Look Homeward Angel
Brad Fregger

There are those who believe that technologically we can begin the process of space industrialization, settlement and exploration right now. These people are excited about the future they envision if we would have the courage and commitment to accept this challenge. They do not ignore the problems and concerns inherent in such an undertaking, but their basic attitude is optimistic, and they have little doubt about our ability eventually and successfully to build cities in outer space. 

Unfortunately they spend precious little time discussing or concerning themselves with the potential effects of space settlement on Earth and her societies. This is an area that must be considered. Not only will we spend most (if not all) of our lives here, but the vast majority of us will choose not to live in space, but to stay here on the Earth. Those staying will have to support the effort if it is to succeed for everyone. Most important of all, whatever our destiny, Earth will always be humanity's hometown.

How would the world be affected if our President were to challenge us to a goal of space industrialization and space settlement in the same way that President Kennedy challenged us to the moon?

Would the results be an improvement of the human condition, or a worsening of it? Will our problems of limited energy resources, pollution, overpopulation, malnutrition, or the destruction of the ozone layer move closer to solution, or will the money invested on this "fantasy" (for that is what many influential individuals have called it over the years) dilute the funds needed to solve these pressing problems of today?

Before I can feel good about this venture, I must feel that the Earth and her children will benefit. If the Earth will not benefit, at least proportionately to the investment, I must question support of the challenge. How about you?

However, if the Earth will benefit in social, economic, medical, scientific and productivity advancements, then we should meet this challenge. Is it possible to predict the effects of a massive program like this years before we could expect them to be felt? I believe it is, and I'd like to share with you three reasons why I believe we should set this goal.

We ask ourselves, will our lives improve because of the advances in technology we will experience learning how to live and work in space? To begin to understand how our lives will improve because of these advances, we need only look at a few of the many ways that our lives are already better because of space research.

In a letter to me a California politician said, "I am pleased to learn that space technology developed for space exploration will be used for water studies on the Earth." I think you would all agree that this is something to be thankful for; and if we in Northern California don't get some rain this year, we will be even more thankful. As far as spin-offs from space research, however, this is only a beginning; we are currently using space technology in ways most of us are unaware of.

In the book Limits to Growth, the authors determine that it is impossible to develop farms big enough to feed the world's population and, therefore, we must limit our growth immediately or suffer a catastrophe. While our growth cannot continue at the rate they mention, and in many countries is not continuing at these rates, they have missed an important factor. We may not be able to produce enough food to feed the millions in the developing countries, but we may be able to teach those millions to produce the food needed to feed themselves, especially in light of new developments in intensive farming. Space technology provides a solution through direct broadcasting satellites that enable teaching programs to be sent via television to small villages in developing nations throughout the world. While still in the early stages, the potential this holds for helping people to help themselves is enormous and includes the means of providing education in many other areas, such as birth control and the improvement of local health conditions.

Do any of you have, or know of someone who has, a cardiac pacemaker? Without the development of miniaturized solid state circuitry for spacecraft, the pacemaker would not be available.

Improved breathing systems for fire-fighters were based on research done on rocket motor casings, and so were the new light weight scuba tanks for skin divers.

Copyright 1998, Brad Fregger                                                                                                                           Page 1


Harvest Moon Press Essays Brad