Posted by: spacewritinguy | March 20, 2008

Conservatives in Space – Chapter 8

Space Benefits III: Extending and Improving Western Civilization

Bottom Line: Space provides a new environment for human beings to enjoy themselves, develop artistic creations, find new ways to relate to their God, and improve themselves and their civilization.

At last we’ve come to the true “bottom line,” what NASA Administrator Mike Griffin calls “the real reasons” we explore. That is, after we’ve discussed the acceptable reasons for exploring space–new technologies, new markets, new resources–we eventually come back to the emotional and human reasons. We are not just economic machines or scientific computers; we have emotions that are as much a part of ourselves as the machines we build or the theories we create. With those emotions come enjoyment, pain, laughter, art, religion, and culture: all of the things that make us fully human.

New Forms of Fun

Earth-based tourism is a trillion-dollar industry. Surveys conducted here and abroad have confirmed wide interest in space tourism as well–60 to 80%, depending on the country–and a willingness to spend upwards of a month’s salary just to get into space once. Clearly this is not a “far out” scheme without connection to Earthly reality. Space tourism will expand an already thriving industry into a new and potentially very lucrative arena. There are already potential customers space tourism marketers can target.

These markets include:

Extreme Sports Fans

“Extreme” sports have attracted a whole new generation of thrill seekers. Some space tourists might enjoy the risks of flying on new types of spacecraft that no one else has ever flown on before. Others will seek the sensations of both high acceleration and zero gravity, much like roller coaster enthusiasts. Risk taking and danger will not discourage these hardy travelers: it will become part of the attraction. Of the 3.5 to 4 million Americans who experience sports injuries every year, over 100,000 of these injuries are from skateboarding alone; and yet skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding, skiing, skateboarding, parachuting, and the “X-Games” remain popular. What will those sports be like on other worlds?

Wealthy Leisure Travelers

While some will seek out space tourism for the thrill of it, the activity will remain expensive for some time, with companies charging anywhere from $200,000 to $20 million for a single ticket. At those prices, one might purchase memberships in Club Med, a first-class around-the-world cruise, or month-long safaris…and still have money left over. Obviously such vacations are very expensive, but they are not beyond the means of people who are willing to pay the price. And what a destination! Suborbital space–followed by an eventual orbital hotel–could be the ultimate getaway in the next decade.

A Philosophical and Political Project

This book is are rooted deeply in the freedom-minded and capitalistic thought of Adam Smith, F.A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and many others. These philosophies have in common a belief in the right and ability of individuals to make rational choices on behalf of their own self-interest. Government, in this context, is a necessary evil that should be used sparingly to defend the nation, keep the peace, and punish crimes against individuals and property. A capitalist society also assumes shared public morality in order to ensure moral self-government and minimal political interference in questions of personal preference and freedom of expression. The capitalist system is the most effective means of developing the space economy and spreading human civilization, and has the potential to transform life on Earth as well.

Science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson got into an argument with an audience member at a space conference when he stated that all reasons for going into space are not created equal, and that our nation needs to go to Mars for “the right reasons.” In Robinson’s case, he believes we should explore only as a means to make life better on Earth. I have no objection with that goal per se, and in fact I have advocated that space activities will benefit people on Earth. However, it is not Robinson’s, nor the government’s job to decide what goals should be pursued or what motives should be given for pursuing them.

Opening space to private property and individual freedom will allow for more activities, ideas, and inventions than would occur under a government- or expert-guided “program.” This nation was founded on the premise that if individuals are engaged in productive pursuits and not harming each other, it is not the job of a government or self-appointed elite to question their motives.

Christianity and Space Settlement

What follows are strictly my own beliefs on why settling the solar system is good for humanity and for religion. I began with the following premises:

  • Space offers humanity the opportunity to marvel at and learn more about God’s creation by experiencing it firsthand.
  • Space technologies can/will enable human beings to protect all life on Earth by deflecting asteroids and comets.
  • By establishing orbiting habitats as well as settlements on the Moon, Mars, and beyond, we expand the number of ways and places we can worship.
  • If we were to “terraform” the planet Mars (i.e. grow plants and change the atmosphere to allow human beings to live in the open air), we would expand the abode of life, following from Genesis 1:22, which says, “And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.”

And finally, as a purely political matter…

  • The American frontier was formed from thousands of communities. The moons and planets would offer places for a similar development. Instead of avoiding persecution from state churches, these religious communities can establish themselves in space to avoid persecution from increasingly anti-religious or hyper-religious cultures (especially in places like Europe).

I am not selling space exploration as an explicitly Christian endeavor or some sort of holy crusade; it is undoubtedly a worldly effort. Nevertheless, my Christian forebears did help to settle and build this nation, and they brought their faith with them. The “Protestant work ethic” was not a figment of anyone’s imagination, but an historian’s perception of what was occurring in the real world in the 19th century. I dare say that that ethic is following Americans into space.

Next, it has been demonstrated time and again that Americans are among the most generous people in the world when it comes to charitable giving. Space activities are likely to create many new riches and rich individuals. Our religion-based ethos of giving will continue. The more we have, the more we have to give (and, in fact, the more we do give) to private charities.

And notice that word “private” again. The more charitable giving that individuals do, the less government has to do. Personal giving is an act of personal virtue, and less likely to promote resentment, unlike government-based redistribution or foreign aid.

Finally, if travel into space represents the best in us, it only makes sense that we take the best our culture has to offer with us. Yes, worldly capitalists will abound, but so too will knowledge-seeking scientists and religious seekers. This unique mix of capitalism, science, and Judeo-Christianity is what makes this nation the greatest in history, and we would be foolish to dispense with any of those traditions.

Why Human Space Travel?

In the end, there is only one reason to send human beings into space: to live as human beings live. Robots can explore and send back data with more efficiency and less cost. Satellites can watch our world from above. Heavy labor like mining could eventually be achieved by robots. Rockets and missiles, if we’re foolish enough to send them, would travel through space only for a brief time before ending in destruction. Radio messages will reach the far stars centuries before we do. Only human beings can go into space to live; create families; build homes and businesses; transplant other Earth life; create works of art; and worship our gods.

Governments can encourage and fund such activities, but in the end it is only when free people are allowed to own property and pursue their own interests without coercion that they can truly connect with a place and call it home.

Western Civilization has provided the guidelines and signposts that enable free people with differing agendas to live side by side in relative peace. And in my humble opinion the United States of America embodies the aspirations of the West, with our combined inheritances of Greek learning and science, Roman engineering, English parliamentary rule, Judeo-Christian morality, and multi-ethnic vibrancy.

Space Settlement as a Moral Act

Settling the solar system is a moral act. As our society’s ambitions are directed outward, we lose the inclination or need to meddle with our neighbors’ internal affairs; fight over a one-world, zero-sum game; or surrender to selfish and short-sighted decadence.

Space settlement provides the hope of a better future by offering every single human being the opportunity for challenging work, whether it be building a habitat for new freedoms here or venturing out to join such a settlement.

As I noted above, we can expand the domain of life itself into places beyond our own world, embodying the Biblical charge to “be fruitful and multiply,” while ensuring that Earth is not the sole domain of life in the solar system.

Fourthly, we will learn more lessons about our place in the universe, both from a scientific and social point of view, which can better our civilization.

Finally, by continuing to expand the domain of freedom into space, creating a society that embraces science, reason, faith, and free inquiry, we will better our lives here on Earth by demonstrating what free people can do.

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