I’m conflicted about the privatization of space exploration. On the one hand, I know that drastic budget cuts have caused a loss of momentum in space exploration that private industry can reverse. But on the other I worry that space will become just another unregulated frontier exploited by capitalists without concern for the potential detrimental effects.
That said, I still think this is incredibly exciting.
I’m glad we’re starting to dream again.
PalmtreePalmtree, I encourage you to hope, to overlook for once some of those potentially worrisome things that naturally come to mind when one things of privatization of industries. Why? Because this is space exploration, which means that we are no longer dealing just with distances and fixed points, but time itself. Government controlled and funded space exploration was never free of potentially worrisome things. The race for space was as much about gaining a potential advantage in wars as it was anything else, for the US, the then USSR, and any organized government that has attempted space since. Space was altruistic only to those of us who simply love the stars.
We are on a planet that will be in short time (geologically speaking) no longer able to sustain our species. Our population has ballooned, and we have accelerated climate change. Combined, these things number the days of a thriving human species. I can say, from hours of listening to hearings, that while governments are certainly focused on how to slow the progression of environmental deterioration, they are in no way focused on stopping or working on ways in which these detrimental changes might be reversed. It boils down to money, of course. Government regulation is excellent for maintaining status quo, but is very slow to bring about radical action. But you know this.
The point is, I suppose, in order for there to be any sort of long-term survival for our species, it’s essential for us to explore space. Yes, the thought of other habitable worlds sounds far-fetched to most, and much of science fiction only serves to make the idea sound laughable. Putting people on the moon was laughable too. Oh, and acid rain exists and if that isn’t out of a nightmare I don’t know what is. So yes, to continue, we must leave. Space travel and exploration is our most idealistic effort towards saving ourselves. It’s in its infancy and may not grow fast enough to help us, what with the compounding problems of climate change, over population, and world poverty—but it is a hope, and we must support that. Yes, I do mean must.
I’m sure there are worries about the legal ramifications of privatization. We’re a litigious bunch of primates, aren’t we? Well, when it comes to measuring distances and cordoning off what belongs to whom and where, space is wonderfully difficult to define, as the universe is ever expanding and contracting (hopefully). A fixed point in space is, well, not exactly fixed. Also, if you are worried about moral behavior among people as they are out and about in space, what rules will apply to whom—have no fear, it will all radically change. At the rate space exploration and travel is progressing, by the time there are enough people in space to actually worry about how they behave toward one another, law and moral codes will look wildly different. I’m about to write something that will look silly at first. Just breathe, it will be okay. In the remote chance that some of our future folks do encounter some sort of sentient life, any and all of our morality and legal codes no longer apply. Law and ideas of proper behavior only work in their place of origin—even then, not always. The best we could do is to be like infants, curious, learning, taking in.
Enough of this romanticizing! Back to brass tacks. Privatization is a good thing, because at this point private industry is far better at raising money than government. At this point space travel is a money-losing venture. The cash that has to be spent in trial and development is, pardon the pun, astronomical. Those who are heading up the push for privatization are doing so in part because amidst their pathological drive for success and money generation, there is a tiny little spark in them that still loves the stars. Yes, eventually huge profits will be reaped by those who run privatized space travel, but not in our lifetimes, not in the lifetimes of those just starting to build rockets.
We’re in a race against time and the elements as far as our species continuing. And while it’s important that all avenues to ensure the planet’s continued habitability be taken, it’s also important that we figure out how to get off it. We’re in a society that’s far too suspicious of science, which makes it hard for me to believe that the things that will save us could come from the public sector.
Hope, though Palmtree. Hope. We also live in a world that’s created once again a mini big bang, and has succeeded in teleporting photons. We will get to space again—I do hope sooner rather than later—and when we do, hopefully it will be like standing among giant sequoias. We will realize how very small we as humans are—not even a dot in cosmic time. Maybe that will scare us a little, and maybe we’ll cling together for once rather than tearing ourselves apart. People do strange things when faced with infinity.
Hope is a powerful thing. READ THIS!