You Don’t Grow Without Moving Forward

I dropped into Brickmuppet’s blog and this post showed up.

He got the original post from Scott Lowther’s blog.

The worst thing I read today

I wish that I could disagree with Brickmuppet’s description of the woman, but unfortunately I can’t. Here’s her post.

One of many cultural phenomena that worry me as much as the U.S. presidential campaign (I voted for Bernie in the primary, and I am voting for Hillary on election day) is the persistent public cheerleading for the human colonization of Mars. The media repeat every bit of the libertarian narrative of progress and freedom that they’re feed with virtually no critical analysis.

I will not repeat much of what Elon Musk said yesterday about his “vision” for colonizing Mars, as it’s plastered all over the mass media. If you want to read a level-headed account of yesterday’s announcement, see Marcia Smith’s report on Space Policy Online.

As Marcia notes, “Elon Musk has made no secret of his passion to make humanity a multiplanetary species by creating a self-sustaining society on Mars as a backup plan in case Earth is destroyed in a cataclysmic event.” NASA’s embraced Musk and his wacky ideas as a way to promote its own “journey to Mars.” Musk said yesterday he wants to accomplish his goal by public-private partnership.

Really? I don’t want a penny of my tax dollars going into such a project. (Musk has already benefited from millions of dollars in direct subsidies, not to mention contracts, from the federal government.)

Musk said he will take people to Mars for $200,000 apiece, transporting 100 to 200 people at a time, starting in a few decades.

First, I don’t believe for a minute that he will accomplish that goal in the foreseeable future.

Second, I have deep moral qualms about this idea, as it appeals to a small fraction of humankind and proposes what would inevitably be an elitist enterprise. Would it be ethical to enable people with enough money to buy a ticket to leave our troubled Earth behind? Would it be ethical for government(s) to subsidize such an enterprise? In Musk’s disturbing “vision” – a nightmare in my mind – how many poverty-stricken Bangladeshis or Congolese, how many permanently displaced Syrian refugees, will come up with $200,000 – or $2,000, for that matter – to “start anew,” as the colonization zealots say they want to do?

I participated in a conference this past weekend about “social and conceptual issues in astrobiology.” Among the questions we 30 attendees were asked to consider in our discussions were:

“Should humans seek to exploit and/or colonize space? If so, how should this be done? Are there truly universal principals of biology, psychology, morality, etc. that would apply to extraterrestrial life?”

My views on these questions are: No. We should not do it. No.

Right now, at this point in time, humanity is too immature to leave home. We can’t even figure out how to take of ourselves – that is, all humanity – on our home planet. It’s crazy talk to claim that simply by moving to another planetary body we’ll reinvent society.

Human social behavior, intellectual capability, and psychology, will not “evolve” in any noticeable way over the next 10 or 40 or 50 years – probably not even in 100 years. We have not changed noticeably in these respects over the past 100 years, after all. What we have accomplished over the past 100 years is more technology. Hence, crazy talk about colonizing other planets and mining the asteroids.

Being criticized appropriately she goes into full SJW mode. I’m sorry, but resorting to accusations of sexism is not making an argument. But that seems to be the fallback position for these people.

Now I suspect that this should not be a surprise.  I’ve seen this point of view since the 1970’s.  It’s always, we have to deal with problems on Earth first. What’s disturbing is that according to her CV, this woman has been in a position to influence public opinion on space matters since the 1980’s.

Manager of Communications , NASA Astrobiology  Program, Jan. 2007 – present.
• Communication  research, planning,  and  analysis, NASA Planetary Protection Office, Sept. 2002 – 2006.
•  Director of Communications , SPACEHAB, Inc., Washington,  D.C., Sept. 1999 – Aug. 2002 .
• Chancellor’s Fellow  (1996 – 97, Knight  Fellow  (1997 – 99) , Indiana U. School  of Journalism.
• Director of Science Communication,  Life Sciences Division,  NASA HQ, Oct. 1994 – Aug.  1996.
• Manager of education  and  out reach, exploration office, NASA HQ, Dec. 1993 – Oct. 1994 .
• Senior editor/analyst, BDM International, April 1990 – December 1993.
• Editor, Lockheed Engineering & Sciences Co., July 1988 – April 1990.
• Senior editor for space, Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine, December 1985 – July 1988.
• Public affairs officer, National Commission on  Space, Sept. – Dec. 1985.
• Consultant, National Science Foundation, August – September 1985 .
• Editor, Space Business News, June  1983 – August 1985.

One thing that’s apparent is that she has jumped around, a lot.  I can’t see any position where she’s spent a full three years except the NASA jobs. Did she jump just at the time that her employers realized that she had no belief in a vision for future space exploration?  That she had no clue what the whole thing was about?

Here’s somebody who does.

Decades of public opinion polls, popular media, and other cultural phenomena strongly point to a public viewpoint on space that is exactly opposite of what Linda claims. Moreover her viewpoint flies in the face of human history. People explore. Then they colonize. Then they move on to explore some more because that is what people do. In particular I am not certain why this tiny group of 30 space people (no doubt the usual suspects at meetings like this) meeting in their little echo chamber is in any way representative of what America’s 300+ million – or the billions who live elsewhere think about exploring space.

