Space Exploration

First the Moon…

I am all for manned space travel. It may not be practical in a physical distance sense, but it is certainly practical in a science and human improvement sense. So many advances in science and even social science come from exploration. It seems in our nature and should be part of humankind’s long-term goals.

Yet, sending men to the Moon again seems to be a case of the tail wagging the dog. Certainly we can be more practical and innovative than that as a next first step. Beyond the human frailty to plan some, execute, then revise, perhaps we might plan for humans to return to the Moon and even beyond by first developing technologies that could serve mankind best by building a base on the moon before we send people.

We are doing a bit of that on Mars already by using robots, guided remotely, to explore Martian terrain, provide science data in a variety of useful forms, and let us see and “touch” the Mars we rove right now – in 3D no less. Developing machines that can set themselves up, construct intricate geometric patterns for use as a closed system, and robots that can replicate themselves, be controlled remotely, and follow instructions with mathematical intuition already exist.

We could have one heck of a homestead for astronauts built and waiting – coffee on – before they even arrive. We can do this now scientifically. Yet we will for prideful or political reasons or just because we can, send people to the Moon and Mars with little preparation to stay, work, explore or survive. I think that is a criminal act. While I support space exploration from my soul, it is simply the manner we are going about it that seems short-sighted and ill-conceived.

It seems nearly simple (read EASY) to take technology already used in construction, medicine, robotics, such as automobile manufacture, and translate the tasks to building living and working space on the Moon. After that, we send people. After that we go to Mars as colonists who took a farsighted approach to exploring new worlds.

I for one would sign up. Could I or many of us, however, give up any possibility of being alive when the first people return to the Moon; rather than return in lifetimes past our several decades? Might we be able to see the value of seeing past the horizon, believing that planning beyond ourselves, seeing results but not the end result in our times is just as wondrous as being alive when people set foot on the moon again?

It is a utilitarian idea I advance. It is long-term, It still has risks. It has more subtle short-term goals but huge advances in the long term of humanity. I could be part of that even though I would be disappointed too. I could do that for humanity.

So it comes down to this for me. Did we go to the Moon.? Of course we did. Did we go the right way? I don’t know. Are we planning to go the right way now? I think not. We plan some, execute, revise, execute, and so on. Perhaps we could learn so much about success if we simply planned better, asked all the questions, answered them honestly without self-indulgent exceptions, and believed in a greater good somewhere out there, somewhere past our places in the continuum. Doing this seems noble, success-driven, and part of the plan that humans have for themselves inevitably.

Now, there’s a way to go where no human has gone before!