One Solution: Search for Planet “B”.
GETTING INTO SPACE WILL ELIMINATE THE RISK OF THE COMPLETE DESTRUCTION OF CIVILIZATION
It's time we started colonizing other planets. No more “space exploration”, we need to start “space colonization”. We need to build rotating space stations able to float at the Lagrange points between the Moon and the Earth. We need to get a colony on the Moon and another on Mars. We need to expand our civilization to Mars and raise the first human Martians. We must build more colonies first in the Asteroid Belt and then on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. We must start an economy between all those colonies and more even further out. We need to get people working on advanced space propulsion systems so we can reach our neighboring stars in a less than a human lifetime. Most importantly we must develop and test whatever technology is necessary for us to identify and nudge out of the way any earth threatening rocks in space. We're one asteroid away from the complete destruction of 50,000 years of human advancement. Let's have a backup plan so if the earth is again destroyed, all that we’ve lived for, all that we’ve created can live on in our colonies. Let's find Planet "B".
Naysayers might recite NASA's statements that "no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years" and consider a return to space a high-priced boondoggle. But if we don't start now, when should we? If it takes us a hundred years to develop a robust enough planetary defense system to nudge an asteroid into another orbit, and one shows up 99 years from now, will it seem like a boondoggle then? The week the news comes out that we're all about to be destroyed, will this seem silly or will people wonder why their grandparents didn't have the foresight to plan for such an event? As I discovered in the data protection business, no one considers "backup" necessary until after they've lost their data. We can't afford to lose everything civilization has brought us to. We can't afford to get the timing wrong on this.
If this sounds like fantasy to you, consider this recently introduced plan to send hundreds of tiny space ships off to our nearest neighboring star Alpha Centauri, backed by Stephen Hawking, among other leading scientists.
If you think NASA already knows all that is to be known about our solar system, watch this fascinating explanation about what is called "Planet 9", one of the possible explanations for what we're learning about the outer fringes of our solar system and why big rocks seem to get hurtled toward the sun every few million years.
GETTING INTO SPACE WILL REPURPOSE SEGMENTS OF THE DEFENSE INDUSTRY TO PEACEFUL ENDS WITHOUT CAUSING A RECESSION.
Let’s start offering Space Colonization contracts to the prime military contractors while simultaneously downsizing the defense budget to the size the generals think is most appropriate. If we’re careful we can keep the overall total number of federal dollars going out for space and defense about the same, putting no one out of work, causing no economic damage. And as needed, we increase the space colonization budget to handle whatever we need to handle.
GETTING INTO SPACE WILL GIVE ALL OF HUMANITY A COMMON PURPOSE FOR THE CONTINUATION OF CIVILIZATION - EXPLORATION BEYOND OUR HOME.
I see this as the next step in our civilization, and a required one that we’ve put off for too long. Besides the obvious benefit of enabling our civilization to exist if the earth is destroyed, a massive effort to colonize other worlds will focus the energies of people all over the world on a single mission - the survival of humanity and the advancement of civilization. A focused mission, a reason we’re all working together, has been sorely missing from America and I think is something that might help ALL of us to feel like we’re part of the solution rather than just living, paying bills and dying. Everyone in every reach of the economy will be able to trace how they are personally contributing toward the advancement of mankind by doing their part. My hope is that this mission of exploring beyond the earth helps us ALL to live more fulfilling lives and stops many of the petty disagreements that have kept humanity warring among ourselves for so long.
1. Civilization is vulnerable to complete destruction
The podcast “Radiolab” did a program that dramatized the latest scientific thinking about exactly how the dinosaurs were killed by the asteroid that hit the Yucatan so many millions of years ago. The story we’ve all heard - a giant dust cloud covered the earth killing all the plants which starved all the dinoasaurs - apparently is inaccurate. The latest thinking is that within a couple of hours of that asteroid hitting the earth, the entire sky all over the planet was filled with falling thousand degree temperature liquid rock, baking the surface of the earth at more than 500 degrees for a few hours as it came down. When it was over, everything that wasn’t underground or underwater was dead. Everything was dead. Everything. Here’s the link if you want to listen to it. Engrossing but frightening. http://www.radiolab.org/story/dinopocalypse/
From the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab website http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/sl9/back2.html
"NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small. In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years. To be able to better calculate the statistics, astronomers need to detect as many of the near-Earth objects as possible. It's likely that we could identify a threatening near-Earth object large enough to potentially cause catastrophic changes in the Earth's environment, and most astronomers believe that a systematic approach to studying asteroids and comets that pass close to the Earth makes good sense."
While we now have an underfunded program that watches for big rocks that might hit us and do the same thing again, we have no way to do anything about it when we find one. Remember that movie “Armageddon” with Bruce Willis and a cast of equally colorful characters that destroyed an asteroid headed for earth? That was a movie. Today, as a civilization, we have nothing that can even get us to the moon much less chase down an asteroid and plant a nuclear bomb on it. (Yes, I’d volunteer to stay behind and push the trigger.)
I worked for a number of years for IBM in what is called the “data protection” industry. We had products that created digital data duplicates and automatically distributed them to numerous disbursed locations in case anything happened to the primary data location. Generally the discipline is called “backup” and we’re all ‘supposed’ to do it for all our data, but few of us do. Big corporations, banks, federal government agencies all perform backups religiously because they know their business, their dollars, and people’s lives are depending on that data, That experience of working with IBM got me thinking about backups for just about everything in my life - plan “B”s.
So what’s our backup plan for human civilization? What’s our plan-B? What do we do when some astronomer discovers a mile long chunk of rock heading right for us? Today, we got nuthin.
2. we need to end endless war
To a carpenter, every problem looks like a hammer would be the most appropriate solution. To the country with the strongest military the world has ever seen, every problem seems to cry out for a military solution. I'll make the argument that if we ever want to see an increase in peace on planet earth we'll have to dial down our aggressive stance toward everyone else. Every bad boy we kill with a drone only creates a dozen new bad boys who hate Americans.
Today we pay the highest technology companies ever created, employing thousands of brilliant people, to make machines that kill humans in new and more efficient ways. We’re now spending six hundred billion dollars on defense every year. Fortunately, some in the military think that’s more than they need. But Lockheed and Boeing, Grumman and Raytheon, and all the other prime military contractors and the congress people who represent them will not allow the US defense budget to decrease, and with good reason. Here in the 1st congressional district of SC, a large portion of our population earns a living off the US defense budget. If the US defense budget were cut just a little bit, many areas of America, and perhaps all of us in the Lowcountry would experience a crippling economic recession.
So if we want to promote peace rather than war, how could we shrink but repurpose the defense industry to peaceful means that can help all of humanity?
3. Do we just go to work, pay bills, then die?
I often have conversations with young people fresh out of college, with thousands of dollars worth of debt and not very good job prospects. The common refrain is, "is this what life is all about, just going to work, paying bills, maybe making some kids, and then you die?" Everyone seems to be longing for something more. Why are we here? What is the purpose of civilization? If we are the Universe looking back on itself, what are we supposed to do? If God created us, is this all he had in mind?