Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Space: we're here to go there


Seems we're always debating what to do about space exploration.

Like most things these days, it sometimes gets polarized. Supporters are broadbrush painted as doe-eyed dreamers who just want to ride rockets. Opponents are grouchy penny-pinchers with no imagination. Of course there is much more to it than that and a string of NASA failures upon a bloated and overly expensive bureaucracy doesn't help, either. No, this is one rare moment where I really embrace the private sector as a means to open up space to humanity. It gets even easier to do that when there are guys like Rick Tumlinson around to lead the way.

I caught an interview with him on Singularity 1on1 and was duly impressed. Who is Rick Tumlinson? Well, here's his answer to that question: "Rick Tumlinson is the descendent of pioneers who wants to create the future where pioneers go out into the solar system beyond the Earth. The whole reason that I exist is to ensure that this species and the life of the Earth expands into the universe."

Wow.

His biggest dream, he says, would be to see space colonization be "an irreversible thing" in his lifetime. Meaning, people who are living permanently off Earth. Their home is the Moon, Mars, or what he calls "free space."

Tumlinson has quite an impressive CV to go along with that ambition. Tumlinson has been a founding and collaborating member of such space projects as Space Frontier Foundation, MirCorp, Deep Space Industries, and many other organizations that are eagerly embracing the opportunities awaiting us in space. Like the subject of the previous blog post, Tumlinson also was inspired to pursue space exploration, at least in part, by Timothy Leary. In short, Rick Tumlinson knows what he's talking about.

"Oh waahhhh but space costs too much. And we have so many problems here on Earth already."

Listen to the interview. Rick Tumlinson explains how the costs of space programs got insanely out of control under the old governmental schema, something established and reinforced by the mega success of the Apollo program. The success was there but then there was never any new, clear goal. This created a system resistant to new proposals of the kind Elon Musk offers. He also succinctly addresses the straw man argument of "worldly problems" and why this does not in any way mean an end to eleemosynary efforts. Oh yeah, he also has a great take on the Fermi Paradox (why we haven't found aliens).

The interview is nearly two hours long. So while I highly recommend you give it a listen, you might want to download it and get to at your leisure or perhaps even save it for your commute. Here's another favorite quote from it:

“The reason we go to new places, the reason we do new things is because we are dissatisfied with the way things are. If we accept the way things are, then why ever do anything new?!”

Preach.

Sure, privately-funded space exploration is bound to experience it's share of problems. It already has. But it is clear that nothing can go forward under the bloated, dead whale that is the NASA system. Great. That got us here. Now what? Whatever organizations like SpaceX and individuals like Musk, Branson, and Tumlinson come up with has got to be better than what we're currently doing.

Which is next to nothing.



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