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Jul 6, 2012

Per Aspera Ad Astra

Posted by in categories: economics, education, engineering, ethics, futurism, human trajectories, philosophy, policy, rants, scientific freedom, space, sustainability, transparency

The unknown troubles and attracts us. We long to discover a reason for our existence. We look out to the stars through the darkness of space to observe phenomena incredibly far distances away. Many of us are curious about the things we see, these unknowns.

Yet, many of us look skyward and are uninspired, believing that our time and resources best be kept grounded. Despite our human-centered ideologies, our self-assured prophecies, our religious and philosophical beliefs, no existential rationale seems apparent.

We as people welcome technology into our lives and use it constantly to communicate and function. Scientific discoveries pique the interest of every citizen in every country, and technological revolutions have always preceded social and political revolutions from the creation of the internet back to man’s first use of simple tools. Leaders of nations proclaim the importance of science and discovery to our welfare to be utmost.

But what we have seen done recently contradicts these proclamations: space programs are closed; science funding for schools always falls short; and we see no emphasis of the significance of science in our modern culture. Our governments call for the best but provide capital for only the satisfactory, if even. We no longer succumb to the allure of learning simply for the sake of knowing what we once did not know. We have stopped dreaming.

The exploration of space is as related to earthly affairs as any trek, perhaps even more so, because what we learn along the way directly affects the knowledge we apply to our politics, our religions, societies, and sciences. We learn about ourselves, our dreams, our fears. We learn about our strengths and our weaknesses as nations and as a species. In searching the void all around us we learn how to interact with each other and bridge differences between races, religions, genders, and ideologies. The societies of Earth need to emphasize the importance of discovery and innovation to the longevity of mankind, as well as the very human need for the pursuit of challenge.

We are and always have been an adaptable species capable of creating dreams and accomplishing them. We should seek to explore our new frontier and chase ideas yet to even be conceived. The exploration of space has lifted our human spirit, enlightened us, and has made lucid and close our fragility and responsibilities. Perhaps our inhibitions and worries, and our craving to overcome them fuels our explorative ambitions.

If we desire greater purpose then let us earn it; through hardship to the stars! The sky is no longer a limit, but a starting point. We can define our lives, and our existence, by how we accept and handle the unknown; our significance as humans set forth by our bravery and intelligence. Regardless of our qualms and fears, exploration of the unknown is an intrinsic passion of mankind. Why not remind ourselves of what has advanced us thus far?

As the astrophysicist and activist Carl Sagan said, “We were hunters and foragers. The frontier was everywhere. We were bounded only by the earth and the ocean and the sky.” Let us now explore the boundless, and go forth into the starry-night, fresh and inspired, ready to accept any challenge, just as those before us did, when they first set sail for the unknown.

Read the original post at bmseifert.com.

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Comments — comments are now closed.

  • Keith Taggart on July 7, 2012 8:35 am

    Well said! The only point that I would add is that the Chinese seem to have picked up the torch and vision of space flight so humanity will go to the stars. There is also a small group of entrepeneurs in the US who have started to build a commercial space effort that may or may not succeed. Perhaps it is time for people to suppor those efforts and forget about what our government does or does not do in space.

  • Brandon E Larson on July 7, 2012 8:54 am

    I’m with my namesake here, because a politician’s promise is only good until the next election if at all. We (the USA, that is) live in a free country with a free market economy, at least in theory. It is time we start acting like it and take advantage of it to do what needs to be done ourselves rather than wiat for our masters in Washington to do it for us, like we have done for the last 80 years. I’ve already outlined my thoughts and my research in my past posts, so I won’t go over it again, but I just put my own time and resources into the cause rather than begging for some token support from NASA and the NSF.

    Now if we can just get tthe cranks and trolls like Rossler off of this site it would be a great discussion forum. Are you listening Mr. Klien?

  • Ray Wright on July 7, 2012 9:13 am

    Agreed — and on both comments above! I’m thinking that the reason that the Chinese space programme is progressing so fast is that the Chinese government, which does not need to worry about troublesome things like elections, has set itself a goal in space and they are going to see it through, whatever. They will have the Moon and Mars to themselves, I’m sure.

  • Claude Phipps on July 7, 2012 9:28 am

    I agree completely. Not only “to the stars” of course but also to the understanding of our origins through truly magnificent experimental programs like the LHC. The near-proof of the existence of the Higgs boson announced last week is I believe the most important thing that’s happened in science in my working lifetime. It is an exquisitely complex theoretical item that has now been observed. Two teams of three thousand scientists were involved! Scientists were standing outside the CERN facility all night, like for a rock concert, hoping to get in for the announcement. Peter Higgs from the University of Edinburgh himself was there, and was lucky enough to live to see what he predicted in 1964 come true. I am confused why the official physicists’ point of view seems to be that it was terribly embarrassing for Leon Lederman to have called it the “God particle” and then retract and call it the “Goddamned particle.” Without it, nothing would have mass. We would zip through each other like the neutrinos do, except that we and the rest of it wouldn’t exist in the first place. If it isn’t God, what is? The half century of scientific faith leading up to this announcement is the kind of faith I can believe in! Fifty years is a long time in anyone’s life. At the end of it, something appeared.

  • John Strickland on July 7, 2012 4:39 pm

    This s a fine statement in support of the space program in general. Dr. Hawking has also done some good work recently in this regard. What is needed now is a more concrete approach to creating what some of us call “Access to Space”, not just Low Earth Orbit, (LEO) but GEO, the L-points, lunar orbit, Mars orbit and the surfaces of both objects.
    We now seem to be winning the battle to get better access to LEO (with the efforts of people like Elon Musk), but little progress has been made in the other areas, since we have no projects to create reusable spacecraft and “gas stations” in space to refuel them. This is the most critical issue now for the space program. How to split responsibility for developing such vehicles between industry and NASA is a major question still unresolved. Once we have a transport system in place, access to many locations will become much easier, and a whole new era in space exploration and development will unfold.

  • Brandon Seifert on July 8, 2012 8:29 am

    I definitely think we need to focus heavily on commercial development, but due to the way the industry as a whole has been set up I do not think this can be done efficiently and effectively without NASA there as an advisor and customer, at least in the immediate future.

    I don’t think we need to worry about the Chinese at all. Everything they’re doing now we’ve done already and have been doing for the last 50+ years. IF they end up going to the Moon I think you’ll see political interest begin to pique, and IF they decide to go to Mars, then and only then will you see the American victory-machine wake up. I do not think China will go to Mars before SpaceX (that is Elon Musk’s ultimate goal with the company in the short-run).

    I think GEO and deeper space is definitely a perfect set of goals, but I don’t expect to see commercial companies out there for another 2–3 decades as we can barely penetrate LEO. It is definitely a critical issue, but I think a more critical issue is re-inspiring the public and making space and science sexy again.

    The argument, based on the idea that mankind no longer pursues and celebrates scientific discovery and no longer explores as it could, presses the importance of challenging ourselves. The speech is mean to inspire. By exciting the general public, perhaps interest in science and exploration can be piqued, and maybe people will wonder about the universe around them again. The goal of the speech is to strike tones of excitement, urgency, and inspiration.

    I want to focus on getting people to come to a logical conclusion regarding the development of space exploration and science through their own emotions. That logical conclusion being “Go for it! We need to explore space!”, of course. If you don’t like something, if it doesn’t catch your attention, pull your heart-strings, or move you, then you’re much less likely to align your interests with it. I want to get people to think about the status quo and question it. I want them wonder about the things we are currently capable of, the things we are capable of doing in the future, and why we aren’t pursuing them to a greater extent.

    Pathos touches on human passion, inspiration, and fear; all emotions deeply planted within the very nature of exploration and discovery. By reigniting these emotions within the public, interest in space and science could be instilled and a new emphasis on these fields could be created. The general public may and most likely does not understand the scientific and engineering background related to space exploration, nor will they understand the political and economic complexities that promote or prevent exploration. But they understand the danger and the risk, as well as the immense exhilaration of doing something for the first time in history.

    So yes, I definitely agree with all of you, however I think the MOST IMPORTANT challenge that must be accomplished first is making people want space again.