But this is what he had to say about his involvement with TVIW:

I became involved in TVIW because thanks to Heinlein and other SF authors, I'd always dreamed of going into space. First as a pilot, but I had asthma and bad eyes. Then as a doctor — but I ended up going to get a Ph.D. instead of an M.D. Still, as a neuroscientist, I am keenly interested in conditions that affect the function of the human brain. I was part of a project examining the long-term effects of radiation on the brain — the medical kind, used in cancer treatment — when I realized that there was an incredible opportunity to study how space radiation affects the brain. I am not currently involved in doing those experiments, but I follow them, collaborate with some of the investigators on other projects, and I have served as a reviewer for NASA and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute for their human research program.

I was invited to TVIW 2013 to provide a biologist's/physiologist's perspective, and have stayed with the organization to help promote the biological and experimental sciences part of the program.

Because you see, he also wants to and is working towards taking humans to space, making us a multi-planet species.

Now, I’m not going to say we don’t need to convince people. That’s what this outreach is all about.

I’m saying it will happen. All you (or we) can control is how soon and how it will happen and whether the culture that humanity takes to space is one of freedom or one of repression.

I am not – thank heavens – Von Braun. I don’t know why he did what he did or what his motivations were, but I am glad I do not carry the same type of moral ambiguity attached to me.

But in one thing I wish I had his skill: being persuasive about our need to get off this rock.

The Lunar missions gave us so much technology that makes the difference between the fifties and how we live now. A lot of the things you use and depend on every day had their beginning in space. And without the intent to go to the moon we probably wouldn’t have satellites in Earth orbit, which means all the benefits of those, from cell phones to GPSs to navigation for ships, to monitoring missiles would not exist. Nor likely would communications around the globe.

Can I prove that going further, or going to the moon to stay, even, would give us that much of an advantage?

Judging by the history of technology and human discovery, the difficult thing would be trying NOT to make the endeavor pay.

So, there’s a big box of unimaginable goodies there, outside the Earths’ atmosphere, waiting for us.

And some of us are aware of it. It might take us longer than the human lifespan. We might have to pass on the torch.

But this is a species-wide endeavor, and generations are of no great consequence.

We’re going to space.

Are you coming?