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Outer Space for Peace

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Forty years ago today, humans walked on the face of Earth’s Moon. Many believe that the Apollo 11 moon landing and successful return of the crew to Earth was the greatest achievement in human history. The high epic drama of the Space Race has faded since then into an underfunded space program that has managed to produce some useful and inspiring projects like the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, but has largely lost its direction. Commercial firms cooperate with national space agencies to produce satellites that have significantly altered our lives, but the star-hero’s journey has lost its place in our psyche. The International Space Station, the sole destination of most manned flights today, will be decommissioned not long after it is completed, and NASA’s space shuttle program will come to an end in 2010 with no long-term replacement program until 2015 at the earliest. Although those great achievements in the Space Race were between the two superpowers of the Cold War, human advancement into space generally seemed not only peaceful in itself, but also inspired greater hope for peace when new heights were reached. The cultural constructs that were built around a future society that had taken hold of its destiny in space featured a peaceful, unified human civilization. One thousand years in the future, we will likely be spacefarers if we still exist.  It is difficult if not impossible to imagine a stable spacefaring society that exhibits the same political divides we see today on Earth. There are currently about 192 separate political entities on Earth.  Although only a few have a space program, these are also the main countries whose attempts at terrestrial hegemony thwart a great deal of our human potential. The kind of planning, development, cooperation, and stability needed for long-term exploration and colonization of our solar system and beyond is simply not feasible with the damaging encounters that would ensue under divided efforts to reach into outer space. Economic interests on other rocks or gas planets would result in economic conflicts and eventually violent attacks in space, all with heavy repercussions on Earth. Conflicts that develop on Earth would reverberate into extraterrestrial interests. This could result in crew mutinies, international conflict on space bases or the forced abandonment of crews and civilians in space due to a lack of terrestrial resources or the disruption of the programs supporting them. What would happen to people sponsored by national interests who were kept in space for long periods of time? Where political divides already exist, they may gain ideas about their own sovereignty in space and further splinter the brotherhood of man. Consider when man encounters extraterrestrial life. For the sake of simplification, let us suppose that when we do meet another intelligent life form, it will be outside of its home solar system (so it could be in our solar system, assuming it is not from our solar system). When you imagine the situation of that alien life form and its race, do you picture it living in a politically divided situation? Or do you automatically assume that it is a part of a unified civilization, and that it acts in solidarity with the other individuals from its home world? I cannot imagine that an intelligent civilization that has managed to develop enough technology and resources to establish a presence outside its home solar system could have gotten there and maintained political divisions. If their world has a state, it only has one. What would happen if they encountered a fractured race like ours? It is of course impossible to project exactly, but if they sense a threat from our violence or opportunity from our divided weakness, our story as a free species likely ends there. Peace is the path we must pursue – at the expense of conflict and war and hegemony – if we want to continue writing our future among the stars. Leading organizations like NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency, the European Space Agency and the China National Space Administration must cooperate to realize ambitious projects with results that solve problems and inspire people. Those successes can bring together the visions and goals of the countries they represent, and progress in space could become progress on Earth. It is remarkable that the same missiles which carry nuclear warheads can also carry manned orbital vehicles. The heroes of this future are not warriors who spill blood; they are explorers who save blood.
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Written by Preston

July 20th, 2009 at 8:15 pm

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  1. [...] and using a nuclear weapon is not necessarily the most effective one, but it is a useful one.  And as I have mentioned before, I believe that it is more than likely that extraterrestrial life will come in peace, but if for [...]

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