#24 April 1989
Section 220.127.116.11.024.of the Artemis Data Book
A BANNER-WORTHY GOAL!
Editorial by Peter Kokh
Many of us space advocates are all too painfully aware that our own 'premature' birthdates and mortality conspire against our ever participating in the actual unfolding drama of the realization of a space frontier. Others are unwilling to admit such a possibility and have deep held hopes of personally blazing the trail. Whatever our personal expectations, most of us have found a particular niche on the would-be frontier in which we think we would be most at home. Speculating about such a niche gives us great vicarious pleasure and drives us on. Some of us would pioneer the Moon, others Mars, or the asteroids. Or perhaps we would wildcat dormant comets, or work on the construction of giant space colonies, or run a tourist hotel out by Saturn. Same of us may even dream of inventing an interstellar drive. Meanwhile we chafe at being exiles in time, born too soon.
And also meanwhile, we lie to others about our 'unusual' passion. For we learn too quickly that these visions, however viscerally exciting to us, leave most people cold, coming across as pathetically out of touch with reality, even cruelly indifferent to the world's many terribly urgent needs. We stand silently accused of a cruel and selfish escapism.
In response to expressed or latent hostility of those concerned with a litany of 'more urgent' problems, as well as in reaction to the apathy of those concerned with nothing beyond the gratifications of the moment, we've come up with various strategies. We talk about the many spin-offs of space technology, for example. Teflon hoopla is seen as the answer to those who ask 'what's in it for me?' While spin-off benefits are real, they are not the reason we are pushing the envelope of human horizons out into space. In offering spin-offs to the public as 'the reason' for space exploration and development, or as a palliative to help swallow the high capital costs involved, we are being dishonest, even cynically so, to the public and to our own dreams as well.
Some have tried to anchor the hopes of the space frontier on the persuasion value of fear. They see in the militarization of space, something upon which civilian access can be piggybacked. The S.S. Paranoia is their spaceship. This course is laden with pitfalls and the chances of it backfiring tragically, seem to this writer considerably greater than the Alice-in-Wonderland likelihood of success. Behind it all is the unspoken pessimism that if it were not for mutual hatred and fear of peoples of Earth, we could not hope to realize a spacefaring civilization.
Another growing fad is to use the darkside of humanity as a launchpad in a subtler, more sublimating way. Thus we are told we should go 'to Mars Together' as an arms-race substitute.
The rival option is to set up an antarctic-style science base, and possibly a farside observatory, on the Moon. Proponents of this option cite the priceless value of science without the need to know in advance what improvements in life such enhancements of present knowledge might eventually bring. If both the SDI crowd and the Mars crowd pay too much homage to the worst of terrestrial crises, the Lunar science crowd goes to the other extreme and plays ostrich.
Why do we have to lie to the public about our motivations? Why do we have to keep our 'real agendas' hidden? The answer is that all too often we ourselves have no real grasp of The Goal but see only particular milestones with whose realization we can individually identify. Nor do we agree amongst ourselves for the same reason: we mistake these milestones for goals.
Let's stop this nonsense! The ONLY GOAL we can be HONEST about with the public, and undefensively ballyhoo, is one which relates to the real ENVIRONMENTAL-ECONOMIC problems of our home world. Such a goal was first formulated by Gerard O'Neill in THE HIGH FRONTIER (before that phrase was usurped and twisted by the fright and might crowd). According to this vision, space resources would be put to work to furnish Earth's growing energy needs in a way much friendlier to the environment than coal, oil, fission, and even hydroelectric plants.
A funny thing happened on the way to the forum (where we tell the good news to the public). Too many became captivated by the vision of space colonies, one of the proposed components of the energy from space scheme, and mistook these future celestial oases as the goal. To these supporters, serving Earth's needs has been merely a handy means to that goal. In truth, it should be the other way around: space colonies fall under the heading of means, Earth's needs being the goal.
The O'Neill vision is one that needs to be ever refreshed, ever reformulated. Solar Power Satellites need to be rethought to see if they can be designed to be less obtrusive in the night skies of Earth. Nor should they be seen as the only possible means of realizing the goal. Lunar helium 3 [Eric Ryden's report in MMM # 23] is also a candidate. The future will probably see both. As attracted as we are to individual facets of the original High Frontier scheme, we must be honest enough with both ourselves and the public to reserve out highest loyalty to THE goal - nothing short of rescuing Earth's environment with greater economic justice than possible in any other way.
This goal itself needs to be ever restated concretely, addressing the terrestrial crisis in the most relevant way. For example, today's buzzword is the Greenhouse Effect, a very real concern (though some say we should be sure it is upon us before we rashly do anything to prevent it!). Power from space is the one viable alternative we have to continuing to warm the Earth by power generation on the surface. It is also quite possible that power and resources from space (and some technologies developed in anticipation, e.g. glass-glass-composites or Glax*) can slowly reduce the rate at which our tropical forests are being clear-cut, causing irrevocable gross mass extinctions.
Many environmentalists are highly stirred up about the rape of the planet but have yet to grasp that until a different regime governs the microeconomic decisions made by individuals and families, the juggernaut of habitat (and Habitat Earth, with a big H) destruction will continue. Only space resources offer an alternative.
Some critics see space resources as a deus-ex-machina (god out of a machine), an improper recourse. But space IS an integral horizon of our planet, it is our "hinterland". The Solar System IS Greater Earth. Not to use it would be perverse. SPACE IS AN EARTH RESOURCE - let that be our cry. Let us work to show the many ways space development can address the mundane problems all thinking people are concerned with. Space is not pie in the sky. It is future bread on the table. Space is not a luxury. Space is a necessity if we are to survive the adolescence of our species.
Integrating space resources into Earth's economy in a way beneficial to all her inhabitants is not a vision we have to keep close to the breast, that we have to be shy about, that we have to serve by offering substitute sops to the public. It is a goal we can shout about from the rooftops. Being in the service of such a goal is a badge we can wear with pride. Only ignorance, ours included, stands in the way.
Dedicate ourselves to this goal and all our individual private fantasies will see the light of day, science camps, resource stations, and eventually settlements on the Moon; permanent human presence on Mars; self-contained colonies in free space; asteroid mining; and much, much more. Instead of being divided by such words as Moon, Mars and Space Colonies, space advocates should be united by the word EARTH. As far as we go in space, even if it is to the stars, we will never find any adopted home as beautiful, as fertile, as rich as Earth. Working to keep it that way should be our reason for going. That is the only thing deserving the term GOAL. - Peter Kokh 3/89 MMM
Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto