Space or Bust III

A Discover Magazine interview with Louis Friedman makes clear that those pinning their hopes and faith on space colonization for the future of humanity should the earth “fall” are dangerously barking up the wrong tree. Following are some snippets.

“Louis Friedman has always balanced his optimistic vision for the future of human space exploration with a dose of reality, and his tempered outlook courses through his new book, Human Spaceflight From Mars to the Stars, in which he charts the distant future of human space travel.

“Friedman is optimistic that human space exploration will continue well into the future. However, here’s that dose of reality from Friedman: humans will never venture beyond Mars, at least not in any historically significant way. Once humans tame Mars, how will humanity continue to explore cosmic frontiers, and to what end? Space travel, according to Friedman, will be an act more focused on transporting our minds — with the help of new technologies — rather than our bodies.

“Friedman is the executive director emeritus of The Planetary Society, which he co-founded with Carl Sagan and Bruce Murray in 1980. He has a knack for bringing space researchers from multiple nations together on ambitious projects. He played a role in the Mariner-Venus-Mercury project, the Voyager missions, the Venus Orbital Imaging Radar (Magellan), the Halley Comet Rendezvous, Mars exploration, and has brought the idea of solar sailing from a dream to actual testing in space. Discover contributor David Warmflash spoke with Friedman about his book, space colonies and the future of space exploration….

“The space colony ideas of science-fiction are largely discredited for human’s real future now. They certainly do not appear in any space agency or private space plan”

1949 Sci-Fi by Willy Ley

1949 Sci-Fi by Willy Ley

Why do I say “dangerous”? Because by putting blind trust in space travel, often thanks to science fiction fantasy, many people have become complacent about protecting the earth, the one planet that we not only have co-evolved with, but which, because of this long history, we are uniquely adapted to. Unlike Friedman, I don’t like to say never (though his credentials vastly out trump mine). We’ve surprised ourselves before. But at the very least we shouldn’t delude ourselves. At the rate it’s going, the ruination of earth will happen well before we are able to find, and travel to, an earth-like replacement. That should put things in perspective.

What about Mars? If those relatively few going think it will be better than their home planet, that the trade off, Earth for Mars, would be preferable, I suspect they may be in for a surprise. To me, there’s just something seriously backwards when, because of concern about environmental issues, we would consider trading a living, still vibrant world for a cold, utterly dead one with no environment at all! I mean, if we have the tremendous will and means necessary to bring the dead to life, especially when it’s a whole planet, why not first do all we can to prevent our own already living globe from expiring?

That’s not to say that in the interests of science and exploration we shouldn’t go to Mars. Of course we should. We are an intelligent and adventurous species. But come on, let’s get our priorities straight and think of what we have now, stop treating this world and its species like something disposable and fight for them, ’cause, for the foreseeable future at least, we ain’t got anywhere else. And besides, it’s a lovely planet!

For more on this topic see: Space or Bust! and Space or Bust II

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