Look at China and India – countries with vast, pressing social issues – issues that surely could use more money. Yet these countries are dedicating large resources toward exploring space – often times repeating what other countries did decades ago. What is it that they have discovered about exploring space that space people in America seem to have forgotten? Meanwhile, as NASA runs in circles with inadequate budgets driven by plans that they were never going to be capable of implementing, the private sector has amassed the resources to do things on their own in space – for their own reasons.

NASA has been 20 years away from sending humans to Mars for over 40 years. Clearly the NASA approach to sending humans on Mars no longer works. Its time for someone else to do it. If not Elon Musk then some other billionaire(s) will certainly step up to the plate. And if not the U.S. then other countries will.

NASA has been a federal jobs program for geeks since the 1980’s.  In that time the agency has spent billions of dollars on programs that by and large went nowhere and in the end have left the greatest space faring nation relying on the Russians to access it’s own space station. Not only has the agency had it’s own string of failures, but for a very long time the agency fought tooth and nail to squelch any commercial space venture.  It’s only fairly recently that commercial ventures have been able to get off the ground, mostly due to the fact that NASA can’t put together a spacecraft on deadline and on budget.

On the other hand the commercial guys are doing stuff like this.

It wasn’t so long ago that we used to dream big. There were space toy and models all over the place when I was growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Here’s a case in point, a design for a Earth/Mars manned mission spacecraft.  With NERVA drive.  Jerry Pournelle actually used this as a model for the ships in his stories.

In 1636 or so my family paid the equivalent of that $200k to cross the ocean and build a new life here in New England.  They did it again in the 1820’s to move to Ohio.  Each time the decision was made because family members felt that the opportunities for growth were going away and that persecution for their beliefs was more than likely.  So they took the big leap into the wilderness.

I’ve been reading about the next big leap for my entire life. The great disappointment of my life has been that that big leap has been more or less suspended.  I wonder how much of that suspension is due to the actions of people like “Dr. Linda?”  Typically of leftists trying to remake people through any means possible into some new kind of “better people” becomes more important the task at hand.  As far as people like Dr. Linda are concerned human beings are not “good” enough to move out into space.  Never mind that most of the world’s problems are caused by people that hold the same ideas as her beloved Bernie.  If more people were free from Socialist dictators the whole world would be much better off.

The fact is that the world needs a safety valve.  As most activities have become global in nature humanity’s natural tendency toward letting bureaucracies manage things has led to ever larger governments with less liberty and more binds of red tape.  Without some sort of safety valve the world may act like a misbehaving boiler and go boom.  A boom that could kill billions and cause the collapse of the entire world economy.  As short a time as the 1980’s that was not really an issue.  But the way everything is interconnected now, with most of the world linked together, if any one region or country goes down, the rest of the world could follow.

There needs to be a place where the ambitious, the clever, the odd have to go when they can’t get ahead in the stultifying culture that they were born in. Otherwise they will turn to other means.  Like crime, with computers.  Which is why we have the ransomware crisis ongoing right now.   All due to the new Europe.

In order to have a   future there needs to be a place that humans can grow.  Mars may be a good place for that.

Building a Mars city will require building a huge space infrastructure.  New space stations will be needed. A permanent moon base for resources.  New tools that will work by themselves, in the hostile Mars environment will need to be created and built, then shipped and dropped on Mars.  Even if the project fails, there is enough to absorb the dreams of millions of smart people, for decades.  Which means that they won’t be wanting to smash a world that has no real place for them anyway.

That’s what people like Linda never seem to understand. Rather than admit that their utopia doesn’t meet the needs of everyone, that the romantic vision is fundamentally unworkable,  they are perfectly willing to lock the dissenters up in a very cold place.  With all the nightmares that go with that.

The big lesson  of the 20th Century was that you either have liberty or you may die.   The last century has a long and bloody record of just how bad things can get.  Without being able to move forward, to escape, the 21st Century could very well end up being the 20th on an even larger scale.  So, now is the time to up ship and become pioneers again.  For all of humanity.



  1. MadRocketSci · October 7

    I for one wish SpaceX luck. (Even though the jerks wouldn’t consider me or any of my brilliant astro-engineer friends for jobs, even after making us jump through ludicrous hoops in interviews – that’s why I also wish Blue Origin, Boeing, and Lockheed luck…) The more stuff we launch, and the more rockets we have, the closer we get to that sci-fi future that we’ve all been working for (and the better chances we space-geeks have to join and help enterprises that are going somewhere)

    Interesting that the beautiful, smarter-than-you, more-educated-than-you set that wants to “scientifically” plan your future for you (you ignorant peasant!) actually hates technology and doesn’t understand science. The technocrats despise technology and what it allows people to do. The people who our culture holds up as geniuses hate geniuses and are trying to destroy the things that motivate them.


  2. Aletha Carlton · October 7

    Absolutely “You don’t grow without moving forward,” Where and how do you find a place to grow if you don’t find the right garden with good soil; if the soil is a Brown Field- ?????, In my opinion we have been growing money in these fields and nothing else.


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