[[ This file from Adra, http://www.mhada.info ]]

== Culture, Economics, and Politics in Space ==

Observations and Notes by

Martha Adams

Return to Adra's Top topics list. ----------------------------------

Our future begins now. Reality doesn't notice if we're ready for that. Reality doesn't tell us what that future is going to be. We come to it with no guarantee we'll find good there; no guarantee we'll survive it. Titeotwawki, "Today is the end of the world as we know it."

However, that approaching future is not entirely opaque. We know (or we should), to beware faith-based prophets. Where loud or powerful people advance pre-medieval ignorance and Freudian projection over reality-tested science, it's generally plain to see. (But beware censorship.) A retrospective thought experiment of imagining today from ten years ago, illustrates the volatile uncertainty of what "tomorrow" seems likely to be.

Local topics in this Adra sub-tree:


Today has consequences. Always! See Curt Stager's recent book[csta]. Our future grows from both our past and from now, with occasional sudden discontinuities. ...Are those happening more frequently these days than used to be? But that's another topic: we who live today are the link between our history and the world our children will see. By our choices, our actions and by our failures, we make their world.

And I believe I see our American society doing this -- very badly. I see ongoing crisis here; and I think it tells us something about its depth, that we don't see a lot of black humor about it. I think I see a downward drift, directed by choice, to third-world character with fascism. Too-much as Orwell imagined -- and more, even[xmps].

I believe a powerful few among us, source this downward development. They would force America back to their faith-based and imaginary ideological past that in fact, never existed. For their personal benefit and aggrandizement. And who would loosen needed social controls, freeing gamblers and promotors among us to prosper by manipulating national affairs. This too, for their personal benefit and aggrandizement.

Those are large topics which bear much too much upon our American future and place in the world. None of which look good today: not to us; not to others around today's world who looking at today's America, must see and respond to the great dissonance between American ideals and American deeds. But my immediate business here is rather, this Adra page: "Culture, Economics, and Politics." Which wants two different views:

Where these two connect like Siamese twins, because in depth, both reflect and both challenge the character of our today's national institutions. Namely,

1) The relatively small amount of money and resource that could get us out to space are pre-emptively grabbed and dissipated by immense and voracious security / military institutions. Which return to us a mare's nest of instabilities and delays, humiliations and wars; an unproductive social load of variously broken careers and people, and a poisonous host of inventive interpretations and warpings of America's founding ideals. And,
2) The human failings and social pathologies at root of 1) are human baggage from our primitive past. If we enter the challenging space environment, we must leave much of that behind; or shed it quickly. For some resource to think about what humans of a future space adapted culture might be like, read Farley Mowat[fm].

That is, if we get ourselves Out There, into the rest of our local Solar System, we won't somehow become mystically super-human. Rather, we'll carry much of that stuff that makes us us, out with us, and we'll have to deal with it all over again in that new and difficult environment[fake].

* * *

How does our future develop and become -- our future? We see ongoing change thru evolution, growth, decay -- and emergence. Where the 'emergence' is something a little special, because it's not predictable or guessable. Emergence events arrive as a surprise. Emergence is the Joker in our future, and it can change our whole expected future reality from what we (statistically) anticipate, into something possibly good (it's nice when that happens) or into something unpleasant or deadly.

Here's an example, a place in Japan called Fukushima Daiichi. Construction of a large, six-reactors nuclear power plant was started about 1967 July with the first commercial power production in 1971 March. This plant was one of the largest nuclear power plants in the world. It was built near the ocean with protective seawalls believed proof against a largest expectable, 5.7 meters tsunami.

Too bad they didn't build higher, because on Friday 2011 March 11, there arrived a tsunami estimated at 13-15 meters, which far overtopped the protective seawalls. Reactor buildings basements with their safing machinery were flooded. The elaborate safety machineries fault trees included no response mode for power loss and flooding with dirty saltwater. Multiple destructive failures followed with meltdowns of three reactors, and release of radioactive materials damaging the geographic region out to tens of miles from the reactors.

