Throughout our relative short history on this little rock in a solar system at the edge of a galaxy that itself is in a rather mundane part of the universe; humanity has been driven by wanting to know what’s out there. Alas, on this planet we no longer have any undiscovered shores to find, nor new lands to explore. And throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s it looked like we’d finally begin in earnest to explore the final frontier of space. And though many we had many great accomplishments; we did something that is analogous to Columbus visiting the Western Hemisphere once and then neither he nor any other human every returning to the American continents. We stopped exploring deep space. And when I see “we” I mean human beings, not our robots or probes but rather flesh and blood. Simply put, we became by complacent about doing things that were easy, and stopped doing what was hard.
- The first rendezvous of a private spacecraft to the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft, developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX made this a reality. The beginning of commercial interest in space exploration.
- Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic initiative to launch a space tourism industry with suborbital flights and perhaps even space-based hotels. SpaceShipOne has already completed many test flights of the Burt Rutan designed spacecraft.
- An announcement by director James Cameron, Google CEO Larry Page and others to launch a company dedicated to the mining of asteroids.
- Chinese and Russian plans to build permanent moon base. Russia also has announced plans for mission to Venus and Jupiter as well as a set of research stations on Mars.
Small minds no doubt will not be able to grasp the significance of such a goal and will scoff as the economics, but then again small minds never did big things. We need only look back at history and remember that those who have dreamed bigger than ever before were always chided and rebuked by the masses in the short term. But in the long run, it was those dreamers of very big dreams that changed the world. We are very much the progeny of generations of men and women who dared to dream way bigger than their contemporaries. We remember the names of the great explorers; Columbus, Lewis and Clark, Lindbergh, and Armstrong to name but a very few. The naysayers we do not. The time is ripe to chisel a few more names to monument of great explorers. And this time around they will not simply change the world, but this time the entire Universe will be changed.
- The Right Stuff
- Apollo 13
- From The Earth, To The Moon
I would encourage everyone to watch these films and ask yourself this, was not America at her best when she collectively tackled these extraordinary challenges? I’d bet you’d be hard pressed to name any other time that we were more proud of ourselves not just as Americans, but as members of the human race. It was a time when flesh and blood men made “giant leap[s] for mankind.” Now, more than ever before, is the time for us pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get back on track to exploring the cosmos. Not just with probes, but with men and women dedicated to the pursuit of exploring strange new worlds not just for the sake of scientific pursuit but rather for the bold and perhaps ostentatious goal of turning humanity into a spacefaring civilization. Just as we once broke the chains of being confined to a single continent, we must now break the chains that bind us to a single planet. We owe it to ourselves today to begin the process of restarting the global economy, but we also owe this to our children’s children as an insurance policy that will ensure the long-term survivability of the human race. And who could place a price on that?