Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Playing on the Same Team in Space.

Steven Hawking is now advocating colonization of space, but we expect to hear cries of violation from the space science community as they fear their budgets will be raided to further support the Man in Space program. And they're right: robotic space exploration - spaceborne astrophysical observatories, planetary probes, and Earth-Solar observatories are all very important to the scientific understanding of the Universe. Also, activities in space science need to be accelerated to speed the industrial development of remote sensing and robotic technologies.

But human exploration and colonization of space is vital, too. It is our opinion at Deaddrifts that, despite the greatest efforts to keep technological societies viable on Earth, in the long run they will succumb to human overpopulation, pollution, large-scale wars and social instabilities driven by resource scarcity. It is our belief that technological societies can only survive by proliferating through the Solar System and nearby stars with planetary systems. Such spaceborne societies will of course be subject to human foibles, but as the New World provided the experimental laboratory for democracy that was sufficiently isolated from Old World meddling, so space may provide a safe haven for technological democracies from the assault by the Earthly tyrannies .

Realizing space colonization is an enormous task, and will be the most costly and challenging engineering and social project ever undertaken by humanity. So it is clearly insane to continue the fratricide within NASA as the Man in Space program and the Space and Planetary Science programs fight for their shares of the budget to the detriment of the other.

Our country's efforts in space requires both of these programs. We propose that (1) NASA permanently divide these programs, (2) firewall their budgets from the other, and (3) declare that the permanent (i.e., hundred-year) goal of the Man in Space Program is the construction of permanent, self-sustaining colonies in the Solar System and other nearby planetary systems.