That was, you might say, a failed estimate about the future. Reality produced a surprise; and like most such surprises, it was understandable after the fact. Emergence. And people produce emergence too: surprises, maybe very large ones, understandable after the fact.

Because our knowledge of today's present is porous and spotty, emergence multiplies our future's uncertainties. Well, that's characteristic of life and culture. One way and another, we get by somehow. Usually. We (some of us) recall history[rah1] and we daily think about that future and lay plans for it. Thru practice and knowledge, we have useful resources for that service (if we will use these, rather than faith-based simplistic speculation). Thus Adra's 'Culture, Economics, and Politics' subtree here is a code phrase which points to, "The future."

In this 'Culture, Engineering, and Politics' sub-tree of Adra, I ask a question I believe is useful when thinking about the future: "Is today's America a Space-Faring nation?" and I'll move on to detail about that question shortly (see pointers list down this page).

I believe America's quality of life and place in this world to come, turn on the answer America chooses to my 'Space-Faring' question. That question stands at the center of things, like a wheel turns on its axle. The answer being made today, down there in Washington (or perhaps, imposed upon us), does not require a Sherlock Holmes to find it out. Our future which hasn't happened yet, passes vibes back to us today. We can read those vibes to speculate out of them, useful detail about our expectable American future. (Note: much good science fiction originates in just this process.)

A space-faring America would be rich, prosperous, and forward-looking. It would not be dumping its discretionary dollars off the top of its budget into useless pork wars and into wholly unproductive "security" institutions whose principal products are forced submission and humiliation. And increasingly, paying huge interest on immense and fast growing public debt. Which debt, along with the chaos and the economic and social consequences of the wars, will in time arrive for our children and grandchildren to (struggle to) pay off and clean up.

* * *

Generally, when people are working productively toward some objective, you can see movement and progress. For America's future, I see none of that. Reasons I see to look for a bad American future include the following. Look at America's politics, for example,[momc]

(Note that this interesting and phenomenally ugly work's biases include no mention of American politics and economics before the day President Obama came to office. One cannot believe an America made to the principles behind Revolt! is going anywhere but severely down.)

See also,[obma]. But I believe the idea of space settlements offers a good longterm answer to the issues discussed here. settlements points to how that hurt might be reduced.

* * *

In this space-faring America, only a few noisy extremists, far outside the social main stream, would be promoting 'faith-based' ignorance, ideologies, and deceptions. High-placed authoritarian people with very peculiar and narrow religious outlooks, would no longer control and censor public discussion. Old ideas out of pre-science history and from various mental health derangements, such as "creationism" and "intelligent design"; the Rapture and millenialisms generally, would be cleaned out from what we teach our children and moved over to social psychology and to mental health research and treatment topics, where they belong.

A space-faring America would be an America facing a hopeful future, not an America with a failing currency and its political system ignoring economic realities while doing internal King of the Mountain conflict. With its science and industry base for space work dissipated to "save" money. With a huge military promoting pointless wars returning hundred-thousands of young people damaged by their military service. With its unstable banking system returning huge profits to insiders; with large industries on taxpayers money life-support, or being bought on the cheap by parties overseas. And its overgrown military coarsening and degrading American character as America slips down toward third-world status and culture.

=============================================================== Observations re topics here. ===============================================================

In 2011 July, Obama has killed the Constellation and the Shuttle programs, and no evolution nor replacement for those are on the horizon. Responsibility for new work is said to be passed-on to civilian agencies, while NASA's knowledge and industrial bases for space work are reduced, dissipated, and shipped off to scrapyards. And the people who dedicated themselves to expert knowledge and hands-on skills for space work, are "freed" to seek new careers. (Namely: an all-America sized undertaking is cut down to a few small companies.) I think it's reasonable, looking at recent history, to guess Washington's longterm objective is to shrug-off this matter of space work, which they can't understand anyway; and thus "save" money for more military, more wars, more profits to today's Golden Tripod.

It's easy to imagine what Washington is up to these days about space, grows from a tap-root in small childrens beliefs. Namely, that today's world is a permanent fixture of reality. For which reason, this or that adult version of Cowboys and Indians may be safely played and profited from, without attention to any larger environmental concerns.

