Front: THE FUTURE IS IN SPACE
For the past several million years, humanity and its ancestors have spent the entire time on or near the planet Earth. (As best as we can tell from fossil records we've found, that is: There have never really been any compelling pieces of evidence discovered to dispute the theory. This discussion, however, is another story...) Within the last couple of centuries, we've discovered how to leave the ground and travel through the air - first with balloons made lighter than air, then with progressively heavier means of providing lift, until today we use machines so weighty that they would fall like a rock to the ground if they don't keep going. Over the course of the last few decades, we have not only left the ground, but we have now left the atmosphere, and even traveled to another planet - the Moon that forms the other part of our local environment in space. Our history, even before we started recording it, has been exclusively one of humans that live on the Earth: Even the astronauts and cosmonauts who are presently living in the space stations orbiting the planet come back after a "short" time to spend the rest of their lives on the ground.
Now humanity is at a juncture where we are rapidly finding that our planet is not big enough to support all of us and our dreams: Too many people want too much of the pie for everyone to get what they want, which means some (many) go without. When this happens on a civilizational level, nations feel deprived, which has often led to war. Our population has been exploding, and to date, our technologies of production have managed to keep sufficiently ahead of the demands placed upon them to avert a catastrophic failure. We've been lucky, so far, because the resources available have not run out, and the machines keep going to keep the grumbling to a bearable level.
What will happen when our resources start falling short of the required mark, on a global level? Take your pick - food, oil, water, unpolluted air, land to build housing developments or roads - any of these, or a host of others, will soon get to the point where we don't have enough to go around, and no way to come up with more - unless we look beyond the globe that has been our home since the beginning of human time.
Back: ARE YOU COMING?
There are more resources available within our Solar System than most people could readily imagine. To the best of our knowledge, they are there for the taking - if we can reach them - because there are no other intelligent life-forms to contest our claim within the sphere of our Sun's useful energy field.
"If we can reach them" - That's the key phrase. In order to tap the abundant reserves found in our planetary plane - even to utilize what is as close as the Moon - we have to turn to space, and space travel. The job could theoretically be done by robotic systems, if we want to invest more of our precious time and resources into developing the necessary technologies needed for autonomous exploration and extraction of the essential elements. Doing so, however, would not provide a vent for the bursting population to grow into new homes. It would also severely limit the benefits from innovation that always happen when we find ourselves living on a frontier with help an unbending distance of time away, and a crisis that has to be solved NOW if we are to survive. Besides, how could we teach a robot to write poetry about the view from inside Saturn's rings or tell the tale of an adventurous rescue from the storms of Jupiter's winds? Such a robot will probably be built some time in the future, if we live that long, but I have to wonder if we would be creating our replacements when we did that...
The best answer, then, is that HUMANS should go to space, to explore the universe, develop its resources, and bring back the goods to the waiting population that stays behind. We can get by with limited sojurns across the void for a while, but eventually there will be people who go with no plans to ever come back. That will be a major step in their lives, one that will not only profoundly affect their own future, but that of everyone living at the time.
I will be one of those people who journeys off our native planet with the intent of becoming a permanent resident somewhere else in space. Who want's to go with me? Send me some email if you're interested, because I'd like to know.
I was wearing this shirt one Sunday afternoon, sitting in a local restaurant, when I heard a man's voice behind me. From the sound of his voice, I guess he must have said it a couple of times before I heard "She said, 'No, I'm not'" taunting me in a friendly sort of way. When I turned to see who was making the remark (a middle-aged husband/father, there with his wife and a couple of kids), he got to see what the rest of the shirt said - and I got to tell more of the story than some people see when I pass by them on the street. My food came, though, so I had other things to do...
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