New Civilization News: Space is our Destiny    
 Space is our Destiny2 comments
picture2 Feb 2003 @ 15:32, by Craig Lang

An earlier newslog article makes the claim that the Columbia disaster might be the end of the US Space Program. But somehow I doubt it. I believe that space is our destiny. And I also believe that the USA will remain a part of that destiny. Whether it is alone or in partnership, we WILL continue. We will bear the risks, and we will learn the lessons of being on the leading edge of exploration.

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Yesterday's disaster was devastating. It was one of the greatest tragedies imaginable in spaceflight. And I have already begun to hear chatter about how this is the death knell for the US Human Spaceflight Program. Yet I doubt very much that this is the end of the road. While I disagree with the president on many things, I was impressed by his statement that "We will carry on". Because I believe we will.

Like all disasters, this is a wakeup call. There is a big lesson here - we need a replacement for the shuttle. For near-earth-orbit to be viable, a single stage to orbit vehicle is required. Technology needs to advance to the next step.

Space is dangerous. As best we (or at least I) know at this time, the Columbia disaster was due to an engineering-related failure. Awful as this is, such things do happen. They are part of the price we pay for exploration. We all know the odds and the consequences. The shuttle is probably the most complex machine ever built by humanity, and yet its use had become almost routine. This is the bleeding edge of human endeavor. And yesterday, we saw that edge bleed.

All my life I have lived with the sense of destiny that arises from the writings of Constantin Tsilkovski. Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one day we must leave the cradle. My sense is that now more than ever, humanity's destiny is in space. And risk is something that goes with the territory.

For many years, I was involved in exploration of another kind - as a mountaineer. This was was a different form of exploration, but to me it is analogous. We were exploring the vertical world of rock and ice. Each trip up slope, we were well aware of the objective hazards of that strange world.

In the 20 years I was involved in mountaineering, several climbers whom I considered to be friends and role models were killed while climbing. And unfortunately one all-too-predictable feature in "Climbing" magazine was the obituary. It is a sobering reminder of the value of life, and of the price of being on the edge. Yet we continue - the call to exploration is irresistable.

There is a lot of risk in space travel. But I believe that we will continue to explore onward - because we must. The only reason we would stop is because we have somehow lost the nerve to do so. If this should occur, then I believe that we will not deserve the destiny of the stars. It should pass to others more deserving. Truly that would be the end - and it would usher in a fate much grimmer than the failure of a space craft.

Space is dangerous, yet space is infinite, and space beckons to us. I believe that we are closer than we think to going to Mars. And I also believe that we are closer to starflight than we think. And so, above all else, I believe that space is our next frontier.

Space is our destiny.


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2 comments

2 Feb 2003 @ 18:44 by martha : curiosity
When I hear polarizing comments like this is the end of the space program I wonder if the person saying it really understand human nature. We are a curious species. Space is one of the last frontiers and there is no stopping now. You made a good point about the program needing to go to the next step. Just like humanity.  


3 Feb 2003 @ 01:07 by jazzolog : What Is Zepp Saying?
I put up Zepp's essay at jazzoLOG largely because of the passion in the writing, which reflected the feelings I had all day Saturday too. Nevertheless, the points Zepp makes about the dangers to the Space Program have to do with the destruction of this country's tax structure, in favor of kickbacks to the rich. The fact is those brave astronauts are riding around up there on old technology...and that reality has got to come front and center in any investigation of what went wrong. NASA has been underfunded---like all federal agencies...except Defense---since the Reagan days. I agree with Zepp that needs to change for there to be a safe Space Program.

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CL Note: Richard, thanks for your post. I hope I didn't sound too harsh. The criticism wasn't intended for you, but for the philosophy of retreat. In alot of ways, I think you're right.
BTW: I changed the header of the article so it didn't sound like a criticism of you. Sorry about that... :o)

IMHO NASA needs to return to focus - are we going to Mars? Are we doing LEO research, etc?... And what is NASA's role? Is it to establish a Mars colony? Is it to develop space technology? There are lots of forks in the road here. Just how many of these can we take?

I believe that we need a commitment to space exploration similar to the settling of the frontier (regardless of your views, this was a major endeavor for a young nation). There are alot of lessons here - one big one is that we get what we pay for... (!!!!)

Thanks for your comments.  



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