Wednesday, November 15, 2006

We Gotta Get Outta This Place

Let's face it: the future of Earth is just plain grim. Nothing lasts forever – including our planet’s host star, the Sun. In just a few short billions of years, the same star that keeps us warm and wet today will eventually expand and fry us into something like charcoal. Only worse.

Now, of course that leaves us lots of time to bicker about the homeless population and the starving children of the world. But our planet’s natural resources will only dwindle away with time, making living comfortably an even more expensive effort. There are much more abundant mineral resources swirling around in our Solar System, but we have to go up there to get them, which many people are strangely averse to doing. We’re allowing our suspicion of Big Business conspiring with Bad Government (for evil, greedy purposes) to cloud our judgment on the exploration and development of the Solar System’s vast store of resources. And that is unfortunate at the least.

This is a rare time in human history. A time when we have the knowledge, resources, and technical feasibility to explore and colonize beyond our currently known regions, but fail to do so simply because the conditions here at home are not "perfect" for everyone.

But there will never be a time when there is no suffering or illness in the world. That is wishful fantasizing. There will always be poverty and suffering, because that is the nature of living. All humans may be born the same way (biologically speaking), but they do not grow up the same way. Some people are abused by others, while some are abusive. Some folks just get along day-to-day, and that’s just fine with them. Others are driven to succeed. Some governments are despotic and abusive towards their people, while others are more representative and helpful. And every kind of government can be corrupted. One hundred years from now this will still be so.

We cannot accurately predict the political and social future of our global populations (and thus effectively plan ahead), but we can predict the future of our planet’s resources, along with knowing its eventual fate.

Embarking on the mission of exploring and developing the resources of the Solar System (and beyond) is not some fanciful, unattainable dream. Eventually, we will have to leave. But it’s better to start leaving on our own terms rather than scramble for the boats at the last minute. Sure, there's no need to hurry. We could wait another hundred years or so. But why?

We first landed on the Moon 37 years ago and haven't set foot on another world since. Going to Mars nowadays would be little different (travel time-wise) than the Europeans crossing the Atlantic to the Americas 500 years ago. As I wrote in a previous story a while ago, ... LET'S GET ON WITH IT!


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