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a space program. A few points to keep in mind about this
1. Whether the program costs $50 billion or $500 billion (how does one put a price on ending all human poverty and war?), once the initial development (say, a few decades at most) is done no further funds will be required.
The space habitats will be entirely sef-sufficient, will
more than pay for themselves, and will without any additional funds manufacture more and better habitats.
2. The habitats will eventually prove to be not only Earth-like (grass, trees, etc.)
but even better than
Earth (no pollution, complete control over environment, etc.) They will be homes in space, not "space capsules".
3. Eventually, but, likewise, in the foreseeable future (before the mid-21st century, if we so decide now) millions, even billions (not just thousands) will be living in space. 4. This "people program" will greatly improve the lives of people on Earth re employment, energy' (directly or indirectly), population, resources, and environment. 5. The space habitats may to some extent decrease the felt need of people or nations to "steal" from another. 6. The space habitats will allow-encourage social
diversity and experimentation, including ethical and existential evolution of the individual.
7. To be successful, the program will have to be multi
national or world in scope, and will allow members of the poorer nations to have major say re decision-making. A space polis would not "belong" to any one nation or group of nations. In some sense, they will be "free cities" but of course subject to certain laws all "free cities" are subject to.
8. In order to insure no more war social scientists, nations of the world, the United Nations, and others will, for example, have to obtain agreements between the nations of the world now. In a few years
once we really get out there it will be too late. (At that point we might still be able to end poverty, but not war. I don't want any "Star Wars" in our future!)
In short, we do not want merely a "space program" to defend ourselves against doomsday. We want to take the offensive. The goal of ending all human poverty and war may not be acheived. However, it should be a consciouslystated clear-cut goal. Future historians may not give us much credit for defending ourselves against doomsday. Indeed, they may fault us for not taking the first (perhaps only) chance we had of ending all war and poverty. I believe we have only a few years at best to take advantage of this opportunity before events overtake us.
President Kennedy set the timetable of before 1970 for our landing on the moon. With better luck, it might
have been 1967, instead of 1969. With worse luck, it might
a human not merely a technical goal. The overall human goal in this case: ending all war and poverty. The time table: before 2050.
The "people program" I have suggested is idealistic, realistic, and unprecedented. In the words of a song popular in the 60s: "All we are saying is give peace a chance".
In the words of Albert Einstein: "Perfection of means and confusion of ends seem to characterize our age".
One of the most important decisions in the history of the human species is now before this committee. Don't think too hard or too long or it will be too late.
High FrontierTechnical Progress, A Resolution, Commitments
By GERARD K. O'NEILL Princeton University
Unless we remain forever planet-bound, the new millenium will surely see the emigration of humanity not only to the far reaches of our own solar system but beyond
This special' section of Astronautics & Aeronautics follows by only a few months the second of two summer studies in which well-qualified groups of professionals subjected to detailed review the "High Frontier" concept: the opening of nonterrestrial material and energy resources for human benefit. The special section also comes at a time when a Congressional Resolution on the "High Frontier" has been introduced and is under consideration (see boxed item). And it arrives just after publication of Volume 57 in the AIAA Series, Progress in Aeronautics and Astronautics, a book presenting the results of the 1976 NASA-Ames study, "Space-Based Manufacturing from NonTerrestrial Materials," as peer-reviewed papers on the application of near-term technology to the transport, processing, and use in space of lunar materials. The past few months have also seen publication by AIAA of the proceedings of three conferences held at Princeton on space-based manufacturing-one volume covers the 1974 and 1975 conferences and a second covers 1977's. Moreover, popular books (five, by my last count) on the new possibilities are now available, and recently a Nova television special introduced a still wider public to the possibility of large-scale productive human activity in space.
Some nine years have now passed since I began exploring the possibility that our generation might open a new ecological range for humanity; a range of unlimited volume, three-dimensional rather than Earth's two, and blessed with unlimited clean solar energy and a reservoir of materials vastly greater than our beleaguered Earth could ever provide. In the first several years, I became convinced of the inevitability of a large-scale movement of humanity into space, not for mystical reasons but rather for the same ones that have always pushed us toward new ecological ranges: because whenever a new range opens there is a burst of growth in wealth and opportunity, and the species that makes the transition is for a time at least-free of the restrictions imposed by Darwinian competition.
The article that follows, on "The Low (Profile) Road to Space Manufacturing," represents the line of thinking I have been pursuing for nearly two years. It is engineering- and economics-oriented, and makes no concession to popular interest-for example, to interest in large Earthlike space colonies. Yet I have gradually come to realize that we in engineering and science, who feel so much more comfortable with this nuts-and-bolts reasoning, are missing entirely a lesson that everyday experience teaches: The public grasps instinctively the significance of a new ecological range, because such a move has so many parallels in Earth's history. Like the 19th Century's westward movement, its Copyright 1978 by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.