Saturday, May 30, 2015

TED Talk on Spacefaring Civilization?

I've never had any desire to do a TED Talk actually, although I've known a couple of people who have. When you google the subject of TED Talks, it's astounding what a wide variety of subjects have been addressed. (I have to admit I was briefly tempted to click on the one about "zombie roaches" but must stay on task here!) "Free knowledge from the world's most inspired thinkers" is a lofty goal and certainly gives free rein for people to discuss anything they have passion about, for eighteen minutes or less.

Probably the subject I have the most passion for, although not an expert by any means, would be the need for humanity to devote time, energy and funds to exploring space. Really become the galactic citizens our science fiction stories, including mine, want us to be. Enough with the baby steps of the space station and robots on Mars (cool as they are of course).

Nothing is ever easy, including exploration. Lots and lots of naysayers when it comes to the investment in going to space. But I would ask, hasn't that always been the way when it's time for humans to undertake some new venture? And don't we (the collective we) usually figure "it" out? Yes, there are risks and scientific barriers but tell me again why we aren't building bases on the Moon?

I always think one of the saddest things about the exploration of outer space was that there were no garage experimenters working on the problems, that it became the sole province of big governments, which means eventually choking on bureaucracy, funding issues and a lot of risk aversion. Not to mention having to compete for funding with many other worthy causes. When the aviation industry, or the automobile industry were in their infancy, people tinkered and built prototypes and tried things. Not all the early attempts were successful but knowledge was gained.

Early science fiction almost always assumed there would be individual geniuses along the lines of Henry Ford and Allan Lockheed and Jack Northrop, building spaceships and getting us OUT THERE. Why should rocket science be any different than other technological breakhroughs? Well, ok outer space isn't a hospitable place. But I firmly believe it's coded into our DNA to explore, to push the boundaries, to see what's beyond the hill, the next river, the next moon, the next planet...

So nowadays I have a lot of hope for the activities of Elon Musk. He's not waiting around, he's building and flying hardware, talking about colonies on Mars, pushing the boundaries. He wants us to become a "spacefaring civilization." Me too!

His discussion of SpaceX starts at about 12:00 minutes in.

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