Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Little Faces Looking Up - The Urge to Leave the Earth

From: Trader to the Stars

  • settle the possibilities: you can't have interstellar trade without spaceships. A race limited to one planet, possessing a high knowledge of mechanics but with all its basic machines of commerce and war requiring a large capital investment, will inevitably tend toward collectivism under one name or another. Free enterprise needs elbow room.
- Poul Anderson

Upcoming Dragon X rendevouz with the ISS
I admit it, the idea of commercial space travel makes me happy.  Since the turn of the century when it became apparent that NASA was losing its drive (not to mention its funding) for space travel, innovators in the private sector have stepped forward, apparently eager to pour their fortunes into efforts to find new an innovative ways to claw our way off this ragged planet and to make the effort pay. 

With only a stingy bit of encouragement, spaceships began to be built and successfully flown. Burt Rutan reached the edges of space to win the X-Prize and is pressing hard to build a fleet of reliable space planes to carry ordinary people into orbit soon.  Space-X has already successfully flown orbital vehicles of their own design. Others ideas are on the drawing board and even the big guys like Boeing and Lockheed who have already built spacecraft for NASA are looking at joining the commercial space industry on their own hook.

We seem to know that the Earth is too small a place for mankind to remain trapped here much longer - not without very bad things happening. We see the signs of what Poul Anderson predicted in the quote above. Concentrated here on Earth, we tend toward collectivism (socialism, communism, progressivism, call it what you will).

God, in His wisdom, decided to give us free will and let us choose what we did with it. In many instances, we have chosen poorly. In others circumstances, we have chosen bravely and well.  When we lift our eyes to that which is greater than ourselves, we tend to choose unselfishly and it is well for humanity. When we surrender to despair and decide that what we see is all there is, we tend to choose selfishly and humanity finds itself under the thumb of one more would-be god who thinks that by accumulating power over others, he can somehow forestall the death and oblivion beyond which he cannot see.

We are born creatures of an infinite universe and designed for immortality. It is why we hate death and it is why we look to the stars with such longing. We do not like being cooped up in one place. It is why as children we long to run free in fields and woods. It is why we climb trees and mountains and jungle gyms. When our eyes are lifted up we are fearless and free.

But, when we turn our gaze downward, our eyes on our feet, our hearts embracing fear, our vision becomes so constricted we cannot see beyond the walls that hem us in and hold us to the ground. When the Earth and this one life become all there is for us; when we cannot imagine that we will ever move out among the stars; it makes us mean and ill-tempered.  

Tom King

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Making Peace With Wolves - An Aesop Fable

Creative Commons:Attribution Some rights reserved by Harlequeen
“WHY SHOULD there always be this fear and slaughter between us?” said the Wolves to the Sheep. “Those evil-disposed Dogs have much to answer for. They always bark whenever we approach you and attack us before we have done any harm. If you would only dismiss them from your heels, there might soon be treaties of peace and reconciliation between us.” The Sheep, poor silly creatures, were easily beguiled and dismissed the Dogs, whereupon the Wolves destroyed the unguarded flock at their own pleasure.

 - Aesop

 Creative Commons: Some rights reserved by tonynetone
Aesop understood this principle more than 2.600 years ago and yet apparently highly educated politicians still want to send away the dogs and trust in the promises of wolves. Aesop told a second story (below*) with the same theme. He must have thought it important to tell the story twice.

 - Tom

Creative Commons:Attribution Some rights reserved by slightly everything
 * A HORSE SOLDIER took the utmost pains with his charger. As long as the war lasted, he looked upon him as his fellow-helper in all emergencies and fed him carefully with hay and corn. But when the war was over, he only allowed him chaff to eat and made him carry heavy loads of wood, subjecting him to much slavish drudgery and ill-treatment. War was again proclaimed, however, and when the trumpet summoned him to his standard, the Soldier put on his charger its military trappings, and mounted, being clad in his heavy coat of mail. The Horse fell down straightway under the weight, no longer equal to the burden, and said to his master, “You must now go to the war on foot, for you have transformed me from a Horse into an Ass; and how can you expect that I can again turn in a moment from an Ass to a Horse?”  
- Aesop