That is a childish belief; it is a severely and dangerously wrong belief. Archeologists are excavating and studying remains from earlier cultures that had no science nor much perception of our larger environment, and interesting results are beginning to appear. That's another topic. The business here is 'The Conquest of Space' (Thanks, Willy Ley) and I see it as the most important cultural and engineering challenge ever faced by humans. Right?

Right, as far as it goes, which is not far enough. A Conquest is generally followed by a long period of hard work to make it stick. A human Conquest of Space calls for us humans to occupy and settle our Solar System[iss]. Then to learn how to live there with our commercial and social ecologies until a remote observer will see us as native to this entire region, out to or beyond the Oort cloud. (Our ancestors did that again and again, here on Terra, or you and I wouldn't be here today. We can do space too.) From this point of view, the Conquest of Space amounts to far more than a few exciting minutes watching large noisy machines lift off Terra.

The Conquest of Space is, rather, a necessary human cultural growth whose beginnings must extend over several decades. Optimists might announce this work is well started. See the cyberspace and television PR about it. But when I read the news out of Washington, I'm not sure I'm an optimist. At least, not where America is concerned.

For openers, the grammar of today's news about space reflects a well defined perception of going out to space as a temporary change in affairs for the travelers. They will go out there, explore, and then "return home."

Return home? This perception, routine today, wants critical review by anyone thinking about our human future in space. It faces the past, not the future. And it ignores the prospect that if we knew more about living off-Terra (as from Zubrin's analog Mars bases and much more such work), returning to Terra is very possibly a more risky prospect for space travelers and explorers, than is staying where they've landed and building there.

These two choices, to go and return vs to go and stay, arise from and reinforce very different mindsets, outcomes, and futures. They point to a slow and static policy of observation and study with lots of paperwork, extended indefinitely, vs, a dynamic and active (and far more productive) policy to get out there and do it now. Reading today's news and peering in between the lines, I think that somewhere deep down in Washington, that choice is already made -- and it's the wrong choice.

========== [Question] ==========

Listening to the ongoing discussion around what business we have if any in space, I hear nothing that leads to the future one would reasonably expect and hope for. FJ Turner's study of the American frontier, written in the 1890's, remains basic and central. Zubrin mentions Turner in his book 'The Case for Mars' (out in a second edition as of 2011 July) but in my view, he does not assign Turner's work the appropriate importance and centrality. Today's programs relating to space fail on the most central point possible: that space is a place for us humans to expand into, and we need to get out there soonest for various good reasons (discussed elsewhere in Adra).

The core question, "Is America a space-faring nation," thus has its answer in today's American space progress. America is not a space-faring nation. In fact....

========== [Challenges] ==========

The challenges against those of us who try to build Settlements off-Terra are major and serious. If they weren't, we'd be there now. I am not pointing to the science and engineering issues some noisy people imagine. I'm pointing, rather, to the bureaucratic and financial challenges which arise from people and offices who want that space money for their own non-space activities. The technical challenges are today largely solved (ref: Apollo). Those are a matter of time and work only.

A space settlements program must be large and it must compete with other programs for resources. Money, particularly. For whatever reasons, money seems far more available for wars than for space. (See the strikingly different standards and grammars apparent in discussions of these two topics.) Thus a space settlements program must be started sparse, and kept sparse until it gains enough substance and accomplishment to survive challenges to its existence.

Two risks facing this program especially catch my attention. The obvious one is the risk not enough money and people can be assembled into a working Base to start the program. Far less obvious, but very serious in today's world, is the risk that if it does get started, then some people will turn up who think it must be elaborated. Complexified. Throw into the work, protections and backups against all imaginable needs and accidents. Along with all the precursor programs (that is, first before starting the real work) that any Congress people and lobbyists can think of.

Such extended foresight and skeptical voices could serve against groupthink and the serious errors that are likely to follow it directly. But if it's overdone, if such people gain too much voice in the work, if the precautionary steps are carried beyond practical need, then the program is lost.

