Earth, Start-point or End-point

Do you enjoy watching science fiction cinema? There, people dramatically meet other life-forms or overcome daunting obstacles. From it, we have the sense that our species is special and capable of anything. Given the plethora of such films over the last few decades, perhaps we over-confidently believe that such events will be our future. It’s just a matter of time.

The science fiction genre really developed just prior to the turn of the previous century. Its progenitor, Jules Verne, wrote ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ in 1865. In that year, about 1.3 billion humans used an estimated 2.9×1019J (8,005 Twh) of energy in their annual strivings. Today, on Earth, over 8 billion people use an estimated 6.4×1020J (178,899 Twh) annually, mostly from fossil fuels. But, instead of reading about space travel, we routinely watch films having people comfortably zip at faster than light speed to remote stellar galaxies.

In reality, space travel is anything but routine. A lucky few have visited Earth’s Moon. Will our future include space travel? Unlikely. As demonstrated with the USA’s Apollo space program, tax dollars only get expended on undertakings that benefit all or most. Further, individuals can’t afford to encamp our species on another world. So, Artemis and ILRS will go the way of the Europa settlement. That is, nowhere. Instead, people will continue watching science fiction and imagining. What does this say for our future?

Swallow flight

Spaceman

Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic space plane recently flew 85km up from the Earth’s surface. An incredible achievement for a private citizen. Even one who is a billionaire. Sadly, some (?many) people pooh-poohed this event as another rich person running amok. We disagree with these naysayers and we hope the future leads to more human adventures in space.

Let’s first recap. Do you know of the space race of the 1960s? This pure flag-waving exercise saw the government of the USA put a human on the Earth’s moon. And after a few more landings, humans stopped going. Afterward, many governments from around the world aided the construction of the International Space Station, an artificial Earth moon. It’s still up there. Humans have continuously inhabited the station since year 2000CE and performed a great number of experiments there. But governments haven’t taken up anything grander.

Now it’s interesting about democratic governments in that they are in place to lead today’s voters. And voters continually say that the future is much less important than the present. Anything that doesn’t provide an immediate return on investment is not palatable to them. Sadly, this means that governments typically sacrifice the future for a better today. Thus, even though we have solutions for so many of the ills which ail us, governments fail to effectively implement them because we the people don’t want them.

Hence, with the average person focused upon personal improvement then the future becomes solely the purview of the rich. And there are many rich, over 2700 billionaires. Sure some of them are more interested in corporeal pleasures. But others have shown particular concern for the future as with the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation and its progress in countering malaria. And with Richard Branson and his space plane. And with Jeff Bezos and his space rocket. And with Elon Musk and his space company. We should be thankful to them in their pursuit of a future for humanity that could entail vast opportunities for the next generation while both we and our governments remain perhaps too focused on the day to day.

Virgin Galactic