Friday, November 04, 2005

How essential is manned spaceflight?

How essential is manned flight? That depends on your goal.

If your goals are strictly commercial and military - stuffing more black boxes in orbit to deliver movies, pr0n and 24 hour home shopping, or taking pictures of desert installations of weapons of mass destruction - then no. All of that can be done better, cheaper and faster by unmanned booster rockets. The US, with the largest space budget in the world, has fallen to less than a third of the world space launch market share (Meyer, 2002).

If your goals are more future minded - establishing humanity on more than one planet, to ensure future survival of the species - then yes, it is critical. We must learn how to move, survive and travel in space. We must learn how to build generation ships to send colony groups to nearby stars. We must create technologies to provide continuous acceleration with minimal mass. The human condition demands expansion and exploration.

An article published in the December, 2004 issue of The American Enterprise sums it up quite well:

"European cultures were vastly invigorated during the Renaissance by the discovery of the New World. Columbus, Vasco de Gama, and Magellan became heroes who defined the West for centuries. Cultures that pioneer seem to thrive, while those that stop pioneering often fester and degenerate. "Human beings either look out or they look down," said [Louis] Freedman [of the Planetary Society]" (Tucker, 2004)


Meyer, C (11/01/2002). "Scrap the Shuttle Program (online)". From Space Daily Website. Retrieved 11/04/2005 from http://www.spacedaily.com/news/shuttle-02p.html

Tucker, W. (12/2004). "The Sober Realities of Manned Space Flight (online)." The American Enterprise. Retrieved 11/04/2005 from http://www.taemag.com/issues/articleid.18295/article_detail.asp
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