For necessary reading on this topic, see Robert Zubrin, The Case for Mars. Paperback, 1996. (Note that date!) Our time has produced a few great visionaries, and Zubrin is one of them.

Zubrin's work is central to a successful Settlements program for two reasons. The first is his consistent focus on what really needs to be done. (Hark back to my Josh Billings quote at Adra's top.) And the second is that, having worked out a sensible program, he stands up and advocates for it. I admire that man, but that's another topic....

========== [Great Filter] ==========

In light of today's science, it's remarkable nobody has found evidence that aliens from other worlds have visited Luna or have even visited here on Terra. It is not what one reasonably expects. Why is the reality apparently so very different from the expectation? (We don't know.) What does this difference tell us and mean to us?

A lot. When we know more science about it. In the mean time, good minds are working on it. Is intelligent and technically evolved life really, after all, vanishingly scarce in this universe? Is there some evolutionary trap, common in nature but we don't see it, that leads developing technical cultures to do some pratfall and vanish? (Our national leaders in Washington come instantly to mind.) Do Saberhaben's Berserkers reflect something that's ultimately bad and it's really out there? With little data and science in hand about this topic of great practical importance, we have no perspective on it and the imagination can run wild. But there's a name for whatever is at the core of this topic.

The name is, the 'Great Filter'. We do not know today what that 'Great Filter' is, nor if anything of that sort actually exists somehow. However, the label usefully focusses researchers and thinkers attention. We know enough about it to know it's a very serious question, immensely relevant to all of us. As I write, it's been turning up lately in some public discussions, but it's not new. In Enrico Fermi's words (about 1950),

                   If there are aliens, where are they?

This topic is active in cyberspace. Anyone interested in space settlements wants to know something of this 'Great Filter' idea, and the ongoing discussions around it. If you're going to do a big jump, it's good practice to checkout what you're jumping into before making any nonreversible commitments. This brings an apparently remote topic close to the central matter of doing space settlements now.

========== [Fragile Terra] ==========

In our immediate human experience, our world is permanent, very solid, and durable. Regrettably, human experience in this, as in some other large matters, yields a deceptively optimistic result. Here on Terra today, one can believe that seeing as we've made it this far thru recent millennia and nothing really bad has happened, the future will be about the same for all of us as was the past. Not to worry, we'll be fine! Such reasoning, if you can call it that, is today known to be seriously flawed.

It is flawed, first, because our science studies into our world's past show us Terra changes. The world under our feet; the climate; the atmosphere above the lifespace we occupy here, these all change. They have changed greatly in the past, and those who study such matters find the recent appearance of us humans here didn't cause the series of ongoing changes to abruptly stop. Thus, we know our Terra is fragile. And we do not know when the next major change will come along, nor what it and its impact will be, nor when that will happen.

And it is flawed, second, because we know our Terra is a very soft and vulnerable bit of matter. Objects whose orbits could intersect Terra's orbit, maybe exactly where Terra is at that moment, range from dust and asteroids of all sizes to exotics like strange quark matter. We had a warning about that, recently. It was the very small Tunguska strike. For a picture of something larger, picture Edgerton's well known picture of an apple impacted by a bullet.

And finally, it's more a fact than a flaw, at this writing we know of no place anywhere else, that is livable like Terra.

========== [Picture] ==========

When we think about off-Terra settlements, that's easy. Some picture comes to mind; and yours is certainly very unlike mine. These Web pages could use more focus, an overall and very general pictutre of how this Settlement work might proceed. Is there something about this work that is particularly difficult, a showstopper?

There is, and it's not science nor engineering; nor any dictum received from one or another (or a committee?) of the various supernaturals so many of us humans have populated our lives with. It is, rather, the very first item in the work:

                   To make up our minds; to choose to do it.

I feel very disappointed that in my time, this step has never been taken. As it could have been; and we'd all be very much better off today for it.

========== [Base] ==========

No technological nor supernatural imperative blocks America nor us nor anyone from going out to space and establishing permanent residence there. The math and engineering and the hands-on howto doits are well established, if poorly used. Technical literature from the 60's and into the 70's shows people were thinking about it and they had the means to do it to large effect. (The Saturn V heavy lift booster, and shortly later, NERVA, among many others.) Then ...something happened, and they didn't.

