Space The Final Frontier
I’ve been on a bit of a sci-fi kick lately when it comes to both reading and writing. In the last 3 weeks I have devoured almost three thousand pages of good hard science fiction across 5 books. Perhaps I’ll do a post on that another time (and in the meantime I am accepting recommendations – my reading list grows short.)
So much of what is labeled sci-fi these days are really just fantasy stories with space props or space opera. Hard science fiction that really makes a vivid and alien future seem interesting without completely ignoring the constraints of science as we currently understand them is always hard to find though, even in the best of times. That’s not what I’m hear to talk about though.
Today I want to talk about how we are already living in the future.
Normally I wouldn’t advocate crowd funding to support billionaires. Larry Page certainly doesn’t need my twenty bucks to help fund a space telescope, so why am I not already halfway through a rant on how despicable this project is? After all, a million dollar project for a company with several billionaire backers is chump change at best.
Well – there are a couple reasons.
- First, it’s because it’s awesome. Truly. I mean – someone credibly wants to launch a private space telescope; how cool is that? I grant you – we still don’t have flying cars, but if this isn’t a milepost that you have lived long enough to dwell in the sci-fi future, then what is?
- Second, it’s great advertising. If you love space like me, then you want more people to be involved, and the best way to make that happen is with projects like this, that can capture the imagination of the public. Not too long ago, Hubble was on its last legs. NASA was going to abandon it in the last days of the space shuttle because they thought their remaining missions were better spent elsewhere. Public opinion won out though, and today the telescope is still making itself a household name with some of the most amazing pictures every taken.
- Third, because space is already subsidized. It might be the most heavily subsidized field in existence today. It costs thousands of dollars per pound to get something or someone in to orbit. My tax dollars already go to building rockets and buying tang, and honestly, those are my favorite tax dollars. In this context, I have no problem giving donations to private space ventures.
While the space telescope is not as interesting as the space elevator project funded not too long ago, it is certainly been more successful with funding – a trend that will carry over towards its impact on science in all likelihood. It is definitely pragmatic, and if we use it to find a few likely asteroids to jump start the industrial revolution in space, then more power to us as a species.
I for one hope that we see more high minded science-y projects on crowd funding, but what about the rest of you? Do you share my passion for the future, or do you think I’m just an apologist for big-space?