#96 June 1996
Section 188.8.131.52.096.of the Artemis Data Book
Nearer home, the politically besieged Space Station Freedom program has been replaced by the paradigm shift post cold war International Space Station program, with metal being bent and first launch just over the horizon.
The Nineties are also the decade of two more major space paradigm switches: single stage to orbit technology flag-shipped by the Delta Clipper project, and Dan Goldin's effort to reinvent NASA, switching gears to "faster, better, cheaper" missions and programs.
But I suspect when all is said and done, even space enthusiasts will one day come to call the Nineties the decade of the World Wide Web. The invention of the Web, and the public's discovery of it, continues to be a superphenomenon. Cyberspace has become much more than email and newsgroup services. The Web has become, not just another place to publish, but an essential place to publish. Soon it may become "the" place to publish. And, it is the place for the space-enthused, the space-interested, and the space-curious to keep abreast of all of the above missions and projects in space, as they unfold, and to do so in far more detail than ever possible before.
For on the web, everyone - connected individual, society, business, and institution - has immediate entry to the web presence of everyone else. The Web is a place where one can potentially reach a much wider audience. It is a place where one can network amazingly with everyone else whose interests are even marginally on a tangent.
The hypertext system of links invades all horizons, all ramifications, all threads of topical connection. Powerful "search engines" make it possible for people to ferret out just about anything that piques their curiosity, even momentarily. More people surf into "space sites" than would ever become exposed via the more mundane media. In the process everyone using the Web faces an explosion of insights as he or she explores not just the universe of cyberspace but is drawn into crooks and crannies of the real universe new to him/her. The Web is the ultimate tool of a "renaissance" self-education. And no education is more effective, more lasting in its effects, than self-education.
Space-oriented societies, publishers, and conference committees have not been slow to discover and exploit the web, reaching many more potential supporters, players, and participants than ever before possible by snail junk mailings. But for us enthusiasts, the future lies not just in information publication on the web, not just in discussion groups, but in the possibility of marshaling talents and resources in new projects, projects that could previously only be dreamt of, and marshaling them in an unprecedentedly effective way. The Web is an amazing theater of interactivity.
Basic space education on the Web? Of course! But graduate level research as well. The Web is an ideal place to pool ideas for productive graduate masters and doctoral level research theses with space topic relevancy. It is a place to keep track of and ensure continued progress along technological "critical paths" to the opening of the Space Frontier.
There is already a Lunar Institute of Technology on the Web, based at the University of North Carolina. To our review, its list of departments and programs is just a toe in the water, and complimentary research-instigating web sites are sure to arise. As a result, the whole pace of extra-NASA space frontier research is guaranteed to accelerate remarkably.
The International Space Development Conferences too, have discovered the Web, as a way to keep potential attendees and other interested parties apprised of developing programs, attending speakers, workshops, and side show tours. We in Milwaukee intend to exploit the potential of the Web even further, as we put ISDC '98 Milwaukee together on the Web - with your interactive involvement. Surely it is the place to publish the abstracts from the conference Precedings, as the pieces come in, not belatedly, years latter, when everything is stale and too late to be as helpful as it might have been. The full Precedings, in electronic form, could then be ordered for a fee, in whole or paper by paper, to be sent by disk or by email attachments. Timeliness is of the essence here! Momentum of feedback must be maintained. We are not on a scholarly mission. We are not building a medieval cathedral over a span of generations. We are on a mission to bust wide open the barriers to the space frontier, in our lifetime!
The Web is the place to reach the largest number of potential participants in essay and design competitions, in hands on technology demonstration contests, and more. It is a place to get the space-interested off the couch, and very much personally involved, with a much broader spectrum "menu" of options than ever before put before them.
For those who continue to think that it is the government's job and mission to open space for us, well, what can I say? I guess for traditional politically-tuned space activists, the Web is the dream tool to marshal their resources and talents also. Certainly it is the place to brainstorm together ever more productive pieces - and the whole mosaic - of commercial / entrepreneur-facilitating space legislation.
There are distractions. The pictures that draw you in and take forever to upload. We've turned that automatic image upload command "off". Yet pictures are important to luring in net-surfing, web-browsing passersby.
Soon, the Web will suck in millions more, as cable television subscribers will be able to get on via a relatively inexpensive "box" without taking the expensive plunge into personal computers. When that happens, and it is imminent, and legions of computer shy individuals start coming aboard, you will see a cyber explosion that dwarfs anything we've seen to date, much as the atom bomb was dwarfed by the hydrogen bomb, the former becoming just the trigger for the latter.
It's all according to prediction. In The Phenomenon of Man, the revolutionary French Jesuit Paleontologist turned mystic Philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (died 1955) outlined an entirely new way of looking at reality. God worked not out of the beginning of time, but out of the end of time. He did not push the universe forward, but sucked it forward into the future. Evolution, Chardin passionately believed, is God's way of creation. You start with lifeless matter and from there everything evolves upward, towards spirit, towards God. This is not the place to go into the details of his philosophic vision, but I want to mention the stage of evolution he foresaw developing after man, out of man - the noosphere from noos, Greek for mind. If you reread his vision, you will see that what he glimpsed was what we have come to call cyberspace and the Global Village. To those of you looking for a more fitting philosophical and theological world view to better underpin your hope's for a human future in space and among the stars, I heartily recommend this book, and his writings in general. They are at least a place to start.
And it's all bound to become even more amazing. The Web is not just a place to keep up with what's happening, or simply watch from the 50-yard line. It is the place to help make it happen. -- Peter Kokh
"1/6th G -
it's not just a good idea,
it's the law."
- Luna City local ordinance
Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto