Do you know it has been 39 years since we last set foot on the moon? 39 years. In the time between then and now we have done some truly amazing things in the solar system. We have sent a probe to Saturn, rovers to Mars and a satellite to an asteroid. The Hubble Telescope has opened our eyes to amazing pictures of the galaxy. I love all of that. I love the new knowledge and pushing our understanding of the universe in which we live.
The problem is that within those 39 years humans have gone no where. Oh sure we’ve built the space station and launched into orbit a lot, but in the cosmic sense that’s nothing more than walking to your mail box. Now we are about to do it again. We are sending a new rover to Mars, which is great, but gets a human no closer to setting foot on another planet.
I understand the cost is prohibitive at this point, but I am left with an unsettled feeling that if we don’t start to move down the road towards human exploration now, then when we finally are ready it may be too late. Call me a pessimist, but I don’t think that humanity has enough impulse control to not wreck Earth. We make half assed attempts to save the environment, but in the end these methods will fail unless we are willing to do the hard thing. Unfortunately, we won’t. All but one of the top Republican Presidential candidates disavows that global climate change even exists. That level of short sightedness is what is going to bring down this planet. Once we ruin Earth where else will we go?
Well, we could go to Mars for one, or with more money, time and effort Venus, or Saturn’s moons, or Vesta, or Neptune’s moons, or…well you get my point. The problem with any traveling to, colonizing and possibly even terraforming any, all or some of those locations is that it would take even more political, public and financial will than comprehensive climate change prevention. That of course means it will not happen.
This is why Mars makes me sad. We are sending a rover when we need to be sending a human.
Our only hope at this point is capitalism. Humanity lacks the foresight to save ourselves, but we do love to make us some money. Columbus set off to find a quicker route to India because of spices. Settlers flocked west at the mere mention of gold and free land. The internet blossomed when people discovered you could use it to make money. So (and pardon my melodramatics) humanity’s fate lies with a few companies. Our hopes ride on SpaceX, Blue Origin, Bigelow and Virgin Galactic to go out into space and make money. Once that door is open and the dollars start flowing, then maybe we might be able to reach for the planets.
Lead on capitalism. Lead on.