The "something happened" signals the character-determining, key point that Washington can't lead. That's not their business, nowadays, whatever religious or political True Believers may say. So for space settlement to get done, someone else must do it.

If you have not yet read Robert A. Heinlein, The Man Who Sold the Moon (pub. 1949), you must do that. Heinlein saw a way to do space without Washington, and in retrospect, I think he was right. Note that in Heinlein's construction of the story (see RAH, Requiem, about 1939), old D.D. Harriman only reaches Luna at the very end of his life.

As I write, nobody has settled anywhere off Terra. Ever. The work to do it now, starts from practically zero. (Yes, people have visited briefly out there, but they didn't start anything permanent.) How do we start a Settlements program? I think that next after some of us making up our minds to it, we build an appropriate base for the work.

For social, business, and manufacturing reasons, this Base must be situated somewhere. It can't be distributed all across America like ketchup on hamburger, although modern internet technology seems to make this possible. In fact, it's not.

For any project that calls for many people to do it, the many people need to work across the table or across the corridor from the many other people working toward the same objective. The place where the high-level PR and economic and overall engineering planning is done -- the Head Office -- wants to be handy to the engineering department where the working hardware is designed. Which department in turn, wants to be handy to the machine floor and spaces where the working hardware is made. Namely, these different parts of the Base are best located, as near as possible, under the same roof, but on the same campus will serve.

Also, shipping large hardwares cross-country is expensive and risky. Such machineries and constructions to be sent up into space, are well known to be expensive to ship from place to place, and fragile against shipping (and storage). (Galileo's failed folding reflector, for instance.) That is why I look for a well made Base organization to resemble (from a distance) a classical old manufacturing company.

========== [Liftoff] ==========

The popular view today of space as occasional spectacular of large machines, is not entirely wrong. More accurately, it's incomplete. Those large machines and their liftoffs from Terra carrying Settlements hardware and people are a small part only of what us humans must do out in space. Namely, first, we must get there. I'd like to see a real liftoff someday, another Saturn V. The experience would last several minutes. But the purpose of that liftoff, if it's about Settlements, will go on for all the centuries or millennia us humans endure.

I think I've seen too little about this step in the settlements literature. It is the first major challenge our Base organization faces. So far, I haven't seen the necessary facing-up to it. What I've seen, seems to suppose "somebody else" will have these machines built and human-rated when they are needed. Who? And where does the money come from to do it? What reason has anyone to imagine the appropriate machine systems will be available on time, not pre-empted by someone else (the military) and so no longer available? I hope assumptions about these matters do not prove too optimistic, because if they are unfinished or wrong, the price will be delay and lost social momentum. These will work as serious added obstacles against a successful settlements program.

======== Notes, Resources, and Pointers ========

[csta] Curt Stager, Deep Future (2011).

In this book, Stager looks out across 100,000 years from now. Since guessing a single decade ahead from today's world returns a very clouded image, one might question Stager's work that reaches farther by four orders of magnitude. That would be a mistake, and a distraction from the work. If we cannot foretell the future, we can think what it might become and then direct our works toward some possibility and away from some other. This we can do (as apparently, many religious conservatives and politicians cannot). For which reason, your worktable wants a copy of Stager, set out where it may be reflectively read and reviewed several times.

Stager's book is a scholarly work of informed speculation that looks at future possibility; but it has no characters and plot. (It includes a large references list, and an index.) Thus it is not -- quite -- science fiction. But if Stager's look at the future interests you, then do see: Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men; John Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar; Jack Vance, To Live Forever; Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl, and Stephen Baxter, The Children of Time (short story). Where, this is a tiny subset from many works looking at human futures. (Works by Heinlein and Asimov would head this very long list.)

Stager's book misses one or two key topics, or perhaps that's his next book. Namely, rare large events that over long time, become nearly certain to occur. (Small probabilities across large time, approach certainty.) There are catastrophes out there in our human future. Across a hundred thousand years, one or another unlikely possibility will become real and immediate fact for the people living then. (I.e., for your children, or for theirs; or for some far beyond....)

