Sunday, July 20, 2003

Roger Longiness (soft 'g') tells us, "We have to become a bi-planetary, tri-planetary, multi-planetary species if we're to have any hope of survival. This planet, inevitably, will become uninhabitable. There's an asteroid out there with our name on it. Or we might do something to our enivironment that will make the planet unlivable. So one of the five reasons we explore space is this: We must find new planets to inhabit if our species is survive the coming catastrophe."

How's that for an uplifting concept on a fuzzy Sunday morning? The background is this: NPR was interviewing Longiness (and I'm not sure that name is accurate, frankly) and the question was posed, "Why do we use human beings for space exploration if the goal is to expand science and the science can be done without human intervention?" He listed five reasons and, let's see, one was prestige - the prestige of having the technological sophistication to propel a person into space and bring that person back to Earth intact. When a nation, any nation, wants to join the elite group of recognized world powers, one of the requisites is active space exploration, according to Longiness.

Another reason is the obvious one - science. Yet another was capitalism - the profit-driven motive; yet another is military application. And though we don't yet have soldiers in space, ultimately we will. So is that five? Science, capitalism, military advantage, prestige and, oh yea, communication, that's the fifth. The drive for faster, more accurate communication, whether it's imagery, telephonics, text or television.

So there you have it. We have five reasons and five reasons only for exploring space with human beings as part of the payload. In the wake of the February Columbia disaster, many naysayers are attacking the space program in general, and NASA specifically. But I believe we simply must travel into the ether, expand our borders outward from this planet far as we can.

An addendum to Longiness' list could be this: It keeps us focused on something other than our selfish fears and self-centered desires. In other words, it stimulates our philosophical nature, that part of our minds that considers everything outside our limited allotment of time and space. Our inevitable shared fate - death - and our urge, no, our obsession with avoiding that fate.

And so it goes.

On a lighter note, Mort Sahl mentioned during an interview this morning that he was a speech writer for JFK for while, until the "old man," Joseph Kennedy, turned on him. Sahl recalled that John F. Kennedy said, in a private, disarmed moment, "Sex is nature's joke on men. And love is nature's joke on women."

Ponder that a while, and have a nice day.


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