>> Monday, July 20, 2009
Aron asked: I have a question, so you can participate in space settlement day, what is your opinion of space habitation?
The challenge I have in answering this question is that I don't really think about space habitation on its own but as a potential side effect of human space exploration.
Am I absolutely for human space exploration? Yes. Do I think space colonization, either on other planets or in space is a natural by product of space exploration, do I foresee someday permanent colonies in orbit, on the Moon, perhaps elsewhere in our solar system and beyond? Yes. I think we will be able to overcome the challenges some day. I can't tell you when.
If you'd asked me 4o years ago (assuming I was old enough to give a cogent answer), I would have said a space colony would exist before the end of the century. I truly believe, if we had gone to the moon for the right reasons (for all mankind instead of to one-up the Russians) or von Braun (who was working toward this for the right reasons) had lived longer and had his way, it would have happened already. But we've wasted the talent and know-how that first put us on the moon, wasted the momentum, failed to follow through when the world was with us on this, when the public understood this was more than patriotism and all about the real future of the human race - even if the politicians didn't.
But we didn't and that's water under the bridge. The mindset, however, the impetus, the realization that this is key to our long term survival, that journeying to the stars is an inevitable step in our future that we can't begin too soon is lacking in the general public. Oh, there are folks that understand it and people around the world who can see beyond right here and right now, but there are too many still who can't see beyond what's happening to them today into what the future needs to be.
Until we get that mindset rampant in the general public, any future will be dependent on the inspiration and technical skill of the few dreamers and those in power they can woo to their side. It can happen, though it will likely take longer and mean movement forward will be in fits and starts, involve failures (perhaps tragic ones) and be unlikely to progress as quickly or as completely as we are truly able.
And I'm not just talking about space habitation but space exploration as a whole. Every failure, sets things back tenfold, which scares me. If only amateurs are brave enough and inspired enough to pursue space exploration and space habitation, it seems more likely that failures will occur (I hope I'm wrong). On the other hand, we've certainly seen some impressive successes among those that have not had much prior experience.
In my opinion, going forward intelligently and as safely as possible stands the best chance to bring us to success and even, perhaps, relight that sense of wonderment and exploration so key to our long term success.
Space habitation in the interests of science I take as a given. Perhaps hotels and the like to support tourism can be viable. To make space colonies for the general populace , we'll have to make them self-sufficient because sucking more resources from the Earth does nothing to help long term survival; however, if we can find a way grow food, make air, build shelters using the native materials, we will open up a universe of possibilities. We will have fulfilled the potential Apollo 11 carved for us.
I would love to see space colonies, perhaps at our Lagrange points or the moon before the end of my life, would love to know people have set foot not only on the moon, but on other surfaces within this solar system. I don't know if we will, but I will certainly work to make it so.