We all think about it. We always have. Humans in space.
The big push to the moon came in the late 60’s and as a result the human perspective dramatically changed; we became more conscious of the value of Earth, we became more ambitious and we would dream so much more.
Of course, this is not my own personal experience I’m talking about – I’m only 27 – but from what I read and watch and talk about to those who were around, the western world was a place of the future.
Then the cold war kinda stopped and so did the space age. Not everyone knows it, but the reason we went to the Moon was not for the fancy prospect of exploration and ‘because we can’. It was a little more sinister.
This was a time when Russia and the US were stockpiling large amount of nukes and other military devices, desperately planning on the most efficient way to destroy the world. They were doing well as a team, but they were also rivals, and needed to show each other who was boss. This, as much as it shouldn’t have, paved the way to a LOT of technological advances; with limitless budgets and testosterone calling shotgun, the decision was made by the US to get men on the moon as proof that Russia was inferior.
Once that was done, there was no incentive to really go back. We COULD have gone back, I guess. But why bother? Russia lost in the eyes of the Americans.
So, like the space programme, dreams slowly died off and we all got right back into our routines. Dreaming about space, watching the movies, but not much else.
I have always been excited about this stuff, always blurting on about space things enthusiastically to a pretty tired audience. I spent my years listening to ‘lol you need a hobby/a girlfriend/a life/ to get out more’ or simply ‘oh. Anyway…’.
The more polite would feign interest but those who share my level of enthusiasm were always few and far between. It took me years to get myself surrounded by at least 50% of people of the same level of intrigue.
Recently, however, I have sensed a change in the wind. My senses started tingling with Space X.
Space X is a space transport company founded by one of my relatively recent inspirations, Elon Musk. He and his company promise cheap, efficient, reusable space travel, but more excitingly, colonization on Mars. This would be immediately cast aside as a pipe dream if it was anyone else. But Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla motors, the brains behind the second largest solar power system in the US, the mind behind Hyperloop, the philanthropist, is another kind of dreamer. He gets things done.
The current achievements of Space X show this: ‘…include the first privately funded, liquid-fueled rocket to reach orbit; the first privately funded company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft; and the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station’
The reason I find Space X so important to my upcoming point, is because it’s a symbol for something potentially much bigger; capitalism.
For all its worth, I have a feeling the concept of capitalism will drive this world forward and beyond. Space X is a private company, with full intentions to make a profit. That drive for profit is far more suited to intellectual pursuit than the drive of a nation’s government, set on protecting, advancing and controlling the population.
As technology increases, prices drop. Things that were financially a dream become financially viable. The cheaper it gets, the easier it is to consider trips into space. The closer the dreams become. Now, we appear to be preparing our landing gear on those very dreams.
So, are we seeing a new reboot of the ‘space age’? After Rosetta and Philae ripped the scientific community apart with excitement, I soon read that the ESA (European Space Agency) is planning to have test flights for manned missions to Mars and asteroids by 2017. I had heard about this a few months earlier, but BBC now informs me that they’ve officially made a 390 million Euro deal with Airbus to get the project off the ground.
Aside from that, you have the… controversial… SLS (Space Launch System) rocket in the US, removing their reliance on Russia to get people into space. You have the ISS (also a little controversial) being operational for an extended decade.
China has landed on Mars, India has landed on Mars, US has once again landed on Mars. Gravity and Interstellar infecting the movie industry. And then there’s, well, Elon Musk. He plans to retire on Mars.
How can a capitalist system benefit from such endeavors? Well, the obvious answer is space tourism to start but I think that’s pretty paltry. But take a glance at Philae landing on the 67p comet, and you can see a wealth of potential wealth. ‘Asteroid mining’ is no longer a dream, it is a very seriously considered prospect which may already have businesses working on it as we speak. Asteroids contain more precious metals than we could possibly imagine. Given that we’re running pretty short on many down here on Earth, it’s going to eventually become more worthwhile to head out into space for the stuff. And I’m not talking in generations, here. I’m only talking years.
Asteroids could be the source of trillions of dollars, but even more generally, the science of space frequently benefits the way we live our lives without us even knowing, which is why so many ignorant people complain that we’re wasting our money in space when we should be helping those in need right now with all that money. They’re simply unaware of how privileged their lives are thanks to space travel.
Phone cameras, scratch resistant lenses, water purification/filtration, clean energy technology, CAT scans, technology for the disabled, GPS, forest fire protection, weather prediction, UV protection, fire resistant technology, hybrid cars, solar power, frozen foods, and most important of all, Inspiration. You can see an endless list here.
Given that Europe spends more money on pet grooming than the space agency, I don’t think you have too much to be complaining about, right guys?
Needless to say, there’s a lot of money in space. The corporate world knows this, and that is probably why we are apparently seeing the start of an economic space boom. I’m pretty excited.