Yea, I know. First thing that comes to mind when you see the title for this post is Star Trek. Well, that’s good because Gene Roddenberry was very much the visionary at a time when we couldn’t even believe we were going to land a man on the moon in the span of three years from the inception of his new, fledgling television show.
And even after Neil Armstrong Buzz Aldrin and eight other brave individuals walked upon that seemingly desolate moon landscape and following the last Endeavor shuttle mission a couple of years ago many of us who are inspired by this manned venture into the unknown beyond the safe inlet of our breathable protective atmosphere wonder what it will take to get us out there and explore even our own solar system.
I’ve thought a lot about this. For about 15 years I’ve been thinking about what would be the impetus that would launch us into a more consistent venture into the unknown of space. The impetus is Capitalism and money.
Have you ever seen the movie starring Sean Connery called, “Outland”? It’s not a great movie. It’s basically some director’s idea of what it might be like to replay history of the American West again and portray a mining town on one of the moons of Saturn. The planet Saturn is about as far out and remote to us as Coloma in California was back in 1848. It wasn’t inconceivable to travel all the way from Boston to Northern California but just a long, arduous journey which was fraught with unpredictable weather, unfamiliar terrain and seemingly hostile indigenous people. That is, until there came a time that there would be a sizable payoff for doing so.
That’s the same position that we are in now 164 years later. The manned moon missions were cancelled in 1972 leaving NASA limited to more financially feasible programs like skylab and the shuttle missions that remained in earth orbit and achieved quantifiable results rather than blowing billions on trips to the moon. This is probably a decision the NASA director made given that the federal government probably wanted to shut it down altogether. Thank god he had the sense to compromise, limit NASA programs to near-earth programs and unmanned probes or else we never would have gotten as far as we have today.
Thanks to all of the space probes that have gone out to all kinds of missions, especially those to Mars and the outer gas giants we’re ready to take our first significant steps in two generations.
In August of this year the European Space Agency will land it’s first space probe Rosetta, (http://www.nasa.gov/jpl/rosetta/20140124/#.Uufsd7ROnIU) on a comet orbiting our solar system. It will orbit 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (the name of the comet. perhaps they should take the first four letters of the first name and the last two and call it Churko.) Yea, Jerko as in what an asinine mission given the slim chance it has of being successful, you might quip. That’s cool. Call it Jerko. The New York Post, with all of it’s history for giving tongue and cheek names to people it makes fun of, like “Jacko” for Michael Jackson, should get in on the pile on before it’s too late.
I’m being sarcastic. Call this courageous and costly venture anything you like but one thing you cannot dismiss is the fact that this is an important step into a new age for mankind.
Upon any level of success in this mission there are at least two recently begun startup companies out there who are ready to mine comets and asteroids.
Planetary Resources, and Deep Space Industries are two firms founded by Eric Anderson and Rick Tumlinson, respectively, who, as I will talk more about in my upcoming sequel to this post are forging on to Go Where No Man Has Gone Before.