======================================================================== This file from Adra, http://www.mhada.info. ------------------------------------------------------------------------
Return to Adra's Top topics list. ----------------------------------
Today's space work in America looks very impressive during those minutes as a large booster lifts up into the sky. However, seen in historical context, that thunderous display seems to amount only to something out of Old McDonald's Farm, or a merry-go-round. It replays the past, again. There is no long term goal, no reach into future history. It goes around and around without a direction for progress. Maybe out there in the future, somebody will change the picture away from all that; and if they do, their knowing in perspective what they are up to will form a base for their work. Here, I'm looking at some materials for that base.
This first Settlements piece begins a series of five (Set0 -- Set4) about human colonization and settlements in space. Their central principle is that to understand a topic, sit down and pull out some paper, then develop how you would do something with it. Go somewhere. These five are unfinished now: a work in progress. They are here as placeholders for where the finished work will appear.
Here are my topics in the following Settlements pieces:
Set0. This file. Introduction. The essential missing ingredient: a longterm objective. To Do something; to Go somewhere.
Set1. Be an architect: design a space settlement for people.
Set2. Be a lifespace engineer: air, water, warmth and all that, where there isn't any except if people make it.
Set3. Be a business person: think about your culture across our local Solar System and how your business might survive and grow in it.
Set4. Be a future academic: what might the people Out There be like? After a few generations to work out practical details of it?
I think building settlements far off Terra, soon; and in time, a large human culture in space, should be our America's first outside priority after its usual ongoing internal business. Never mind that people with far more position and political clout than myself in Washington, prioritize more wars first and welfare support for those already very rich; and they raid future generations for the money they want. Leaving to future generations the challenge to clean up the mess -- they paid for.
Never mind that up to now, people in our major universities and down in Washington, endlessly list intellectualized objectives for space and the farthest they get with the topic is 'exploration' . Such thinking and works don't amount to a mosquito shading the sun, in light of our basic need.
I believe our basic need is to survive. To compete against a hostile and sometimes aggressive universe. To survive as a people, as a culture, as Terra's one living species that keeps a memory and tradition and usable resources from the past. To survive, that is, far into our future.
The well ignored fact is, even today and right here on Terra, we occupy a temporary settlement. Most of us seem to believe that since we can somehow, this way and that (DNA studies are very helpful in this) relate to our ancestors up to a few ten-thousands of years ago, then no doubt our Terran home won't change much over any guessably extended future.
We can't rely upon that. Over decades even, it fails. That is faith-based belief, no connection to reality. It's convenient and very accessible to simple minds (the fundamental usefulness of faith-based belief). But given the least amount of rational and fact-based study (called, 'science'), it fails.
It fails because, somewhere out there in the future, something major is coming at us. One day, it will arrive. Written and geological records exist of (lesser of) such events in the past. The next one might be (relatively) small, such as climate change or a climate click; it could be total like an Edgerton event where the bullet is a piece of strange quark matter and our Terra is the apple. Some time or other; maybe later today or maybe decades or centuries in the future, it will come. Except if the competition wins.
Which competition is, a few of us humans. Today's technologies enable good things -- but they also enable people of insane or religious character to undertake some variation of "If we just blow up everything, then when the dust settles, the Millennium / Utopia / Second Coming will arrive and set things right."
One or the other! I recall an old song by Tennessee Williams in the later 1950's. Its title may have been, "Seventeen Tons." And the relevant line is, "If the left 'un don't getcha, the right'un will."
Today's social response that we can see to this above reality, one of those or the other, is not rational. Rational is that when you see expectable challenges coming at you, then you make ready for the possibility that one of those proves out to be real and immediate. Irrational is a lazy or a faith-based expectation that a paternalistically friendly and unchanging world is to come, and never mind anything farther away than a few feet up or down -- today.
These five pieces grow from talks that I have done or that I think of doing, on their topics. They image in small, immense possibility. They do not assume you the reader are set upon one single track into the future. They do assume, that you the reader can think not just about the idea of Settlements out there, but in some detail about planning, material, and human resources to build those settlements. For people to live in: maybe even you.
You may approach this overall settlements topic as interesting and meaningful in itself; or as a starting point for your life career. If you choose the career option, I must warn you: today's America is not the achieving and powerful America of decades past. It's slipping down in today's world, as you can read about elsewhere. For which reason, your career thinking must ask, what will be your future environment to do your career in? For this, beware first of all, the American Presidential cycle. Each incoming President must leave his mark somewhere and space work, seen as economically remote and irrelevant by so many who are ignorant, bears the consequences. (See also, Adra's Top page.)
Recent history offers other useful and cautionary resources, if you're into career thinking now. I hope that as you read, if you have career choices in your personal future, then you keep in mind to evaluate your options and choose for yourself. Is your interest in space that you'd like to know something about it? Is your interest that being young, you intend a career in some part of this large topical area?
