“Fear is the path to dark side, feat leads anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
~ Yoda

The pint sized Jedi Master seems to have nailed the core of the issue that is facing the United States and the world at large in this period of global economic malaise.  Fear has crippled one of the fundamental traits that has defined humanity when we are at our best; that is our ability to dream, to have our reach constantly exceed our grasp.  Some might ask what should we be striving for?  The answer is the one thing that we as a species have always wondered about, ever since we first looked up.  Those campfires in the night sky.

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.

As I have stated many times, the very real problems that face us on this planet will not be solved by simply relying on the bounty of this planet.  Mankind, at his very center, is a creature of growth and exploration.  Left unchecked, we will eventually consume the natural resources of this planet as the world’s population grows.  And just as our ancestors set foot aboard sailing ships many centuries ago to accommodate that growth and to seek resources from lands untapped, we now must be prepared to do the same except for now we will not sail the oceans of Earth but rather on the ocean of the stars that we call space.  It is the very real continuation of our Manifest Destiny, except now we once again turn our gaze upward vice westward.
As of the first half of 2012 there has been significant progress in charting humanity’s course for a new era.  Some of these events include:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. An announcement by director James Cameron, Google CEO Larry Page and others to launch a company dedicated to the mining of asteroids.
  4. 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.
It is time to make an end run around the problems we face.  Instead of fighting wars over limited resources on this planet, I propose we stop solely looking for resources on this one planet.  If we truly want to make sacrifices today to ensure tranquility for future generations than there is no better choice than looking outward, beyond our cradle planet, and start to colonize and exploit asteroids and planets both within our solar system and elsewhere.  Some may ask how we can afford to do such feats?  I’d rather simply, and perhaps naively, respond how can we afford not to?  Big problems require even bigger solutions.  It’s not going to be easy, nor will this fix us overnight, but this is the greatest contribution we can make to those who will come after us.  In the short term we will add jobs from the increased need for people with a wide-range of technical skills.  Many great inventions needed to explore space will undoubtedly have byproduct uses that will benefit life on Earth as we continue upon our bigger goals of space exploration.  Finding alternative sources of raw materials will preempt the need for costly diversions such as war than hungrily devour a nations resources and her citizenry.

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.

I can think of three movies that have motivated me more than any others and continue to serve as a source of inspiration, they include:
  1. The Right Stuff
  2. Apollo 13
  3. 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?