Further, there is the hard topic of the end of us -- the end of humanity. I think we know enough today about our reality; some of us are mature enough, to think usefully about this terminal eventuality that is certainly out there. A hundred thousand years seems enough time that one of our later generations could find themselves looking at it immediately. But much less than a hundred thousand years seems enough time for us to choose as a species, a cultural course and direction which put that special date more far off rather than more near. (Certainly, nothing to this effect is being done today.) I think Stager's work to date certainly points to him as qualified to write on this very serious topic that conects so naturally to what he's already accomplished.

But I don't see that Stager today touches either topic -- not catastrophe; not the end of humanity. ('Catastrophe' does not appear in his index). I think he could, that his work shows he could; and that he should, because just one large catastrophe could throw our human world so far outside any future we might hope for, so far outside any tolerable parametric envelope, that our human world would never recover from it[bxtr].

(Systems -- think about today's ubiquitous systems and our dependencies today and interdependencies upon these, working all together. They all crash occasionally in more or less small ways. When that happens, we experience mild disorder and nuisance. What if something large provoked a deep crash of all our systems? All at once? Then what? ??)

There is however, precedent for such catastrophe, and now archeologists are studying rumored and legendary disappeared cultures and civilizations. Interesting word is coming back to us from those researches (see recent television specials about some of them from NPR and from National Geographic,) The existence of those ancient cultures and of their later absence were once opaque mysteries (which led to wild supernatural and religious based speculation). But modern resources reaching as deep into the past as DNA of individual people, now support rational thinking about ...what happened, back there?

What happened, of course, was catastrophe, of one form or another. Self-made, maybe. (A lesson for us today!) The probability of any one or another particular catastrophe may be very small -- but over time (and across a remarkable range of possibility), what does that exposure amount to? Where does 'possibility' become 'certainty'? How safe is it, really, to assume tomorrow and tomorrow, will be largely like familiar today?

Stager's predictions may not be useful in any engineering sense, but the ideas he finds and pulls together and develops in his work, make Stager's book a valuable accomplishment, well worth his work to research and write it. And for anyone with a serious interest in settlements Out There, far off Terra, well worth serious reading and study.

[xmps] For instance....

For instance, see in 2013 January, the political discussion about killer drones and their targets. Which apparently include American citizens. The language tortuousity of this discussion resembles that around waterboarding during the recent Bush administration. Or, see U.S assertion of its right to seize citizens property without probable cause nor even suspicion, because they do it at borders. Further examples abound. Nobody asks, "If today's world needs America, does it need this America?"

[fm] Farley Mowat, The Snow Walker (1976).

Humans are adaptable. I think our human adaptability is sufficient for us to develop viable and persistent human cultures, far off Terra. I think our technology verges on powerful enough to meet that demand. (But space suits are going to have to become somehow much less costly than ten million dollars for a short-lived one -- and I believe that will happen.) The core question is, what will those humans Out There be like, after two or three generations Out There? And I think I see a model for it -- a starting point for needed further work in analog experiments and later, in the reality.

I look for those future humans to be something like our Arctic eskimos of a century or so ago, before they began to take up the conveniences of modern technologies. It is because those future humans will survive in a dangerous and deadly environment, and they will contend continually with demands to find most performance from least resources. As those "primitive" Eskimos did.

Which is the kind of humanity I see portrayed warmly and realistically in Mowat's book. Some readers may feel troubled by some of the realities Mowat outlines. Well -- that's reality, that's what us humans will find Out There.

[fake] Practicing with analog missions.

A simple test tells us who is up to serious work on actually doing people in space, or who isn't. It can tell us more than that.

The test is to look for analog missions research projects, as pioneered by Robert Zubrin in his Mars settlements studies. Analog missions are on the critical path to space. Namely, whoever intends space settlements must first carry out several months- and years-long analog missions to space in order to learn as much as possible as early in the work as possible about humans living long-term and lifetimes, in this new and very harsh environment. Thus who is or who isn't doing these analog missions signals who has or who has not intent and program and eventually, capability, leading to settlements and a future Out There.

