Friday, December 12, 2008

We are all just prisoners here of our own device

Or so the words of the Eagles song go. But, in light of the trials and tribulations we must face just to get off this rock we call Earth to explore the universe, maybe the problems are too great and are keeping us here.

It is funny to hear myself say that especially since I have advocated manned space travel all of my life. Watching the moon landings in my living room in Maryland during the heyday of the Apollo program and then again in the Shadow of the Air Force Academy during Deke Slayton's mission stirred up a hornets nest of curiosity. Of course, there are many other people who were also inspired by those events of the 1960's and 1970's who have pursued the dreams with all of the fervor that the adventure is deserving of.

However, we still have not gotten far off this planet. And even here on the planet, we continue to face the same issues time and time again that we have virtually no control over. Famine, wars and natural disasters continue to rule our lives and much like the stories we write and read, the ending does not seem to be very easy to achieve.

If we ever are to get off the earth and truly explore the universe, we must first learn to live together and work together. Even best of friends don't seem to be able to do that all the time much less other countries. We continue to kill and plunder each others countries yet, we say things like for all man kind.

We also must get past the hunger issue. If we cant feed everyone here on earth, how do we expect to feed ourselves in the vacuum of space where we cant grow the foods except in enclosed environments. Sure, we would all love to have the TV program Star Trek to spring to life but the realities are that I doubt that any machine could produce enough meals for a major crew the size that we are talking about that would be necessary for colonization of other planets. Also, even if we do grow our own food in space, we still have to process that food and prepare it. This step alone is a major undertaking. The reality is that any food we need in space, we are going to have to take it with us.

There is also the problem of other consumables. Recently the International Space Station received a water processing plant which turns urine into drinkable water. But that is only one system and relying on a single system would be foolhardy at best. Redundancy again is needed. Also when the toilet clogs in space, its not like here where things just stay in place. They truly go all over the place. Smells also are not alleviated easily as in an earth borne environment.

I don't know about you but the idea of living inside a bubble anywhere we go as humans doesn't seem all that appealing. Until we find another planet with an environment that is close enough to Earths, we will always be living inside a bubble. That bubble is prone to failure both from the inside and from the outside. We have a long ways to go in being able to make a planet livable without the aid of enclosed environments.

The ultimate goals in all of the science we pursue in the exploration of space needs to be applied to all mankind and not just the select few that are enjoying the fruits of it right now. Sure, all of the films are inspirational and continue to motivate those of us who think that space is truly worth the money that our governments put into it, but until we do figure out how to solve all the big problems, then we are all "just prisoners here of our own device."

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