Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Space Colonies -- Time to Reboot!

My interest in space was formed in a very different time than we are living in today. We were in the middle of the Cold War then, and while I was in high school, we landed men on the moon for the first time in human history. The pace of space development with the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs was simply stunning. Every flight---sometimes twice in a month!---we did something new, something that had never been done before. It seemed like anything was possible!

Politically, the best way to describe me is a “recovering Libertarian”. I’ve always believed in freedom, and minimum government, with the exception of robust national defense. I’ve run for office, I’ve run a state political party, and I’ve run a government agency (Nevada Department of Information Technology). When I was very young, I wanted to “save the world”. Didn’t we all? When I determined that to be impossible (too much inertia relative to my meager power), I decided the best thing to do was to start a new community in space, with a much stronger, more explicit freedom orientation than even the United States Constitution provides.

When I first started looking at the technical issues involved in space travel, the problem struck me as daunting. Still, with the obvious progress being made in the race to the moon, it seemed like an achievable objective. I joined the L5 Society (later NSS) and started OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Space Industrialization and Settlement) for the purpose of getting the resources allocated to build a space colony.

But, even as I was ramping up my efforts, the darkness was starting to descend. Popular interest in space plunged, and the final lunar missions were cancelled. Politically, we became obsessed with picking lint out of our collective navel. There was great enthusiasm in the private sector, and many companies were formed that would be able to deliver space services at a fraction of the cost of NASA, in just a few years. Well, maybe just a few more years. OK, maybe, at least, in a decade or so.

And gradually, in terms of visible results, nothing happened. At least, nothing visible to an unrepentant colonist, who was only peripherally interested in the technical details. I lost my faith, and turned my attention to other things. And so things remained, for many years.

Then, finally, Rutan et al won the X-Prize! Something had actually happened! A long way from private access to orbit, to be sure, and there’s still no clear path to space colonies, but at least the “So What?” meter has finally come off the peg. A glimmer of hope!

And at the same time, the need for space colonies has become resurgent, in seemingly just a few years. The march toward socialism in the United States seems unstoppable, and the delusional Warmists are on the verge of retarding the growth in standard of living worldwide, to no good purpose. The two, or course, are not unrelated.

So, there’s a glimmer of hope, and an increasingly urgent need, but what’s to be done about it? Rich folks have many ways to make a difference. They can fly in space themselves, they can invest in private space ventures, and they can use the considerable opportunities available for those with means to increase government support for space development and exploration. But what can an average guy do? Just an unrepentant colonist, say?

I don’t have the specific answer, but I know what the key is. For sure, the key is not education. It’s not even information. And it is most certainly not in technical analysis.

The key is entertainment! For better or ill, we now live in the United States of Entertainment, and any solution for making a major change is going to be primarily based in that domain. That hasn’t always been true, and won’t be true forever. But it is now, and will be into the foreseeable future.

I’ve always understood this on a personal level, in my interactions with people, and in my presentations, both of which are generally successfully entertaining. It’s only recently become apparent to me, though, that if I’m going to make a difference in the world, I need to enter, and come to understand, that murky world, where reason and analysis play a decidedly secondary role.

It should be an interesting adventure!

Terry C Savage
Science Fiction Author
The End of Winter

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