There seems to be a significant uptick lately in the amount of news about space exploration and possible colonization. This is an area I watch out of a life-long interest in science and science-fiction. In recent days, two news items have come up time and again.
I find my interest in these items shifting from a sort of "gee-whiz" kind of gadget-obsession more appropriate to someone 40 or 50 years younger than me who might actually live to see these kinds of things happen -- to a more philosophical aspect: what if this is a good alternative to the imminent extinction of humanity thanks to the global warming Climageddon we are facing?
Those two news items:
Elon Musk made his fortune as a founder of PayPal but he has proven to be perhaps the most eclectic scientist/inventor/investor/entrepreneur in history with the possible exception of Nikolas Tesla. Today he is best known for being the founder and chief mover behind SpaceZ, a private-enterprise space company which has had several successful missile launches and at least one positive mission in support of the space shuttle. Musk has announced that he has already booked two passengers for his company's first moon flyby some time in 2018. He has definite designs on landing supplies and building materials on the surface of the moon and establishing a manufacturing or mining presence there -- at a profit -- by 2020.
Meanwhile, a NASA scientist has proposed the totally radical-sounding idea of a sort of terraforming of, not the surface, but the atmosphere of Mars to render it more habitable by humanity. The idea is to toss an electromagnetic "net" around the entire planet, thereby nullifying the extremely high wind atmosphere, mellowing it to permit the surface water that scientists are sure existed on Mars at some point, to increase to the point where it could support life.
So what's that got to do with global warming?
There is already discussion about the spending priorities of the U.S. government, particularly in light of the radical shift in philosophy anticipated with the new Trump Administration. In the midst of this discussion inevitably arises the question of how much of the budget that would be allocated to accomplish an ambitious manned space mission would be better spent stopping global warming.
Put another way, if the battle against global warming is as nearly hopeless as we at Job One for Humanity see it, ought humanity to invest in an alternative solution that would involve saving the race by exporting some or much of it to other planets or the moon?
My own thought on this is three-fold:
I'd love to see extra-planetary colonization for a whole host of reasons.
I don't think that goal is achievable within the less-than-a-decade window we have to stop global warming.
I don't think the world can afford to pursue two multi-trillion (or quadrillion?) dollar projects simultaneously.
So I'd make the decision for the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number, shelve planetary colonization projects, reallocate the money to stopping global warming, and hope it's not too little, too late.
What do you think?
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