Many people seem to believe human life and settlements and a human culture in space are not to be heard of, and in fact, are naturally not doable. Even today, some find the idea of humans settling off-Terra lacks any serious base in reality. Religious types may feel such settlements are supernaturally forbidden, and that any so bold as to attempt it, invite awful and deserved doom. Beware faith-based prescriptions for one simplicity, all others to be burned and discarded! Beware those who refuse to recognize today's science as more than our best resource to understand our reality and to improve our place in it. It is our only resource for that.
The principal weakness of faith-based belief is, that it cannot stand against the least touch of the principle of empirical disproof. The strength of science is, this principle is central to it. Empirical disproof is a very focussed application of 'reality testing.'
Without reality testing you can believe anything -- a sure route to nowhere. (See in current news that religious clerics thru faith-based thinking attribute earthquakes and other disasters to divine reaction to homosexuals in the human population. If you can believe that then you can believe anything else.)
In fact, living in space is a reality-based undertaking: a technical challenge comparable in our time and with our resources, to many we are far past now. It is difficult to a point where those living Out There will find Victorian technology (where 'Victorian' refers to late 1890's) interesting and relevant to local need. Victorian chemistry, too. They will need and value that simplicity. The technology to live in space will be different of course from the past, but not incredible by any knowledgeable reckoning.
The following materials explore that technology, and touch on what some consequences may be as us humans move out into our Solar System. Which presently, looks very large to us, but as I guess the future, maybe not so large over the long run, after all. As you move on through these materials, see resources and references listed for those who wish to finish here and move on.
------------------------------------------------- Notes, Resources, and Pointers:
If space topics, such as settlements, catch your interest then you need to know more about those topics. The basic method falls into two parts: reading; and talking with knowledgeable people. The reading comes first (I don't mean TV nor even resources such as National Geographic: I mean hardcopy, i.e., books.) You begin with reading because all matters concerning space topics, such as settlements, are completely outside usual everyday experience. Reading is how you get yourself off zero. But also, you start with reading so that when you begin talking with people, you're not a complete dummie on your topic.
Writings of Paolo Bacigalupi, C.J. Cherryh, Gavin Menzies, and Jack Vance, can extend your intellectual horizons. Menzies' work stands up poorly in the eyes of academics, see this Wiki entry. But if you have ideas to publish something, look at Menzies to study how his works look so good. (And study the academicians comments on Menzies' work, for thoughts on what to avoid.)
Bacigalupi, Cherryh, and Vance write science fiction, the literature of science based speculative thinking about the future. If you think about humans in space, what you're doing is speculation. It is how the future grows. So give some time (and enjoyment) to how others speculate, who are experts at the work.
 See current publications about people and machines doing things in space, watching for reasons given to do the work. David Mindell of MIT writes in December 2008 that primary objectives of space work are: exploration; national pride; international prestige and leadership. That secondary objectives are science; economic development; new technologies; education.
A meeting in Washington in early 2009 follows this by Mindell, which seems to set the focus for that coming meeting. The critical information in Mindell's piece is what's not there: No mention of the violence endemic in our universe, even though we know from science research that from time to time, it comes to call -- here. It will again, which gives us our second most pressing survival problem. (Our first being faith-based thinking and ideologies.)
No mention of America's terrible need for a new frontier nor of Frederick Turner's work that opens this topic. No mention of how an expansion of our culture into space can broaden horizons and open new cultural growth. Nor of the substitute for growth that may today have settled in to stay: more wars to enrich a very few of us and to dissipate the riches we could be building. I certainly think meetings in Washington are a good thing to do, but they need to go somewhere. Appropriate. And in my view, so far, these fail.
 Robert Zubrin with Richard Wagner, The Case For Mars. Paperback. Simon & Schuster Touchstone, 1996. ISBN 0-684-83550-9. LC QB641.Z83.
Note that publication date. His topic was far from new when Zubrin first set it into his book.
 George Francis Dow, Every Day Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Dover Books, 1988, but first published in 1935.
Be reminded Adra's topic, and the core idea of this part of it, is settlements. Off Terra, space out there, isn't so different past experience has no value, nor are ourselves so different today from our ancestral parents a few centuries ago. Nobody who is thinking about future settlements, is usefully prepared for this work who has not looked at past experience. To use this book and other such resources calls for a certain imagination: to translate the past reality into an expectable (or guessable) future. And to use this translated material toward accomplishing a difficult task.
 Mary Roach, Packing for Mars. Norton, 2010. Roach's work includes Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. She has looked at natural basics any of us would rather not think about. In space, of necessity, the planners and the people who go out and live there, are going to. And that earlier work of hers serves as base for this later: she needed people to discuss unsocial topics with her. Frankly. And they did. And from that, she could write this book including ...that stuff. Good end matter includes large bibliography. I think this book is necessary reading to do before undertaking Settlements work.
See also, to improve your view of the realities behind the curtains, Mike Mullane (try, "Astronaut Mike Mullane") Riding Rockets. Scribner, 2006. Environment and context are not Mullane's topic in this book, but if you peer between the lines it's there. There's a lot of it, lively and real. Newcomers to recent space topics will find a helpful glossary in this book's end matter.
---------------------------------- Return to Adra's Top topics list.