Thursday, February 04, 2010

“Explore or Expire”

“Explore or Expire”
The Lunacy of no Luna Base!
A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet


The Russians are going to the moon. The Chinese are going to the moon. The Japanese are going to the moon. The Indians are going to the moon. The US is not going to the moon.

Historian Stephen J. Pyne said the following: "Exploration is a specific invention of specific civilizations conducted at specific historical times. It is not ... a universal property of all human societies. Not all cultures have explored or even traveled widely. Some have been content to exist in xenophobic isolation."

When future historians look back at America’s decision to curtail its exploration of space, they will surely shake their heads in disbelief. Will they compare the US to the ancient Chinese who sailed unknown seas (seven decades before Columbus’ trek to the New World) to discover and explore the eastern coast of Africa -- then went home and walled themselves off from the rest of the world? I suspect they will. I just did.

Back in 1979 James Michener, in testimony before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, said: "We should be most careful about retreating from the specific challenge of our age. We should be reluctant to turn our back upon the frontier of this epoch... We cannot be indifferent to space, because the grand slow march of our intelligence has brought us, in our generation, to a point from which we can explore and understand and utilize it. To turn back now would be to deny our history, our capabilities."

In an article in Redbook, as far back as 1969, Anthropologist Margaret Mead said: "Many people are shrinking from the future and from participation in the movement toward a new, expanded reality. And, like homesick travelers abroad, they are focusing their anxieties on home. The reasons are not far to seek. We are at a turning point in human history... We could turn our attention to the problems that going to the moon certainly will not solve ... But I think this would be fatal to our future... A society that no longer moves forward does not merely stagnate; it begins to die."

I must ask: What has happened to America’s “vision?” What has happened to our spirit of discovery? Where are America’s leaders with vision?

Look at how our horizons have shrunk. We are turning in on ourselves. We cannot survive as a people. The Bible tells us bluntly: “… without vision, the people perish.”

It concerns me to think that future generations will look back on America’s decision to curtail, even withdraw from, the exploration of space as a national failure. There is no other way to look at it. We are blowing the opportunity we have here, at the opening of the 21st century, to move out into space.

I remain convinced today, as I was as a young man, that man’s destiny lies in the stars, in distant universes and galaxies.

There is a yearning, deep within the human animal, to “discover.” Our little planet is floating in a huge sea of “undiscovered countries.” Given the opportunity, I would happily sign on as a “hand” on a ship of discovery to distant worlds. Why? Just to see what is there, to learn, to explore, and to experience any unspoiled regions of man’s reach.

"The urge to explore has propelled evolution since the first water creatures reconnoitered the land. Like all living systems, cultures cannot remain static; they evolve or decline. They explore or expire... Beyond all rationales, space flight is a spiritual quest in the broadest sense, one promising a revitalization of humanity and a rebirth of hope no less profound than the great opening out of mind and spirit at the dawn of our modern age." -- Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, "From the Moon to the Millennium,” Albuquerque Tribune, 1999

America cannot remain static in the exploration of space. Doing so will only induce a national “shriveling-up” of the most splendid society ever to grace this tiny planet. We dare not take our eyes off the stars.

"There is no way back into the past; the choice, as (H.G.) Wells once said, is the universe--or nothing. Though men and civilizations may yearn for rest, for the dream of the lotus-eaters, that is a desire that merges imperceptibly into death. The challenge of the great spaces between the worlds is a stupendous one; but if we fail to meet it, the story of our race will be drawing to its close." -- Arthur C. Clarke, Interplanetary Flight, 1950

Earth is America’s footstool. We have only to reach out from here, to grasp and secure within our arms, the future of all mankind, which lies out there.

The moon? The moon is only a “way station.”

There is no doubt in my mind that man will move out and open the frontier we call space. I have no doubt that mankind will eventually colonize planets other than earth. I have no doubt that movement has already begun. The vanguard is already probing “near-space.” What troubles me, and raises my ire, is the fact that my America is not at the spear point of that vanguard! I must ask why? The only conclusion I can reasonably formulate is this: America’s lack of leadership. There is a void at the top. America is in desperate need of leaders with vision. Without it, we will surely perish.

J. D. Longstreet

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