Our Future in Space
Brad Fregger

Because the vision or "image of the future" works in the present, very soon after the acceptance of the vision by a society changes begin to happen. Research is begun that will enable the vision to be realized, investments are made in "new" technologies, people are put to work, discoveries are made. What we soon see happening is that people begin to innovate to find ways to use the discoveries that had not been originally planned, ways to benefit individuals and sections of society that were not even considered in the original plans.

A program like the space program leads to many of these serendipity, "spin-off," benefits, ways our lives will 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.

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.

A very effective fire retardant material now being used in office buildings, plants, and schools was developed because of the research into heat shields for spacecraft.

Have you heard of the device called the Optacon which enables the blind to read the printed page? Again, this is a spin-off of the original research done for the space program.

Solar energy devices, improved insulation materials, safer football helmets, warmer and lighter weight outdoor clothing for skiers and hikers, computer analysis of everything from our automobiles to our bodies, medical detection techniques, help for children with cerebral palsy, and spoil-proof packaging and methods to provide nutritious meals for day care centers and the elderly. These are only a small fraction of the many ways that space research has affected our daily lives; the list goes on and on.

And then there is the potential for the development of an unlimited pollution-free energy source, readily available to all areas of the Earth. Within our region of the solar system, possibly as far out as the asteroid belt, unlimited energy is readily available. This is, of course, solar energy and, within the limits of our technology, it is "free" for the taking. What I mean is, that the investment needed to effectively utilize this energy will only be a small fraction of the value of the energy produced. Once the energy has been produced it will need to be sent to the Earth. Research is being done now to develop effective, safe methods of delivery; early results suggest the use of microwaves or lasers.

Additionally, large deposits of hydrogen 3 have been discovered on the moon. Hydrogen 3 makes it possible to seriously considered fusion as a potential energy source here on the Earth. Fusion is essentially a "clean" method of producing energy that doesn't create the nuclear waste associated with fission. However, initial tests of the process showed that there would be radioactive by-products when "fuels" available here on the Earth were used. Hydrogen 3 could be a solution to this problem. It would be mined and processed on the Moon and then shipped to the Earth for use in fusion power plants. There is enough hydrogen 3 available on the moon to meet our energy needs here on the Earth for hundreds of years.

What if we were to run out of energy or were forced to dramatically cut back on energy usage? What if political tensions in the Middle East were to escalate to the point that would dramatically curtail oil resources? How many of you remember the long lines waiting at the gas pumps a few years ago? Do you remember the heating oil shortages? Do you know what it costs per month to heat a one bedroom apartment in an area of the country where it gets real cold? What if prices were to double, triple, or more? What if sufficient gasoline weren't available? What if we never had hope of supplying sufficient energy to the underdeveloped nations of the world?

Can you think of a single area of your life that is not affected by energy?

- Transportation
- Communication
- Food Production and Preparation
- Manufacturing
- Heating
- Lighting
- Construction

Can you imagine a world without energy problems? Picture sufficient food for all grown in parts of the world, heating and lighting available to everyone, adequate housing, efficient mass transit systems in metropolitan areas, unlimited communication potential. What would a world without energy problems be like? I think it would be a different world. I believe it would be a better world. I know that it is a world within our grasp.

Is the development of space technology worthwhile if it will help to achieve energy independence not only for the United States but for the world? Is it? Think about it. Answer this question to yourself. Is the potential of complete energy independence worth the investment needed for the industrialization of space and ultimately for space settlement? It seems so to me.

Of the reasons for accepting the challenge of space settlement as a goal for our nation, the effect it will have on our image of ourselves and our belief in the future is the most important one. All else will come from that image. The vision of a positive, challenging future for all of humanity will create the wealth and knowledge to accomplish all we can dream of and more. This vision is essential to the health and future of our society.

Humanity has been given a warning by the closeness to which we have come to destroying ourselves and our planet, that we must work in partnership with nature and forget any thought of conquering it. We must go into space with a new consciousness, one that has concern for all of creation, including our fellow humans. We must develop a new attitude in harmony with the universe as we find it. This, too, must be part of our vision of the future.

Copyright 1998, Brad Fregger                                                                                                                            Page 1


Harvest Moon Essays Brad