(Yes, I mean analog missions that run for months to years. You can model and mimic slow natural processes at high speed, but us humans within our natural human social and business structures run at a fixed rate of 1 year per year. Only. Thus our long-term, off-Terra space settlements must first be modelled here on Terra -- in slow real time. (But such work might begin with gaming it.))

The reason for this slow work is the harsh unforgiving environment there. Technology can cope with that environment, if used with knowhow from appropriate early preparation. How do we know what is "right," then? We must model it here beforehand, so that upon going for real, we meet need near enough to come to success. This work provides the further benefit of developing a group of people especially well informed about it, ready for when further work is needed (as it certainly will be). Analog settlements: Critical Path Necessary!

For which reason, see the 520-day analog Mars mission now finished in Russia. Nothing of that sort is going on in America, which tells us something basic about our future America in space. Further, the Russian analog mission was reported in American news with "analog" replaced by "fake." That most telling revision, with other news out of today's Washington, reinforces the message already sent that answers "Is America a space-faring nation?"

[bxtr] Stephen Baxter, several works.

Nobody these days writes as pessimistically (and very possibly, as realistically) about the far future as Stephen Baxter. There comes particularly to mind his The Children of Time. (Asimov's Science Fiction, 2005 July; anthologized in Dozois, The Year's Bext Science Fiction: 23rd Annual Collection.) Or, about a century ago and well worth reading today, H.G. Wells, The Time Traveller.

(Re works by Wells and others. 'Victorian' is a historical period, not a reason for rejection of something having its character. Victorian is just Victorian, and in its place and perspective, good Victorian is very good indeed. See works by R. Kipling, by S. Freud, by H.G. Wells, and by A.C. Doyle.)

Baxter writes of a day when us humans and our children to the nth generation, and all our hopes and works, are about to exist entirely in the past. That day will certainly come to us, sooner or later. My own hope is it comes much later, for who knows, maybe I'm mistaken in what I said just now. If the future makes me wrong about this, the demonstration will certainly require time. Probably a lot of time. (I do not advocate faith and religion as resource nor method to accomplish anything of this.)

[iss] The International Space Station.

I think the loudly touted ISS is a small step in the right direction, but that to call it a "Station," exaggerates the reality. It's temporary and it will be coming down within a few years, because it orbits so low it requires frequent orbital corrections to keep it up there. A number I've seen for this is six tons per year of fuel (shipped up to the ISS for around $10,000 per pound) to counter the continuous atmospheric drag at ISS altitude. (Not distance -- altitude. If it were really out in space, it would stay there of itself.)

[rah1] Robert A. Heinlein quote.

"Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it." Heinlein may have written this by paraphrasing from an observation by Santayana.

[momc] Dick Morris and Eileen McGann, Revolt! (2011)....

It's an excellent book to illustrate why America is not in space. It outlines the narrow, faith-based culture and deception that today lock America to the ground and to a past with no objective existence. This is one ugly, ugly book. It complements John Grant, Corrupted Science (2007); Jim Collins, How The Mighty Fall (2009); Cullen Murphy, Are We Rome?; James Bamford, The Shadow Factory (2008) -- among many others.

[obma] 2011: Obama kills space.

In 2011 August, Obama seems to have a well defined vision for space. He's killed Constellation; he's killed the Shuttle; he proposes and initiates lots of very professional PR about "exploration!" where today's urgent need is Get Out There and learn to live there. It's true people and corporations can bring resources to this challenge and achieve limited and small objectives. But it's also true that, like a war, space is a nation size challenge. It's deeply regrettable and a compelling harbinger of the future, that today's Washington wants wars not the future. (Of which we seem to be presently tied in to three of those wars, at terrible cost -- and to their significant and destructive long term consequences. Money Drain!) Whatever hopes we had back in 2008 elections time, we know today that Obama space ...is no space.

---------------------------------- Return to Adra's Top topics list.

=========================== # # # ===========================